Losing Health Insurance Because You Want To

Yesterday National Review posted an article about the claims the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is making regarding the number of people who would lose their health insurance if ObamaCare were repealed.

The article states:

Do you want to repeal every word of Obamacare and replace it with nothing? CBO says 22 million fewer people would have health insurance. Do you prefer replacing Obamacare with a system of flat tax credits, in which you get the same amount of assistance regardless of your financial need? CBO says 23 million fewer people would have health insurance. Do you prefer replacing Obamacare with means-tested tax credits, like the Senate bill does, in which the majority of the assistance is directed to those near or below the poverty line? CBO says 22 million fewer people would have health insurance.

22 million, 23 million, 22 million—these numbers are remarkably similar even though the three policies I describe above are significantly different. Why is that?

Thanks to information that was leaked to me by a congressional staffer, we now have the answer.

Nearly three-fourths of the difference in coverage between Obamacare and the various GOP plans derives from a single feature of the Republican bills: their repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate. But the CBO has never published a year-by-year breakout of the impact of the individual mandate on its coverage estimates.

So actually, a large percentage of the people who would lose insurance coverage if ObamaCare is repealed would choose to lose coverage because they would no longer be penalized for not having insurance. Basically, the CBO report is spin! There is also the matter of ObamaCare requiring people to pay for coverage they don’t need. Generally speaking senior citizens do not need maternity coverage or pediatric dental coverage. They should not be asked to pay for it!

Fake News Abounds About The Repeal/Replace ObamaCare Bill

I have stated before that I do not support the current bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare. I believe that what we need is straight repeal. Then we need to teach Congress about the free market and let them apply those principles to healthcare and health insurance.

On Friday, Investor’s Business Daily posted an article about the current repeal-replacement bill on ObamaCare.

Here are some observations from the article:

Look at any story about the Senate health bill, and you’ll see words like those describe its supposed cuts to Medicaid. What if we told you there are no such cuts?

First, the Senate bill doesn’t change Medicaid at all for three years. That means spending on the program will continue to grow, just as it is slated to now — at an annual 5% clip — until 2021.

What does that mean in dollar terms? Under the Senate’s “shredding” reform, Medicaid’s budget in 2021 will be $85 billion bigger than it is this year, and $209 billion (or 79%) bigger than it was in 2013.

What about after that? Under the Senate plan, there’d be a three-year transition to a new way of financing Medicaid.

And then, starting in 2025 federal Medicaid spending would be capped each year, with the cap set to grow at the overall inflation rate.

If you plot annual spending out over the next 10 years, what you see is that spending is never actually cut — at least not in the sense that most people think of a spending cut. Instead, it would grow at a slightly slower rate.

Even under the more restrictive House bill, Medicaid’s budget would still climb 20% over the next decade. So growth will end up higher still under the more generous Senate version.

This is the usual game that Congress and the media play with budget issues–only in Washington could a 5% increase be considered a cut!

The article explains the problems with Medicaid:

As a result, Medicaid now consumes about 20% of state general fund spending — and it’s rising. Next year, the 32 states that expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare will see their costs climb by an additional $9 billion.

Meanwhile, a Government Accountability Office investigation found that improper payments accounted for more than 10% of all Medicaid spending last year.

And for all this, Medicaid grossly underpays doctors and provides lousy care to many of its enrollees. In California, for example, the Medicaid expansion resulted in a flood of patients into emergency rooms because they can’t find a doctor willing to treat them.

In short, Medicaid is in dire trouble, and the Senate and House bills offer smart, prudent — and relatively modest — fixes.

Clean up the fraud, and encourage people to actually get jobs that will help them obtain medical insurance. We need less people riding in the wagon and more people pulling the wagon.

It Can Be Fixed, But It’s Not Right Yet

Yesterday The Heritage Foundation posted their evaluation of the bill to replace ObamaCare. Admittedly, The Heritage Foundation is a politically conservative group, so their solution to ObamaCare would be aimed at shrinking government, not just moving the chairs around.

The article lists some of the problems with the bill:

Basically, the bill focuses on protecting those who gained subsidized coverage through the law’s exchange subsidies and Medicaid expansion, while failing to correct Obamacare’s misguided insurance regulations that drove up premiums for Americans buying coverage without government subsidies.

That is both a policy problem and a political problem.

