, Newburyport, MA

October 1, 2013

Our view: Obamacare heading off the tracks

Newburyport Daily News

---- — Obamacare: Train wreck or triumph?

We’re about to find out as major provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect this month.

We’re betting on, but not hoping for, a train wreck.

The ACA, a bill that virtually no one read, was railroaded through Congress with no real debate on a strictly partisan vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi famously told her members at the time, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.”

And if anyone knows about fog, it’s the Democrat from San Francisco.

Now the fog is beginning to lift and what we see is not pretty. In fact, it’s looking so ugly that some principal backers of Obamacare are turning away.

That includes members of Congress. While not technically exempt from the law they passed, Senate and House members will be given special treatment not available to the rest of us, including generous subsidies.

They also don’t have to worry about having their hours cut to part-time so they lose their health insurance. And even if we fire them in 2014, we’ll continue to pay their benefits.

Another shining example of the “Good for thee, but not for me” principle is Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

The governor has twice applied for a permanent waiver from Obamacare and has twice been denied.

Because Massachusetts has Romneycare, Massachusetts has a three-year exemption from the more onerous and intrusive Obamacare, but the Patrick administration wanted a full waiver.

The reason is simple: While Obamacare might reduce insurance rates for some small businesses, it would increase them for more than half.

In a letter to Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Patrick said the waiver was needed to “avoid increases in health insurance premiums for a large segment of our small employer population and their employees.”

Sixth District Congressman John Tierney and other Bay State representatives also asked Sebelius to make a Massachusetts exception.

In response to his plea for special treatment, Sebelius wrote a patronizing and humiliating rejection letter to Patrick.

“As a result of your leadership and dedication to this issue, we continue to explore any possible option regarding your request; however, we are unable to grant a permanent waiver from these rating rules,” Sebelius said in the letter, according to the Statehouse News Service.

“Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further thoughts or concerns,” Sebelius concluded.

The business group Associated Industries of Massachusetts said it was “gravely disappointed” by Sebelius’ brush-off.

“Denial of the waiver will cause health insurance costs to rise significantly for many small employers and their employees ... for no good reason. Why disrupt a system that works here in Massachusetts where 97 percent of people have health insurance?” wrote AIM Vice President of Government Affairs John Regan.

The group said some could see rates spike by almost 60 percent.

AIM said it is considering a lawsuit.

Bring it on. We’d love to see Gov. Patrick on the witness stand testifying about legislation he supported but doesn’t want any part of.