As it so happens, what was deemed a “risk” is almost exactly what has happened to more than half of the co-ops established under the health care law.
This was clear in a hearing held by a Ways and Means subcommittee on the ailing program earlier this month. “In the face of multiple pressures, it’s not surprising that some new entrants have struggled to succeed,” said Mandy Cohen, CMS chief operating officer and chief of staff, while testifying before the committee.
Cohen listed ways HHS has monitored the program: “There are guideposts and checkpoints, and we make sure to look at oversight,” she said. “If we feel like they’re going beyond the guardrails we set up, we enhance our oversight, put folks on enhanced oversight or corrective action plans; we do on-site visits to gather more information than just them sending us information.
“I don’t think we’ve been easy on the co-ops. ... We’ve taken our job as stewards of the taxpayer dollar very seriously,” she said.
Most members of Congress are happy to explain why they didn’t save the co-ops: The other side of the aisle would have never let anything pass.
Democrats don’t want to touch their favorite-yet-failing law, Republicans say. And Republicans turn up their noses at anything that might improve Obamacare, desperate to prove it doesn’t work, Democrats counter.
“You can’t get the Democrats to do anything on Obamacare. We’ve tried on various occasions to find—not necessarily on that issue—but yeah, we’ve tried to get them to work with us on some of these Obamacare issues,” Hatch said. “It’s as though it’s an inviolate set of scriptures, but scriptures are items that really are true, and work, and don’t destroy things. Obamacare avoids all three of those.”
“All the Republicans want to do is vote to eliminate the Affordable Care Act,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat. “So when we have things that would be good to address, instead all we have are votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act instead of addressing things.”
And so what happened was nothing.
“Find me anyone in Congress that made any proposal whatsoever to suggest that we do anything to fix them,” a Grassley aide said. “Show me where it is that CMS said, ‘Hey, please come to the rescue.’ Where’s the white horse? I don’t think that happened.”
So what now?
The more than 110,000 Iowans and Nebraskans receiving insurance through CoOpportunity were not only the first to fall, but also were among those who fell hardest. The co-pays and deductibles they’d been paying into did not transfer, and consumers had to start over again with new plans.
“We had folks who spent money. And they’re not going to get the money back,” the Grassley aide said.
Hundreds of thousands—more than 200,000 on New York’s failed co-op alone—must now find new health insurance, although HHS has argued that to make the most of the system, consumers need to shop around anyway.