“Time to panic”
Because Democrat senators up for reelection in 2014 are now in full-blown panic mode. Earlier today, CNN’s Dana Bash tweeted the following:
Then, at Breitbart:
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who is up for re-election in 2014, wrote to Obama on Tuesday and asked him to delay the enrollment deadline for the individual mandate. “Given the existing problems with the website, I urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014,” Shaheen wrote to the president. “Allowing extra time for consumers is critically important so they have the opportunity to become familiar with the website, survey their options and enroll.”
On Wednesday, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), who is facing a tough challenge in his 2014 re-election against Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), came out in support of Shaheen’s call for a delay of the individual mandate’s enrollment deadline. Pryor had previously been on record as supportive of the mandate as is.
Now, according to CNN’s Bash, the Democratic Party is coordinating an effort to support a delay in the individual mandate.
These people are not dummies: they can see the building fiasco. A law that was never popular, that was passed by anti-constitutional means against the will of the majority, that has never, ever claimed majority approval… That law is now doing real harm. People are losing the insurance and doctors they’ve been told they can keep; they’re seeing premiums, co-pays, and deductibles skyrocket, and their hours at work are being cut, if they don’t lose their jobs altogether. And the vast majority of these people are voters. Voters who are getting angry and who are going to get angrier. And angry voters tend to vent their rage at the ballot box.
Republicans have nothing to worry about; they can honestly tell voters that not a single one of them voted for this fiasco. Democratic senators, on the other hand (as well as most of the remaining Democrat caucus in the House), mostly if not wholly voted for Obamacare. And soon they will have to go before the electorate and explain how they not only voted for this monster in the first place, but let something so bad get passed that they now have to beg for it not to be enforced.
And the Republicans can stand there and honestly say “We’ve been trying to tell you. Now vote for us, please, so we can make it all go away.”
The political implications of this are wild. For starters, Obama, Reid, Pelosi, and all the rest of the (Social) Democrats will have to explain why they so bitterly opposed a delay in the mandate originally proposed by the Republicans that they allowed the government to be shut down and the credit rating of the United States to be threatened… Only to have to ask for a delay of their own, three weeks later. For Obama in particular, well, this program has his name on it. Will he be willing to eat the humiliation to save his Senate majority? Or will he resist any delay and potentially sacrifice vulnerable Democrats on the altar of his own ego? We know he’s a narcissist, but how big a one is he?
But then there are implications for Obamacare, itself. The individual mandate is absolutely essential, if this program is to have any chance at all of being viable. They need young, healthy people to pay more than they should for insurance in order to pay for the care of the elderly and those with chronic conditions. Hence the legal mandate to purchase insurance or pay a penalty, tax, whatever Justice Roberts calls it this week. Absent that mandate, with ongoing failure of the online exchanges, and given that Obamacare guarantees coverage, the economics of the Affordable Care Act turn toxic.
The administration estimates that it needs 2.7 million young healthy people on the exchange, out of the 7 million total expected to apply in the first year. If the pool is too skewed — if it’s mostly old and sick people on the exchanges — then insurers will lose money, and next year, they’ll sharply increase premiums. The healthiest people will drop out, because insurance is no longer such a good deal for them. Rinse and repeat and you have effectively destroyed the market for individual insurance policies. It’s called the “death spiral,” and the exchanges, like the mandate, were designed to keep it from happening.
Without the exchanges, the death spiral seems almost assured. The amount of work required to find a policy, figure out your subsidy, buy coverage and file the paperwork will be very high. And it’s unlikely that folks who can’t even be bothered to go to ehealthinsurance.com right now will do it. The Affordable Care Act made the task of signing up young healthy people on the exchanges even harder with its much-loved requirement that companies allow kids to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26, which took millions of potential buyers out of the pool. The ones who are left are going to be disproportionately poorer and less well educated than the middle-class offspring who can get cheap insurance through mom and dad. There’s a reason that virtually every person you’ve seen written up in an article as they tried to get insurance at a community center or clinic is some combination of over 55, retired or afflicted with a serious chronic condition.
And without the exchanges and the individual mandate, we go from “almost assured” to a guaranteed death spiral. Companies will leave the health insurance market altogether to escape the guaranteed coverage clauses, leaving million without the insurance they used to like… and wondering whom to blame. (1)
Now you see why Senator Shaheen and company are hitting that panic button. But for her and them, I have no sympathy.
(1) I used to think that this was all part of a plan to get people to beg for a “better solution,” which would turn out to be the Left’s dream: state-run single-payer health insurance. And maybe the hard left still thinks it will work out that way. But now I’m not so sure about the rest: no one could design a system so self-evidently bad, so harmful to the nation and to their own political futures that they could expect to profit from it. Could they?
LINKS: My blog-buddy ST beat me to the news and calls for popcorn.
UPDATE: And just like that, I’m proven right.
UPDATE 2: On the other hand, maybe not just yet.