Monday, March 21, 2011

Hey, Reporters! (Health Care Update)

(Updated below)

Plain Blog clout continues: after I did a "hey, reporters!" item about ACA waivers a while ago, the New York Times finally ran a story about it yesterday.

Unfortunately, the he said/she said style of the story meant that I'm no closer to knowing whether the waivers being granted are a healthy part of implementing the law or an indication of real implementation problems -- and, I suppose, I'm no closer to knowing whether GOP charges that the Obama administration is using waivers as political payoffs are true. Robert Pear's NYT repeats both sides' talking points, which isn't a bad thing, but it would be nice to get beyond that. Jonathan Cohn has a follow-up post that's a bit more helpful, but he sounds pretty uncertain about it, too. Hey, reporters! Keep digging!

Either way, I will note one highly alarming thing from right at the top of the NYT story:
Obama administration officials say they were expecting praise from critics of the new health care law when they offered to exempt selected employers and labor unions from a requirement to provide at least $750,000 in coverage to each person in their health insurance plans this year.
Anyone who really believed that waivers -- or anything at all -- would produce praise from ACA critics is far too naive to serve in the White House.  I want to be careful...there's nothing wrong, or at least nothing horribly wrong, about claiming that flexibility should have mollified critics. But if anyone in the administration really believed it, that's trouble with a capital T.

UPDATE: Finally; Ezra Klein has an excellent discussion of exactly what's going on here, pro and con. Bottom line, in his version: this is a messy and unfortunate part of the elongated transition to the post-2014 system, but really doesn't have anything to do with the core (eventual) program.

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