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Posts Tagged ‘Obamacare’
November 20th, 2014 at 7:49 pm
HHS Caught Padding ObamaCare Enrollment Numbers

Is anything the Obama administration says about ObamaCare worth believing?

“The Obama administration said it erroneously calculated the number of people with health coverage under [ObamaCare], incorrectly adding 380,000 dental subscribers to raise the total above 7 million,” reports Bloomberg.

The revelation came to light thanks to diligent work by House Oversight Committee investigators.

Bloomberg quotes Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell as saying, “The mistake we made is unacceptable,” but the news agency goes on to report HHS may have been intentionally misleading in its counts in the run-up to the midterm elections.

“Federal officials said in September they had 7.3 million people enrolled in coverage through new government-run insurance exchanges. They didn’t distinguish between medical and dental plans, breaking from previous practice without notice.” (Emphasis mine)

Along with the Grubergate deceptions, it’s hard to believe that HHS did anything other the deliberately fudge the numbers to help ObamaCare (barely) meet a previous CBO projection. Falling below that threshold would surely have been an embarrassment to the Obama administration, so someone at HHS just changed the rules so the home team could win.

Sounds similar to the president’s approach to immigration, doesn’t it?

November 20th, 2014 at 4:57 pm
GruberGate: All You Need to Know About the Jonathan Gruber Controversy In a Single Two-Minute Video

At the pace with which new videos continue to surface of ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber insulting American voters and exposing the Administration’s legal and deceitful public relations case for the president’s signature health care law, it truly is hard to keep up. 

Therefore, a big thank you is in order to the good folks at American Commitment, the organization that released the first Gruber video, for compiling everything you need to know about GruberGate, including Mr. Gruber’s most controversial comments – all in this in one handy two-minute video.

November 18th, 2014 at 6:10 pm
Ahead of SCOTUS Challenge, HHS Murky on State-Based Exchange Definition

With its surprising decision to hear oral argument on an ObamaCare subsidy challenge next spring, the Supreme Court of the United States is causing a flurry of activity as some states try to shore up their status ahead of a potentially costly decision.

“The consulting firm Avalere Health estimates that nearly 5 million people would see their premiums spike 76 percent, on average, if the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies in states that don’t operate their own exchanges,” reports Governing. “That estimate assumes a greater number of exchanges are considered federal, not state-based, but the question of what exactly constitutes a ‘state-based’ health exchange is murky.”

How murky?

“States have the option of running their own exchange completely (a state-based exchange), managing aspects of plan design or consumer outreach (a partnership exchange) or leaving everything to the federal government (a federally facilitated exchange),” according to the website.

Predictably, the federal Department of Health and Human Services isn’t divulging its exact criteria for categorizing an exchange, a stance that leaves states without a clear picture of how to prepare for a possible elimination of subsidies to residents.

Some states, like Nevada and Oregon that switched to Healthcare.gov – the federal website – are still considered to have state-based exchanges because they retain control over functions like plan approval, data collection and quality reporting. Others, like Utah and Mississippi, also fall into the state-based category because they host small business exchanges (but not individual exchanges).

So, the bottom line appears to be this: If the Supreme Court axes ObamaCare subsidies per the law’s text and intent, there’s a good chance President Barack Obama’s political appointees will engage in verbal gymnastics to find ways to define “state-based exchanges” in whatever manner best suits them.

No matter. Getting something fundamentally better than ObamaCare isn’t the Supreme Court’s job anyway. Best to pocket the subsidy win if it comes and work toward a policy consensus among the political branches that delivers real reform.

November 17th, 2014 at 3:42 pm
Gallup: New High in Public Disapproval of ObamaCare

Fifty-six percent of Americans disapprove of ObamaCare, the highest number disapproving of the controversial health care law since Gallup began asking the question.

Approval of ObamaCare peaked just before the 2012 presidential election, but has cratered since then.

The culprit is reality.

The beginning of ObamaCare’s nosedive in popularity “occurred in early November 2013”, according to Gallup’s analysis, “shortly after millions of Americans received notices that their current policies were being canceled, which was at odds with President Barack Obama’s pledge that those who liked their plans could keep them. The president later said, by way of clarification, that Americans could keep their plans if those plans didn’t change after [ObamaCare] was passed.”

