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Posts Tagged ‘Insurance’
August 21st, 2014 at 2:38 pm
Avik Roy Updates His ObamaCare Alternative

Credit Avik Roy for being open-minded.

A week after unveiling his ambitious – and controversial – reform of ObamaCare, Roy, a well-respected health policy expert, is incorporating some of the best criticisms as amendments to his plan.

Most of the changes are highly technical, and not worth delving into in a short blog post. For readers interested in specifics, here is the link to Roy’s updates page.

What’s refreshing about Roy’s response to his fellow conservatives is his willingness to defend his ideas, but not to the point of brushing aside legitimate improvements.

As to the biggest concern – that preserving ObamaCare’s insurance exchanges makes it possible that Democrat congressional majorities in the future might use them as a springboard to a single-payer system – Roy replies, “No health-reform plan can singlehandedly prevent Democrats from doing whatever they want if they ever again have 2009-size, filibuster-proof majorities. But if that’s the standard for constructive GOP reform plans, well, let’s just call it a day.”

Roy’s point is well taken, but it highlights a central tension among conservatives whenever federal policymaking is considered – Which is more important: Market efficiency or federalism?

Policy wonks like Roy tend to favor efficiency as a way to lower spending and improve citizen-customer experiences. Constitutionalists like myself tend to favor federalism and the policy diversity that it affords. Of course, different regulatory regimes produce market inefficiencies. However, that just may be the price of freedom.

Roy should be applauded for trying to make his ObamaCare alternative as strong as possible. Time will tell whether conservatives will come to favor an efficient, federally-regulated national market, or continue to favor a system that lets states and their citizens decide what works best for them.

August 14th, 2014 at 8:35 pm
Indiana Jumps on the Halbig Bandwagon

Add Indiana to the list of states arguing that ObamaCare’s subsidies can’t be used on Healthcare.gov, the federal exchange.

The challenge is the same mounted by other states contesting the IRS’s unilateral decision to go against the clear language of ObamaCare which makes subsidies available only on state-based exchanges, a restriction intended to induce states to shoulder the implementation costs for fear of angering residents by exposing them to ObamaCare’s real costs.

U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence will decide whether Indiana’s case has merit in October. Precedent from other circuits isn’t all that helpful, since the D.C. Circuit upheld the statutory scheme while the Fourth Circuit sided with the IRS.

The silver lining: Whatever Lawrence and the appellate circuit decide will further fragment ObamaCare’s implementation, increasing the likelihood that the Supreme Court will weigh in.

Whenever that happens, hopefully there will still be five votes to uphold the plain meaning of the law.

H/T: Indianapolis Star

August 12th, 2014 at 6:06 pm
Signs Emerge that ObamaCare Enrollment Is Dropping

It looks like the Obama administration’s much celebrated achievement of 8 million ObamaCare enrollments is actually dropping over time.

“The nation’s third-largest health insurer [Aetna] had 720,000 people sign up for exchange coverage as of May 20,” writes Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily. “At the end of June, it had fewer than 600,000 paying customers. Aetna expects that to fall to ‘just over 500,000’ by the end of the year.”

While no other insurance company has publicly reported declines as steep as Aetna, many others have not denied it is happening during recent conference calls discussing earnings.

Some attrition in ObamaCare signups is to be expected since a number of major life events could cause a change in status. Getting a new job with health benefits, for example. But the Obama administration’s refusal to publicize monthly enrollment numbers makes it impossible to get a clear picture of how well the law is working.

Which may be precisely the goal.

August 11th, 2014 at 2:24 pm
HHS to Fund Coming ObamaCare Bailout of Insurance Companies

What makes conservatives so sure that the Obama administration will bailout insurance companies losing money under ObamaCare?

“According to a recent investigation conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Darrell Issa, insurers widely expect to receive funds from the bailout program,” writes U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “One large insurer recently filed financial statements claiming they expect part of their revenue to come from American taxpayers via the ObamaCare bailout ‘fund.’”

Thwarted by the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives who refuse to appropriate money for this part of ObamaCare, the Department of Health and Human Services “figured out a way to use general funds available through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay off health insurers,” says Rubio. “The effect is to circumvent Congress’ power of the purse for the purpose of bailing out health insurers with taxpayer funds.”

