High Risk Pools

By Greg Scandlen

As you know, the risk pool mandate of ObamaCare has been a mess. Rather than the expected enrollment of 375,000 by the end of the year, they actually enrolled only 8,000, but even then were spending more than they had budgeted. Well, this got a whole lot of negative attention, so apparently someone from the White House gave certain reporters a good talking to.

At least that is the impression one gets from reading Sarah Kliff’s more recent article in Politico. Here she spins the available information beyond recognition.  She writes: “Within the past 75 days, enrollment in the federally-run high risk pools has just about doubled.” Wow! Nearly doubled? Well, no. Enrollment went from 8,000 to 10,000, an increase of 25%. I guess that is the kind of math they are teaching in J-School these days.

But, that’s okay. She is even more gung ho on the tremendous out-reach programs the states have launched. North Carolina, for instance, “aired a six-week television ad campaign in late November and put up 14 billboards across the state.” Wow, again! That must have really made enrollment shoot up, right? Well, no. But it did result on increased traffic to the web site, with “overall web traffic seeing a 44 percent increase.” The article doesn’t include information on new enrollment.

But North Carolina did lower its premiums along with the federal pools that lowered premiums by 20%. Double Wow! That must mean the risk pool costs have been controlled, eh? Well, no. Premiums were lowered because not enough people were enrolling. The program was supposed to charge enrollees 100% of standard rates in the private market, but this is government. Premiums can be whatever they want them to be. Who cares when taxpayers (and the Chinese) are paying the difference?

 

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Why So Sneaky?

By Greg Scandlen

Two recent articles, one in the Washington Post about the new high-risk pools, and the other in the New York Times about the new end-of-life counseling, give plenty of material for discussion. They are on very different topics, but they both reveal something that should disturb all Americans. That is how very sneaky our political leaders have become.

The Post article notes that enrollment in risk pools is well below what was projected by the Administration just a few months ago. It was predicted by HHS that 375,000 people would have enrolled by the end of this year, but in fact, only 8,000 had actually enrolled by early November. The reporter asked HHS for updated figures, but, “HHS officials declined to provide an update, although they collect such figures monthly, because they have decided to report them on a quarterly basis.”  So, HHS has the numbers but won’t release them because they are embarrassing.

The Times article is even worse. To refresh your memory, a new end-of-life counseling benefit in Medicare was considered and rejected by Congress because of concern about “death panels.” It would have paid for such a session with your doctor once every five years.

Now, it turns out that HHS has, by regulation, decided to include it as part of a beneficiary’s annual “wellness” exam. So, rather than every five years it will now be yearly. Actually, it is not these counseling sessions that raise the concern about death panels, but the combination of the new “comparative effectiveness” standards of physician practice along with “pay-for-performance” incentives.

But, leaving that aside, what is shocking about the Times article is the revelation that the Administration and senior members of Congress purposely tried to hide the new regulation from the public. Robert Pear writes:

After learning of the administration’s decision, Mr. Blumenauer’s (The Democratic Representative from Oregon who sponsored the original proposal last year) office celebrated “a quiet victory,” but urged supporters not to crow about it.

“While we are very happy with the result, we won’t be shouting it from the rooftops because we aren’t out of the woods yet,” Mr. Blumenauer’s office said in an e-mail in early November to people working with him on the issue. “This regulation could be modified or reversed, especially if Republican leaders try to use this small provision to perpetuate the ‘death panel’ myth.”

Moreover, the e-mail said: “We would ask that you not broadcast this accomplishment out to any of your lists, even if they are ‘supporters’ — e-mails can too easily be forwarded.”

The e-mail continued: “Thus far, it seems that no press or blogs have discovered it, but we will be keeping a close watch and may be calling on you if we need a rapid, targeted response. The longer this goes unnoticed, the better our chances of keeping it.”

So here is a new benefit for Medicare that the elected representatives of the people don’t want the press to “discover” for fear that the people may object to it.

On top of the secret recess appointment of Dr. Don Berwick to head CMS, this government is looking more like the Hugo Chavez regime every day.