In other words, the law has continued to grow less popular with each new revelation that it was sold on a pack of lies.

Though completely repealing the entire law seems unlikely because the new Republican Senate majority is less than the number needed to overcome a certain Obama veto, the increasing levels of voter disapproval could convince some Senate Democrats to join Republicans in dismantling large parts.

Unless, that is, they want to risk involuntary retirement when their next election arrives.

November 14th, 2014 at 1:32 pm
Ponnuru: What to Do If SCOTUS Strikes Down ObamaCare Subsidies

With ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber’s admissions that the controversial health law was sold on a pack of lies, the probability is rising that the Supreme Court will interpret the law as written and eliminate subsidies for millions of people.

If that happens, will Republicans in Congress be ready?

In order to lay the groundwork for an ObamaCare alternative that covers as many or more people than the current law, and costs less, Republicans in Congress could unite behind a framework proposed by conservative health experts James Capretta and Yuval Levin. Similar ideas have been endorsed by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the incoming-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the likely next chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

If the Supreme Court does strike down the subsidies, President Barack Obama won’t have much leverage since, “Much of ObamaCare would have just self-destructed due to its own design flaws and lack of public support, and Republicans would be offering a way to advance the law’s stated goal of assuring coverage – if not in the highly prescriptive and centralized manner the White House prefers”, writes Ramesh Ponnuru. “Democrats’ favored lines of attack on Republicans over health care – that they have no alternative, that they would take people off the insurance rolls – would have been neutralized.”

Sounds like a strategy worth pursuing.

November 13th, 2014 at 7:12 pm
Repeal of ObamaCare’s Medical Device Tax Coming Soon?

Repealing ObamaCare’s medical device tax is one of the ways to deprive the controversial health law of $30 billion in funding, so it’s no wonder Republicans in Congress are getting ready to do just that.

Unlike other features of ObamaCare – such as the individual and employer mandates – the medical device tax has bipartisan opposition because it threatens up to 43,000 jobs. So, even though President Barack Obama would likely veto any repeal bills that land on his desk, a measure killing the medical device tax might be able to attract enough votes to override him.

If successful, repealing the medical device tax might convince Democrats in Congress that ObamaCare isn’t sacrosanct. Maybe then they’ll be open to trying something else.

November 13th, 2014 at 10:16 am
Podcast: From ObamaCare to Title II Internet Regulation
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In a recent interview with CFIF, Phil Kerpen, President of American Commitment, discusses the Supreme Court’s decision to grant cert in the ObamaCare subsidies case, how a key architect of ObamaCare made news recently by boasting about taking advantage of “the stupidity of the American voter,” and what’s wrong with President Obama’s intervention in the FCC’s plans to regulate the Internet. 

Listen to the interview here.

November 12th, 2014 at 6:20 pm
ObamaCare’s 2015 Tax Bite

Too bad the incoming Republican majority in Congress probably can’t repeal ObamaCare’s individual mandate before next April, because it looks like millions of middle-income Americans will see their tax refund cut by one-third.

“The financial penalty for skipping out on health insurance coverage [i.e. not complying with the individual mandate] will more than triple to $325 per person in 2015, or 2 percent of income, depending on whichever is higher,” reports CBS News. “Children will be fined at half the adult rate, or $162.50 for those under 18 years old.”

“Based on the flat-rate method, the maximum dollar amount an uninsured family could be fined is $975,” says the news outlet.

To put this into perspective, the average annual American tax refund is about $3,000, meaning that a $975 IRS penalty would reduce the value by one-third.

This is likely to hit middle-income Americans particularly hard since many may be earning too much in wages or salary to qualify for an ObamaCare subsidy. The Catch-22 facing these families is cutting back on other spending to pay high monthly premiums, or foregoing insurance and waiting to see how much the IRS will confiscate. Either way, the predicament facing millions of middle-income Americans is likely to make them even more hostile toward a law billed as the “Affordable Care Act.”

November 10th, 2014 at 7:07 pm
HHS Reduces ObamaCare 2015 Enrollment Prediction by 30%

On Monday, the Obama administration threw out a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that ObamaCare would have 13 million enrollees by February 15, 2015. It also discarded a CBO forecast that the controversial health law would have 25 million enrollees by 2017.

