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ObamaCare widening disconnect

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Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 9:00 p.m.


Unlike many government buildings in our nation's capital, nothing is aesthetically pleasing about the Health and Human Services complex. Its “Brutalist” architecture projects a chilly totalitarianism.

Perhaps apropos of ObamaCare, the jumbled law it is implementing, HHS is the only executive department whose legal foundation rests on a confusing combination of codified and uncodified statutes.

HHS is located in what cynically could be called the ObamaCare Triangle. Within a mile in opposite directions are the White House, where the health-care bill was signed into law, and the offices of Enroll America, an entity led by two former White House staffers to mobilize volunteers to micro-target people to sign up for coverage.

They are backed by an advisory council that boasts the AARP, the NAACP and the Service Employees International Union, whose members (funded by millions in donations from unions and corporations) have held door-to-door ObamaCare signups in political-battleground states since Oct. 1.

It is staggering to consider that, within a brisk walk of each other, so much money, power and influence is amassed — and even more staggering to consider the impact these have on our lives.

Those lives are not anecdotes but knee-weakening realities, as in the case of Genevieve Ward of Belle Vernon.

Her insurance company informed her last week that ObamaCare would force her out of her existing plan, leaving a sad choice: reduced benefits or increased costs.

The 84-year-old widow, whose husband worked at now-defunct Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, saw her payment for out-of-pocket expenses go from $3,400 to $6,700; the copay cost for a hospital stay went from zero to $200 a day.

“I think it's terrible. They shouldn't be canceling what I have,” she said. “They are raising my prices and taking away privileges.” She and her friends were so distraught that they skipped their weekly card club, she said.

Ward's letter contradicts President Obama's repeated promise that, if you like your doctor and your health-care plan, you could keep it, “Period.”

She is among millions who received similar letters saying that, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, “your current plan will be discontinued effective Jan. 1, 2014, and you will need to select a new plan by the end of December to avoid any interruption in coverage.”

Ward doesn't want the government telling her what kind of care she can have. “Obama should ‘neb' out of it,” she said, using Western Pennsylvania slang for someone who's nosy.

“It is highly alarming that Obama repeatedly claimed that everyone could keep their doctor and their insurance plan and that now appears to have been — how to put this? ... A lie,” said Iowa State University political science professor Steffen Schmidt. “People by the millions are and will have their current policies canceled, period.”

Despite all of the evidence that Obama did not speak the truth, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted on Monday night: “FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.”

In reality, insurance companies would not have had to change their plans if not for ObamaCare's requirements and regulations.

But that did not stop Obama, via Jarrett, from insulting a large swath of people by telling them that they are not experiencing what they are experiencing.

Schmidt said the public's reactions to and perceptions of the Affordable Care Act threaten to undo the Obama administration's signature accomplishment — and in a messy, ugly way — “unless there is a miraculous healing” of the government's nonfunctioning health-care website by some “Silicon Valley tech guru.”

He considers the White House's behavior “astonishing and unspeakable.”

Our relationship with government is in shambles, our feeling of disconnect with Washington at an historic level.

Yet the real problem is not a health-care website that doesn't work. The real problem is a president and a Washington culture which both believe it is OK to lie to get a bill passed.

There is no connection between such behavior and the values of most Americans beyond Washington, for whom getting what you want usually results from hard work, honest bargaining and a little compromise.

Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (412-320-7879 or

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