The article goes on to explain that the people who need relief from ObamaCare are the people whose premiums and deductibles rose dramatically. That is the group the does not get relief in the new bill. The new bill leaves costly regulations in place and attempts to offset those costs with subsidies. That is what most Americans want to get rid of.

The article explains:

In that regard, the draft bill’s new “Patient and State Stability Fund” is particularly problematic. That program would provide grants to states of up to a total of $100 billion over the nine years 2018-2026.

There are a several significant problems with this new program.

First, it substitutes new funding for old Obamacare funding without adequately addressing the misguided Obamacare insurance market rules and subsidy design that made the exchanges a magnet for high cost patients.

Those mistakes in Obamacare created an insupportable burden on the individual insurance market by concentrating expensive patients in only that small portion of the total market.

Second, like Obamacare, it doesn’t actually reduce premiums, but rather masks with subsidies the effects of Obamacare provisions that drove up premiums in the first place.

Third, it creates a new entitlement for states. Furthermore, without a resulting reduction in unsubsidized premium levels, future Congresses will likely face pressure from states and constituents to extend and expand the program.

That is exactly backwards from what is needed.

The new healthcare bill also fails to reign in Medicaid.

The article reports:

Under the Medicaid expansion, the federal government reimbursed states 100 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid to able-bodied adults, with federal support eventually declining to 90 percent.

Yet, states continue to receive significantly less federal assistance (50 percent to 75 percent, depending on the state) for covering the more vulnerable populations (such as poor children and the disabled) that the program was intended for. That policy was both inequitable and unaffordable.

The draft bill does not correct that inequity, but rather reduces the enhanced match rate from 95 percent to 80 percent. The better approach would be to allow states to immediately cap expansion population enrollment, while also setting federal reimbursement for any new expansion enrollees at normal state match rates.

Please follow the link above to read the entire article. There are three things that need to happen with health insurance in America–the policy needs to be attached to the person–not their employer, policies need to be portable across state lines, and people with pre-existing conditions need to have a way to be insurance. Other than that, the government needs to get out of the healthcare business and let the free market rule. It will be bumpy for a short while, but if we don’t do it now, things will only get worse.

One Disaster Under ObamaCare

Yesterday The Daily Signal posted an article about Pamela Weldin, a Nebraska woman who has lost her health insurance four times under ObamaCare.

The article reports:

A former dental hygienist, Weldin has all the hallmarks of a consumer intended to benefit from the Affordable Care Act.

She has been denied coverage in the past because of a pre-existing condition related to her career as a dental hygienist.

Additionally, Weldin qualifies for a tax credit, which she has received every year since 2014.

As a result, her premiums are low when compared to consumers who don’t qualify for financial assistance: In early 2015, Weldin purchased a plan through Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska that cost her $232 each month.

This year, premiums for her silver-level plan with Medica are $161 per month after her tax credit.

But though Weldin has benefited from aspects of the law, she hasn’t been immune to the changes in the health insurance market that have occurred in last few years.

“I’m a person who has been denied because of pre-existing conditions,” Weldin, a Pampered Chef director, said. “I’m on Obamacare and have lost my insurance four times in three years. I understand the challenges, but it’s not sustainable.”

It gets worse:

It wasn’t until after she paid her first month’s premium, however, that Weldin learned from the insurance company that any doctor located more than 100 miles from her rural Nebraska home wasn’t in her network.

If she wanted to see her doctor in Colorado—considered out-of-network now—Weldin had to meet a $20,000 out-of-network deductible before Aetna would start covering her medical expenses.

That information, she said, wasn’t listed on HealthCare.gov when she was shopping for plans.

“$20,000 for a deductible? Are you kidding me?” Weldin said. “How is that affordable?”

If the Republican Party ever wants me to support one of their candidates again, they need to make sure ObamaCare is gone permanently by June. Otherwise they might as well be Democrats.

Some Unintended Consequences Of Federal Government Overreach

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee in Raleigh, North Carolina. There were a number of items discussed–the Read to Achieve program, Charter Schools in North Carolina, the Founding Principles Act, and the complications in hiring substitute teachers caused by the implementation of ObamaCare. Yes, ObamaCare has made it more difficult for schools in North Carolina to hire the substitute teachers they need. Why? Because ObamaCare requires that every person working thirty hours a week be given health care.