Instead, the federal department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said a more likely scenario would be between 9 and 9.9 million by mid-February – a reduction of 30% from CBO’s calculations. As for 2017 totals, HHS will not commit to any numbers.

“The reduced projection is due to recent data showing ‘mixed evidence’ about how quickly – and how dramatically – people will shift from employer-sponsored health insurance and non-ObamaCare plans into insurance plans sold on government-run marketplaces such as HealthCare.gov,” reports CNBC.

What HHS isn’t saying is how the Obama administration playing politics with statutorily mandated deadlines has fouled up ObamaCare’s implementation timetable. Originally, CBO and others could reasonably anticipate quick and dramatic shifts onto ObamaCare plans because the employer mandate made it financially smart to dump workers onto the exchanges and pay a relatively small fine.

But fearing a voter backlash at such a quick and dramatic change, the Obama administration has delayed implementing the employer mandate at least three times. It now isn’t scheduled to go into effect until 2017 – the first year after President Barack Obama is out of office.

According to an HHS report, “there is considerable uncertainty that a large shift will occur over the new two years”, which, “contributes to an analysis that the ramp up to 25 million will take more than three years.”

In other words, thanks to politically motivated regulators, no one knows when, or if, ObamaCare will meet its most important benchmark – sustainable enrollment.

November 7th, 2014 at 5:45 pm
Supreme Court to Hear ObamaCare Subsidy Challenge

In a surprise move, the United States Supreme Court announced today it will hear a third challenge to ObamaCare in as many years.

The case, King v. Burwell, is one of many lawsuits challenging a controversial IRS decision to extend federal subsidies to any person eligible to buy insurance on an ObamaCare exchange. The legal fight is over whether the text of ObamaCare permits subsidies to be given to citizens purchasing health insurance through Healthcare.gov, the federal exchange, when the law clearly says they cannot.

Supporters of ObamaCare say the disputed statutory language amounts to typos inconsistent with the spirit and purpose of the law. Opponents insist that the plain meaning of the words be honored, or risk the rule of law taking a back seat to bureaucratic whim.

The timing of the Supreme Court’s decision means that oral arguments will be held sometime in the spring with a final decision likely next summer. If the challengers are successful, King v. Burwell may go down in history as the lawsuit that signaled the beginning of the end of ObamaCare.

November 5th, 2014 at 3:08 pm
Can Congressional GOP Hang Together on ObamaCare?

Conservative health policy experts Avik Roy and Gracie-Marie Turner both have interesting long reads on what the new Republican majority in Congress should do to transition away from ObamaCare towards a more market friendly alternative.

Both call for a unified strategy focused on repealing ObamaCare’s most unpopular elements and daring President Barack Obama to veto. Importantly, both want the GOP to leave the door open for a truly patient-centered alternative that reduces the government’s role while increasing access to quality health care. It’s a tall order with little consensus.

Roy and Turner each have specific pathways for achieving their goals, and it’s worth reading their articles to get a sense of where conservative health policy may be heading. However, the success of a conservative ObamaCare alternative ultimately comes down to whether House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can corral enough of their members around a unified endpoint. That job is made trickier by the fact that the 2016 presidential campaign will soon be underway, with lots of Republican candidates keeping the specifics of their own ObamaCare alternatives close to the vest.

Going forward, the real goal for Boehner and McConnell is to get rid of what they can, minimize what they can’t and leave enough room for the 2016 presidential nominee to maneuver toward an alternative the public will support.

Easy? No. The price of leadership? You betcha.

November 3rd, 2014 at 5:09 pm
Fed Court Blocks Contraception Mandate Reporting Requirements

With its newest batch of regulations, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) essentially is telling non-profit religious employers that they can claim an exemption from ObamaCare’s contraception mandate, so long as they provide all the information necessary to violate the deeply held beliefs that justify the exemption.

As Lyle Denniston of SCOTUS Blog explains, the rules “also required the organization to tell the government what its health coverage plan for its employees was by name and type, and to provide contact information to the insurer operating the plan.

“The added information was designed to enable HHS to then take the initiative to arrange for the religious organization’s female employees to have contraceptive coverage at no cost, and with no cost to the organization itself.”

The controversial HHS rules came to light because of a legal challenge filed by a Catholic university in Florida. A federal judge blocked enforcement of the rules pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

A couple of observations immediately come to mind. First, there is no such thing as free contraception. If the insurance company must provide it “free” to some customers, it will then pass on the cost to others (e.g. higher premiums). Even the manpower at HHS spent on coordinating this run-around the First Amendment costs taxpayers money.

