William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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GREAT MOMENTS IN GOVERNMENT MEDICINE – AT 12:25 P.M. ET:  Obamacare is starting to kick in, and all of it should be operative, or a wreckage, by next year.   Already there are signs of serious lack of planning and equally serious trouble. 

Young people are being cautioned that they may face sticker shock when confronted with the need to buy health insurance.  Costs could go way up for them, not down, as had been promised.

And then there's this, from the Washington Post:

Tens of thousands of Americans who cannot get health insurance because of preexisting medical problems will be blocked from a program designed to help them because funding is running low.

Obama administration officials said Friday that the state-based “high-risk pools” set up under the 2010 health-care law will be closed to new applicants as soon as Saturday and no later than March 2, depending on the state.

But they stressed that coverage for about 100,000 people who are now enrolled in the high-risk pools will not be affected.

“We’re being very careful stewards of the money that has been appropriated to us and we wanted to balance our desire to maximize the number of people who can gain from this program while making sure people who are in the program have coverage,” said Gary Cohen, director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight. “This was the most prudent step for us to take at this point in time.”

The program, which was launched in summer 2010, was always intended as a temporary bridge for the uninsured. But it was supposed to last until 2014. At that point, the health-care law will bar insurers from rejecting or otherwise discriminating against people who are already sick, enabling such people to buy plans through the private market.

From the start, analysts questioned whether the $5 billion that Congress appropriated for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan — as the program is called — was sufficient.

Initial fears that as many as 375,000 sick people would swamp the pools and bankrupt them by 2012 did not pan out. This is largely because, even though the pools must charge premiums comparable to those for healthy people, the plans sold through them are often expensive.

But it was also because the pools are open only to people who have gone without insurance for at least six months. The result is that, while only about 135,000 people have gotten coverage at some point, they are proving far more costly to insure than predicted.

Many people who are uninsured go untreated, exacerbating their medical problems. When they finally do get coverage through a high-risk pool, they are in immediate need of expensive care.

COMMENT:  To your good health.  Obamacare is a hatchet job, where a scalpel would have been much more suitable.  This is the first of many messes. 

February 16, 2013