By Cathy Burke
President Obama’s inauguration in January kicked off a year of broken promises about his signature health care law, threatening to turn a presidency based on vows of hope and change to one doling out disappointment and failures.
The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, but it was in 2013 that the health care reform law implode into a nightmare of broken promises. Assertions made by the president and Health Secretary weeks ago, months ago and even years ago have over and over again proved to been misleading at best and complete untrue at worst.
No, you may not be able to keep your doctor or your plan. And, no, the website is not user-friendly.
Here are the Top-10 Obamacare promises that were broken in 2013:
1. The website is simple and user-friendly
Hardly. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s claim in an op-ed piece in USA Today turned out to be a glib — and false — boast.
Even Democrat-friendly Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show hammered Sebelius on the widespread and well-reported problems with the HealthCare.gov sign-ups. Stewart ended the interview with the official in a merciless monologue in which he wondered: “And then I think to myself, ‘well, maybe she’s just lying to me.’”
Just days into its disastrous rollout, the Obamacare website was out of order until mid-morning Oct. 8, a public relations headache given the administration had pledged to sign up 7 million people for Obamacare insurance by the start of 2014.
The early outage wasn’t the last; on Dec. 20, a mere three days before the deadline to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1, yet another outage lasted for several hours.
Even members of Congress were vexed by Obamacare’s glitches.
2. “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”
Obama’s June 6, 2009 assertion was wrong. As insurers sent cancellations to millions of individual policy holders because their plans were sub-par for Obamacare standards, the president’s oft-repeated pledge blew apart, and PolitiFact declared the vow the “lie of the year.”
But respected Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer railed Obamacare itself was a fraud from the beginning, writing the law “was designed to throw people off their private plans and into government-run exchanges where they would be made to overpay — forced to purchase government-mandated services they don’t need — as a way to subsidize others.”
3. “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
Obama’s 2009 promise was wrong again, we learned in 2013. For insured Americans dumped by their employer-sponsored plans because they don’t cut it with the new health care law, or pushed by their insurers to re-enroll at higher rates, it’s likely they won’t be able to keep their doctors, conservative blogger Cam Harris writes.
Offering the example of the 15,000 spouses of UPS employees forced to seek out new plans on the individual market, Harris writes they’ll find their Obamacare network won’t include their usual MD.
4. Premiums will fall by as much as $2,500 per family
That won’t happen. Forbes magazine, comparing Affordable Care Act premiums versus pre-Obamacare premiums, finds this presidential assertion a dud.
According to Forbes, and based on a Manhattan Institute analysis of the HHS numbers, Obamacare will actually jack up underlying insurance rates for young men by an average of 97 to 99 percent, and for young women by an average of 55 to 62 percent. As for states, the worst off is North Carolina, which is expected to see individual-market rates triple for women, and quadruple for men, the analysis showed.
5. Obamacare won’t add ‘one dime to our deficits’
But it does. Even the Government Accountability Office’s report of Feb. 26, 2013, projected Obamacare will increase the long-term federal deficit by $6.2 trillion.
An Investor’s Business Daily analysis also shot down the Obama promise, reporting the Affordable Care Act could actually add $18 billion in red ink.
6. The ACA will cost around $900 billion over 10 years
Not even close. A Congressional Budget Office’s report from May 2013 puts the real price tag more around the area of $1.8 trillion. And the cost projections rise with every new estimated, conservative blogger Cam Harris noted.
7. Families making less than $250,000 won’t see ‘any form’ of tax increase
Far from it. Obamacare contains 18 separate tax hikes, fees, and penalties, many of which heavily impact the middle class, the Heritage Foundation maintains.
Citing a Joint Committee on Taxation 2012 report and Congressional Budget Office information, as well as a Heritage Foundation report, Obamacare’s taxes and penalties will accumulate over $770 billion in new revenue over a 10-year period, and among taxes that’ll pound the middle class are the individual mandate tax, the medical device tax, and new penalties and limits on health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts.
8. The ACA will keep healthcare costs down.
So says the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.
But it’s just not so, according to senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and American Enterprise Institute visiting fellow James Captretta writes in the Weekly Standard.
Here’s why: National Health Expenditure projections show a slowdown in health spending that began long before Obamacare was passed, and was due to factors entirely unrelated, he argues.
In 2002, NHE spending per capita rose 8.5 percent and then began to slow over the ensuring years, he notes. And HHS actuaries even concede the reasons their estimates of health costs over the coming decade are lower than they were a few years ago is due to economic conditions, fiscal policy changes, including a sequester cut of Medicare payments, and a slowdown in growth in Medicaid, Medicare, and other government programs — all unrelated to Obamacare.
9. You have a deadline and a mandate.
Maybe. Squishy deadlines, and “fixes” have been a hallmark of Obamacare almost from the start.
In the most major fix of a problem aimed at people who lost their coverage because it didn’t measure up to Obamacare standards, the administration abruptly shifted gears Dec. 19, changing policy to help people make a deadline to replace dropped insurance plans.
Those with inadequate insurance that got canceled were now allowed to claim a “hardship exemption,” giving them the option to buy cheaper, minimal coverage plans normally available only to people under 30.
Another “fix” came Nov. 14, a week after the president apologized for the cancellations sent to people whose insurance didn’t meet new standards. The president asked insurers to keep offering those plans for a year even if they don’t meet minimum Obamacare requirements.
For small businesses, Obama last July bumped back the deadline requiring companies with 50 or more employees to offer insurance from Jan. 1 2014 to Jan. 1, 2015.
As for sign-up deadlines, it’s been confusing at best. In October, people had until Dec. 15 to pick a plan if they wanted coverage beginning Jan. 1. Then, in November, it was extended to Dec. 23.
But citing high traffic to the HealthCare.gov website and at call centers before that deadline, the goal posts moved again, this time to Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.
Officials said nearly 2 million visits had been logged by that time in the last-minute rush, Yet in a blog post on the website Dec. 24, the administration suggested additional flexibility.
“Sometimes despite your best efforts, you might have run into delays caused by heavy traffic to HealthCare.gov, maintenance periods, or other issues with our systems that prevented you from finishing the process on time,” the post said. “If this happened to you, don’t worry — we still may be able to help you get covered as soon as January 1.”
HHS also pushed back the deadline when the first month’s premium would be due, and insurers obliged, extending the payment deadline nine days, to Jan. 10.
10. Sure, the national exchange is glitchy, but the state sites are working great.
Not so fast.
Obamacare’s state-run enrollment operations have had technological delays and low sign-up levels. Several states even replaced top executives.
“Some of these states have been committed, but it’s just been hurdle after hurdle after hurdle,” said Heather Howard, program director at the State Health Reform Assistance Network, a Princeton, New Jersey-based group advising state exchanges told Bloomberg News. “I do think those states will get there, but this is an ambitious undertaking in the best of cases.”
Meanwhile, Massachusetts and Vermont are weighing legal options against the contractor that designed their healthcare insurance exchange websites. both states used Montreal-based CGI Group, which built HealthCare.gov, and say they are withholding future payments and taking steps now to recoup millions in taxpayer dollars already spent on their websites that still have serious problems, reports The Boston Globe.
“CGI has consistently underperformed, which is frustrating and a serious concern,” said Jason Lefferts, a spokesman for the Massachusetts’ insurance marketplace, Commonwealth Home Connector. “We are holding the vendor accountable for its underperformance and will continue to apply nonstop pressure to work to fix defects and improve performance.”