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Posts Tagged ‘Obamacare’
August 14th, 2014 at 8:35 pm
Indiana Jumps on the Halbig Bandwagon

Add Indiana to the list of states arguing that ObamaCare’s subsidies can’t be used on Healthcare.gov, the federal exchange.

The challenge is the same mounted by other states contesting the IRS’s unilateral decision to go against the clear language of ObamaCare which makes subsidies available only on state-based exchanges, a restriction intended to induce states to shoulder the implementation costs for fear of angering residents by exposing them to ObamaCare’s real costs.

U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence will decide whether Indiana’s case has merit in October. Precedent from other circuits isn’t all that helpful, since the D.C. Circuit upheld the statutory scheme while the Fourth Circuit sided with the IRS.

The silver lining: Whatever Lawrence and the appellate circuit decide will further fragment ObamaCare’s implementation, increasing the likelihood that the Supreme Court will weigh in.

Whenever that happens, hopefully there will still be five votes to uphold the plain meaning of the law.

H/T: Indianapolis Star

August 12th, 2014 at 6:06 pm
Signs Emerge that ObamaCare Enrollment Is Dropping

It looks like the Obama administration’s much celebrated achievement of 8 million ObamaCare enrollments is actually dropping over time.

“The nation’s third-largest health insurer [Aetna] had 720,000 people sign up for exchange coverage as of May 20,” writes Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily. “At the end of June, it had fewer than 600,000 paying customers. Aetna expects that to fall to ‘just over 500,000’ by the end of the year.”

While no other insurance company has publicly reported declines as steep as Aetna, many others have not denied it is happening during recent conference calls discussing earnings.

Some attrition in ObamaCare signups is to be expected since a number of major life events could cause a change in status. Getting a new job with health benefits, for example. But the Obama administration’s refusal to publicize monthly enrollment numbers makes it impossible to get a clear picture of how well the law is working.

Which may be precisely the goal.

August 11th, 2014 at 2:24 pm
HHS to Fund Coming ObamaCare Bailout of Insurance Companies

What makes conservatives so sure that the Obama administration will bailout insurance companies losing money under ObamaCare?

“According to a recent investigation conducted by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chaired by Darrell Issa, insurers widely expect to receive funds from the bailout program,” writes U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “One large insurer recently filed financial statements claiming they expect part of their revenue to come from American taxpayers via the ObamaCare bailout ‘fund.’”

Thwarted by the GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives who refuse to appropriate money for this part of ObamaCare, the Department of Health and Human Services “figured out a way to use general funds available through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to pay off health insurers,” says Rubio. “The effect is to circumvent Congress’ power of the purse for the purpose of bailing out health insurers with taxpayer funds.”

Whether it’s the CIA lying about spying on congressional investigators or IRS officials conveniently losing potentially damaging emails, executive branch officials in the Obama administration are destroying the ability of anybody outside their clique from being able to trust anything they say.

August 7th, 2014 at 3:24 pm
The Coming ObamaCare Bailout

Because of ObamaCare’s mismatched incentive structure, some savvy commentators are warning of an impending, multi-billion dollar bailout of the insurance companies selling health care policies under the law.

“Pre-ObamaCare,” writes Dan McLaughlin, “insurers had to price their policies mainly by reference to market forces (albeit in an already heavily-regulated market)… Guess wrong and you lost money. But under ObamaCare, consumers no longer have the choice whether or not to buy policies, and insurance companies no longer face any risk of losing money, because they’ve been promised a bailout. Money will still be lost, but it will be taxpayer money, and you never run out of that, do you?”

McLaughlin is talking about ObamaCare’s “3 R’s” – reinsurance, risk corridors and the risk adjustment program. I’ve written about this multi-year, $20 billion bailout before. In different ways, each is designed to subsidize insurers for lost revenue traceable to the health law’s dysfunctional mandates. The threefold scheme was buried in the legislation to buy the support of large insurance companies who would have refused to participate without it.

Now the bill is coming due.

Based on interviews and documents containing discussions between Obama administration officials and insurance industry executives, a House Government Oversight report reveals that insurers are expecting the following payments:

1)      $640 million from the Risk Corridor program for the 2014 plan year

2)      $346 million from the Risk Adjustment program

The reinsurance program redistributes money among private insurance companies, as determined by the federal government.

The numbers quoted above are two to three times higher than originally anticipated because of the high level of adverse selection – i.e. too many older and sicker enrollees, not enough younger and healthier ones. The latter group is avoiding enrollment, preferring to pay ObamaCare’s relatively low penalty. But even that is a mirage. Reports are surfacing that as many as 25 million uninsured Americans are getting ObamaCare penalty waivers for next year; further increasing the federal budget deficit.

Bailouts can be nice, if they apply to you. But as a governing strategy, they eventually bankrupt the entire system.

August 7th, 2014 at 9:42 am
The Fate of ObamaCare and the Courts
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Timothy Lee, Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs at CFIF, discusses the recent contradictory federal appeals court rulings on ObamaCare subsidies and what they mean for consumers and the ultimate fate of ObamaCare.

Listen to the interview here.

August 6th, 2014 at 1:36 pm
Vermont Latest to Fire ObamaCare Website Maker

After nearly a year of failed attempts, Vermont is firing CGI Federal – the company that bungled both the federal healthcare.gov and Massachusetts’ online insurance exchange – as its web designer.

“With Vermont still lacking a fully functioning health website more than 10 months after its glitch-plagued debut last October, Vermont officials said late Monday that they were pulling the plug on CGI’s CGI Technologies and Solutions’ contract,” reports Newsweek.

The decision will cost CGI almost $20 million, but at least Vermont has agreed not to sue the company for damages.

Vermont’s announcement follows several other states that have abandoned their original – and very expensive – ObamaCare websites. Some, like Nevada, Hawaii, and Oregon, are planning to cut their losses and transition to the federal healthcare.gov website. Others, like Massachusetts, Maryland, and now Vermont, are switching to new contractors hoping to recoup at least some of their investments.

Of course, there are success stories. State exchanges in Kentucky and Connecticut are routinely cited as well-functioning websites – though even these have glitches. However, the prevalence of so many high-profile failures indicates that this massive experiment in public-private partnerships has resulted in a huge transfer of wealth with precious little to show for it.

July 31st, 2014 at 1:10 pm
House Passes Bill to Sue Obama

The House of Representatives made history today when it passed a bill allowing Congress to sue the President of the United States for failing to implement a federal law, reports the L.A. Times.

The legislation authorizes House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to file suit in federal court demanding that President Barack Obama enforce ObamaCare’s employer mandate, which requires companies with 50 or more full-time workers to purchase ObamaCare-compliant health insurance or pay a penalty.

House Republicans have been critical of President Obama’s unilateral delays in enforcing the mandate – now scheduled to go into effect in 2016 – because it spares Democrats and the Obama administration substantial political pain. If the law is so great, Republicans reason, then it should go into full effect.

As with other anti-ObamaCare measures to pass the House, this bill has virtually no chance of clearing the Senate where Democrats are in the majority. Still, it’s very presence helps Republicans draw a clearer contrast over where each party stands on the rule of law; in particular the president’s ability to pick-and-choose which parts of a statute he will – as he swore upon taking office – to faithfully execute.

July 30th, 2014 at 3:06 pm
Aetna CEO: ObamaCare “really not an affordable product”

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning, Mark Bertolini, the Chairman and CEO of Aetna, explained that ObamaCare is “really not an affordable product for a lot of people.” He goes on to say that we “have to have a more affordable system.”

July 24th, 2014 at 2:20 pm
ObamaCare’s Eligibility Verification System Open to Abuse

The Government Accountability Office set up a sting operation to test whether ObamaCare’s eligibility verification system is open to abuse.

GAO discovered a resounding Yes.

“Fake applicants were able to get subsidized insurance coverage in 11 of 18 attempts,” reports National Journal.

Investigators had the most success when using ObamaCare’s online and telephone enrollment systems. These improper enrollments resulted in subsidies totaling $30,000 annually.

The findings of the sting operation bode ill for the controversial health reform law. The failure to correctly match applicants to subsidies indicates that ObamaCare’s expensive digital architecture is failing in one of its most basic tasks.

And the failure could be costly.

Assuming most ObamaCare applicants are not attempting to defraud taxpayers – but rather are just trying to comply with the law’s individual mandate – incorrectly receiving financial help this year could result in a heavier tax bill next year. That’s because the IRS is tasked with settling accounts on ObamaCare subsidies, with taxpayers required to pay back any subsidies they weren’t eligible for when calculating their income tax liability.

So far, the IRS hasn’t rewritten ObamaCare to cushion the blow from bad drafting – like it did when it made subsidies available to citizens in states without a state-based exchange.

Apparently, that kind of face-saving deference is only extended to government-growing ideologues; not every day Americans just trying to play by the rules.

July 15th, 2014 at 11:36 am
Judiciary Could Force Obama to Work with Congress

John Fund documents the Supreme Court’s growing impatience with the Obama administration’s refusal to adhere to the letter of the law in a piece out today with National Review.

Citing Jonathan Adler, a conservative legal expert, Fund highlights several recent Supreme Court decisions that slap down the executive branch’s significant regulatory overreach. Justices on both sides of the ideological spectrum – from the liberal Kagan to the conservative Scalia – refuse to grant President Barack Obama and his bureaucratic lieutenants the authority to change statutory requirements on a whim to suit policy goals the underlying law does not allow.

This backdrop is important as the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals prepares to hand down its decision in Halbig v. Burwell, a case that challenges an IRS interpretation of ObamaCare that, if overturned, could prohibit the subsidies most Americans need to pay for the law’s expensive insurance plans.

Weighing in the challengers’ favor are the 13 unanimous Supreme Court decisions that have invalidated moves by Obama executive agencies since he took office. In its reasoning the Court has consistently said that the president must adhere to the constitutional framework for making laws, which limits the executive to faithfully executing (i.e. carrying out) what Congress has actually passed as legislation.

In the ObamaCare context, that means striking down the IRS rule that explicitly ignores the prohibition on giving federal subsidies to users of the federal health insurance portal.

Making them available only on state exchanges was an enticement to get states to foot the bill for implementation. It has since backfired with 34 states declining the deal.

Does that complicate the Obama administration’s ability to call federal ObamaCare plans affordable? You betcha. But it also preserves the constitutional check on a president prone to act beyond his designated powers.

Though it might be unpleasant for the White House and its allies, the world will not end if Barack Obama is forced to negotiate with Congress. Another judicial reminder to respect the structure of the Constitution would be a public service by the D.C. Circuit – and the Supreme Court.

July 8th, 2014 at 5:33 pm
Keep an Eye on Mike Lee

If you want to see what the future of the Republican Party might look like consider Mike Lee’s social network.

The Utah Republican has an enviable number of connections to fellow U.S. Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. Each is strategic. With Paul it’s teaming up on civil liberties issues like reining in the National Security Agency and prison reform. Few remember that it was Cruz and Lee who helped force the government shutdown to halt ObamaCare. And now Rubio is coming around to Lee’s push to make the tax code more family friendly.

As James Antle puts it in a terrific post, “You don’t have to agree with all of the aforementioned proposals to see how different the Republican Party would look if Lee’s policy entrepreneurship with Paul and Rubio gained traction: Less identified with war, wiretapping, and mandatory sentences; more identified with reforming government programs and cutting taxes for the non-rich.”

By influencing the policy platforms of three likely GOP presidential contenders in 2016, Mike Lee is also forging friendships that could make him one of the most powerful officeholders on Capitol Hill.

Keep an eye on Mike Lee. He just may be the most important Tea Party Senator not running for president.

June 27th, 2014 at 6:17 pm
Cover Oregon Offers Bonuses to Staff Not to Leave

Oregon’s failed ObamaCare website is so fraught with failure the state is offering to pay employees bonuses just to keep them on the job.

After spending over $250 million – and retaining more than $50 million in federal grants – to build an ObamaCare health insurance exchange that failed to enroll a single person, Oregon decided to switch to Healthcare.gov, the federal equivalent.

Apparently, though, the crisis isn’t over. Since April, 27 staff members of Cover Oregon have left, taking with them valuable skills that can’t easily be replaced in time to transition to the federal website. To staunch the bleeding, Oregon is making a total of $650,000 in bonuses available to the remaining 163 employees, if they stay on till the end of the job.

As I explained in my column this week, state officials are primarily responsible for the costly disaster that is Cover Oregon. This news is just one more reminder that simple, avoidable mistakes by politicians and bureaucrats have huge and prolonged consequences.

H/T: NRO

June 24th, 2014 at 6:42 pm
Oregon v. Oracle ObamaCare Brawl Heating Up

There is a nasty fight brewing between Oregon’s governor and Oracle, the software company the state hired to create its doomed ObamaCare website.

Earlier this year Cover Oregon, the state board that contracted with Oracle, decided to scuttle the project after spending upwards of $300 million for a website that failed to enroll a single person.

When Oregon nixed the deal in April, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber blamed the entire fiasco on Oracle, suggesting the state should consider suing the company to recover its losses.

But at a House Energy and Commerce hearing last week in Washington, D.C., Oracle hit back.

“The website was operational in February,” Oracle said, but “the state of Oregon pulled the plug on it for political reasons.”

The company had previously written to state officials that “Cover Oregon executives have stated to Oracle that application functionality is sufficient to support individual enrollment. However, Cover Oregon has not agreed to give individuals direct access to the application. Thus Cover Oregon, not Oracle, made the decision to keep the exchange closed to individuals even though the functionality has been delivered by Oracle.”

Kitzhaber may face a surprisingly difficult reelection campaign due to the spectacular failure of Cover Oregon. The governor embraced ObamaCare early, so any negative fallout from the law’s poor local performance could sink him.

To be fair, though, Oracle isn’t totally without blame. Saying that the website was functional in February when the enrollment period began in October – and ended in March – is hardly prompt performance. Does anyone seriously think that one of Oracle’s private sector clients wouldn’t be threatening legal action under the same circumstances?

Whatever the outcome of the ongoing investigation, Oregon’s ObamaCare debacle is sure to cost taxpayers even more money as lawyers, tech consultants and political strategists get their part of a never-ending spending spree.

May 27th, 2014 at 4:26 pm
ObamaCare Causing 54% of Small Businesses Not to Hire

An article at the website Accounting Today starts with the headline, “ObamaCare Weighing Less on Hiring Plans.” In it, the author analyzes new poll results asking accountants who work with small businesses how the health law is impacting their hiring practices.

Last year, an identical poll found that 66 percent of small businesses said ObamaCare made it less likely they would hire new employees. This year’s survey reported a drop to 54 percent.

This is great news, according to the firm that commissioned the poll. “[W]hile planning for the Affordable Care Act is still impacting many businesses’ plans for hiring, it is causing significantly fewer businesses to slow hiring in the coming year in comparison to last year, which is positive.”

It would be more accurate to say, “less negative.”

Imagine the euphoria if ObamaCare wasn’t a factor at all. That would allow 54 percent of small businesses to base hiring decisions on opportunities to win market share. Instead, a stout majority are holding tight on their headcount because they can’t afford ObamaCare’s increased compliance costs.

Going forward, we’re likely to see more poll numbers and reporting like this that makes it seem like ObamaCare’s influence on economic growth is diminishing, when in fact businesses have already absorbed the initial hit that comes with ObamaCare, and have fundamentally changed their operations.

There is a ‘new normal’ of less full-time jobs, more part-timers and an increasing reliance on independent contractors. Dramatic year-to-year changes are likely to diminish over time as employers factor in ObamaCare’s increased labor costs and staff accordingly.

The real story here isn’t how many businesses will hire less people because of ObamaCare; it is how many jobs are not being created because of ObamaCare.

May 21st, 2014 at 1:55 pm
Nevada Closes Its ObamaCare Exchange, Hawaii Next?

Fed up with a dysfunctional health exchange operated by Xerox, Nevada officials voted to terminate the contract and transfer responsibility to the federal government.

Apparently, spending $75 million to enroll about one-fourth the number of people initially projected convinced Nevada to throw in the towel.

Nevada joins Oregon, Maryland and Massachusetts as states who have scrapped their original state-based exchanges because of exceedingly poor performance.

The next domino to fall may be Hawaii, whose ObamaCare exchange – the Hawaii Health Connector – has registered just 8,500 people but needs at least 150,000 enrollees to ensure the program is self-sustaining.

Not surprisingly, Hawaiian officials are already being pressured to shut it down.

May 20th, 2014 at 1:28 pm
Feds Can’t Verify Over 1 Million Income Statements Seeking ObamaCare Subsidies

Amid all the legitimate privacy concerns with ObamaCare’s regulatory apparatus – in particular the proposed data hub that allows agencies like the IRS, Social Security Administration and HHS to share reams of information about individual citizens with each other, states and insurance companies – it’s been taken for granted that the liberals in charge of this grand social experiment at least had the technical competency to build the necessary infrastructure.

But the facts say otherwise.

“Of the roughly 8 million Americans now signed up for coverage this year under the health care law, about 5.5 million are in the federal insurance exchange,” reports the Washington Post. “And according to internal documents, more than half of them – about 3 million – have an application containing at least one kind of inconsistency.”

The Post says the most frequent inconsistency is a discrepancy in the income reported on an ObamaCare application and the income reported to the IRS. This type of inconsistency is present on between 1.1 million and 1.5 million applications. To their credit, citizens have sent in “about 650,000 pieces of ‘proof’” to justify their asserted income.

Because of the level of detail required when filling out the 20-plus page ObamaCare application, it’s no surprise many people mistakenly enter something wrong; especially when considering that most people get help on their taxes from either a certified professional or software that easily finds all the right deductions. Neither option was readily available to the vast majority of ObamaCare applicants.

What is astonishing, however, is the federal government’s complete inability to process and verify corrections digitally. “Because the computer capability does not yet exist, the work will start by hand, according to two people familiar with the plans,” says the Post. (Emphasis added)

ObamaCare subsidies are the essential ingredient for claiming that ObamaCare insurance is “affordable” since they at least partially offset the increased cost of coverage. Failing to launch a website capable of verifying income claims that determine whether a person qualifies for subsidies is inexcusable.

If there is any silver lining to this latest blunder it’s that Serco – the federal contractor accused last week of billing HHS $1 billion while hiring employees literally to do nothing – is now on the hook for correcting the inconsistencies. Small comfort though, since apparently Serco gets paid based on the number of employees it hires rather than the efficiency of its work product. Requiring the company to sort paper applications by hand seems almost too awful to be true.

May 19th, 2014 at 2:05 pm
ObamaCare’s Cost Increases Could Push 90% of Workers at Large Firms onto Exchanges

“According to a new report from S&P Capital IQ, 90 percent of American workers who receive health insurance from large companies will instead get coverage through ObamaCare’s exchanges by 2020,” writes Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute.

Large companies are those that employ 10,000 workers or more. They cover 59 percent of the American workforce.

ObamaCare’s escalating barrage of mandates, fees and fines are estimated to extract “about $163 million to $200 million in additional cost per employer – or $4,800 to $5,900 per employee,” says Pipes. Compared to the $2,000 per employee fine for not offering health insurance, large employers will in effect be forced to dump workers on ObamaCare exchanges to stay profitable.

There are many aspects of ObamaCare that defy easy explanation, but this much is clear – Forcing large employers who want to provide health insurance to their employees to pay more than twice the price of compliance just doesn’t pencil.

The only financially sensible thing to do – from a company’s perspective – is to shove workers onto taxpayer-funded exchanges. That may keep the firm afloat, but it will only add to the federal government’s fiscal problems.

May 16th, 2014 at 5:53 pm
ObamaCare Hurts Single Working Mothers

Remember that “War on Women” meme that Democrats keep throwing at Republicans?

Well, it turns out ObamaCare’s employer mandate – by requiring that businesses with 50 or more employees purchase medical insurance for everyone that works 30 hours or more – incentivizes shifting to a part-time labor force.

“This has a negative effect on women,” says Corie Whalen of Generation Opportunity, “because 57 percent of part-time workers are female. When companies are forced to cut hours and there’s more competition for part-time work, women, especially single mothers, suffer.”

ObamaCare makes it harder for single working mothers to support their families. How’s that for a War on Women?

May 8th, 2014 at 6:48 pm
More States Eye Switching to Healthcare.gov

A CNBC report says that multiple states now operating an ObamaCare exchange could decide the costs are unsustainable and relinquish control to Healthcare.gov, the exchange run by the federal government.

The reasons are multiplying. Oregon decided to shutter its woebegone website after spending $248 million and failing to enroll a single person online. Massachusetts is abandoning its software program, but if its replacement isn’t ready to launch by the next enrollment period in November it plans to default to Healthcare.gov. Colorado and Rhode Island are trying to figure out how to make their exchanges financially viable once federal subsidies run out. And at least one expert thinks Nevada and Hawaii may also decide to let the feds be responsible for continuing IT updates and rules changes.

But it’s not like the once foundering Healthcare.gov is experiencing smooth sailing. Recent testimony before Congress confirmed the existence of duplicate enrollments that cast doubt on the Obama administration’s overall enrollment claims.

“Due to website glitches, some individuals may have enrolled multiple times,” explains the Illinois Policy Institute. “For example, if there are three people with one enrollment each and one person with two enrollments, the government will report this as five total enrollments. If the first three people paid for each of their policies and the fourth person paid for one policy, the insurer will report 100 percent payment. In this way, the government numbers may be further overstating enrollments.”

And with it, Healthcare.gov’s ability to handle the increased responsibility for processing many more people.

May 7th, 2014 at 4:28 pm
Cruz Highlights 76 Lawless Actions by Obama Admin

Today, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) unveiled his fourth cataloguing of the Obama administration’s abuses of power.

Among the 76 instances described, the Daily Caller spotlights eight that show the range and depth of the executive department’s dereliction of duty:

1.    “Obama implemented portions of the DREAM Act by executive action”

2.    “Ended some terror asylum restrictions”

3.    “Recognized same sex marriage in Utah despite a Supreme Court stay on a court order allowing the institution”

4.    “Illegally revealed the existence of sealed indictments in the Benghazi investigation”

5.    “Illegally delayed ObamaCare verification of eligibility for healthcare subsidies”

6.    “Ordered Boeing to fire 1,000 employees in South Carolina and shut down a new factory because it was non-union”

7.    “Terminated the pensions of 20,000 non-union Delphi employees in the GM bankruptcy”

8.    “Government agencies are engaging in ‘Operation Choke Point,’ where the government asks banks to ‘choke off’ access to financial services for customers engaging in conduct the Administration does not like – such as ‘ammunition sales.’”

As this partial listing makes clear, good luck finding an example where the Obama administration has flouted the law to favor conservatives and obstruct liberals.

Download the full report (pdf) here.