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EDITORIAL: Obamacare horror story

On Feb. 26, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stood before his colleagues in Washington, D.C., and defended the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, saying “There’s plenty of horror stories being told. All of them are untrue.” Las Vegan Larry Basich is among many who would beg to differ, and he has $407,000 worth of billable proof for the Nevada Democrat.

Mr. Basich is, in fact, a model citizen of the Obamacare age. As reported Wednesday by the Review-Journal’s Jennifer Robison, on Oct. 1, the day that federal and state exchanges began registration for health insurance, Mr. Basich went to the Nevada Health Link website and attempted to sign up. It took him weeks to successfully do what used to be done in less than an hour with a private insurer, but enroll he did for a United Healthcare silver plan, paying his first premium of $160.77 on Nov. 21. The exchange withdrew that payment from his money market savings account a few days later.

Because he signed up and paid a month before the Dec. 23 deadline, coverage was supposed to begin Jan. 1. But Mr. Basich was never able to get confirmation that he had insurance. Nevada Health Link said he was enrolled, but UnitedHealthcare said he wasn’t in their system. Then he had a heart attack on Dec. 31, followed by a triple bypass on Jan. 3. Treatment in January and February led to $407,000 in medical bills, and right now, Mr. Basich isn’t covered. He’s on the hook for those bills, while site developer Xerox, insurers UnitedHealthcare, Nevada Health CO-OP and the exchange try to figure out who really ought to be responsible.

Mr. Basich’s problems go to the failure of Obamacare nationwide and the intentionally flawed design of the exchanges. The government wanted to create a system that allowed some people buy insurance without seeing the actual price. That requires connectivity with federal databases to determine subsidy eligibility. Buying insurance and collecting subsidies are two entirely separate issues, and should have been treated that way. Would Mr. Basich be in this predicament if he’d simply been allowed to buy insurance through an insurer instead of the exchange?

Xerox, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, the carriers, Gov. Brian Sandoval and even Sen. Reid’s office — to his credit — say they are trying to help Mr. Basich. But no one wants to pay Mr. Basich’s bills. And Mr. Basich is hardly alone with this problem. Soon enough, that fact could lead to another major issue for the Nevada exchange: lawsuits, as Ms. Robison reported Sunday.

The exchange concept is terribly flawed and totally unnecessary, hiding the cost of insurance from the few who qualify for subsidies. That shell game is the only reason we have this process.

The exchanges are a huge waste of money. In Nevada, 33,503 individuals have selected a plan (only 22,533 of whom have actually paid), but the exchange cost federal taxpayers nearly $84 million to build — about $2,500 per individual. It could be worse. Phil Kerpen at americancommitment.org noted the Hawaii exchange cost more than $205 million to create, but has just 4,661 participants — more than $44,000 in taxpayer cash per participant.

It’s time to not only shut down the exchanges, but reboot health care reform. Repeal and replace the ACA. Obamacare is only going to get worse before it gets worse still. That’s the true horror story.

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