Wel­come to Oba­macare: Fax us your money

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

What a de­ba­cle. On March 30, 2010, Pres­i­dent Obama signed the non­iron­i­cally named Af­ford­able Care Act. That was 915 days ago. From the mo­ment the last of the 22 pens he used to sign the bill into law left the parch­ment, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has been gear­ing up — and, of course, col­lect­ing cash — for Day One, non-iron­i­cally set 915 days in the fu­ture, Oct. 1, 2013.

In the mean­time, though, the com­mu­nity or­ga­nizer from Chicagoland ex­empted ev­ery­one in his ad­min­is­tra­tion from the law (as well as law­mak­ers and staffers in Congress). Lots of cam­paign donors and busi­ness bud­dies in blue states got waivers, too. But ev­ery­one else has to fall in line and get set for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to gain an un­fath­omable de­gree of con­trol over their lives.

Well, not ev­ery­one. Months ago, the gov­ern­ment that could hardly ad­min­is­ter a “cash for clunkers” pro­gram had to bail on the “em­ployer man­date,” push­ing the start date back to Oct. 1, 2015. That means busi­nesses with more than 50 full-time em­ploy­ees are ex­empt from Oba­macare.

But small busi­nesses, the back­bone of the Amer­i­can econ­omy, are still forced to com­ply with the re­gres­sive law. The Wal­Marts and Best Buys and Olive Gar­dens es­caped the gov­ern­ment maw, but not the most vul­ner­a­ble, en­tre­pre­neur­ial com­pa­nies (which don’t have mil­lion-dol­lar lob­by­ists eat­ing stuffed shrimp with fat-cat law­mak­ers ev­ery night). Oh, and you have to en­roll, too. No ifs, ands or buts. So, your fed­eral gov­ern­ment has been in over­drive for 915 days, with mil­lions of work­ers ready­ing your new health care. How, you ask, is it go­ing, with just days un­til kick­off?

It’s a dis­as­ter. Last week, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced that small busi­nesses won’t be able to en­roll online un­til Novem­ber. They’ll still have to sign up, of course, they just can’t do it online. The Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Depart­ment of­fered this help­ful guid­ance: Sign up by fax. Yes, fax — like it’s 1999. Or, HHS said, just drop us a let­ter. Don’t worry, the broke and be­fud­dled Postal Ser­vice is sure to de­liver your most pri­vate in­for­ma­tion to us.

The de­lay fol­lowed another change that dra­mat­i­cally af­fects small busi­nesses. The ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced that in 2014, busi­nesses that use the “ex­changes” will have only one avail­able plan to cover em­ploy­ees — not a sin­gle al­ter­na­tive. So much for the pres­i­dent’s vow of choice and com­pe­ti­tion. What’s more, some ex­changes won’t be able to cal­cu­late the costs of insurance plans or tax sub­si­dies un­til at least Novem­ber.

Then, with just days to go, the ad­min­is­tra­tion leaked out some truth. Sto­ries emerged that Oba­macare will bring high out-of-pocket costs, some run­ning as high as $6,350. The New York Times, last to vet the new pro­gram, sud­denly re­ported that — shock! — “Lower Health Insurance Premi­ums to Come at Cost of Fewer Choices.”

Still, the dis­as­trous news didn’t stop the pres­i­dent from up­selling his down-plung­ing pro­gram to con­fused Amer­i­cans.

“They’re go­ing to be able to go to a com­puter, tap on the Web page and they’re go­ing to be able to shop just like you shopped for an air­line ticket or a flatscreen TV, and see what’s the best price for you, what’s the plan that’s best suited for you, and go ahead and sign up right there and then,” he said. As long as you have a fax ma­chine.

Joseph Curl cov­ered the White House and pol­i­tics for a decade for The Wash­ing­ton Times and is now ed­i­tor of the Drudge Re­port. He can be reached at josephcurl@ gmail.com and on Twit­ter @josephcurl.

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