Whether it’s the CIA lying about spying on congressional investigators or IRS officials conveniently losing potentially damaging emails, executive branch officials in the Obama administration are destroying the ability of anybody outside their clique from being able to trust anything they say.

August 7th, 2014 at 3:24 pm
The Coming ObamaCare Bailout

Because of ObamaCare’s mismatched incentive structure, some savvy commentators are warning of an impending, multi-billion dollar bailout of the insurance companies selling health care policies under the law.

“Pre-ObamaCare,” writes Dan McLaughlin, “insurers had to price their policies mainly by reference to market forces (albeit in an already heavily-regulated market)… Guess wrong and you lost money. But under ObamaCare, consumers no longer have the choice whether or not to buy policies, and insurance companies no longer face any risk of losing money, because they’ve been promised a bailout. Money will still be lost, but it will be taxpayer money, and you never run out of that, do you?”

McLaughlin is talking about ObamaCare’s “3 R’s” – reinsurance, risk corridors and the risk adjustment program. I’ve written about this multi-year, $20 billion bailout before. In different ways, each is designed to subsidize insurers for lost revenue traceable to the health law’s dysfunctional mandates. The threefold scheme was buried in the legislation to buy the support of large insurance companies who would have refused to participate without it.

Now the bill is coming due.

Based on interviews and documents containing discussions between Obama administration officials and insurance industry executives, a House Government Oversight report reveals that insurers are expecting the following payments:

1)      $640 million from the Risk Corridor program for the 2014 plan year

2)      $346 million from the Risk Adjustment program

The reinsurance program redistributes money among private insurance companies, as determined by the federal government.

The numbers quoted above are two to three times higher than originally anticipated because of the high level of adverse selection – i.e. too many older and sicker enrollees, not enough younger and healthier ones. The latter group is avoiding enrollment, preferring to pay ObamaCare’s relatively low penalty. But even that is a mirage. Reports are surfacing that as many as 25 million uninsured Americans are getting ObamaCare penalty waivers for next year; further increasing the federal budget deficit.

Bailouts can be nice, if they apply to you. But as a governing strategy, they eventually bankrupt the entire system.

August 6th, 2014 at 1:36 pm
Vermont Latest to Fire ObamaCare Website Maker

After nearly a year of failed attempts, Vermont is firing CGI Federal – the company that bungled both the federal healthcare.gov and Massachusetts’ online insurance exchange – as its web designer.

“With Vermont still lacking a fully functioning health website more than 10 months after its glitch-plagued debut last October, Vermont officials said late Monday that they were pulling the plug on CGI’s CGI Technologies and Solutions’ contract,” reports Newsweek.

The decision will cost CGI almost $20 million, but at least Vermont has agreed not to sue the company for damages.

Vermont’s announcement follows several other states that have abandoned their original – and very expensive – ObamaCare websites. Some, like Nevada, Hawaii, and Oregon, are planning to cut their losses and transition to the federal healthcare.gov website. Others, like Massachusetts, Maryland, and now Vermont, are switching to new contractors hoping to recoup at least some of their investments.

Of course, there are success stories. State exchanges in Kentucky and Connecticut are routinely cited as well-functioning websites – though even these have glitches. However, the prevalence of so many high-profile failures indicates that this massive experiment in public-private partnerships has resulted in a huge transfer of wealth with precious little to show for it.

June 27th, 2014 at 6:17 pm
Cover Oregon Offers Bonuses to Staff Not to Leave

Oregon’s failed ObamaCare website is so fraught with failure the state is offering to pay employees bonuses just to keep them on the job.

After spending over $250 million – and retaining more than $50 million in federal grants – to build an ObamaCare health insurance exchange that failed to enroll a single person, Oregon decided to switch to Healthcare.gov, the federal equivalent.

Apparently, though, the crisis isn’t over. Since April, 27 staff members of Cover Oregon have left, taking with them valuable skills that can’t easily be replaced in time to transition to the federal website. To staunch the bleeding, Oregon is making a total of $650,000 in bonuses available to the remaining 163 employees, if they stay on till the end of the job.

As I explained in my column this week, state officials are primarily responsible for the costly disaster that is Cover Oregon. This news is just one more reminder that simple, avoidable mistakes by politicians and bureaucrats have huge and prolonged consequences.

H/T: NRO

May 21st, 2014 at 1:55 pm
Nevada Closes Its ObamaCare Exchange, Hawaii Next?

