Thanksgiving Eve News Dump: Another ObamaCare Provision Delayed For A Year

The Obama White House dropped some big news as everyone headed out of town.

congress-healthcare

While large numbers of Americans make their way to their Thanksgiving Day destinations or, based on my lunchtime errands, conduct last minute grocery shopping, the Obama Administration will be dropping news of another delay in a provision of the Affordable Care Act:

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is expected to announce on Wednesday a one-year delay in another major element of the new health care law, which allows small businesses to go online and get insurance for their employees through the website of the federal marketplace.

“We plan to offer online enrollment capability by November 2014, for coverage that takes effect in January 2015,” the Department of Health and Human Services said in a series of questions and answers.

The administration had previously delayed online enrollment for small businesses, scheduled to start on Oct. 1, until the end of this month.

This insurance marketplace — known as the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP — was seen as one of the main benefits of the new law.

The announcement of the delay, just before Thanksgiving, is reminiscent of the way the White House announced, just before the Independence Day weekend, a one-year delay in the requirement for larger employers to offer health insurance to employees.

The new delay results, in part, from the well-documented woes of the federal marketplace. Administration officials said they had to focus on repairing the basic functions of the website and were not able to address issues related to the small-business exchange.

John C. Arensmeyer, the chief executive of Small Business Majority, an advocacy group, said, “It’s disappointing that the online portion of the federal small-business marketplace through HealthCare.gov will be delayed, and it’s important it get up and running as soon as possible.”

The marketplace, he said, “is still the most important provision in the Affordable Care Act for small businesses,” as it can offer “the most competitive combination of price and quality.”

For years, small businesses have had difficulty getting insurance they can afford. As a result, small businesses have been less likely than larger companies to provide coverage to employees.

In a document explaining its plans, the administration said: “Employers can’t apply for SHOP eligibility or enroll in SHOP coverage on HealthCare.gov at this time. However, they can go to HealthCare.gov to view plan and pricing information to help them choose a plan and insurance company.”

The administration said that small businesses and their employees seeking coverage in the federal exchange could still apply for insurance and enroll through an agent or broker, as many do now.

“Agents and brokers are essential to making this happen,” an administration official said.

However, the high-tech capability once promised by the White House will not be available at this time.

“The agent, broker or insurer will help the employer fill out a paper application for SHOP eligibility and send it in to the SHOP marketplace,” the administration said. The insurer can also tell employers what premiums they would have to pay and can enroll employees.

The reasons for the delay aren’t clear, although it’s arguably the case that they may be tied into the technical issues that have plagued the Federal Obamacare Exchange’s website since the beginning of October and that the delay is at least partly intended to ease the load on the website in the aftermath of the November 30th date on which the technical problems that the website has been experiencing are supposed to be fixed. If that’s the case, then it isn’t exactly a vote of confidence in just how “fixed” Healthcare.gov is doing to be by the end of this week. After all, if they were sure that the system would be completely ready for the traffic that could potentially be tossed at it, they wouldn’t be doing things like this:

WASHINGTON — White House officials, fearful that the federal health care website may again be overwhelmed this weekend, have urged their allies to hold back enrollment efforts so the insurance marketplace does not collapse under a crush of new users.

At the same time, administration officials said Tuesday that they had decided not to inaugurate a big health care marketing campaign planned for December out of concern that it might drive too many people to the still-fragile HealthCare.gov.

With a self-imposed deadline for repairs to the website approaching on Saturday, the administration is trying to strike a delicate balance. It is encouraging people to go or return to the website but does not want to create too much demand. It boasts that the website is vastly improved, but does not want to raise expectations that it will work for everyone.

“We are definitely on track to have a significantly different user experience by the end of this month,” Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Tuesday. “That was our commitment.”

Ms. Sebelius, who supervised development of the troubled website, tried to rally state and local elected officials in a conference call organized by the White House. “I would urge you and your folks on the ground to not hesitate to recommend that people go to HealthCare.gov and get signed up,” she said.

Officials said the website was now able to handle 50,000 users at a time, providing enough capacity on a daily basis to enroll millions of people in the next four months.

But those charged with fixing the site worry that 250,000 people might try to use the site simultaneously at times on Saturday and in the days ahead. They say that pent-up demand for insurance in the federal marketplace, combined with a surge of interest among people merely curious about whether it is working, could bring the website to a crawl.

