If It Were Not So Serious, We’d Be Laughing

Your Assignment: Hire and train enough $15/hour subject matter experts to enroll 30 million Americans in Obamacare by the 6 month deadline starting one week ago.

This assignment probably cannot save Obamacare from slipping even further behind. But, to encourage pursuit of this unicorn, 100 nonprofits have been contracted to train Obamacare “navigators” who will help enroll currently uninsured people.  These guides will use laptops to enroll people in the health insurance “marketplace” at places in the community where uninsured people gather.  Failure with this Obamacare task could set in motion the “train wreck” that some officials fear.

Materials for training the yet to be hired navigators arrived in early September.  Federal grants to train and pay these “guides” were made to nonprofits in each state.  In Texas, a $10,800,000 grant was allotted to employ 150 guides for six months enrolling Texas’ uninsured people.  If the navigators work 40 hours each week for 6 months earning $15/hour, navigator labor would cost $2.34 million.  Adding another $1,000 for laptops and software would bring the total to $2.49 million, or $23% of the Texas grant.  What justifies overhead costing 77% of the grant?

Training the guides and enrolling the uninsured is just one of the many tasks on Obamacare’s iffy schedule.  The employer mandate has already been officially delayed for a year – leaving 300,000 without health coverage and reducing federal taxes and fees by $11 billion.  Obamacare’s shepherds have failed to establish caps for out of pocket costs for insured claims – a glaring exposure sure to ruin some families.  Also behind schedule are fraud and identity protections for private health and financial data.  Digital burglars are no doubt ready to feast on that treasure chest and it’s unclear what consumers could do to protect themselves.  Coherent reporting for health outcomes improvements was an important inducement for getting Obamacare passed.  That was part of a virtuous feedback loop that could direct funding to where it does the most good.  Without that steering wheel we’re at the mercy of whatever politicians think is “trending” – rudderless and flapping in the breeze.

Total health care costs under Obamacare remain uncertain. For the majority of families who are ineligible for subsidies, the health care premiums and out of pocket costs are unknown and scary.  A study in Ohio suggested families will pay premiums that will be 55% to 85% higher by 2017 than in 2012. Also by 2017 in Ohio, Medicare subsidies will be reduced by $3,390 to $10,763 per beneficiary prompting much higher co-pays and likely inciting physician mutinies.

Despite delays in about half the significant deliverables and consumer cost increases that look outrageous, the 10-year federal government Obamacare budget is steady at $1.9 trillion – at least until Obamacare starts in earnest.  By then the architects will be in the wind and we consumers will be left to bail out the cost overruns.

Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research

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