Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was on “The Daily Show” on Monday night to talk about black holes or Obamacare, I forget which. Same difference. Hey oh! Normally, I find Jon Stewart to be a fairly informed interviewer, but his discussion with the Secretary seemed more Chris Matthews than Jon Stewart.
He kept trying to get an answer from Sebelius on why they delayed the implementation of the small business requirement for a year but wouldn’t delay the individual requirement. Even during his Moment of Zen lead in, he was still remarking on how he doesn’t understand it. In his defense, Sebelius repeatedly answered his question like a politician. Meaning, there was absolutely no substance to her answers. It was all fluff. It is frustrating as hell when politicians do that, but it’s not the first time that’s happened to Jon. Usually he just says what the politician is really thinking and the politician just smiles noncommittal. That didn’t happen this time.
There is an obvious reason to me as to why the individual requirement needs to go in right away. Maybe I’m way off base on this, I don’t know. The answer to me is pre-existing conditions. Delaying the individual requirement would not delay the requirement for insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions. Everyone who has been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition is going to flock to the new marketplace. I’m not sure how many people this is, but judging from the number of people that I know who fall into this segment, it’s pretty large. If the individual requirement was delayed for a year, most healthy uninsured individuals wouldn’t sign up. Insurance companies would have to account for that and the premiums would have to go up in response. This would be a huge blow to Obamacare.
The whole reason why Republicans are so keen on delaying parts of Obamacare is they know this would happen. They would have some great ammunition for their base to eat up. “See how expensive Obamacare is!” Then they can push an agenda of Obamacare repeal for the midterm elections with some excellent talking points. People are too busy with their lives to recognize the difference between costs for a pool consisting mostly of people with pre-existing conditions and a pool that represents the general population. They’ll just see the price tag and be all “OMG Obamacare is going to bankrupt us!”.
The small business requirement covers a much smaller potential pool and is more difficult for small businesses to navigate so delaying it is not such a big deal. Most “small businesses” already offer their employees health insurance. Remember, we’re talking businesses with over 50 employees here.
Now, I don’t know why Sebelius can’t just say all that. It is pretty impolitic to say that there are electoral concerns with the potential delay, but she could have easily have done so without mentioning that portion of it. Regardless, Jon Stewart is a smart, funny man surrounded with a staff of smart, funny people. He should have been able to figure that out for himself.