“Our concern is that we want to make sure that people have the right expectation going into this,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director. “Early October was a frustrating experience for users. We are preparing for the outcome that we have as many or more visitors as we had on Oct. 1.”

About 4.7 million people visited the website on that first day, the administration said.

White House officials offered a similar message on Monday in a meeting with some of their allies, including the Service Employees International Union and Enroll America. Both groups had pledged to work hard to drive traffic to the website.

In the meeting, Ms. Palmieri said, officials urged the groups to hold back, at least for the first several days of December, to see how much traffic the website is getting. Ms. Palmieri summarized the message: “Our recommendation is that we expect there to be really high traffic. You shouldn’t be driving traffic.”

If the website again crashes repeatedly, Mr. Obama’s critics are sure to pounce and some of his Democratic allies may become anxious and apprehensive. Since the website went live eight weeks ago, the botched system has become a symbol of what Republicans say is an overreaching, incompetent federal government. The debate about the website’s failures, and the broader role of government, may shape the outcome of next year’s congressional elections.

It is, perhaps, prudent for the Administration to try to delay overwhelming the website with requests before they’re sure that it’s ready for more traffic than its been handling lately, but that just raises the question of why it wouldn’t be ready for that kind of traffic. After all, major retail websites are likely to get hit with far more traffic over the next five days than Healthcare.gov will, and yet it’s pretty unlikely that we’re going to hear any stories about Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Kohls, or WalMart seeing their websites crash during that period. Indeed, such events are so uncommon at those high traffic commercial sites that it becomes news when it does happen. In the case of the Federal Website Exchange, we’re talking about something that seemingly should have been development for more than three years prior to the date it went live and yet it wasn’t ready to go. Now, some eight weeks later, the Federal Government is quite obviously not sure that it will be ready after the fixes are done to the point where they are issuing yet another signup delay and discouraging their own allies from sending people to the website despite the fact that, at the moment at least, individuals only have until December 15th to sign up for insurance if they want it to be effective on January 1st. Quite obviously, there’s a lack of confidence that the system will be ready.

Most conveniently, of course, this delay means that what is likely to be one of the more important parts of the second stage of PPACA implementation until after the Election Day 2014. Does this mean that the only real motivation for this delay is political? We can’t know that for sure, but it certainly sounds like it. The Obamacare rollout has already done significant damage to both President Obama and Congressional Democrats. If small business owners suddenly find out that it’s going to be difficult if not impossible for them to shop for PPACA-compliant coverage for their employees, then the political damage is just going to become more severe. In that case, you can hardly blame the Administration for wanting to push the inevitable off as long as possible. At some point, though, they’ll either have to get the system completely fixed, or face the political music.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Health Care, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. David M says:

    It is, perhaps, prudent for the Administration to try to delay overwhelming the website with requests before they’re sure that it’s ready for more traffic than its been handling lately, but that just raises the question of why it wouldn’t be ready for that kind of traffic. After all, major retail websites are likely to get hit with far more traffic over the next five days than Healthcare.gov will, and yet it’s pretty unlikely that we’re going to hear any stories about Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Kohls, or WalMart seeing their websites crash during that period. Indeed, such events are so uncommon at those high traffic commercial sites that it becomes news when it does happen.

    It’s news now. It wasn’t news a few years ago when the sites were newer.

  2. Mike says:

    While I am for Obamacare (although I would prefer single payer), it really is embarassing/annoying/disappointing (not sure of what the exact feeling is) that the Gov’t screwed up the roll out so badly. This has been cannon fodder for the critics and a huge let down for supporters. At what point do you start getting a fresh look at this mess with the correct, talented individuals. Clearly these folks don’t currently work for Health and Human Services.

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    But I thought Obamacare was THE LAW OF THE LAND. Did Congress pass a bill changing the dates of when things kick in? Or is Obama, once again, simply rewriting the law by executive fiat so that it says what he wants it to mean at this point in time?

    I don’t want to use any loaded words like “dictatorship” or “tyranny,” so could someone else offer a term for a condition where the law means whatever the Chief Executive says it means at any particular time?