This brings up another point. How can it be that the federal agency charged with implementing ObamaCare has the resources and personnel available to investigate, negotiate and procure “free” contraception to the thousands (and more) employees working at exempt religious employers?

It’s not like there’s a public health crisis over lack of access to contraception. If HHS has so many extra people and dollars laying around, it should funnel them to real priorities like fighting Ebola, or perhaps, finishing ObamaCare’s main insurance portal before the second enrollment period begins in a matter of days.

Instead we get demands for information in order to make religious objectors participate in the very activity they cannot abide.

October 31st, 2014 at 9:47 am
ObamaScare: The ObamaCare Nightmare Continues
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Sally Pipes, President and the Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, discusses how the nightmare continues with the second open enrollment season for ObamaCare commencing November 15th, days after the mid-term elections, and why ObamaCare may be on shaky ground as court battles loom.

Listen to the interview here.

October 22nd, 2014 at 2:43 pm
Insurance Companies Got CMS Okay to Cancel Policies If ObamaCare Subsidies Invalidated

“Amy Lotven of the trade publication Inside Health Reform reports that before insurers agreed to sell coverage through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s health insurance Exchanges in 2015, they demanded that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services explicitly agree to let them cancel policies if any of the Halbig cases succeed in blocking the subsidies that carriers had been receiving in the 36 states whose ObamaCare Exchanges were not, as [ObamaCare] requires before subsidies can flow, ‘established by the State’”, writes Michael Cannon.

You’ll recall that there is a big fight over whether the Obama administration is blatantly violating its own law by making subsidies available to people who don’t qualify under the statute. And, as Cannon points out, making illegal subsidies available also subjects up to 57 million individuals and employers to illegal penalties under ObamaCare’s individual and employer mandates.

That insurance companies demanded the right to cancel policies relying on subsidies shows how concerned the industry is at being blamed for high-cost coverage when and if the government’s policy is ruled illegal. That the Obama administration agreed indicates the strength of the argument that even the executive branch should follow the law.

October 21st, 2014 at 1:50 pm
Report: Without Subsidies, ObamaCare Enrollment in Death Spiral

“Without [ObamaCare’s] premium support, premiums rise by nearly 45 percent, and enrollment falls by nearly 70 percent,” says a report by RAND Health.

The analysis is part of an evaluation commissioned by the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency in charge of ObamaCare implementation.

The report’s publication follows on news that a federal district judge in Oklahoma ruled ObamaCare’s premium support (i.e. subsidies) mechanism is not available in states that use Healthcare.gov, the federal ObamaCare exchange. According to the text of the law, eligibility for subsidies depends on a citizen’s state operating its own exchange. If the law’s plain meaning is followed, RAND’s analysis will apply to citizens in more than half of the states.

The RAND Health report confirms a simple truth about ObamaCare – if people must pay the full freight of its “affordable” insurance, they will refuse.

H/T: The Daily Caller

October 20th, 2014 at 9:51 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The Obama Administration
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.

October 14th, 2014 at 12:06 pm
ObamaCare: Welcome to Politicized Medicine

Next year’s ObamaCare premiums won’t be available through Healthcare.gov – the federal insurance portal servicing 26 states – until the week after the November 4th midterm elections.

“Insurers say one big challenge for next year will involve millions of returning customers,” the AP reports. “It’s not really a technology issue, but a time crunch that also coincides with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.”

In this case, it’s not the health insurance companies who are to blame, but rather the Obama administration. Late last year when Healthcare.gov was glitching its way into infamy, news leaked that the enrollment period for 2015 would be pushed back a month – from October 15 to November 15. Everybody who could read a political calendar knew the primary motivation was to hide the true cost of ObamaCare’s second year premiums from voters before going to the polls.

This is just one more reason why it’s a bad idea to have the government in control of health care pricing – those responsible will never allow the public to hold them accountable.

H/T: Townhall Tipsheet

October 9th, 2014 at 3:15 pm
Arkansas’ Medicaid Expansion Violated Obama HHS’ Own Budget Neutrality Rules

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the State of Arkansas and the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) violated federal guidelines when they agreed to expand Medicaid under a “private option” plan.

Arkansas was one of the first states to get permission from the Obama administration to expand Medicaid, but on different terms than laid out in ObamaCare.

Medicaid is the state-federal program that pays for health care services for the nation’s poor and disabled.

Under normal circumstances, Arkansas would only be allowed to get a waiver from ObamaCare’s expansion structure if it could prove that its plan would be budget neutral.

Guess what happened instead.

“According to federal regulations, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has certain procedures they must follow when reviewing state requests for Medicaid waivers,” write experts at the Foundation for Government Accountability.

“One key component of any waiver is budget neutrality: states seeking waivers must demonstrate that they will not spend any more federal dollars under the waiver than they would have without the waiver. But as it turns out, the Obama Administration cut corners and ‘did not ensure budget neutrality’ requirements were actually met before approving Arkansas’ ObamaCare expansion.”

The result is an additional $778 million more in spending on Arkansas’ version of Medicaid expansion than would have occurred had HHS insisted on following its own budget neutrality rules.

The entire analysis of the GAO’s report is worth reading since it explains other serious problems with the Arkansas plan. Perhaps the most egregious is the depth at which the Democratic governor’s office and loyal state agencies went to mislead Republican state legislators on the true cost of the expansion. Evidence of bad faith negotiations like this make it impossible to have a substantive policy conversation. Even now there are reports that the governor is peddling incorrect information, and trying to silence opposition.

What’s emerging from the Arkansas fiasco is the extent to which supporters of bigger government will go to entrench their policies – truth, fairness and accountability be damned.

October 7th, 2014 at 6:06 pm
Pence-HHS Negotiations over How to Expand Medicaid Stall

A months-long negotiation over whether and how Indiana might expand Medicaid under ObamaCare may be coming to an impasse.

On Monday, Indiana Republican Governor Mike Pence emerged from a meeting with federal Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell Mathews without any positive news.

“We had a substantive discussion, but we are not there yet,” Pence said in a statement quoted by the Indianapolis Star.

At issue is whether Indiana will be able to use ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion dollars in a way that moves the program in a more market-friendly direction. As I’ve written before, conservatives can support reforms to entitlement programs so long as they move in that direction.

With HHS refusing to let Indiana require modest co-pays under its expanded Medicaid plain, the next move is up to Pence. He could weaken his proposal, but doing so would sacrifice any pretense his plan has for being fiscally conservative. On the other hand, he could stand firm on principle and absorb the potentially damaging criticism that he’s leaving almost $1 billion in federal Medicaid payments on the table – all of which is new taxpayer-financed spending.

Pence is thought to be a dark horse GOP candidate for president in 2016. His decision on this policy issue will go a long way towards determining how viable such a campaign would be.

October 6th, 2014 at 6:49 pm
Expert: ObamaCare Bailout of Insurance Industry Similar to Bush Era Prescription Drug Program

The Obama administration has been catching some flak over its intent to redirect taxpayer dollars toward a controversial “risk corridor” program designed to bailout ObamaCare-friendly health insurance companies that lose too much money.

The primary line of attack stems from the absence of any specific congressional appropriations to fund the program. Congressional Republicans and the Government Accountability Office say this precludes any end-run maneuvers to pay for it anyway, while the Obama administration is ignoring opposition.

But in the drive to add this abuse of executive discretion to President Barack Obama’s long list of power grabs, a bit of history is sure to make Republican critics think twice before pushing much farther.

“But Loren Adler, research director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, points out that a similar risk-protection program in the Medicare prescription drug program does not receive an explicit annual appropriation, yet has not been challenged,” reports an entry on the Modern Health Care blog. “He thinks that makes it highly unlikely that HHS will be deterred from making the payments to insurers under the risk corridors program.”

Indeed, any federal judge reviewing a future legal challenge to HHS’ pending move would very likely analogize the two programs and conclude that if Congress has not objected to the practice in one instance, and the two cases are similar, it probably intended to defer on both. In such a scenario, the end result is a judge (rightly) telling Congress to speak more clearly and fix the law.

The upshot of all this is that it makes everyone painfully aware of how important it is for Congress to pass clear laws. Republicans aren’t responsible for ObamaCare’s poor draftsmanship, but if they ever get enough power to make changes, they should take care to make them unambiguous to interpret.