The disastrous Obamacare rollout has cast a dark shadow over Democrats across America, and particularly in New Hampshire, which many consider “ground zero” in a political war that’s approaching.
The congressional delegations’ three Democrats face angry constituents and find themselves torn between remaining loyal to the White House and dealing with the politican fallout fro the healthcare reform bill.
Affected politicians include New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Rep. Ann McLane Kuster and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
The metaphors are many: predators smelling blood, invaders storming the castle, a snowball growing in size and momentum as it rolls downhill.
All describe efforts by opponents of President Barack Obama’s signature health care reforms – known as Obamacare – to kill the 2010 law after the botched launch of the HealthCare.gov website provided a new opening for attack.
Critics led by conservative Republicans target the Affordable Care Act itself, not just the website woes, in hopes of creating a public groundswell of opposition that will bolster GOP prospects in next year’s congressional elections.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger said Sunday, November 17, 2013, that the failure of the Obamacare website to function is symptomatic of a larger problem with the new healthcare system that will cost consumers more money and rob them of their current health plan.
“This thing is failing, but this is failing much faster than they expected,” the second-term Republican congressman from President Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois told ABC’s “This Week” program.
CGI Federal, the lead contractor on the dysfunctional Web site for the Affordable Care Act – known as Obamacare – is populated with executives from American Management Systems, a company that mishandled at least 20 other government IT projects, including a flawed effort to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers, documents and interviews show.
A year before CGI Group acquired AMS in 2004, AMS settled a lawsuit brought by the head of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which had hired the company to upgrade the agency’s computer system. AMS had gone $60 million over budget and virtually all of the computer code it wrote turned out to be useless, according to a report by a U.S. Senate committee.
The thrift board work was only one in a series of troubled projects involving AMS at the federal level and in at least 12 states, according to government audit reports, interviews and press accounts.
The White House has until Friday, November 15, 2013 to get President Barack Obama’s healthcare initiative (“Obamacare”) back on track or top Democrats may defect to support a House GOP bill to change it.
Political pressure from both Republicans and Democrats has been steadily growing and will come to a head on Friday when Republicans take up a proposal by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton allowing individuals to keep their current coverage even if it does not meet the standards set out in the Affordable Care Act.
Democrats in Congress are fearful their once-safe seats are now threatened in the 2014 midterm elections because of Obamacare. They expressed their anger and frustration at a close-door session at the White House on Wednesday, November 13, 2013.
“They heard our caucus,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-NJ. “In this business, you keep your word or get out.”
In the Senate, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri reportedly said, “The [ObamaCare] store’s open and the door’s locked.”
“I’m frustrated and angry along with everyone else,” she declared.
Conservatives jumped on the amazingly small Obamacare signup numbers released by the White House on Wednesday, November 13, 2013; many congressmen claiming that, with only about 106,000 Americans having signed up for healthcare plans, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement has been a dismal failure.
“This report is a symbol of the failure of the president’s healthcare law,” House Speaker John Boehner said. “It is a rolling calamity that must be scrapped.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell likened the Obama’s administration’s numbers to “Enron-like accounting,” adding that “fewer people have signed up for Obamacare nationwide than the 280,000 who’ve already lost their plans in Kentucky.
Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the Obamacare data had him foreseeing “a fundamental breakdown of the insurance market, with coverage gaps and skyrocketing premiums — pricing millions of Americans out of healthcare, yet still forced to pay the individual mandate tax.”
About 106,000 Americans signed up for health plans in the first month of new state and federal insurance marketplaces, the Obama administration reported Wednesday, November 13, 2013. Just a quarter of the insurance enrollments were in the federally run marketplace, while the rest were in the state exchanges.
The small figure was far below what the administration had hoped for and had predicted. Public and congressional frustration continues to escalate as the Obamacare program’s problem-plagued rollout continues and the White House seeks a solution.
Another problem has arisen from people whose individual policies are being canceled because they do not comply with the new coverage rules.
The problem-ridden Affrordable Care Act website, HealthCare.gov, has been subjected to “a handful” of hacking attempts, including at least one intended to bring the site down, according to a Department of Homeland Security official, Assistant Secretary Roberta Stempfle.
Considering that some federal websites get hundreds of cyber-assaults each day, the approximately 16 reported attacks on healthcare.gov is a surprisingly small number, experts said.
Stempfley told members of the House Homeland Security Committee that her agency had received “about 16 reports” from the Department of Health and Human Services that are under investigation.
While the number of hacking attempts for such a “high profile target” may seem low, Robert Siciliano, a McAfee online security expert, told ABCNews.com that it’s likely the agency is reporting only “brute force attacks.”
President Obama, in trying to tweak his original pledge, added this caveat earlier this week: “If you had or have one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really like that plan, what we said was, you could keep it if hasn’t changed since the law’s passed. You’re grandfathered in.”
In reality, the author notes that the main culprit is not whether or not the insurance industry has changed a plan that ran afoul of the administration’s regulations — but the law’s effective date.
We’re talking about “grandfathered plans,” those obtained before the law was signed on March 23, 2010.
At least one study indicates that the average “spell” of individual coverage is only 8 months, and the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, was enacted more than 44 months ago. Calculations by the author and his staff indicate that only 4.8 percent keep their policy longer than 44 months, and that is likely an overestimate. That means that about 95 percent of people now getting insurance cancellation notices likely purchased their plan after the effective date of the law.
A different study of a single state (California), also cited by HHS in the regulations, found that only 24 percent of people with individual coverage kept their plan for more than 48 months. In other words, between 75 and 95 percent of people in the individual market likely never had a chance to get a grandfathered plan.
This should not be surprising: the March 23, 2010, effective date is so obscure that likely few people in the individual market paid much attention to it.
In the years to come, some workers with employer-provided benefits will see their benefits scaled back because of an Obamacare tax. That portion of the law — known as the “Cadillac tax” — does not take effect until 2018, but it is already affecting benefits packages employers offer.
Lindsay McLaughlin, legislative director for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, joked, “Yes, if you like your plan, you can keep it, unless you have great benefits.”