EDITORIAL: What Obamacare deadline?


This Obamacare mandate couldn’t change. On March 11, a mere 20 days ago, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman Julie Bataille said of the March 31 Affordable Care Act enrollment deadline: “We have no plans to extend the open enrollment period. In fact, we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.” On March 12, Rep. Kevin Brady of the House Ways and Means Committee asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “Are you going to delay the open enrollment period beyond March 31?” Ms. Sebelius replied, “No, sir.”

So if you don’t have health insurance and don’t sign up today, then you’re out of luck, right?

Please. This is Obamacare. You’ve got another two weeks.

Just check a box noting you’ve had trouble enrolling — completely on the honor system — and you have until April 15 to, as the Democrat Twitterati like to say, #GetCovered. The decision, which came down last week, left House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, apoplectic. “What the hell is this, a joke?” Speaker Boehner asked.

The Obamacare rollout has been one knee-slapping alteration and delay after another, some of which many people aren’t even aware of. Did you know that earlier this month, the individual mandate — and its accompanying penalty tax for noncompliance, the linchpin that compelled the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act — was delayed until 2016 for anyone who can prove a hardship?

Obamacare has created plenty of hardship, from canceled policies to punitive premiums. But the law isn’t under constant rewrite because of the burdens it has put on Americans — it’s because of the political drag it has created for Democrats. They’re at risk of losing the Senate this year because of the Obamacare debacle. In fact, the individual mandate is so toxic, no politician would be crazy enough to suggest enforcing it in 2016, another election year. There’s no reason to think the White House won’t push the mandate out to 2018 or beyond. So the mandate is no longer a mandate.

As today’s “deadline” comes and goes, voters are reminded of the profound difference between what Democrats sold and what they delivered. Americans were sold on the urgency of Obamacare back in 2009. It was so important, in fact, that the president and congressional Democrats chose to bet all their political capital — and their futures — on legislation that creates disincentives for full-time work, instead of devoting their full attention to putting people back to work.

The administration lost its credibility and its ability to defend the ACA the moment millions of insurance cancellation notifications were mailed across the country. Remember “If you like your plan, you can keep it”? Last week, Democrats trumpeted that the federal exchange had reached 6 million signups — and it now has two more weeks to reach last year’s Congressional Budget Office projection of 7 million. But the Obama administration won’t say how many of these enrollees have paid their first month’s premium (an estimated 15 to 20 percent haven’t) or how many of those people were previously uninsured. That was the whole purpose of the law, after all. How many were previously insured, had their plans canceled and were forced to buy from the exchange?

Answers won’t be forthcoming, as they could cause additional damage to Democrats up for election. Instead, Americans should expect more changes and delays, further justifying the call for giving Obamacare not a new deadline, but a drop-deadline. Repeal the law and start over on health care reform.

 

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