ObamaCare requires that health benefits be extended to non-permanent full-time employees in North Carolina who traditionally have not been eligible for coverage under the State Health Plan. ObamaCare also complicates things for retired certified teachers covered under their retirement health plans. If they are substitute teaching more than 29 hours a week, they have to be covered by their employers and are no longer eligible for their retirement health care benefit.

There were two suggestions made for legislative options that would solve this problem, but my point is this, “How is it that the federal government created a problem for a state that has to be solved with a new state law?” What is the federal government doing saying anything about a state’s health care policies? The shortage of substitute teachers in North Carolina is only one of many reasons we need to rein in the federal government.

The Tenth Amendment states:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

From Healthcare to Common Core, it is time to get the federal government out of the states.

Looking Behind The Economic Numbers

Breitbart.com posted an article today the current state of the American economy. The article points out that the current stated unemployment rate of 6.1 percent does not tell the whole story.

The article reports:

Only about half of the drop in the adult participation rate may be attributed to the Baby Boom generation reaching retirement age. Lacking adequate resources to retire, a larger percentage of adults over 65 are working than before the recession.

Many Americans who would like full time jobs are stuck in part-time positions, because businesses can hire desirable part-time workers to supplement a core of permanent, full-time employees, but at lower wages. And Obamacare’s employer health insurance mandates will not apply to workers on the job less than 30 hours a week.

The article also mentions the fact that many of our young people are being encouraged by colleges to obtain degrees in subjects that are of limited value in the workplace. These students graduate with massive debt and no marketable skills.

The article concludes:

New business regulations, more burdensome than are necessary to accomplish legitimate consumer protection and environmental objectives, exacerbate these problems.

All of this suppresses wages except for the most skilled and talented workers.

No surprise, average family income, adjusted for inflation has fallen from about $55,600 in 2007 to $51,000 even as the gap between families at the bottom and top widens.

It’s time for a new economic policy for America.

The Complete Employment Picture

Yesterday CBS News posted an article about jobs and employment in America. On Friday the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate has remained at 6.7 percent and that 192,000 new jobs were added in March. That sounds reasonable, but it does not tell the whole story.

The article included the following snapshot of the statistics:

march-jobs.jpg

There are currently 7.4 million Americans who are working part-time because full-time jobs are not available. The economy has not recovered from the 2008 recession, and unfortunately until ObamaCare is repealed, it will not. As long as employers can save large amounts of money by hiring part-time employees that they do not have to provide healthcare for, they will do so. Robert Gibbs suggested this week that the employer mandate would probably never actually go into effect. If the employer mandate does not go into effect, America may see the return of the full-time worker. However, if the employer mandate does not go into effect, and the uninsured do not sign up for ObamaCare (which they have not), then what exactly did ObamaCare accomplish other than totally disrupting the American medical infrastructure?

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Hard Facts About ObamaCare

On Wednesday, Investor’s Business Daily posted a chart showing states and companies that have cut staffing levels or working hours because of ObamaCare. The chart only includes companies and states where strong proof is provided.

I can’t even post the chart because it is so long. It is sorted by state, and I strongly recommend that you follow the link above to see the chart for yourself.

The article states:

In the interest of an informed debate, we’ve compiled a list of job actions with strong proof that ObamaCare’s employer mandate is behind cuts to work hours or staffing levels. As of Sept. 25, our ObamaCare scorecard included 313 employers. Here’s our latest analysis, focusing on cuts to adjunct hours at nearly 200 college campuses. The ObamaCare list methodology is explained further in our initial coverage; click on the employer names in the list below for links to supporting records, mostly news accounts or official documents.

We’ll continue to update the list, which we encourage you to share and download into a spreadsheet to sort and analyze. If you know of an employer that should be on the list and can provide supporting evidence, please contact IBD at jed.graham@investors.com.

Keep in mind as you look at this chart that it represents real people with families to support, rents to pay, and financial responsibilities. ObamaCare needs to be stopped. I have no idea how that can be done, but it needs to be done. It will destroy the healthcare insurance industry and the American economy.

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Who Loses Under ObamaCare?

Investor’s Business Daily posted an article yesterday about five groups of people who are at risk of losing their healthcare coverage under ObamaCare.

The article quotes one of the President’s promises regarding ObamaCare–a promise which is rapidly becoming obviously untrue:

“We will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away.”

