VARNEY: Another big ObamaCare delay this week. And you can bet some endangered Senate Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief. The White House announced Wednesday it would allow consumers to keep health insurance plans that don't meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act until 2016, pushing the next wave of cancellation notices until well after the midterm elections.
We are back with Dan Henninger and Kim Strassel. Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Joe Rago, also joins the panel.
I'll start with you, Joe.
To the politics later, first question to you is, all these delays, where does this leave the insurance companies?
JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: It's dramatically increasing risk and uncertainty in the industry. There's been about 37 changes to the Affordable Care Act so far. Most of them unilateral administrative actions of dubious legality. All this churn, this ad-hoc political improvisation is getting built into the premium structure. Over time, it's probably going to increase premiums going forward next year. And it's raising questions about the larger viability of this law. Is this going to be reopened, what are the rules going to be going forward?
VARNEY: The money is just not coming into the insurance companies. It's just not there, is it?
RAGO: No. We've seen much lower sign-ups than were predicted. A lot of people who were expected to sign up just aren't.
VARNEY: Kim, it is a delay, an extended delay. I'm sure it's designed to help endangered Senate Democrats. Will it?
STRASSEL: The useful thing about this announcement is that the administration actually laid out exactly which Democrats it was designed to help and that they came out and said this fix "was engineered with the consultation of," and then they listed the names of various vulnerable Senate Democrats, like Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. These are Senators who have all been in trouble because they are on record of saying, if you liked your health plan, could you keep it. When they were caught with the problem that that was not the case, they have all been out saying, we are going to put legislation that says you can, indeed, keep your plan if you want it.
So the administration put this out in order to save them from having to push something through Congress and look as though they've been proactive.
VARNEY: Kim, I believe that various Democrats were named in the delay announcement. I'm going to run a brief commercial clip from an anti-Kay Hagan ad and get your response to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Since friends often say and do the same things. Take Barack Obama and Kay Hagan. In Washington, Senator Hagan votes with President Obama 96 percent of the time. 96 percent. They even talk alike.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan.
SEN. KAY HAGAN, D-N.C.: If you've got health insurance now, you're happy with it, you can keep it.
ANNOUNCER: Now we know the truth. They told us the biggest lie of the year. More than 473,000 North Carolinians have lost their insurance policies because of ObamaCare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VARNEY: Kim, that's pretty sharp-edged stuff. Do you think they can get around that?
STRASSEL: That is an ad from Americans for Prosperity. They have been out there just pounding a lot of these Democrats. In particular, Mrs. Hagan, who is on record something like 23 or 24 times in various video clips saying, if you like your health care plan, you can keep it. You can't run away from this stuff. For the average American out there, who has indeed lost their plan, and who is being confronted with a range of options that have worse care at higher prices, this is something that is going to keep coming back into their head, regardless of whether or not the administration now puts forward more of these administrative delays.
VARNEY: But, Dan, the president this week said ObamaCare is working as it is supposed to.
HENNINGER: The same fellow who said, if you like your insurance plan, you can keep it?
HENNINGER: Stuart, most of the country has been living through one of the most awful winters in living memory. What we know is it's going away in the spring, for sure. This is not going away. I mean, there were two studies that came out. MacKenzie (ph) said, apparently, only 10 percent of the uninsured have signed up or possibly have signed up for this program. The Urban Institute did a study, interviewed 8,000 people. 23 percent of the uninsured have no idea ObamaCare exists. Have never heard of it. It's incredible to think, but that is the case.
VARNEY: Never heard of it?
HENNINGER: Never heard of it.
VARNEY: Never looked at a plan?
HENNINGER: Never looked at a plan. They are off the grid.
And this administration is not going to be able to hit their numbers to bring sufficient people into this insurance pool to make it function, which as Joe was suggesting, is going to cause the insurance piece of this to degrade over time and it's going to go right into that election in November.
VARNEY: There's only three weeks to go to the deadline, end of March. We were told, going into this, that we were going to sign up or at least try to cover 30 million people who were uninsured. We are not going to come close to that. Not even close.
HENNINGER: Sure. They can't force people into the system. You have to show up somehow and they simply are not.
RAGO: Well, going forward, I think we are going to raise questions about the viability of this law. The state exchanges continue to malfunction. The federal exchange is not working as it's supposed to, despite assurances to the contrary. The question is, what's left? It's just -- It's just --
VARNEY: What is still in place? Can you tell me that?
RAGO: It's the subsidies. Everything else is completely plastic. I think they are setting up --
VARNEY: We've forgotten the taxes.
RAGO: The taxes, as well. And the regulatory precedent they are setting up here is that this is just going to change no matter who is in power. It is a very important political question for the Senate in the coming midterm. And then the presidential election, this is going to be thrown right into the middle of the presidential election.
VARNEY: Oh, yes, it is.