Fed up with a dysfunctional health exchange operated by Xerox, Nevada officials voted to terminate the contract and transfer responsibility to the federal government.

Apparently, spending $75 million to enroll about one-fourth the number of people initially projected convinced Nevada to throw in the towel.

Nevada joins Oregon, Maryland and Massachusetts as states who have scrapped their original state-based exchanges because of exceedingly poor performance.

The next domino to fall may be Hawaii, whose ObamaCare exchange – the Hawaii Health Connector – has registered just 8,500 people but needs at least 150,000 enrollees to ensure the program is self-sustaining.

Not surprisingly, Hawaiian officials are already being pressured to shut it down.

May 20th, 2014 at 1:28 pm
Feds Can’t Verify Over 1 Million Income Statements Seeking ObamaCare Subsidies

Amid all the legitimate privacy concerns with ObamaCare’s regulatory apparatus – in particular the proposed data hub that allows agencies like the IRS, Social Security Administration and HHS to share reams of information about individual citizens with each other, states and insurance companies – it’s been taken for granted that the liberals in charge of this grand social experiment at least had the technical competency to build the necessary infrastructure.

But the facts say otherwise.

“Of the roughly 8 million Americans now signed up for coverage this year under the health care law, about 5.5 million are in the federal insurance exchange,” reports the Washington Post. “And according to internal documents, more than half of them – about 3 million – have an application containing at least one kind of inconsistency.”

The Post says the most frequent inconsistency is a discrepancy in the income reported on an ObamaCare application and the income reported to the IRS. This type of inconsistency is present on between 1.1 million and 1.5 million applications. To their credit, citizens have sent in “about 650,000 pieces of ‘proof’” to justify their asserted income.

Because of the level of detail required when filling out the 20-plus page ObamaCare application, it’s no surprise many people mistakenly enter something wrong; especially when considering that most people get help on their taxes from either a certified professional or software that easily finds all the right deductions. Neither option was readily available to the vast majority of ObamaCare applicants.

What is astonishing, however, is the federal government’s complete inability to process and verify corrections digitally. “Because the computer capability does not yet exist, the work will start by hand, according to two people familiar with the plans,” says the Post. (Emphasis added)

ObamaCare subsidies are the essential ingredient for claiming that ObamaCare insurance is “affordable” since they at least partially offset the increased cost of coverage. Failing to launch a website capable of verifying income claims that determine whether a person qualifies for subsidies is inexcusable.

If there is any silver lining to this latest blunder it’s that Serco – the federal contractor accused last week of billing HHS $1 billion while hiring employees literally to do nothing – is now on the hook for correcting the inconsistencies. Small comfort though, since apparently Serco gets paid based on the number of employees it hires rather than the efficiency of its work product. Requiring the company to sort paper applications by hand seems almost too awful to be true.

May 19th, 2014 at 2:05 pm
ObamaCare’s Cost Increases Could Push 90% of Workers at Large Firms onto Exchanges

“According to a new report from S&P Capital IQ, 90 percent of American workers who receive health insurance from large companies will instead get coverage through ObamaCare’s exchanges by 2020,” writes Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute.

Large companies are those that employ 10,000 workers or more. They cover 59 percent of the American workforce.

ObamaCare’s escalating barrage of mandates, fees and fines are estimated to extract “about $163 million to $200 million in additional cost per employer – or $4,800 to $5,900 per employee,” says Pipes. Compared to the $2,000 per employee fine for not offering health insurance, large employers will in effect be forced to dump workers on ObamaCare exchanges to stay profitable.

There are many aspects of ObamaCare that defy easy explanation, but this much is clear – Forcing large employers who want to provide health insurance to their employees to pay more than twice the price of compliance just doesn’t pencil.

The only financially sensible thing to do – from a company’s perspective – is to shove workers onto taxpayer-funded exchanges. That may keep the firm afloat, but it will only add to the federal government’s fiscal problems.

May 8th, 2014 at 6:48 pm
More States Eye Switching to Healthcare.gov

A CNBC report says that multiple states now operating an ObamaCare exchange could decide the costs are unsustainable and relinquish control to Healthcare.gov, the exchange run by the federal government.

