Published November 19, 2013
Are you afraid of the Obama White House? If you challenge the president’s beloved health care plan, maybe you should be. Consider the fate of William White, the Washington, D.C. Insurance Commissioner, who voiced skepticism about President Obama’s hastily assembled “fix” for the millions losing their insurance policies.
A day after suggesting that the new demands on insurers could destabilize the marketplace and lead to even higher premiums, White was canned.
Telling the truth about ObamaCare is risky.
Remember the manhandling of Congressional Budget Office head Douglas Elmendorf? When the supposedly neutral bean counters undertook the first analysis of ObamaCare ’s fiscal impact, their preliminary findings threatened to undermine the happy talk flowing from the White House. Elmendorf was summoned to a parlay with the president, who doubtless explained how the budget gurus might amend their analysis, as a patriotic duty.
Not long after, budget chief Peter Orszag issued a further warning to the CBO, saying it should guard against “exaggerating costs and underestimating savings.”
Any surprise that the cost estimates from the CBO have made generous assumption -- underestimating the number of Americans to receive subsidies and who will be added to Medicaid roles? I will guarantee that as this bill takes hold, costs will exceed those projected by the CBO.
Pity the poor insurance companies (if you can.) Hauled into the White House only after the president decided to live up to his promise that Americans could keep their existing insurance, they were effectively thrown under the ObamaCare bus.
Now it’s their problem that millions have lost policies that did not comply with ACA mandates; they will either figure out a way to undo the work of the past three years in just a few weeks or will be battered – ”bad apples indeed!” -- by a defensive White House. Photos of that gathering reveal the president lecturing on the benefits of the temporary do-over, while industry executives glumly take their medicine.
They have seen how this White House functions. Early in ObamaCare ’s sorrowful struggle, insurers like Anthem Blue Cross in California dared whisper the truth – that they were forced to raise rates because of the ACA mandates. The company found itself targeted by the president on a “60 Minutes” segment, and then required to justify its rate-setting by HHS head Kathleen Sibelius, who also demanded the firm explain where the increased revenues would be spent – an unheard-of intrusion.
Sibelius also went after America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a national trade association, demanding that they stop “using scare tactics and misinformation to falsely blame premium increases for 2011” on the ACA. She also threatened “there will be zero tolerance for this type of misinformation…”
Insurers must be scared to death. They’ve seen what can happen when a collaborator – like one-time golden boy Jamie Dimon – turns foe. The president once called JP Morgan CEO Dimon “one of the country’s smartest bankers” – but that was before the former Obama supporter went public in his disdain for what he called the White House’s “constant attack on business.”
Hitting back at Obama’s “fat cat” anti-bank rhetoric, Dimon dismissed as “ridiculous” the government’s investigation into oil price speculators, and charged that the inquiries into the bank’s “London Whale” trade were a “tempest in a teapot.” He should have known better.
Now the bank – one of the few that didn’t need TARP but was required to take it -- is the subject of numerous wide-ranging investigations and has been hit with unprecedented fines and demands for admission of wrong-doing. Lost in the witch-hunt has been the reality that the government’s charges of mortgage misbehavior mainly stem from the activities of Washington Mutual, the largest bank ever to fail in the U.S.
In 2008 Morgan was pressed by regulators to buy the failed thrift, which otherwise could have brought down the country’s bank insurance program at an especially fragile moment. Dimon’s willingness to act earned unusual praise at the time from FDIC head Sheila Bair, who said “Some are coming to Washington for help, others are coming to help.” That was then – before he started sounding off about President Obama’s policies. Bank analyst Dick Bove may have been right when he wrote, “the United States government has made it a priority to break this company.”
You don’t have to be a large corporation – or be located in Washington – to be scared of the Obama administration. The tone set by the White House has percolated down, spreading fear throughout the country. The IRS targeting of conservatives came out of Cincinnati, though it appears to have received the blessing of the White House. Any place where the Obama liberal pro-union agenda meets opposition – such as in Wisconsin – is fair game.
The Wall Street Journal reported recently on a special prosecutor’s assault – including subpoenas and dawn home raids -- on conservative organizations that opposed the recall campaign against labor nemesis Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. This frightening account – sounding more like what takes place in Beijing than in Madison - should send a chill through every American.
But - the White House is especially quick to chase down those critical of the president’s signature healthcare bill. Even Edie Sundby, the stage-four cancer patient who dared to recount in an op-ed how she lost her insurance, courtesy of the ACA, came under attack. Instead of the stage props usually positioned behind the president as he invokes the wonders of ObamaCare , here was a real person with a real ailment whose prospects were seriously threatened by the new insurance mandates.
No less a personage than White House advisor Dan Pfeiffer tweeted out a rebuttal to Ms. Sundby’s narrative, referencing a piece that blamed United Healthcare instead of the ACA. As it happens, Ms. Sundby’s take is the correct one; but for ObamaCare , her insurance would be intact.
Pretty small beans to attract the attention of the White House. But, when your signature law is a colossal failure, doesn’t make economic sense and threatens your much ballyhooed “legacy,” silencing the critics becomes a full-time job.