Barack Obama waltzed to victory in California last year, trampling Mitt Romney by 21 percentage points. For many middle class families in the Golden State, Obamacare's chicken are coming home to roost. A few weeks back, we highlighted some priceless quotes from Bay Area residents who are reassessing their views on the president's signature law. One man said he'd been "laughing" at Republicans...until his saw his new premiums. Another offered this pitch-perfect distillation of the tension between feel-good liberalism and economic reality: "Of course, I want people to have health care. I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally." The law's price and access tremors continue to be felt up and down America's most populous state. The Los Angeles Times describes the "sticker shock" middle class Californians are grappling with:
These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years. Although recent criticism of the healthcare law has focused on website glitches and early enrollment snags, experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama's signature legislation...Fullerton resident Jennifer Harris thought she had a great deal, paying $98 a month for an individual plan through Health Net Inc. She got a rude surprise this month when the company said it would cancel her policy at the end of this year. Her current plan does not conform with the new federal rules, which require more generous levels of coverage. The cheapest [replacement] plan she has found will cost her $238 a month. She and her husband don't qualify for federal premium subsidies because they earn too much money, about $80,000 a year combined. "It doesn't seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else," said Harris, who is three months pregnant. "This increase is simply not affordable."
Exactly. Obamacare's glitchapalooza is -- and should be -- a huge story. They had more than three years and spent hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, yet still could not come close to hitting their own deadline to successfully raise the curtain on the law. But ultimately, Obamacare will be a failure even after the technical difficulties are rectified (though the entire law could be in mortal danger if those problems aren't resolved quite soon). The Times reports that some middle-income households on the individual market may choose to eschew participating in Obamacare due to its higher-than-expected costs. People just can't afford the "Affordable" Care Act. For some, this new reality represents a bitter political betrayal:
Middle-income consumers face an estimated 30% rate increase, on average, in California due to several factors tied to the healthcare law. Some may elect to go without coverage if they feel prices are too high. Penalties for opting out are very small initially. Defections could cause rates to skyrocket if a diverse mix of people don't sign up for health insurance. Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law. "She said, 'I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,'" Kehaly said. Nearly 2 million Californians have individual insurance, and several hundred thousand of them are losing their health plans in a matter of weeks.
Many people assumed Barack Obama and company were telling them the truth about his law, and that Republicans were lying. The scales are finally falling from their eyes, but rather late in the game. The San Francisco Chronicle's Debra Saunders says she's seen evidence that at least half-a-million Californians will be booted off their current plans in the next year, and that conservative estimate could grow higher. (Remember that the so-called employer mandate has been pushed back until 2015, which may have simply delayed another round of coverage dumping). On Friday we linked to a CBS News report detailing why Obamacare's disproportionate influx of new Medicaid recipients is threatening to crash the entire law's financial model. Correspondent Jan Crawford noted that in Washington State, New York and Kentucky, the vast majority of Obamacare enrollees have been the addition of non-paying Medicaid customers. In Maryland -- another Democrat-led state that set up its own trouble-plagued exchange -- 96 percent of Obamacare enrollees have come through Medicaid thus far. That's Dangerously unsustainable, to say nothing of the fact that Medicaid itself was already an empirical failure before Obamacare expanded it. In addition to law's substantive, and entirely predictable, flaws, the ongoing roll-out nightmare continues to tarnish its image and harm people. The Spanish language version of the federal exchange website has been delayed indefinitely, while people continue to discover that navigators manning the phones at the 1-800 number hyped by Obama as an alternative to the (effectively shut down) website cannot actually sign them up for coverage. Which you already know:
They told me we needed to first get set up with an application. That part was very simple too — I was asked basic questions like my name, address and Social Security number. Five minutes later, they said I was I all set. So did that mean I was enrolled? No. I have to call back-- in one to three weeks -- for that. Turns out, the call center can't actually process applications over the phone. They can just take your information and submit it for you. Once I get a paper statement in the mail saying I'm eligible to enroll, I can then call the center back and enroll over the phone, the representative said. From a consumer standpoint, the most frustrating aspect was that I couldn't get any specifics about the various insurance options during this call either.
CBS News has been admirably unforgiving in its coverage of this fiasco. Here's yet another tough report on the status of Obamacare's failed launch:
Reporter Sharyl Attkisson has also confirmed why Democrats' attempts to pin the blame on GOP 'obstructionism' is a fairly tale: The administration deliberately postponed key steps in the process to protect the president's re-election effort. But that hasn't stopped Kathleen Sebelius from promulgating the lie, as her department covers for her. Sebelius is scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday.