Health

Obama Loses Millennials Over Obamacare

Obamacare’s rocky launch has taken a toll on President Obama’s most loyal supporters. A new USA Today/Pew Research poll shows the president’s approval rating among 18 to 29-year-old Americans dropping from 67% just one year ago to a new low of 45%.

USA Today: “Just 41% approve of his signature health care policy, while 54% disapprove.”

“Even among young poll respondents who say they approve of how Obama is handling his job, there has been a drop-off in the intensity of their backing of the president. Twenty-two percent said that they approve strongly of Obama’s performance in the latest poll compared with 41% who said they approved strongly when they were surveyed in January.”

“The tough polling numbers with young Americans offer a snapshot of the road ahead for the Obama administration in repairing damage caused by the troubled rollout of Obamacare, which has even worn on some of the president’s most ardent supporters.”

Errors Continue to Plague Government Health Site

“Insurers and federal officials sifting through insurance applications under the health-care law have identified a raft of errors, including missing customers and inaccurate eligibility determinations that mean people may be enrolled in the wrong coverage,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Thousands of insurance applicants from HealthCare.gov — at least one in five at the height of the problems by one estimate — have received inaccurate assignments to Medicaid or to the marketplace for private plans, or have received incorrect denials, people familiar with the matter said. Eligibility determinations are an early step in the application process, before consumers choose plans.”

“In some cases described by a state official with knowledge of the matter, legal immigrants who aren’t yet eligible for Medicaid in Illinois—it takes five years of residence to join the state-run programs for low-income people—were nevertheless told they would be enrolled.”

A Way to 'Fix' Obamacare Enrollment Numbers

In an apparent move to avoid political embarrassment, the Obama administration announced a one-week extension to the December 23 deadline for consumers to make their first premium payment under Obamacare.

The deadline to sign up for healthcare coverage beginning January 1 has also been pushed back a week to December 23.

The New York Times: Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, “went further on Thursday, urging insurers to provide ‘retroactive coverage for people who sign up after Jan. 1.’”

“The steps are intended to reduce problems widely expected to occur next month. Hundreds of thousands of people may gain coverage, some for the first time. But insurers say they have no record of many potential customers who believe they have enrolled, so some patients may be disappointed when they seek care at doctors’ offices, clinics and drugstores.”

“Such disappointment could create huge political problems for the White House, just as President Obama is trying to highlight benefits of the new health care law.”

FDA to Phase Out Antibiotics in Meat

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Wednesday that it would be phasing out the non-medical use of antibiotics in animals raised for meat.

The New York Times: “This is the agency’s first serious attempt in decades to curb what experts have long regarded as the systematic overuse of antibiotics in healthy farm animals, with the drugs typically added directly into their feed and water. The waning effectiveness of antibiotics — wonder drugs of the 20th century — has become a looming threat to public health. At least two million Americans fall sick every year and about 23,000 die from antibiotic-resistant infections.”

“The change, which is to take effect over the next three years, will effectively make it illegal for farmers and ranchers to use antibiotics to make animals grow bigger.”

“Under the new policy, the agency is asking drug makers to [voluntarily] change the labels that detail how a drug can be used so they would bar farmers from using the medicines to promote growth.”

An Obamacare Deadline That Could be Hard to Meet

Amidst the encouraging news that Obamacare enrollment numbers have increased to nearly 365,000, ProPublica reports  “there’s a huge caveat that isn’t getting much public attention: For coverage to take effect on Jan. 1, enrollees must pay their first month’s premium on time. (The deadline varies somewhat by state and by insurer.)”

“That’s slow going, according to consultants and some insurers, raising the prospect that actual enrollment will be far lower than the figures [the Department of Health and Human Services] is releasing.”

Industry experts have expressed concern about the low premium payments: “So far I’m hearing from health plans that around 5% and 10% of consumers who have made it through the data transfer gauntlet have paid first month’s premium and therefore truly enrolled.”

“With problems plaguing HealthCare.gov until the end of November, consumers don’t have much time to pick plans.”

Latest Obamacare Enrollment Report Card Shows Some Progress

ABC News provides the latest headlines from the White House’s Obamacare enrollment numbers covering the period October 1 through November 30:

  • Bottom line number: The White House is touting overall progress since October as 1.2 million people either selecting an individual plan in the marketplace OR being deemed eligible for Medicaid/CHIP.
  • Enrollments picking up pace, but still lagging: November more than doubled that with 259,000 sign-ups.
  • Federal exchange (in 36 states): All told, more than 166,000 people have signed up through the federal exchange.
  • State exchanges (in 14 states plus D.C.): November had 148,000 sign-ups
  • 1.9 million Americans have applied, but not locked in a plan.
  • Fixing erroneous enrollments: The figures released today show that as many as 35,000 Americans who think they successfully enrolled in a plan may actually be in limbo with their insurer due to errors on the federal website’s backend (specifically with the 834 forms).
  • Site traffic: More than 39 million unique visitors to state and federal exchanges since the October 1 launch. Between 12:01 a.m. Monday, Dec. 9, through 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, HealthCare.gov alone saw more than 800,000 visitors per HHS.
  • Medicaid expansion of 803,000 through November 30.

Poll: Views of Obamacare Improve Slightly

According to a new CBS/New York Times poll, “most Americans (58 percent) don’t think the signup for the new health care exchanges is going well, but more than a third – 36 percent — think it is improving.”

Overall views of the health care law improved by 8% (now 39%) from an all-time low of 31% in November, while 50% disapprove.

There was also an improvement in Americans’ views of how the health-care exchange sign-up is going: 16% (11% in November) think it has been going well;  58% (67% in November), think it’s not going well.

“Barack Obama’s job approval rating has risen slightly from an all-time low of 37 percent last month to 42 percent now.”

“In particular, there has been an improvement in the way Americans view the job President Obama is doing handling health care.  While most Americans still disapprove of his handling of it, approval has risen nine points since November, from 32 percent (a record low) to 41 percent today.”

Yes, Obamacare is Redistribution

Jonathan Cohn: “Republicans and their allies are making a lot of different arguments about what Obamacare is doing to America. It’s hiking premiums! It’s making people lose their doctors! It’s destroying Medicare! But if you listen closely, you’ll discern a common theme—a message aimed squarely at the middle class: Obamacare is taking away your money or health insurance, and giving it to somebody else.”

“It’s not a novel argument. This is how Republicans have been attacking Democrats at least since the late 1960s, with varying results. For Ronald Reagan, it was a winner. For Mitt Romney, it wasn’t. Maybe it will resonate this time and maybe it won’t. Honestly, I have no idea. But since we’re having this debate, it would be good to clarify who’s getting money from the law—and who’s providing it. Republicans aren’t wrong when they say Obamacare amounts to redistribution. But they seem to have a distorted view of how that redistribution works.”

Obamacare: Low Premiums but Other Costs Could be High

Low premiums are an attractive feature of the policies available in the new insurance exchanges, but other costs could be steep, reports The New York Times.

“Until now, it was almost impossible for people using the federal health care website to see the deductible amounts … But federal officials finally relented last week and added a “window shopping” feature that displays data on deductibles.”

“For policies offered in the federal exchange, as in many states, the annual deductible often tops $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for a couple.”

“By contrast … the average deductible in employer-sponsored health plans is $1,135.”

“Cost-sharing reductions” are available through subsidies based on income levels but “the government had not done much to inform people of these potential savings.”

“Many people buying insurance on the federal and state exchanges are expected to qualify for subsidies. But in the first month, for reasons that are not clear, only 30 percent qualified. The others must pay the full premium and will be subject to the full deductible.”

Obama Needs "Emotional Moral Clarity" for Obamacare

Michael Zuckerman contends that “President Obama’s new push to ‘sell’ the law … risks devolving into transactionalism … To make the case, Obama needs to strike the sustained, emotional moral clarity—consistent claims that go beyond economic benefits—that helped bring him to Washington in the first place.”

“For supporters of progressive taxation, the social safety net, and the responsibility to heal the sick, that rationale for shying away from moral claims is misguided to the point of self-sabotage. Adding a set of bold moral arguments for healthcare reform to a recitation of the program’s transactional benefits is a winning strategy for three main reasons.”

  • First, the risk is not that high.
  • Second, it’s better than being ignored.
  • Third, Obama is the standard-bearer of a party in the midst of a fight over the validity of its philosophical underpinning.

Martha Nussbaum: “Ceding the terrain of emotion-shaping to antiliberal forces gives them a huge advantage in the people’s hearts and risks making people think of liberal values as tepid and boring.”

Obamacare Success Depends on the Politics

Ross Douthat calls for cautious optimism that Obamacare’s troubles are over, arguing that implementation of the law long-term “actually depends on the law’s political standing.”

“That’s because the law can work only if people who don’t necessarily benefit immediately from its provisions decide to participate anyway.”

“But the mandate’s penalty is relatively modest and its enforcement mechanisms relatively weak, which means its power ultimately depends more on civic duty than on immediate self-interest.”

And recent polls “suggest that [among the traditionally pro-Obama millennials] the political emotions stirred up by the rollout — frustration, disillusionment, anger — could have substantial consequences for sign-up rates as well.”

“Now, though, the fate of [the Obama administration’s] policy may depend on not only reaching them, but reconverting them as well.”

Poll: Majority of Americans Want Major Changes to Obamacare

A new Gallup poll shows that “the percentage of Americans who prefer that Congress scale back or entirely repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare,” has changed little. Fifty-two percent favor scaling back (20%) or repealing (32%) the law, similar to the 50% from mid-October.”

Bottom Line: “Despite HHS’s announcement on Dec. 1 that the technical issues have been mostly fixed and reports of 29,000 new enrollees in the days thereafter, Americans so far are no less likely to say Congress should repeal the law or scale it back.”

“Americans’ views about congressional action on the healthcare law have remained steady, and it is unclear whether they will budge in the months to come.”

Why Millennials Will Come Around on Obamacare

Ryan Cooper tells us not to worry about enrollment by millennials and gives 6 reasons why:

  1. Young people are not actually invincible. [They] can be turned in an instant to people with pre-existing conditions — which is to say, people who will benefit from the protection of Obamacare.
  2. Going without insurance is morally wrong. Getting insurance will be part of living in a decent society where everyone chips in when they can afford it, and free-riding is frowned upon — and over time, young people will come to see this as part of being a responsible citizen.
  3. It’s the law.
  4. People haven’t grasped how the subsidies work yet. Once the range of financial help trickles through the national consciousness young people will be surprised at the prices on offer.
  5. Pressure from mom and dad.
  6. Being uninsured sucks!

Most importantly: “the White House has a long time to bring about this change.”