The article lists the five groups of people who may lose their healthcare coverage–spouses, part-time workers, retirees form the private sector, retirees from the public sector, and people who buy their health insurance individually.

United Parcel Service (UPS) has already announced that it will no longer provide health insurance for spouses of employees. The University of Virginia has announced that it will no longer provide insurance for employee spouses who can get insurance from their own jobs.

In 2014 grocery chain Wegmans will be dropping healthcare coverage for part-time workers. Other businesses are increasing the number of part-time employees in order to avoid the healthcare mandate that requires them to provide insurance for full-time employees.

ObamaCare is a really bad law. It needs to be stopped in its tracks. I don’t know exactly what that will look like, but it needs to be done.

 

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Last Week’s Job Numbers

This is a chart from this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal:

image

There was good news and bad news for the American economy in the jobs report released last week.

One positive note:

One positive development is that the number of “long-time” unemployed, those out of work for six months or more, fell again and is down by one million workers over the past year. The dismally low labor participation rate ticked up to 63.5% from 63.4% in May as 177,000 more Americans entered the workforce, though the rate is still below the 63.8% from last June. Average hourly wages climbed a welcome 10 cents and for the first time hit $24.

But there were a few negative notes:

…a big jump of 247,000 in the number of “discouraged workers,” those who have stopped looking for a job

…big jump in the number of Americans who want to work full time but could only find part-time work. That number leapt to 8.23 million, a 322,000 one-month increase. Total part-time employment rose by 432,000, more than double the total number of net new jobs.

…those who can’t find a full-time job for economic reasons—still totals more than 20 million Americans and the rate unexpectedly rose in June to 14.3% from 13.8%

The article in the Wall Street Journal concluded:

On Tuesday the Obama Treasury announced it is postponing this employer mandate until 2015, and perhaps this will encourage more full-time hiring. But thousands of businesses, especially in retail and fast-food, have already started to cap employment for many workers at 30 hours and they know their reprieve is only for a year. If President Obama really wants to spur hiring, he’d let Congress delay the employer mandate forever.

ObamaCare is bad for American business and bad for the healthcare Americans now have available. If Congress and President Obama truly cared about the health of Americans, they would scrap ObamaCare completely and rewrite it to allow free market forces to control the cost of healthcare.

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Is The Government Really That Naive?

Yesterday National Review posted an article about one aspect of the delay in putting the employer mandate in place that has not received a lot of attention. Since the paperwork involved in the employer mandate was to be used in determining the eligibility for government subsidies to employees in ObamaCare, there is now no way of confirming a person’s eligibility.

The article reports:

Many if not all of the state exchanges, and presumably also the federally-run exchanges, were planning to use the required employer reports to facilitate the eligibility reconciliation that you have to do at tax filing time when people receive advanceable tax credits like those set to be offered in the exchanges. If employers weren’t required to provide reports for 2014, the process of confirming eligibility (that is, confirming that people receiving subsidies had in fact not been offered affordable insurance coverage at work) would become more difficult to pull off, since it’s not really clear what other data sources the exchanges would have, and the exchange subsidy system would therefore become that much more difficult to manage.

The article explains the government’s solution to the lack of confirmation which will result from the delay in the employer mandate:

In 2014, applicants can more or less be deemed eligible for subsidies in the state-run exchanges if they say they are eligible. If it has no external sources of information regarding what insurance employers offer, the rule states, “the exchange may accept the applicant’s attestation regarding enrollment in an eligible employer-sponsored plan and eligibility for qualifying coverage in an employer-sponsored plan for the benefit year for which coverage is requested without further verification.” In fact, the exchanges are not only released from the obligation to verify whether applicants are eligible for employer coverage, they are also released from the obligation to confirm applicants’ statements regarding their household incomes before providing them with what is supposed to be an income-based benefit.

So is this actually about? In order to work at all, ObamaCare needs Americans to enroll in their state’s healthcare exchanges–this is the government-run healthcare program. If the penalties for employers for not providing health insurance are dropped, theoretically employers will begin to drop health insurance as a benefit. This forces people to seek health insurance elsewhere (as the personal mandate to carry health insurance is still in place). If the exchanges are set up with built-in subsidies based on income and you don’t have to verify your income, getting your health insurance through the exchanges while claiming an income within the range of subsidies is like free money.

