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How the GOP Became Obamacare's Biggest Friend


The biggest winner of the shutdown may be the Affordable Care Act. We wrote yesterday that reporters were having trouble tracking down a single person who had signed up for Obamacare on the federal exchanges. We’re happy to report that’s no longer the case: there are at least a handful now. As far as we know, the first successful enrollee reporters found was 21-year-old Georgia resident Chad Henderson. The best part? Chad’s premium went up 300 percent compared to what he could have bought prior to Obamacare. Cato’s Michael Cannon breaks down the numbers:

After a three-hour ordeal, Chad bought an Obamacare plan that cost him $175 per month – pretty steep, considering he makes less than $11,500 per year. His Obamacare premium comes to least 18 percent of his income. And no, Chad is not eligible for subsidies.

Compare that to what Chad could have paid if he bought one of the pre-Obamacare plans still available on until December 31. The cheapest such plan for someone meeting Chad’s profile is just $44.72—as little as 5 percent of his annual income and about one-quarter of his Obamacare premium.

Needless to say, this hardly counts as a PR victory for Obamacare. If the shutdown and debt ceiling threat weren’t monopolizing media attention, stories like this would be front and center in every major national paper and website. The launch, which has been more dysfunctional than most people predicted, could have driven down support numbers for the ACA even lower. But the GOP’s actions have taken all the air out of this story. This has got to count as one of the most self-defeating moves in recent political memory.

With Boehner taking a default option off the table, it may be that the most dramatic part of the DC story will be over by October 17. The GOP’s best hope now to gain back the anti-Obamacare momentum that it has dissipated would be for these launch problems to persist well past that date.

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  • Michael Brazier

    You are less cynical than I, Dr. Meade. What leads you to believe that the press would pay any more attention to the federal exchanges’ failures than they are, if the GOP had agreed to fund them? Or, if they did, that they would use the failures as an argument against the law?

    • Corlyss

      Absolutely spot on, Michael.
      The media prayed they wouldn’t have to pay any attention to the screw-ups in Obamacare. If it weren’t the shutdown and the debt ceiling talks, they’d be reporting on Dancing with the Stars and the vicissitudes of program scheduling in the new fall TV season or endless stories about the recent shootings in DC. Anything but Obamacare. The fact that VM writers don’t say that has less to do with their miniscule degree of cynicism than it does the fact that VM still views conservative Republicans with a skepticism to be expected at a small liberal arts college in the greater northeast coastal area.

  • Tom Lindmark

    They may straighten out the tech problems but that won’t cure the “bad deal” nature of the program which you outlined above.

    • azt24

      The software is currently nonfunctional. After they patch it into staying up enough for people to log into it, people will begin to discover the bugs, of which there will be many. And then there is the sticker shock, which has already started.

      Not to worry if the first week of Crashapalooza wasn’t covered in the media, lots more to come.

    • PapayaSF

      Even the tech problem may be insurmountable. In one chart, here’s why the exchanges will probably never work as planned. Look at the green areas in the upper left. In theory (though this aspect is one of the “delayed” features), the Federal hub is supposed to communicate with computer systems at the IRS, Treasury, Social Security, Homeland Security, and HHS. Over on the right, it’s supposed to communicate with state Medicaid systems.

      That means the hub is supposed to communicate with 55 pre-existing computer systems, not even counting the ones in the lower half of the chart. In a secure way. While obeying HIPAA laws. For millions of users. In something close to real time.

      Far, far simpler government IT projects have failed miserably, even ones internal to single departments (e.g. the FBI’s Virtual Case File system). Connecting different systems this way is very, very hard. It may never happen.

  • avery12
    • Stacy Garvey

      Right. Chad Henderson according to his dad actually didn’t enroll in Obamacare. It’s another media narrative – truthy but not actually the truth.

  • Boritz

    Mead has written some hilariously scathing criticisms of the behavior the press would exhibit if a Republican was in the White House, but the problem isn’t just about what kind of reporting we would see if there was a Republican president. it is real and daily. What kind of reporting are we seeing now and is it any less dishonest than what Mead speculates for a hypothetical Republican administration,

    • Corlyss

      Yes, it is still dishonest, nothing like what one would see if the president weren’t the media’s beloved.

  • DiaKrieg

    The fact that the ACA rollout is a disaster and that so-called “affordable” rates actually are gouging average Americans only UNDERSCORES the wisdom of stalling Obamacare — which is what the GOP is trying to do with its CR tactic. How stupid do you think voters are to not be able to follow that simple logic? They don’t need the media to tell them what their own eyes tell them when they log on to the ACA website — as millions will do between now and March 2014.

  • Jane the Actuary

    I don’t know whether I’m naive or just desparate, or whether it’s Friday and I’m too ready for the weekend, but I’d like to think that enough Democrats recognize there are flaws in the ACA system for each side to make some compromises. Fix the cracks in the premium support in exchange for eliminating, rather than just delaying, the employer mandate — that sort of thing.

    Or am I just deluding myself?

    • PapayaSF

      Sorry, I think you are being naive. Politicians hate to admit they’re ever wrong, and partisans especially hate to admit that a president of their own party has failed with his “signature accomplishment.”

      Plus, the ACA is not something with mere flaws or cracks: it’s fundamentally misconceived. The economics, and even the technology originally planned for the exchanges, will never work as intended. It’s not like the first Wright Flyer, which just needed work to become a practical airplane. The ACA is more like a perpetual motion machine: no amount of “fixes” will ever make it work.

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