10.22.2013 0

Get ready for Obamacare auto-enroll

Healthcare_Cartoon-Warren

By Robert Romano

While President Barack Obama attempts to put a happy face on the cluster rollout of Healthcare.gov and other state exchanges, where only a half million people are said to have applied for government-subsidized insurance, it may be time to start asking if this was not all a part of the plan in the first place.

Consider the dilemma facing the Obama administration. More than 80 million Americans aged 26 to 64 years old making less than $46,000 not already on Medicaid now qualify for Obamacare, whether through Medicaid or the insurance exchanges, based on data from the U.S. Census and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Of the half million that have reportedly applied, there is no word yet on how many of them actually qualify or will ultimately enroll in the program. And even if every single one of them did qualify — a highly dubious prospect — at the program’s current pace it would take about ten years to sign everyone up. And that’s not even taking population growth into account.

Couple that with the web server failures at Healthcare.gov and Obama in the interim having to direct Americans to a switchboard at 1-800-318-2596 to apply, and it appears that the road to “universal” health care is set to be a bumpy one at the outset.

Making the problem more daunting, as many as 43 percent of the nation’s uninsured are not even aware that come January 2014, they must purchase or carry health insurance or else pay a fine, according to a June Gallup survey.

“If they ever get their website working, and millions who qualify still do not sign up for a product they never asked for, we should expect they will at some point simply be auto-enrolled,” predicted Americans for Limited Government (ALG) president Nathan Mehrens.

Of course, the lack of universal enrollment in programs like Medicaid has long been a topic of considerable interest in the ivory towers of the nation’s health care policy elites. A 2006 study by Stan Dorn and Genevieve M. Kenney found that “Sixty-two percent of uninsured children qualify for but are not enrolled in Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Similarly, two-thirds of uninsured, poor parents qualify for Medicaid but are not enrolled.”

The solution, per Dorn and Kenney? “Auto enrollment could reach many of these uninsured families. Under this strategy, eligible parents and children receive health coverage based on information already in the hands of state officials, rather than through full, formal applications for Medicaid or SCHIP.”

The study cited numerous examples where this has already been done, including Medicare Part B “into which seniors are enrolled automatically unless they decline participation, covers 96 percent of eligible seniors.”

“The entire push for ‘universal’ health care in the U.S. is simply unbridled government coercion to force individuals to behave in a certain way,” ALG’s Mehrens commented.

Anecdotally, in the mid-2000s when the college I attended, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, instituted a mandatory insurance program, lacking coverage I was automatically enrolled in a student health plan. Student health plans had already been available, but it was not until it was required that I was forced to pay for it and automatically added that I actually enrolled.

So, it will come as no surprise to me when health care officials in Washington, D.C. eventually give up on the ill-suited Healthcare.gov strategy to achieve “universal” coverage. But nobody else should be caught off-guard either, even if this is their first experience with a mandatory coverage regime.

In fact, auto enroll is already the top policy recommendation of Enroll America, a non-profit set up to promote Obamacare. The plan to get everyone on Obamacare is to “automatically enroll people who are already known to be eligible,” including “us[ing] data from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to determine eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP,” and “connect[ing] eligible parents to coverage if their children are already enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP,” and “min[ing] existing databases to identify and enroll uninsured residents who are already known to be eligible for coverage programs.”

That’s right, if Obamacare’s biggest supporters have their way, you’ll be enrolled whether you like it or not.

Enroll America is a coalition including in its board of directors the American Hospital Association, Blue Shield of California, Catholic Health Association of the United States, Families USA, Kaiser Permanente, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, National Association of Community Health Centers, and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA.

Its advisory council includes AARP, Aetna, Inc., American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, American Nurses Association, Ascension Health, Asian and Pacific Islander American  Health Forum, Association for Community Affiliated Plans, CareSource. Catholic Charities USA, Center for Public Policy Priorities, Doctors for America, Easter Seals, Express Scripts, Healthcare Leadership Council, HMS, Maximus, Medicaid Health Plans of America, MomsRising, National Association of Free Clinics, National Association of Health Underwriters, National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, National Council of La Raza, National Council for Community, Behavioral Healthcare, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Indian Health Board, National Medical Association, Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Pennsylvania Health Law Project, United Way Worldwide, Voices for America’s Children, and Young Invincibles.

With heavy hitters like that, it likely won’t be long before auto enrollment becomes the Obama administration’s go-to strategy, particularly if Healthcare.gov proves to be a major failure. To heck with the website, this may be what they had in mind the whole time.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

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