HHS goes lawless, flailing around as Obamacare deadline looms

Thomas Lifson
"Nice little insurance company you've got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it."  In essence, that's the message just delivered to the health care insurance industry. Panicking, they're just making it up as they go along, under pressure of the December 23rd deadline for enrollment in Obamacare in order to be covered in 2014.

In an ill-considered move, the Department of Health and Human Services contravened the law and vaguely threatened ("strongly encouraged") the health insurance industry in order to assuage some of the injuries done by the poor design and incompetent administration of Obamacare. Jonathan Easley of The Hill writes:

The Obama administration on Thursday pushed back the deadline for consumers to make their first payment for coverage under the healthcare law.

Rather than a deadline of Dec. 23, insurers will be required to accept premium payments through Dec. 31 for people who are seeking coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

This is lawless, as well as impractical. Under what authority does HHS arbitrarily rewrite the requirements of the law? And how on earth are insurance companies supposed to be able to process payments until 11:59 and 59 seconds PM on New Year's Eve and have policies go into effect the next second? A cabinet agency that cannot manage to make a website work after three and a half years and more than half a billion dollars now expects miracles from private enterprise, with barely two weeks' notice. If you work for a health insurance company, cancel those reservations for New Year's Eve. Madam Secretary has spoken.

Even worse, the Obama administration is bullying insurance companies to go ahead and cover people who haven't paid for coverage and to pay for things not included in the plans. Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner writes:

- It [HHS] is also "urging" insurers to give individuals more time beyond that to pay for coverage. In other words, if somebody pays for coverage in the middle of January, HHS is asking insurers to retroactively make that person's coverage effective as of Jan. 1. HHS is also asking insurers to cover individuals who offer a "down payment," even if that payment only covers part of the first month's premiums:

- In a press release, HHS said it was also "strongly encouraging insurers to treat out-of-network providers as in-network to ensure continuity of care for acute episodes or if the provider was listed in their plan's provider directory as of the date of an enrollee's enrollment."

- HHS is also "strongly encouraging insurers to refill prescriptions covered under previous plans during January."

This is absolutely chilling and ought to scare everyone. Having royally screwed up, the federal government now wants insurance companies to give away coverage that hasn't been paid for. Insurance is a heavily-regulated industry, so when a government agency "strongly encourages" something, there is an implicit threat.

In the Obama administration, laws mean nothing. An unelected bureaucrat can simply change what the law requires. And contracts mean nothing. It can threaten companies to provide goods and services not paid for under terms of a legal contract.

This is banana republic territory, and a genuine threat to our way of life.  It indicates that this gang is entirely unable to function in a constitutionally sound manner when carrying out its largest domestic initiative. Sebelius may think this will all work out well, but it won't. There will be horrific unintended consequences.

The Obama regime is just digging a deeper hole for itself.

"Nice little insurance company you've got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it."  In essence, that's the message just delivered to the health care insurance industry. Panicking, they're just making it up as they go along, under pressure of the December 23rd deadline for enrollment in Obamacare in order to be covered in 2014.

In an ill-considered move, the Department of Health and Human Services contravened the law and vaguely threatened ("strongly encouraged") the health insurance industry in order to assuage some of the injuries done by the poor design and incompetent administration of Obamacare. Jonathan Easley of The Hill writes:

The Obama administration on Thursday pushed back the deadline for consumers to make their first payment for coverage under the healthcare law.

Rather than a deadline of Dec. 23, insurers will be required to accept premium payments through Dec. 31 for people who are seeking coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

This is lawless, as well as impractical. Under what authority does HHS arbitrarily rewrite the requirements of the law? And how on earth are insurance companies supposed to be able to process payments until 11:59 and 59 seconds PM on New Year's Eve and have policies go into effect the next second? A cabinet agency that cannot manage to make a website work after three and a half years and more than half a billion dollars now expects miracles from private enterprise, with barely two weeks' notice. If you work for a health insurance company, cancel those reservations for New Year's Eve. Madam Secretary has spoken.

Even worse, the Obama administration is bullying insurance companies to go ahead and cover people who haven't paid for coverage and to pay for things not included in the plans. Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner writes:

- It [HHS] is also "urging" insurers to give individuals more time beyond that to pay for coverage. In other words, if somebody pays for coverage in the middle of January, HHS is asking insurers to retroactively make that person's coverage effective as of Jan. 1. HHS is also asking insurers to cover individuals who offer a "down payment," even if that payment only covers part of the first month's premiums:

- In a press release, HHS said it was also "strongly encouraging insurers to treat out-of-network providers as in-network to ensure continuity of care for acute episodes or if the provider was listed in their plan's provider directory as of the date of an enrollee's enrollment."

- HHS is also "strongly encouraging insurers to refill prescriptions covered under previous plans during January."

This is absolutely chilling and ought to scare everyone. Having royally screwed up, the federal government now wants insurance companies to give away coverage that hasn't been paid for. Insurance is a heavily-regulated industry, so when a government agency "strongly encourages" something, there is an implicit threat.

In the Obama administration, laws mean nothing. An unelected bureaucrat can simply change what the law requires. And contracts mean nothing. It can threaten companies to provide goods and services not paid for under terms of a legal contract.

This is banana republic territory, and a genuine threat to our way of life.  It indicates that this gang is entirely unable to function in a constitutionally sound manner when carrying out its largest domestic initiative. Sebelius may think this will all work out well, but it won't. There will be horrific unintended consequences.

The Obama regime is just digging a deeper hole for itself.