Want to know what’s happening with Obamacare? Good luck finding out. The White House recently adopted a new approach for updating Americans on the country’s most consequential law. I call it the “needle in a haystack” method: Bury the announcement in hundreds of pages of regulations and hope no one finds it.The White House tried a test run several weeks ago. Hidden in the midst of a 436 page regulatory update, and written in pure bureaucratese, the Department of Health and Human Services asked that insurance companies limit the looming premium increases for 2015 health plans. But don’t worry, HHS hinted: we’ll bail you out on the taxpayer’s dime if you lose money.
No wonder there wasn’t a press release. The White House is playing politics with Americans’ health care—and they’re bribing health insurance companies to play along.
The administration’s intention is clear: Salvage the 2014 midterm elections. Typically, insurance companies release their premium rates between summer and early fall—i.e., right before voters cast their ballots in November. If premiums skyrocket—which looks increasingly likely—then voters won’t look too kindly on Senators and Representatives who voted for Obamacare and created this problem.
Hence the White House’s desperate damage control. It almost worked: No one noticed when the regulations were first released. In fact, it took days for any news outlet to find the language and then translate it into readable English. TownHall.com figured it out first. The Los Angeles Times then reported that “hold[ing] down premium increases for next year” is a “top priority” for President Obama since “rates will be announced ahead of this fall’s congressional elections.” If there were a Pulitzer Prize for understatement, the Times would have won it.