NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

April 5, 2014

Obamacare: Failure through incompetence, or by design?

Barbara Anderson
Newburyport Daily News

---- — It’s April: Got insurance?

Inevitable news story: As uninsured people tried desperately to meet the March 31 deadline, the Obamacare system crashed again. I’d tell you how many people actually got enrolled and paid their premium, but you can’t believe any numbers — or much of anything else — coming out of the Obama administration, and all you’ll hear from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is that it’s not his fault, whatever it is.

Today, a congressional committee is demanding answers from his administration about the state’s broken Health Connector website and its security protections: Apparently the lax protocols have put people at risk of identity theft. Health Connector Executive Director Jean Yang is expected to testify about problems with the state’s exchange before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, sent a letter last week about his concerns to Patrick, who cheerfully whistled past the graveyard in his usual denial mode. “I don’t think we have a reason to be concerned,” Patrick said. Good to know.

In my office, the remaining staffer not yet on Medicare does seem to be insured with a new plan, as our broker worked out something to get Chip’s unnecessary pediatric dental care covered. His deductible doubled, though.

But, but ... our congressman, John Tierney, told us, “If you like the plan you have, you keep it.”

Here’s something new. During a recent visit to his doctor, Chip was handed a notice about “a new and innovative concept in patient care: share medical appointments,” including shared annual physicals. You may pause to inject your own image-joke here; so far, everyone we’ve told came up with something about an assembly-line prostate exam.

Can’t blame the doctors, after the stories we’re hearing about the time they are going to spend now filling out the Obamacare code books, in which they must give detailed descriptions of roughly 68,000 various procedures like “Code W61.01XA: bitten by a parrot, initial encounter” and “Code V97.33XD, sucked into a jet engine, subsequent encounter” (from March 25 Globe story by Steven Syre). I think the reference is to the second encounter between doctor and patient, not between patient and jet engine, but it’s not clear.

My pharmacist told me about Gov. Patrick’s new initiative on dealing with opiate addiction: Druggists presented with an opiate prescription must check it with a database to make sure the patient isn’t filling various prescriptions from various doctors (Code XXX: patient I’ve never met before begging for addictive drugs). So, if you stop in on your way from surgery with a prescription, you’d better hope the computer system isn’t down for three days. My pharmacist has known me for 40 years and knows I think twice before taking one Aleve, but the government wants me to prove it before allowing me my valid prescription.

I feel bad for those with real pain who inadvertently get addicted, but let’s not pretend that young people who take drugs “for fun” or because of “peer pressure” couldn’t help themselves. We need to tell them: “Hey kids, it’s stupid, just say no, the first time, every time.

Someone suggested that the government should take addicts under the government wing while helping them fight their addiction. I might think that was a decent plan — better than letting them walk the streets committing crimes to feed their pathetic need — if it wasn’t for the Justina Pelletier case in which the government got its claws into a 15-year-old girl it is now holding prisoner as she wastes away. In a treatment dispute between Children’s Hospital and Tufts, Judge Joseph Johnston took the girl from her parents and awarded permanent custody to the dysfunctional state Department of Children and Families. Two state legislators, Reps. Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, and Jim Lyons, R-Andover, are trying to get the Legislature to step in; just last weekend, the famous defense attorney Alan Dershowitz offered to help, arguing that this is a terrible violation of parental rights. Gov. Patrick, of course, has no opinion.

Here’s a health insurance story I wouldn’t want anyone to miss. It seems that Matt Drudge, of “The Drudge Report,” tweeted “Just paid the Obamacare penalty for not ‘getting covered’ ... I’M CALLING IT A LIBERTY TAX.” The White House media charged him with lying, because everyone knows the individual mandate has been delayed until 2015! Hah! Gotcha!

Well, umm, yes, if you are an individual taxpayer. If you are a small business like Drudge’s, you started to pay your quarterly taxes for 2015 last month. It would be startling to learn that the Obama administration has no clue about national tax policy that relates to businesses, if we didn’t already know that it has no clue about actually running a business. Remember Obama’s amazement as Obamacare started to fall apart: “What we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.”

It’s also complicated to run an insurance company and keep your clients covered when the president unilaterally — and unconstitutionally — keeps impulsively changing the law that was passed by Congress.

It seems clear that the real goal of Obamacare is to eventually have a single-payer government healthcare system, with no competition and no control by the insured. But while some argue that to this end, Obamacare was always meant to fail, driving frustrated consumers into asking the government to take over, I can’t believe that the president really wanted to look this incompetent; nobody would.

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Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation.