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Posts Tagged ‘health’
February 26th, 2015 at 8:23 pm
Treasury Dept. Approves $3 Billion Transfer to Insurance Companies that Congress Denied

A letter from House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) demands an explanation from the Treasury Department on why it allowed $3 billion in payments to ObamaCare insurance companies that Congress never approved.

In a well-documented piece, Philip Klein gives a disturbing summary of the Obama administration deliberately refusing to follow the law.

“At issue are payments to insurers known as cost-sharing subsidies,” writes Klein. “These payments come about because President Obama’s healthcare law forces insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for certain low income individuals by capping consumer expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, in insurance plans. In exchange for capping these charges, insurers are supposed to receive compensation.”

Here’s the rub.

“What’s tricky is that Congress never authorized any money to make such payments to insurers in its annual appropriations, but the Department of Health and Human Services, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway,” says Klein.

As proof, Klein cites a $4 billion funding request for the cost-sharing subsidies program in 2014 that was not fulfilled by Congress. It’s now 2015, the bills are coming due, and the Obama administration effectively said, “Never mind.”

Whether the domain is immigration or ObamaCare, the default setting for this administration seems to be that if it can’t get what it wants the legal way, it’s just as good to go around the law.

February 20th, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Feds Send Out 800,000 Incorrect ObamaCare Tax Forms

First Uncle Bear, now Uncle Sam.

“The Obama administration says it sent about 800,000 HealthCare.gov customers the wrong tax information, and officials are asking those consumers to delay filing their 2014 taxes,” reports CNBC.

The massive blunder comes on the heels of a similar admission by California officials that the state sent out approximately 100,000 error-laden tax forms to residents using the state’s ObamaCare exchange, Covered California.

No timeline was apparent on when revised forms would be sent out, or whether early tax filers would be penalized by the Internal Revenue Service for submitting unknowingly false information.

Another item in the CNBC report may foreshadow the next move. Due to concerns that some people will be angered for being penalized for not buying insurance to comply with ObamaCare’s coverage mandate, the Obama administration is creating another sign-up extension.

Perhaps the IRS will get similar instructions from on high and bump back the filing deadline.

If so, expect to hear the millions of non-ObamaCare customers clamor, “Me too!”

February 17th, 2015 at 7:58 pm
California ObamaCare Exchange Sends Out Nearly 100,000 Error-Laden Tax Forms

The CBS affiliate in San Francisco is reporting on a massive failure by the state’s ObamaCare exchange to correctly reconcile information on customers with health insurance providers.

“About 100,000 or 12 percent of the forms generated by Covered California have inaccuracies,” says the report. The forms are needed by California ObamaCare users to claim tax refunds and verify subsidy amounts with the IRS.

A spokesperson for Covered California said the inaccuracies are due in large part to discrepancies between the state’s records and what the insurance companies have. Despite this, the exchange sent out the forms anyway to beat the February 2 deadline.

Corrected forms are scheduled to go out later this month, but it’s unclear whether all of the 100,000 or so recipients of the inaccurate forms know they are bad. If not, they could be submitting false information to the IRS, an issue that could cause considerable problems down the road.

Expect this to add to the ire already forming ahead of Tax Day.

February 17th, 2015 at 12:53 pm
Congressional Democrats Want to Delay ObamaCare Penalties

It looks like having the courage of one’s convictions about the imperative of ObamaCare doesn’t include making good on the Democrats’ promise to “pay-as-you-go.”

Once upon a time when Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was Speaker of the House, Democrats in Congress made a lot of noise about PAYGO, the fiscal policy that essentially requires new spending to be paid for with spending cuts, tax increases, or some combination of the two.

But now that ObamaCare’s IRS-imposed penalties are coming due, those same Democrats are singing a different tune.

“Three senior House members told the Associated Press that they plan to strongly urge the administration to grant a special sign-up opportunity for uninsured taxpayers who will be facing fines under the law for the first time this year,” the AP reports.

Interestingly, the three House members – Michigan’s Sander Levin, Washington’s Jim McDermott and Texas’ Lloyd Dogget – “[a]ll worked to help steer Obama’s law through rancorous congressional debates from 2009-2010.”

And now that the price of non-compliance with ObamaCare’s tax-raising mandates is becoming obvious, all three want to avoid a predictable constituent backlash.

Sorry fellas, if spending at least $684 million annually to educate the public about ObamaCare isn’t enough to adequately inoculate against angry voters, perhaps there’s a fatal flaw in the law.

At any rate, it’s time the American public got the version of health reform you voted for.

February 13th, 2015 at 6:05 pm
The ObamaCare Tax Even Democrats Want to Repeal

Nice things cost money, and so too does so-called affordable health insurance.

“More than one-third of all House members have signed onto legislation that would repeal ObamaCare’s tax on insurance companies, which even some Democrats agree is leading to high insurance costs for millions of American families,” reports The Blaze.

People familiar with the logic of doing business understand that private firms don’t pay taxes, people do. So when ObamaCare imposes a tax on health insurance providers, that amount gets passed on to consumers as higher premiums.

With ObamaCare’s second enrollment cycle about to end, many people are experiencing this economic rule up-close-and-personal.

“I hear every day from individuals, families, and businesses in Arizona about the cost of health care,” Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is quoted as saying. “This common sense fix [i.e. repeal] will help lower out of pocket costs for hardworking Arizonans. By working together, we can provide relief for individuals, families, and employers while increasing access to quality affordable health care.”

That’s highly unlikely because ObamaCare’s regulations increase the cost of providing health care, and its complex web of subsidies is designed to hide some of that increase. Repealing a source for subsidies without also repealing the regulations that make them necessary leaves the elevated cost without a means to pay for it.

Still, it’s good to see at least some Democrats in Congress supporting the repeal of at least some part of ObamaCare. Remove enough supports, and eventually the whole architecture crumbles.

February 12th, 2015 at 6:36 pm
GOP Senators: Obama Admin Officials “Evading” Whether Backup Plan Exists If Supremes Strike Down Subsidies

Does the Obama administration have a backup plan if the Supreme Court interprets ObamaCare according to its terms and prohibits federal subsidies to Americans in 36 states?

If so, top administrators at Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury aren’t sharing.

That lack of transparency – and the havoc it could wreck on millions of mandatory ObamaCare users – angers a group of powerful Senate Republicans.

“I want to make certain that the government has notified people who have signed up through the HHS insurance exchange – including the thousands of Georgians who were forced to enroll after ObamaCare cancelled their health plans – of the potential consequences of the Court ruling against the government, especially given the fact that the cost of the program could be significantly increased,” Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) said in a statement.

“The Obama administration needs to be forthcoming about its backup plans so my constituents can make their own backup plans.”

Isakson and other Republicans serving on the Senate Finance Committee sent a strongly worded letter to several government agencies demanding details of any contingency plans. In it they charge HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen with “lack of candor” and “evad[ing] the issue when it was raised at hearings before the Committee this week.”

Consider this another unfulfilled promise of “the most transparent administration in history.

February 11th, 2015 at 7:55 pm
Big Insurance Lines Up Behind ObamaCare

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and then fight like hell to save them.

That’s essentially the health insurance industry’s strategy when it comes to ObamaCare.

Unable to derail the Democrats’ health reform train in 2009 and 2010, most of the biggest players in the health insurance industry agreed to make peace with the Obama administration.

For their troubles the insurance companies won policy concessions like the individual mandate to ensure a captive market for their products, and a complicated bailout scheme to subsidize losses.

Then along came King v. Burwell, one of the cases challenging the legality of federal subsidies necessary to make ObamaCare plans affordable. (Necessary, but not, according to ObamaCare’s text, permitted in states that rely on the federal government’s insurance portal.)

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments this spring, and many entities have submitted amicus or friend-of-the-court briefs to persuade the justices their way.

“Among those filing amicus briefs defending health reform are HCA, the American Hospital Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the National Alliance of State Health Co-ops, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the American Cancer Society, and the National Association of Community Health Centers,” reports Bloomberg Business. “The insurance and medical industries share the administration’s goal of seeing millions more people covered because that translates into millions more customers seeking the services of carriers, hospitals, and doctors.”

If given a choice, many established businesses would prefer a guaranteed arrangement with the government rather than rely exclusively on the volatility of the market. It’s easy to see why. But discomfort to the health insurance industry should not trump the rule of law. If the IRS can rewrite ObamaCare to make money available where it has been prohibited, then perhaps another agency hence can also decide to cancel spending that is legally required.

No businessman wants to be on the wrong side of a one-way contract. Yet that’s precisely what will happen if the federal bureaucracy gets to change the terms of ObamaCare whenever it sees fit.

February 6th, 2015 at 4:43 pm
Avik Roy Weighs In on the GOP’s Patient CARE Act

Avik Roy, a conservative health policy expert, penned a very helpful primer on the latest GOP ObamaCare alternative.

The plan – the Patient CARE Act – is an updated version of similar reform concepts presented last year by three leading Republican members of Congress.

Along with other intriguing ideas, the Patient CARE Act replaces ObamaCare’s restrictive subsidy system – i.e. the money can only be spent on federally-approved insurance plans – with “a means-tested tax credit that individuals could use to buy a far broader range of insurance products, or deposit the funds in a health savings account.”

As a tremendous service to readers, Roy also summarizes how the Patient CARE Act compares to other conservative health reform alternatives: his Transcending ObamaCare and one championed by the 2017 Project. All three are serious proposals and deserve attention.

More on these and other ObamaCare alternatives as they develop…

February 5th, 2015 at 8:27 pm
New GOP ObamaCare Alternative

Here’s a look at the newest Republican alternative to ObamaCare.

According to the plan’s authors – Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, plus Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina and Orrin Hatch of Utah – the plan would rein in Medicaid’s burgeoning costs by turning it into a block grant.

That’s not all.

Among other things, the Patient CARE Act would:

  • Enact medical malpractice reforms to reduce frivolous lawsuits
  • Require basic price transparency to inform and empower patients
  • Cap the exclusion of an employee’s employer-provided health coverage
  • Create a targeted tax credit to help buy health care

Billed as a “Bicameral Republican Blueprint,” this proposal has support from three powerful members of the GOP in Congress. Once they produce more details, then we’ll see how many votes they can muster.

February 4th, 2015 at 1:11 pm
IRS Delays Enforcement of ObamaCare “Clawback”

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome another politically-motivated ObamaCare delay to the stage!

Megan McArdle sums up the IRS’ decision to let those who received too much in ObamaCare subsidies last year get extra time to pay back the difference (called the law’s “clawback” provision).

“It’s not relieving you of the obligation to repay; it’s just saying that you won’t be liable for a penalty if you don’t repay by the deadline,” explains McArdle. “Interest will continue to accrue, but the interest rates that the IRS charges are actually pretty reasonable (and probably much better than what your credit card company charges). It’s the failure-to-pay penalties it layers on top – half a percentage point a month, with even stiffer penalties for failing to file – that really make your tax bill add up fast.”

That is, if the Obama IRS ever gets around to enforcing the parts of laws it doesn’t like. McArdle writes, “The IRS emphasizes that this is a one-time deal, just for 2014. But I’m not sure if you should believe it. This emphasizes one of the problems we’ve spoken about a lot in this space: The political will to impose the costs of the Affordable Care Act is a lot less strong than the will to distribute the benefits.”

The Republican establishment was once derided as the tax collector for the welfare state. If Obama and the Democratic Party can’t be bothered to administer both the costs and the benefits of their so-called health reform law, the GOP shouldn’t shoulder the burden of balancing its books.

Every politically-motivated delay in enforcing an aspect of ObamaCare is a tacit admission by its supporters that the law is unworkable in practice. Republicans should acknowledge the obvious and start afresh.

January 29th, 2015 at 8:13 pm
Disgraced ObamaCare Contractor Now Working for the IRS

CGI Federal was the primary contractor responsible for building Healthcare.gov – the federal ObamaCare website that glitched its way into bureaucratic infamy.

In the aftermath, CGI was fired by the Department of Health and Human Services and a number of states holding similar contracts.

But like a vampire rising from the dead, CGI Federal is back in the ObamaCare game, and just in time for tax season!

That’s right, a Republican-led House subcommittee discovered that the IRS has hired CGI Federal to a $4.46 million contract. Recall that, under ObamaCare, the IRS must administer a complex income-reporting system to verify which taxpayers received too generous a subsidy.

This news was too much for the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which opined that, “Perhaps CGI is still able to obtain federal business because no one has ever been punished for the worst government technology failures since the Challenger explosion. The political class would prefer to forget, but a new audit from HHS Inspector General Daniel Levinson probes what he delicately calls ObamaCare’s ‘inadequacies in contract planning and procurement.’”

“According to the report,” the Journal continues, “HHS rarely obeyed the laws that govern outside hiring, such as competitive bidding and due diligence of past performance. The 33 contractors that contributed to the $800 million website reported to multiple managers and no one at HHS devised an ‘acquisition strategy’ – also required by statute – to integrate the various pieces.”

So if you are confused, frustrated or inappropriately fined by the IRS this tax season, rest assured that CGI Federal is somehow probably responsible – and making millions.

January 27th, 2015 at 6:41 pm
GOP Congress Working on ObamaCare Alternative If Subsidies Struck Down

Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill are busy strategizing for ways to minimize the political fallout if the Supreme Court invalidates health insurance subsidies for millions of people currently receiving them under ObamaCare.

The case, King v. Burwell, challenges the IRS’ decision to make insurance premium subsidies available to citizens of 34 states that do not have a state-run ObamaCare exchange. The policy is in direct conflict with ObamaCare’s text, providing the justices with a clear opportunity to hold the Obama administration to the letter of the law.

The Hill is reporting that Republican members of the House and Senate are discussing ways to be ready when and if an estimated 5 to 6 million Americans suddenly can’t afford to purchase mandated health insurance.

So far, no details have emerged regarding specifics. There is a lot to consider since any change in the law will require President Barack Obama’s signature. A complicating factor may be this president’s willingness to let the media portray Republicans and the Court as heartless conservatives, even though all that’s being asked for is the Obama administration to implement its own law as written.

Nothing new here.

On the flip side, it’s encouraging to hear that Republicans in Congress are trying to get in front of a potentially damaging issue by coalescing around an alternative they can sell to the public.

Hopefully this is the start of a welcome trend.

January 22nd, 2015 at 8:50 pm
Doctor Pay Raise Increases Medicaid Access

Think rationing health care spending has an effect of which patients doctors see?

A new study released by the New England Journal of Medicine found that Medicaid beneficiaries enjoyed a 7.7 percent bump in the number of appointments doctors scheduled with them when government reimbursement rates increased.

Unfortunately for the poor who use Medicaid, once ObamaCare’s temporary subsidy phased out, states didn’t have the extra money to continue the higher reimbursements to doctors.

And so, it’s likely that doctors will respond to the new (lower) price signal and cut back on the number of Medicaid patients they schedule.

From a policy perspective this study confirms that doctors respond to economic incentives, and that if we as a society are going to help the poorest of the poor get adequate health care Congress and the president need to start prioritizing federal spending so that there’s more money available to help those who need it.

If the folks in Washington, D.C. are looking for a place to start trimming, former U.S. Senator Tom Coburn’s (R-OK) “Wastebook 2014” is a good place to start.

January 21st, 2015 at 7:36 am
“Dozens” of E-Commerce Vendors Gathering Data from Healthcare.gov Users

“Have you been researching a chronic illness like coronary artery blockage? Do you shop online for smoking-cessation aids? Are you investigating genetic markers for a certain type of breast cancer? Are you seeking help for financial problems, or for an addiction?”

Those are just some of the information items potentially being collected on Healthcare.gov – the federal government’s ObamaCare website used by millions of Americans to shop for health insurance.

A report by the Associated Press confirmed that “dozens” of third party vendors like Google, Twitter and Facebook are gleaning personal data points from Healthcare.gov users. These can be sold to internet advertisers to market products directly to consumers who’ve searched for similar items.

The hidden presence of these websites drew concern from two cyber security experts interviewed by the AP, in part because tracking firms can piece together a user’s identity through IP addresses and patterns of behavior.

Once upon a time there was concern that hackers would find a way to access a person’s health and financial records through a weakness in Healthcare.gov. As it turns out, all they need to do is pose as an e-commerce vendor.

January 18th, 2015 at 10:00 pm
Key ObamaCare Implementer Resigning

Marilyn Tavenner, the chief administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), announced in an email last Friday to staff that she is stepping down at the end of February.

The move comes as something of a surprise, but the timing is similar to that of Tavenner’s former boss, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Last year, Sebelius said she was leaving her post after ObamaCare’s initial enrollment period ended. Tavenner’s resignation is effective when the controversial health law’s second enrollment period concludes.

Tavenner’s time in office was marred by a glitch-ridden rollout of Healthcare.gov, the federal ObamaCare website that earned the ire of millions of Americans. She also came under fire for overstating ObamaCare’s enrollment figures by inaccurately including 400,000 dental plans that have never been counted toward health insurance numbers.

With Republicans in control of the Senate that will confirm Tavenner’s replacement, it will be interesting to see who President Barack Obama taps to fill her shoes.

January 14th, 2015 at 2:16 pm
Freshman Bill Cassidy Off to Fast Start in U.S. Senate

Fresh from beating Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu in a run-off last December, Republican Bill Cassidy is off to a fast start as a freshman in the U.S. Senate.

Making good on his campaign promise to get rid of ObamaCare, Cassidy, a physician, has introduced two bills within just weeks of taking office.

The “No ObamaCare Mandate Act” would repeal the medical device tax, the employer mandate and the individual mandate, according to a report in The Hill.

In addition, “The Employee Health Care Protection Act” would reduce benefit requirements in health insurance plans regulated by ObamaCare, giving providers more flexibility and consumers more options.

And apparently, Cassidy knows how to give a good speech. In defending the Keystone XL pipeline from ideologically motivated attacks by environmentalists, Cassidy said, “We are not to be guided by our prejudice. We’re not to be guided by what we want to be the case. We are to be guided by the facts.”

Usually, it’s liberals who claim the mantle of science and scold conservatives for being fearful of the truth. It’s good to see a conservative U.S. senator return the favor.

January 14th, 2015 at 1:54 pm
Study: Best Time to Repeal ObamaCare Might be Year 2020

How important is the upcoming 2016 presidential election?

According to research by political scientist Jordan Ragusa, the most favorable time to repeal landmark legislation like ObamaCare occurs about ten years after its passage.

Since ObamaCare was passed in 2010, that means 2020 is the year repeal activity could be at its height.

Ragusa’s ten-year window is an average calculated over a fifty-year study of repeal efforts of major laws. In the context of ObamaCare, Ragusa’s timeline makes perfect sense. Republicans don’t have the supermajority in either chamber of Congress to override a certain veto from President Barack Obama. But if a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, all the GOP would need is a simple congressional majority to repeal any or all of ObamaCare.

Yes, it’s important for Republicans in Congress to get whatever wins they can muster now to weaken ObamaCare before it does more damage. But changes in partisan control take time. When ObamaCare was passed Democrats were in complete control of the political branches. The earliest Republicans could be in such a position is January of 2017.

It will also take time for the GOP to coalesce around a comprehensive alternative to ObamaCare, which, according to Ragusa’s data, shouldn’t be too much of a concern as long as a repeal-and-replace bill is signed into law before the Republican president’s first term expires.

There are a lot of considerations to keep in mind when it comes to securing a free market alternative to ObamaCare. Lack of time to do it right isn’t one of them.

January 7th, 2015 at 11:02 am
IRS Tax Refunds Could be Much Smaller Under ObamaCare This Year

Anyone still looking for a fundamental change to the federal tax code need look no further than ObamaCare.

H&R Block, one of the nation’s largest tax preparation companies, is promoting its free “ACA Tax Impact Analysis” on January 8, 2015, in order help taxpayers understand the true cost of ObamaCare.

Reporting by The Hill quotes an H&R Block executive as saying that the controversial health law is “the biggest tax code change” in two decades. Its passage “has made health care a tax issue and is going to make filing taxes more complicated this year.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise coming to millions of taxpayers is the penalty amount to be assessed for not complying with the law’s individual mandate. Most people know that the IRS can levy a $95 fine for being uninsured this year (which rises every subsequent year). But many do not realize that’s only one option. ObamaCare authorizes fines up to 1% of annual income (which also rises every year), if that amount is greater than $95.

Simply put, a lot of people who passed on ObamaCare’s costly version of “affordable” insurance thinking they would only have to write a $95 check may be missing a much bigger chunk of their IRS refund this year.

December 30th, 2014 at 4:17 pm
Gruber in 2009: ObamaCare Has No Cost Controls

Hat tip to the Daily Caller for unearthing yet another damning admission from ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber.

At roughly the same time in 2009 when President Barack Obama was telling the American people that passing his version of health care reform would lower costs, Gruber was telling an audience in Syracuse, New York it was all a lie.

“Why are we closer than we’ve ever been before? Because there are no cost controls in these proposals. Because this bill’s about coverage. Which is good! Why should we hold 48 million uninsured people hostage to the fact that we don’t yet know how to control costs in a politically acceptable way? Let’s get the people covered and then let’s do cost control,” Gruber told his listeners.

Thanks for the honesty, Professor Gruber, but it only counts if you say it before the damage is done.

December 18th, 2014 at 11:06 am
Citing Costs, Vermont Shelves Single Payer Health System

Vermont will not push forward with its plan to launch a state-based single payer health care system in 2017, reports the Daily Caller.

Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin made the announcement on Wednesday, citing several factors.

Among the most important were changes in financing assumptions. Vermont had been counting on infusions of federal funding to buoy the program, but confirmed that it overshot its estimates by a whopping $311 million. Without the expected seed money of federal tax dollars there’s not enough start-up capital needed to get the project going.

The other blow to Vermont’s single payer scheme – to be called Green Mountain Care – is its lack of financial sustainability. In order to make the enterprise successful, Vermont would need to levy tax hikes like an 11.5 percent payroll tax and an income tax up to 9.5 percent. Those changes would likely kill business development in the state, eroding the tax base necessary to pay for Green Mountain Care.

Though the time, money and effort poured into this failed experiment have been costly, it will hopefully serve as a reality check for government officials to abandon the impossible and instead focus on implementing tangible policies that can improve lives now.