  4. JKB says:

    Hmmm, it is almost like Obama and the Senate Democrats forced a shutdown of the federal government for no good reason.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    “…It is, perhaps, prudent for the Administration to try to delay overwhelming the website with requests before they’re sure that it’s ready for more traffic than its been handling lately, but that just raises the question of why it wouldn’t be ready for that kind of traffic. After all, major retail websites are likely to get hit with far more traffic over the next five days than Healthcare.gov will, and yet it’s pretty unlikely that we’re going to hear any stories about Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Kohls, or WalMart seeing their websites crash during that period…”

    If you don’t understand the difference in complexity between Healthcare.gov and WalMart…then you really shouldn’t be opining.

  6. David M says:

    Not really a big change. For all the states that use the federal exchange, small businesses will have to sign up through a broker/agent/etc rather than a website (that obviously isn’t functional yet). It’s kind of a let down that the web site isn’t ready yet, although not really unexpected after the other problems at healthcare.gov.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    You keep repeating this nonsense…and all it does is show your abject ignorance.
    If you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about…why are you even commenting about it??? Do you just think it’s funny to post stupid $hit on the internet?
    Longstanding Judicial Precedent places timing adjustments like this…a minor temporary course correction…well within the Executive Branch’s legal discretion. Temporary postponements and adjustments are routine by both Republican and Democratic administrations when statutory deadlines prove to be unworkable.
    It’s misleading…outright lying even…to characterize the Administrations actions on this as any kind of refusal to enforce…much less tyrannical or dictator-like.
    You should do us all a favor and just STFU until you actually know what you are talking about.

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    The reason for the delay is obvious: the administration has learned from the Healthcare.gov experience. It’s better to defer than to go live with a site that isn’t really working. It’s the lesser of two evils.

  9. stonetools says:

    @Mike:

    What goes unreported here of course is that the rollout has been hampered by a continuing Republican sabotage campaign. The republicans have done their damnedest to cut off funding for the federal exchange, which wasn’t supposed to the centerpiece of the ACA. Its one thing if the Administration was getting full support from everyone but failing: its a different thing if it has to fight for resources because the Republicans are blocking funding. The MSM and of course Doug has ignored that side of things in favor of “human interest” stories about cancellations.

    Although the statute provided plenty of money to help states build their own insurance exchanges, it included no money for the development of a federal exchange — and Republicans would block any funding attempts. According to one former administration official, [Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius simply could not scrounge together enough money to keep a group of people developing the exchanges working directly under her.
    So, the federal exchange that Republicans said wouldn’t work ended up not working because it was starved of the money needed to help make it work.
    A larger number of states than expected were signaling that, under Republican pressure, they would refuse to build their own online insurance marketplaces and would rely on the federal one. The more states in the federal exchange, the more complex the task of building it. Yet, according to several former officials, White House staff would not let this fact be included in the specifications. Their concern, one former official said, was that Republicans would seize on it as evidence of a feared federal takeover of the health-care system.

    The rollout would be going a hell of a lot better if there was Republican cooperation instead of massive resistance. To a certain extent I blame the Administration for being naive about not anticipating this kind of sabotage. The Administration needs a fixer – a mean sonafabitch that can anticipate Republican dirty tricks and respond accordingly. I guess it’s not in Obama’s nature.
    As to this delay, its better that they delay things and get it right than roll it out before they’re ready and generate media-friendly “horror stories” Small businesses can still apply by paper.

  10. wr says:

    Well, in Jenos’ defense, he’s clearly responding to a hugely misleading headline. It’s not that a provision of the ACA has been delayed — it’s that the ability to shop for choices under that provision online has been delayed. Businesses can still, according to the article Doug quotes but apparently couldn’t be bothered to read, sign up via phone and paper.

    So Doug is simply, as usual, erring on the side of assuming government is a terrible, terrible thing, and Jenos is, as usual, smearing feces over everything he sees.

    One of these two men is smart enough to know better… so really, is it fair to blame Jenos?

  11. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Once again, progressives have become the enablers of bad government. If progressives were want they claim to be, they would calling for immediate improvement, mangers to be fired, and answers to why implementing a website has taken longer than it took the U.S. to build the first nuclear bomb.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @superdestroyer:
    Yeah…except I remember Medicare Part D and the colossal blunder called Iraq.

  13. An Interested Party says:

    …implementing a website has taken longer than it took the U.S. to build the first nuclear bomb.

