Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Look what else we found once we passed it

The original title of this post was going to be "A glitch or a feature" because the White House, in an earlier version of this story that came out this morning was tripping all over themselves to take credit for the fact that middle-income couples could qualify for Medicaid.

President Barack Obama's health care law would let several million middle-class people get nearly free insurance meant for the poor, a twist government number crunchers say they discovered only after the complex bill was signed.

The change would affect early retirees: A married couple could have an annual income of about $64,000 and still get Medicaid, said officials who make long-range cost estimates for the Health and Human Services department.

After initially downplaying any concern, the Obama administration said late Tuesday it would look for a fix.

Up to 3 million more people could qualify for Medicaid in 2014 as a result of the anomaly. That's because, in a major change from today, most of their Social Security benefits would no longer be counted as income for determining eligibility. It might be compared to allowing middle-class people to qualify for food stamps.

Bear in mind, this monstrosity of a law was passed 15 months ago and the no-small-matter of a $450 billion* glitch or anomaly or whatever the Associated Press wants to call it, has only now been discovered.

Medicare chief actuary Richard Foster says the situation keeps him up at night.

"I don't generally comment on the pros or cons of policy, but that just doesn't make sense," Foster said during a question-and-answer session at a recent professional society meeting.

"This is a situation that got no attention at all," added Foster. "And even now, as I raise the issue with various policymakers, people are not rushing to say ... we need to do something about this."
(italics, ours)

Mr. Foster, good sir, welcome to the club where we've known all along it was the how to get this damn thing passed as opposed to what was actually in the bill that received any real attention. Proof of that is legion but a $450 billion glitch is certainly a good jumping off point if you just started scoring at home.

As we said before, initially Team O actually wanted to take credit for this but even they knew it wasn't passing anybody's straight face test.

Administration officials said Tuesday they now see the problem. "We are concerned that, as a matter of law, some middle-income Americans may be receiving coverage through Medicaid, which is meant to serve only the neediest Americans," said Health and Human Services spokesman Richard Sorian. "We are exploring options to address this issue."

Administration officials and senior Democratic lawmakers initially defended the change, saying it wasn't a loophole but the result of a well-meaning effort to simplify the rules for deciding who would get help under the new health care law. Instead of a hodgepodge, there would be one national policy

The spin got away from them and we're back at square one: an atrocious law that doesn't deserve fixing, is hopelessly beyond tweeking and rates only being killed dead in its tracks at the first available opportunity.

* The $450 billion figure appeared in an earlier edition of the story. Not sure why the AP chose to drop it in subsequent revisions. It's kind of important because it's a rather largeish figure, don't you think?


Anonymous said...

"...a well-meaning effort to simplify the rules for deciding who would get help under the new health care law."

whenever this regime uses the term "well meaning", i shudder.

SarahB said...

Every bit the jacked-up mess we all imagined. Kafka is laughing from his grave.