The reasons are multiplying. Oregon decided to shutter its woebegone website after spending $248 million and failing to enroll a single person online. Massachusetts is abandoning its software program, but if its replacement isn’t ready to launch by the next enrollment period in November it plans to default to Healthcare.gov. Colorado and Rhode Island are trying to figure out how to make their exchanges financially viable once federal subsidies run out. And at least one expert thinks Nevada and Hawaii may also decide to let the feds be responsible for continuing IT updates and rules changes.

But it’s not like the once foundering Healthcare.gov is experiencing smooth sailing. Recent testimony before Congress confirmed the existence of duplicate enrollments that cast doubt on the Obama administration’s overall enrollment claims.

“Due to website glitches, some individuals may have enrolled multiple times,” explains the Illinois Policy Institute. “For example, if there are three people with one enrollment each and one person with two enrollments, the government will report this as five total enrollments. If the first three people paid for each of their policies and the fourth person paid for one policy, the insurer will report 100 percent payment. In this way, the government numbers may be further overstating enrollments.”

And with it, Healthcare.gov’s ability to handle the increased responsibility for processing many more people.

April 30th, 2014 at 5:33 pm
Oregon Scraps $248M ObamaCare Exchange

Oregon spent $248 million developing its own ObamaCare insurance exchange and never enrolled a single person online.

That kind of return on investment convinced state officials “to abandon the exchange entirely and switch to the federal website, the first state to do so,” writes Lou Cannon. “The Oregon board made its decision after being told it would cost $78 million to fix Cover Oregon compared to $4 million to $6 million to make the technical changes needed to join the federal exchange.”

Investigations are ongoing into why the state’s heavily bankrolled website was such a bust. Once thought to be a model for progressive high-tech governing, Cover Oregon is now a source of embarrassment for the state’s Democratic establishment.

Whatever the causes for the technology failure, Oregon’s switch to the federal alternative could hit enrollees hard. An estimated 70,000 Oregonians enrolled with paper applications through Cover Oregon, making many of them eligible for federal subsidies. However, the text of ObamaCare doesn’t make subsidies available if insurance is bought via the federal website. So far, the IRS isn’t making the distinction, but a three-judge panel at the D.C. Circuit seems ready to apply the law as written.

The intent of ObamaCare’s drafters was to reward state citizens with federal subsidies if they chose to shoulder the start-up costs associated with running a state-based exchange. Now that Oregon is pulling the plug on its failed website, its citizens may be losing the assistance they need to make ObamaCare affordable.

April 17th, 2014 at 1:58 pm
Sebelius Back to Kansas as a U.S. Senate Candidate?

Say it ain’t so!

Soon-to-be-former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “is considering entreaties from Democrats who want her to run against her old friend, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas,” reports the New York Times.

It’s hard to see how this news is anything other than an attempt to put a softer spin on Sebelius’s disastrous tenure as the face of ObamaCare.

Considering how much the Left loathes her mismanagement of Healthcare.gov – driving down public confidence in government to record lows – it’s no surprise that friends of Sebelius are trying to rehabilitate her image by saying the former two-term Kansas governor could be just the candidate to topple Roberts.

Making the GOP spend money and time on a race they would otherwise win easily could burnish Sebelius’s ‘good soldier’ credentials. Actually winning the seat would give Democrats their first U.S. Senator from Kansas since 1939.

Still, whatever goodwill Sebelius had as governor has been forgotten long ago. In the current reality, it’s difficult to see how she could step down from such a bad job at HHS into an underdog Senate campaign and emerge as anything other than a twice rejected public servant.

April 15th, 2014 at 6:31 pm
Suspicious Timing of Census Bureau’s New Health Insurance Questions Helps ObamaCare

After compiling three decades-worth of responses to health insurance questions, the U.S. Census Bureau is about to implement a new version that will make it impossible to compare insurance coverage data before and after ObamaCare.

Coincidence?

It gets better.

“An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a ‘total revision to health insurance questions,’ and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured,” reports the New York Times.

In practical terms this means “it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.”

According to the Times, the new survey has been in the works for awhile. But there is no explanation given for why it is going into effect in the same year when millions of Americans are transitioning to the ObamaCare regime. The controversial health law was sold as a way to extend coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans. Why would the non-partisan Census Bureau make it impossible for observers to see whether ObamaCare actually achieved its goal?

Whatever the official line, it’s difficult to understand the timing of this development as anything other than a naked attempt to avoid accountability.

