The Democrats' October Surprise

It’s been puzzling to see the Obama Administration once again shilling for the Healthcare bill. One can imagine them and other federal Democrats taking the most well-polled aspects of the law – no pre-existing conditions prohibiting the purchase of medical coverage for children, the ability for parents to keep their children on plans until age 26, no lifetime limits on coverage – and these insulated liberals thinking “if only the American people really knew how important these new requirements are, then they would like this health care bill more.”

The Administration does not seem to realize that they have reminded us of these portions of the bill for almost a year. And all of these things do not outweigh the fact that even if all of the few dozen or so positively-viewed aspects took up an absurd 1,000 pages to detail in the legislation, there are still 1,700 pages of regulations, mandates and layers of bureaucracy Americans don’t like and are learning more about every week. 

But why are they calling attention to the millstone around the entire Democratic Party’s neck so close to the midterm elections? It was the millstone around their neck in last year’s elections. Scott Brown ran for the Liberal Lion’s seat in Massachusetts as the 41st vote against Obamacare and won.

Apparently they felt that since the inaugural provisions of the Affordable Care Act were set to begin on September 23rd, the past week was the perfect time to re-communicate these new provisions and as an extension defend the legislation as a whole.

This is likely to backfire on the Democrats because the September 23rd date is very misleading. The mandates they are campaigning on do not take effect on September 23rd for the 59% of Americans under 65 who receive health care through their employer.  They take effect on their employer plan’s renewal date after September 23, 2010.

The Administration is hurting themselves with the employees of organizations that renew on off-calendar year cycles – the most common being July 1st (mid-year) and September 1st for some schools. These inaugural health care law provisions will not go into effect with these plans until July 1, 2011 and September 1, 2011. Employees of organizations that renew that far into 2011 will be disappointed if they hear from Kathleen Sebelius that they can cover their child that recently graduated from college in one of the worst job markets in history, but discover they cannot until their renewal date well into 2011.

The real harm the Administration is doing to themselves and their party is with the majority of the employed and their families around the country. Most employers renew on a calendar year basis so the provisions being touted are still months away from affecting even their employees on the January 1st renewal date.

Like the past dozen years, most employer medical plans are increasing their contributions from employees’ paychecks and increasing the cost-sharing for medical care (i.e. higher deductibles, coinsurance and copays). But this is the first year of medical coverage under Obamacare, which might leave some to believe that these increases won’t be like last year’s.

What’s bad for the Democrats is the new health care law requires all employers to communicate these higher costs to their employees at least 60 days before the renewal date. 60 days before the January 1st renewal date of most employer plans is November 1st. Election day is November 2nd. To be sure to meet that 60 day deadline, most employers are likely to communicate these increased costs sooner for their employees and their families over the coming weeks.

The message on this kitchen table issue will be clear, health care reform isn’t going to make medical plans cost less over the next year. Costs are actually going up as much or more than prior years. The Democrats just gave themselves their own October surprise.