OpinionWed Oct 23, 2013 - 11:20 am EST
Hobby Lobbyists: Company pitches mandate fight to supremes
October 22, 2013 (FRC) - You know the ObamaCare rollout is bad when Consumer Reports, the holy grail of product reviews, warns people "to stay away from Healthcare.gov." In a blog post on the new system, the progressive company that prides itself on distinguishing the "hype from the facts" says the President's new website is a bust. Steer clear, its experts say, "until its software vendors clean up the mess they've made."
Unfortunately, economists point out, the dysfunctional website may be the least of everyone's worries. Once the cyber-kinks get worked out, there's plenty more to be concerned about -- not the least of which is the collapse of the overwhelmed insurance pools. John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, thinks the biggest ObamaCare surprises are yet to come. "The danger from this triple threat is that too many healthy people will exit or never sign up for the exchanges, leaving only the people who are most expensive to insure," Goodman explained. "A death spiral for an insurance pool is like a normal company going bankrupt... Healthy people [will] leave the pool because they're being over-charged. Sick people remain because they are being under-charged."
While the rest of the country is focused on the technical chaos, the real panic may set in after Americans can enroll and start tipping the system into an unsustainable future. In the meantime, House Republicans are doing what they can to get to the bottom of the administration's mechanical failures, now three years in the making. With Health and Human Services in the crosshairs, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius may be backpedaling on her earlier decision not to testify before Congress. Now, the beleaguered HHS chief promises to appear before the House -- just as soon as they can find a "mutually agreeable date."
For now, HHS seems content to throw the system's contractors under the bus, as at least two lead companies take turns in the hot seat before the Energy and Commerce Committee this Thursday. Like most members, Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) sees right through the Secretary's "scheduling" charade. "This is wholly unacceptable. Secretary Sebelius had time for ['The Daily Show's'] Jon Stewart, and we expect her to have time for Congress." A frustrated Upton blasted the administration's misplaced priorities, saying that the "rollout has been a complete mess, beyond the worst case scenario, and yet those administration officials responsible have indicated they will not be available to testify next week." If the HHS chief has time for Comedy Central, then surely she has an hour to answer questions about a taxpayer-funded system gone completely off the rails.
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Yesterday, President Obama took his turn before the microphones, an attempt to salvage his sinking approval ratings. For the third consecutive quarter, Americans' satisfaction with the White House is plummeting -- dropping to 44.5%, an epic low that puts the commander-in-chief in some dubious company. Only two presidents have had lower 19th quarter averages than Obama: Richard Nixon (Watergate) and Lyndon Johnson (Vietnam).
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, whose job is to help insulate the President from those numbers, left the door open in yesterday's press conference for a temporary delay of the individual mandate. After getting hammered by the press corps, Carney suggested that the cornerstone of the law might be the next piece to be postponed. "The law is clear that if you do not have access to affordable health insurance, then you will not be asked to pay a penalty because you haven't purchased affordable health insurance."
The owners of Hobby Lobby -- and a host of other businesses -- would certainly appreciate the same reprieve from the abortion-contraception mandate, which as of October 1, forces companies to pay for drugs and devices they morally oppose or face crushing fines. If the administration won't protect the First Amendment, Hobby Lobby is hoping the Supreme Court will. Monday, the owners filed papers with the justices, asking them to take their case against the Obama administration. Their fate -- and the fate of more than 230 years of religious liberty -- depend on it.
Reprinted with permission from FRC