April 14th, 2014 at 4:57 pm
Will Sebelius’ Replacement Follow Her Lawless Lead?

Here’s a suggested question for GOP Senators to ask Sylvia Burwell – President Barack Obama’s nominee to succeed Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Health and Human Services – at her confirmation hearing next month.

Studies by the RAND Corporation and Goldman Sachs estimate as much as 20 percent of the claimed 7.5 million ObamaCare enrollments have not paid their first month’s premiums.

When enrollees start seeing how much their deductibles are – commonly $3,000 to $5,000 – many more may choose to stop paying ObamaCare’s higher out-of-pocket expenses.

If that happens, it’s really bad news for doctors and hospitals.

“Section 1412 of the health law gives consumers a 90-day ‘grace period’ before their subsidized plan is canceled for nonpayment. But insurers only have to keep paying doctors and hospitals for 30 days. The next 60 days of care on the care provider,” explains Betsy McCaughey.

“[I]t could pose a significant financial risk for medical practices,” the American Medical Association warns.

The HHS Secretary has no express power to bail out such care providers.

However, under the previous Secretary, the Department of Health and Human Services didn’t shy away from spending $8 billion without congressional authorization to hide Medicare Advantage cuts before the 2012 presidential election.

This and many other extra-legal actions by Secretary Sebelius have come to define HHS as the most powerful domestic federal agency.

Ms. Burwell, Do you think the absence of express authority to bail out care providers in the above situation limits you in any way from spending money for this purpose?

April 11th, 2014 at 2:44 pm
IRS’s ‘Big Brother’ ObamaCare Enforcement Coming into View

As Tax Day approaches, consider the bright side – at least there’s no ObamaCare form you have to fill out.

That changes next year.

“According to the agency, the IRS plans to include a specific line on the 1040 forms for taxpayers to ‘self-attest’ whether they purchased insurance,” reports Fox News. “It will most likely include a worksheet for taxpayers to calculate how much they owe – essentially either a flat penalty or a percentage of their income.”

Next year the penalty is either $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is greater.

The IRS plans to confirm whether taxpayers are telling the truth about purchasing insurance by getting enrollment records from insurance companies.

So along with increased paperwork, we can all look forward to a greater amount of government surveillance into our insurance (and eventually our health) records.

All in the name of helping us. Thank you, Big Brother.

April 5th, 2014 at 9:15 pm
Bipartisan Support for Repealing the Employer Mandate?

It sounds like there may be a growing bipartisan consensus to repeal ObamaCare’s onerous employer mandate.

“Republicans don’t like the mandate because they oppose the idea of government telling private sector entities what to do, but they also don’t support the lack of tax incentives for individuals who don’t pay for health care through an employer,” says The Street. For their part, “[s]ome Democrats don’t mind dumping the employer mandate because they would prefer to move away from businesses making health insurance decisions for individuals.”

The employer mandate is poised to hit small and growing businesses especially hard, since employing 50 full-time workers – defined as working 30 hours or more a week – triggers requirements to offer costly ObamaCare-compliant insurance plans.

This creates an obvious incentive to cut hours for people already at the margins, in effect robbing them of extra work and extra pay. Because of this liberal pundits like Ezra Klein have called for the full repeal of the employer mandate (and deplored the politically-motivated delays that have made ObamaCare’s implementation so arbitrary).

Of course, repealing the employer mandate isn’t a painless option. While it would no doubt free countless human resources directors from nimbly trying to anticipate the next extra-legal maneuverings of the Obama administration, it would also be a huge hit on ObamaCare’s financial scorecard.

“If you take [the employer mandate] out the congressional budget score looks a lot worse,” one academic supporter of ObamaCare tells The Street. That’s because the buck for subsidizing health insurance would move from private employers to the public treasury via a massive migration to ObamaCare exchanges. The individual mandate, remember, would be still be in effect. If that happens, expect ObamaCare’s price tag to soar.

So while it may be tempting for Republicans to ally with Democrats and vote to repeal the employer mandate, doing so could be used to charge the GOP with willfully spiking federal spending. Better, it seems, to just get rid of the whole law and start afresh.

April 4th, 2014 at 1:15 pm
Report: ObamaCare to Increase Large Employer Costs Up to $186 Billion

A new study by the American Health Policy Institute demonstrates that when it comes to ObamaCare’s disruption of the health insurance industry, the worst is yet to come.