    Please…it’s now the end of the world, I suppose…if we want to talk about timelines, let’s talk about how the Iraq debacle lasted longer than WW II…talk about government incompetence…

  14. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    Whoever voted this down should provide a link showing otherwise.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    Still waiting for your wise words explaining your “position” on the Iraq thing.

  16. bill says:

    @michael reynolds: it was more bi-partisan than obamacare, easy.

  17. bill says:

    why are my comments “awaiting moderation”?

  18. Tyrell says:

    The good news that was some how missed is that the Affordable Health plan has announced that it will now add the following item to the list of covered medications: snake oil

  19. @stonetools: Why would we cooperate? We wanted nothing to do with this travesty of a law before it was passed. We didn’t vote for it. This is squarely on Democrat shoulders.

    Furthermore, in case you missed it, it was up to Team Obama, all Democrats, to implement this. They utterly failed. Deal with it. This is what happens when you elect a hyper-partisan fool with zero executive experience, a guy who spent his time as a “community organizer”.

    Don’t blame Republicans for Democrat incompetence. Oh, BTW, we warned that this would be a disaster even before it was passed. We read the bill.

    Double BTW, I remember you Dems doing everything you could to attempt to cause Operation Iraqi Freedom to fail.

  20. C. Clavin says:

    @William Teach:
    Silly man dressed as a pirate throwing a whiny tantrum. I am actually…laughing out loud.

  21. wr says:

    @William Teach: “Why would we cooperate? We wanted nothing to do with this travesty of a law before it was passe”

    Interesting. So it’s your belief that according to the American system, we are only obligated to support those laws we supported before they were passed? That would certainly explain why Reagan chose to sell missiles to Iran and the Bush administration chose to reveal the identity of a CIA undercover agent…

  22. anjin-san says:

    @ William Teach

    we warned that this would be a disaster even before it was passed. We read the bill.

    What exactly was it in the bill that informed you the website launch would be so poor? Be specific.

  23. rudderpedals says:

    @William Teach: It’s Thanksgiving. Why are you so angry?

  24. anjin-san says:

    Why are you so angry?

    Because Rupert Murdoch pushed his angry button. It’s kind of like Mr. Data’s shutdown switch…

  25. anjin-san says:

    DALLAS (Reuters) – American cardiologists appear staunch in their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform, although some fear that its rocky launch could derail efforts to improve preventive care for needy patients.

    The broad support for the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, emerged in interviews last week in Dallas with more than 20 cardiologists at the annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association. The group has set an aggressive goal of reducing heart disease and deaths from heart disease and strokes in the United States by 20 percent by 2020.

    Heart specialists say the key to achieving that goal is a greater focus on preventive care and access to medical services for more Americans. They view anything that gets more people tested and treated for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and atherosclerosis as a major improvement over treating heart attacks and strokes on an emergency basis.

    The Affordable Care Act’s emphasis on preventive care and increased access, as well as its ban on denying health insurance due to pre-existing conditions, accounts for much of the support in U.S. cardiology circles.

    http://news.yahoo.com/cardiologists-strongly-back-obamacare-worry-over-rocky-start-060719239.html

  26. stonetools says:

    @William Teach:

    I’m glad he posted. it makes it clear how the implacable the Republican opposition is to the ACA.I think liberals commenters here as unhappy with me using terms like “sabotage” and ” massive resistance” to describe the Republican resistance to Obamacare, but Teach’s post makes it clear that Republicans are dedicated to wrecking Obamacare no matter what and no matter who gets hurt.
    Again, I think a problem with the ACA from the start is the Obama Administration really did think that the Republicans would “come around” on the ACA. It didn’t believe that Republican governors would screw over their poor and working class constituents by refusing Medicaid expansion ,(again, underreported here) and it didn’t believe they would refuse to set up state exchanges. When that happened, the Obama Administration was left scrambling trying to turn the federal exchange -which was supposed to to be a backup to the state exchanges-into, essentially, the national exchange envisaged in the House bill, but without the funding.
    What the Obama Administration should have done at that point is to acknowledge that this would be a major problem and appoint a ACA implementation czar to make sure they could scale up the federal exchange into a national exchange in the allotted time period. Instead, the Administration made the big mistake of sticking to the original plan and trusting that somehow, things would work out. In hindsight, that was dumb.