It is my hope that Americans would not lie about their income in order to save money, but that is a hope–I’m not that naive. However, the government is.

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Delaying A Major Provision Of ObamaCare For A Year

This article is based on three articles–one posted at Breitbart.com yesterday, one posted at the Daily Caller yesterday, and one posted in the Washington Post yesterday.

The Obama Administration has announced that it will delay the implementation of the Employer Mandate part of ObamaCare for a year–it was scheduled to go into effect in January 2014. It will now go into effect in January 2015.

The Daily Caller reports the Obama Administration’s explanation for the change:

A blog post by White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett on the White House blog explained that the goal of the postponement is to help “[cut] the red tape” in the “reporting process” for employers, and to give employers “more time to comply.” The changes come as a response to concerns expressed in “ongoing discussions with businesses” that “you need the time to get this right,” Jarrett wrote.

“It will allow us to consider ways to simplify the new reporting requirements consistent with the law,” wrote Mark Mazur, assistant secretary for Tax Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in announcing the decision. “Second, it will provide time to adapt health coverage and reporting systems while employers are moving toward making health coverage affordable and accessible for their employees.”

However, there seems to be another side of the story.

The article at Breitbart reports that the pushing back of this deadline is illegal.

Breitbart reports:

And the Employer Mandate is mandatory. The law Congress wrote explicitly commands that this provision takes effect in January 2014. The ACA (ObamaCare) does not permit the government to grant a reprieve or an extension.   

Yet in a blatantly illegal move, the Obama administration is presuming to rewrite the ACA by choosing not to enforce provisions that are causing visible problems. The IRS—which is tasked with enforcing the Employer Mandate—will simply not enforce it until 2015. Every large employer in the country is under the mandate. If they don’t comply, then they are breaking federal law.

But the IRS not enforcing Section 1513 is like a policeman who patrols a stretch of road who says for the next year, he won’t issue any speeding tickets. He has no authority to suspend the law, but if he chooses to violate his duty by failing to enforce the law, then to all the motorists on the road it’s as if the law does not exist.

There are two main political motives for this move. First of all, the implementation of ObamaCare is not going smoothly, and it is to the political advantage of the party that passed the law (Democrats) to push off at least one major problem in implementation until after the 2014 mid-term elections. Secondly, because employers will not be forced to provide health insurance, employees will be faced with a choice–join the government run healthcare exchanges (sky-high premiums) or pay a fine (much lower). The government is hoping that if employers are not required to provide health insurance for employees, employees will be driven into the government-run healthcare exchanges.

Breitbart reports:

It’s worth noting that the ACA (ObamaCare) only subsidizes insurance policies on an exchange run by a state. Yet 34 states have refused to join this government-run debacle, so in those states the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will set them up.

This is why the IRS issued a regulation last year saying that these tax credits for state-run exchanges also extend to HHS-run exchanges. Several lawsuits are now underway challenging the IRS Rule, and they should quickly lead to federal courts striking down the regulation.

The bottom line here is simple–ObamaCare is a mess–politically and practically. Politically, the fact that the law was passed by a parliamentary technicality with only Democrat votes may come back to bite the Democrats as the problems with the law become evident. Practically, the law does not seem to be well thought out or well written. It is quite possible it will collapse under its own weight.

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The Challenges To ObamaCare Continue

Fox News reported yesterday that the Supreme Court may be taking another case regarding ObamaCare.

The article reports:

Liberty University, a Christian college in Virginia, has been fighting the employer mandate since the law was enacted, while challenging the law on other constitutional grounds. The school got as far as the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, which refused to hear the merits of the case. That federal court decided that the original Liberty University lawsuit was barred because of the Anti-Injunction Act, which would block any challenge to a “tax” before a taxpayer actually pays it, in this case referring to the penalties associated with failing to obtain health insurance. 

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Anti-Injunction Act did not serve as a barrier to lawsuits challenging the health care law. On that basis, Liberty University immediately petitioned the court to allow it to renew its original case.

On Monday, the Supreme Court noted the university’s renewed request and gave the administration 30 days to respond to the request, suggesting that the justices are taking the Liberty request seriously.

ObamaCare is bad law, and I suspect that if the majority party in Washington changes in November it will be repealed and replaced. I hope so.

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