The study looks at 100 large employers – defined as employing 10,000 workers or more – to estimate the direct and indirect costs of complying with ObamaCare’s costly mandates. (Due to extra-legal delays by the Obama administration, the employer mandate will go into effect starting in January 2015.)

When factoring in all of the direct mandates and fees – for example, covering children up to age 26 and accepting all enrollees regardless of preexisting conditions – as well as indirect costs – such as medical device companies and insurers passing on compliance costs to businesses in the form of higher prices – the total cost of complying with ObamaCare will be between $4,800 – $5,900 per employee. The net cost of ObamaCare for all large employers is projected to range from $151 billion to $186 billion.

Large employers employ about 52 million American workers, or about one-third of the nation’s workforce. You don’t have to be a Harvard-trained CFO to realize that companies “have a significant incentive to make fundamental changes to their health offerings” because of ObamaCare. The most obvious choice is to pay the $2,000 per employee penalty for not offering health insurance, and let employees try their luck on an ObamaCare exchange.

ObamaCare advocates insist that the law isn’t designed to separate workers from their health insurance, but the incentive structures buried within it tell a different story. Skeptics can be forgiven if the implementation phase looks like a coordinated effort first to get people into government-run exchanges, and eventually, under government-run health care.

H/T: Daily Caller

March 31st, 2014 at 6:20 pm
IRS Compliance Nightmare Looms as ObamaCare Site Crashes Ahead of Deadline

This morning Healthcare.gov – the federal ObamaCare website serving citizens in 34 states – went down for four hours, stymieing customers from accessing or completing their applications for insurance.

NBC News reports that people unable to log onto the website were put in a “queue,” meaning they would be notified by email when they could resume the enrollment process.

But with the deadline to begin an application (supposedly) ending at midnight, what will happen to people unable to return to their computer screens after the lengthy delay? Last week’s extension to mid-April only covers people who start the process for enrolling by the end of March. If other commitments – say family or work responsibilities – don’t allow an applicant to return, what then? How will federal regulators distinguish between people who never tried to use Healthcare.gov and those that did, but for various reasons beyond their control couldn’t finish?

If history is any guide, don’t expect the feds to make a distinction. More likely, the response sometime soon will be a blanket extension for enrollment that allows anyone – without precondition – to complete the process.

Then it will be the IRS whose head will spin. When it comes to enrolling on an ObamaCare exchange, the carrots are the subsidies and the sticks are the fines. Any adult that goes without health insurance for three consecutive months is subject to a fine of $95 or 1 percent of her annual income, whichever is higher. And since that fee gets levied at next year’s tax filing, it will be the IRS’ job to sort out who is subject to the penalty.

That is, as soon as the political operatives in the Obama administration decide when enrollment really, really – no really we’re serious this time! – ends.

March 29th, 2014 at 7:52 pm
Latest ObamaCare Delay an Attempt to Hold Down Rate Spikes?

Megan McArdle posits three reasons why the Obama administration extended the enrollment deadline for purchasing insurance through Healthcare.gov, the federal ObamaCare exchange.

The most interesting, and to my mind most plausible, is that pushing the deadline into mid-April will make it more difficult for insurers to calculate next year’s premiums.

“Extending open enrollment, which is essentially what they’re doing, would then be a desperate play to get more young, healthy customers into the exchanges, and perhaps to make it a bit harder for insurers to raise rates,” writes McArdle. “In some states, insurers have to file preliminary rate increases in May. And thanks to this latest extension, they won’t have final data to back up any requests for a premium hike.”

Originally, the Obama administration estimated it needed 40 percent of enrollments to be from young and healthy people to avoid rate spikes the following year. With the current mix stuck at only 25 percent, insurers are signaling that prices will go up next year to cover the likely costs of insuring an older and sicker population than anticipated.

But with this extension the Obama administration is putting insurers in a bind. Do they assume the 25 percent number will hold and justify rate increases to state regulators using that assumption? Or do they wait and see if a last-ditch push to inflate the number of young and healthy enrollees reaches the magic 40 percent threshold?

The dilemma for the insurance companies is just the most recent example of how bending the law for one group punishes another. True, many people won’t mind that insurance carriers are the ones holding the bag this time, but that just underscores the growing lack of resistance to arbitrary regulation. Today, it’s unpopular insurance companies. Tomorrow, it’s you.