  27. @stonetools: Dems passed it. Dems supported it. Dems own it. Don’t try and blame Republicans for your own incompetence.

  28. steve s says:

    and answers to why implementing a website has taken longer than it took the U.S. to build the first nuclear bomb.

    Well two reasons come to mind if you’re not an idiot:

    1) The first atomic bomb basically used gunpowder to shoot a hollow uranium cylinder into another hollow uranium cylinder. This is about 1000 times easier than making hundreds of different insurance companies’ back ends work perfectly with different rules in 35 states for families with dozens of different financial and employment criteria.

    2) Half the federal government and dozens of states didn’t do every single thing in their power, including threatening financial collapse, to thwart the atomic bomb program.

    You idiot.

  29. steve s says:

    I’m just glad Obamacare is a done deal, there’s nothing idiots like Teach can do about it, and it’ll prob eventually lead to single-payer.

  30. Steve V says:

    The GOP has opposed *everything* Obama has done, not just Obamacare. Some of us remember that the GOP in fact declared its intention to oppose everything Obama wanted, right at the very beginning of his presidency. What is this hogwash about opposing Obamacare on the merits?

    I’d like someone to tally up how many GOP votes, in both congressional houses, any initiative supported by Obama has received over the course of his time in office.

    I think what must have really surprised the administration was the number of GOP-dominated states that opposed the Medicaid expansion. I suspect they didn’t see that coming.

  31. Tyrell says:

    @Steve V: I would like to say that many factors that are having negative effects on this program are not related to Republican or Democrat politics. Here are some problems and solutions:
    They are using out of date technologies. Dump the Commodore 64’s and Wang 2200’s. Replace the Windows 95 system.
    They speak and talk this thing like it is the 1970’s. If they want young, healthy people with money they are not going to get them with out of date language and style that sounds like something you would hear on “Green Acres” or “Andy Griffith” (no offense to anyone, I like those shows).
    Get some advertising with videos like are used on fast food and beer commercials: lots of pretty women in shorts and tight tank tops (some might not like that: they will get over it). Make some commercials like those that advertise some of the popular video games (“Black Ops”, “Assassins Creed”). Get some music stars to do advertising videos (Dre, Cyrus, Gaga. Drake, Rihanna, Shelton, etc.)
    Offer some plans that are exciting and have curb appeal to young people. For higher premiums, you can add orthodontics and cosmetic dental coverage, cosmetic and plastic surgery (including implants), fitness club coverage, and laser eye corrections.
    Use the language of young people and put it on you tube, face book, twitter, skype, and linked.
    Offer free apps that give information.
    Give out free caps, t-shirts, and bracelets for signing up.
    I hope you like my ideas. I would like to hear yours.

  32. Steve V says:

    @Tyrell: To be honest, I think it’s just a little early to declare Obamacare dead, despite Republicans’ best efforts. I tend to think if they get all the online stuff working seamlessly it’ll pretty much take care of itself.

  33. anjin-san says:

    My wife and mother in law were talking about Obamacare at dinner tonight (with no prodding from menacing Obama thugs!). Mostly talking about people they know from the gym or work who have signed up or are going to sign up. It was more than a handful of people, and some of them had previously been uninsured.

    I know, I know. It’s a hundred times worse than Hitler…

  34. Pharoah Narim says:

    @William Teach: CONGRESS passed it! Enough of the Team Red-Team Blue idiocy….

  35. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    THE LAW OF THE LAND

    Wow, this is really becoming a battle cry for you. Sort of like your other go-to lines, “racissssssst” and “Oh God, I do love George Zimmermann so”…

  36. wr says:

    @anjin-san: “Wow, this is really becoming a battle cry for you. Sort of like your other go-to lines, “racissssssst” and “Oh God, I do love George Zimmermann so”…”

    To be fair to Jenos, it’s not racisssst, it’s “raaaaaaacist.”

    Easy for him to remember, because it’s pronounced just like “moooooomy!”

  37. anjin-san says:

    @ wr

    I actually got them both wrong, it should be:

    “Oh God, I do love George Zimmermann sooooooooo”

    It’s odd that Jenos is no longer obsessed with Zimmermann chat. What’s up with that?