The bewildering care act

In this Nov. 12, 2014 file photo, the HealthCare.gov website is seen in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Last Sunday was the deadline to sign up for government health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Now the next Sunday — tomorrow — is the new deadline. Sort of.

But for how many and for how long?

That extension is merely the latest in a long series of evidently relentless changes in the Obamacare rules. And as The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday:

“Obama administration officials have said they are considering extending the sign-up period through the end of tax-filing season because many people are expected to learn they must pay a tax penalty for going uninsured.”

That tax threat was a driving force behind more than 11 million people signing up for coverage by the initial deadline last weekend, with a late rush jamming up the healthcare.gov website.

So the administration granted that one-week extension for those who experienced long wait times. The site also offers a “special enrollment period” for those who qualify “due to a life change like marriage, having a baby, or losing other coverage” — and points out that some Americans can still sign up “through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provide coverage to families and individuals with limited income or other reasons.”

But who verifies who qualifies on what grounds? What if the site gets overloaded again?

And how many more of the arbitrary Obamacare “fixes” implemented via administration edict are needed to render the letter of the 2010 health care reform law — and congressional intent — irrelevant?

Meanwhile, on Friday The New York Times reported that about 800,000 people who enrolled in ACA polices have received erroneous tax-filing information on federal forms.

Remember that this bewildering behemoth of landmark legislation was approved without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate — and with 34 Democratic House members voting against it.

Remember that then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously said while pushing Obamacare through the House: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

And remember that in the 2010 and 2014 congressional elections, justified voter apprehensions about the law played a significant role in major Republican gains in both chambers of Congress. And that was before this year’s threat of a tax penalty on individuals without insurance became so imminent.

Yet Stan Dorn, a health policy analyst at the nonprofit Urban Institute, told the Times that with many Americans remaining unaware of that potential financial punishment, the special enrollment period is needed.

He added, though, that this latest deadline switch “could undermine the credibility of marketplace messages stressing the need to enroll by Feb. 15.”

So what else is new? Two years ago, the White House postponed — without seeking congressional consent — the ACA’s employer mandate from 2014 to 2015. That regulation, which will be inevitably costly in not just money but jobs, requires employers with 50 or more full-time workers to provide insurance for them or pay a substantial penalty.

Now, though, according to healthcare.gov, “Some larger businesses may have to make a payment in 2015 or 2016 if they don’t offer coverage or if the coverage doesn’t meet certain standards.”

No, healthcare.gov doesn’t call that an employer mandate. It calls the rule the “Employer Shared Responsibility Payment.”

And a growing number of Americans share the realization that Obamacare is not just unaffordable but downright incomprehensible.