Roll Tide

One might be forgiven for thinking health insurers are cracking under the strain of Obamacare’s broken insurance exchanges. But don’t be fooled: it is the 10 million Obamacare enrollees who are in trouble, not the insurers.

To be sure, new nonprofit cooperative insurers, set up with special subsidies to compete in the exchanges, have had a terrible run. They deliberately underpriced their premiums to gain market share, expecting the federal government to bail out their losses. Once the Republicans took over the House of Representatives, then the Senate, this became unlikely. As a result, the administration announced in November that 12 of 23 nonprofit cooperative insurers were shutting down.

However, these nonprofit cooperative insurers, which did not exist before Obamacare, are not important overall. That is why UnitedHealth Group’s November 19 announcement that it is losing $500 million on the Obamacare exchanges and might withdraw from Obamacare in 2017 is a big deal. Just a few weeks earlier, UnitedHealth Group had announced it would expand into 11 new states’ Obamacare markets.

The insurer is also dialing back advertising and brokers’ commissions for 2016, even though it is too late to withdraw from the market literally. (We are in the middle of Obamacare’s third open season.) However, it is the threat of absolute withdrawal in 2017 that has shocked many. By 2017, the fourth year of Obamacare, the market is supposed to have shaken out. Both insurers and Obamacare’s political sponsors understood that insurers would not know how expensive claims would be from those who signed up during the first three years. That is why insurers were given temporary taxpayer subsidies, called reinsurance and risk corridors, for 2014 through 2016. Reinsurance is a direct handout of $25 billion from taxpayers to insurers. Risk corridors were more complicated and supposed to be budget-neutral. Insurers that made more money than expected would pay money to those that lost more money than expected.

 

When it became clear that the losers far outnumbered the winners, the administration tried to raid the kitty to make risk-corridor payments from the general fund. By this time a new Congress (in which the majority opposed Obamacare) actually read the bill that its predecessor had passed in 2010 and pointed out that the administration could not pay out that money. As a result, Obamacare insurers will only receive $362 million of $2.9 billion of risk-corridor payments requested.

However, even if Congress did cave in and pay the risk corridors in full, payments would finish in 2016. That is what makes UnitedHealth Group’s announcement about dropping out in 2017 so important: it is effectively an admission that three years are not enough to learn how to manage risks in Obamacare’s exchanges. Indeed, it suggests that risks are unmanageable, that the vicious circle of increasing premiums’ driving healthy subscribers away and leaving only sick ones on the books cannot be stopped under Obamacare.

The exchanges have fewer victims than initially expected. The economy has been strong enough that employer-based coverage has stood up to Obamacare. As a result, only 10 million people are caught in them, instead of the 21 million forecast when the law was passed. However, this is a mixed blessing. These 10 million are a politically weak constituency of working-class and lower middle-class citizens in middle age — the people whose needs politicians always talk about but seldom address because they are not politically active.

The only group politically powerful enough to renegotiate the exchanges are the insurers, and they show no more creativity than to lobby for their subsidies to be restored, which this Congress has promised not to do. On the other hand, simply quitting the exchanges is not very painful for large health insurers. UnitedHealth Group’s stock took a small hit when it admitted its struggles, but Obamacare exchanges are a tiny share of its business. As more insurers make the same decision to quit, 10 million Obamacare subscribers will be left high and dry in short order. (DC)

Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez
Political Cartoons by Bob Gorrell
Political Cartoons by Jerry Holbert
Political Cartoons by Bob Gorrell

If you Like your Job…

ObamaCare

Please enjoy the latest installment of the “it’s working” chronicles. Sorry, American workers (via The Hill):

ObamaCare will force a reduction in American work hours the equivalent of 2 million jobs over the next decade, Congress’s nonpartisan scorekeeper said Monday. The total workforce will shrink by just under 1 percent as a result of changes in worker participation because of the new coverage expansions, mandates and changes in tax rates, according to a 22-page report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). “Some people would choose to work fewer hours; others would leave the labor force entirely or remain unemployed for longer than they otherwise would,” the agency said in its latest analysis of the now five-year-old law.

This assessment largely confirms the bombshell February 2014 analysis from the nonpartisan entity, which also projected that Democrats’ $2 trillion healthcare scheme would slow economic growth and slow job creation.  Take it away, 2011 Nancy Pelosi:

“Four million jobs will be created by the legislation when it is fully in effect.”

In 2010, she said Obamacare would create 400,000 new jobs “almost immediately.”  Last year, the law’s defenders were reduced to arguing that the reduction in worker hours was a positive development, offering Americans more time to spend with their families, and freeing them from “job lock.”  CBO’s findings determined that Obamacare disincentivizes work, shifting the burden of subsidizing health coverage for people who choose to work less or leave the workforce altogether onto the backs of middle class taxpayers.  Democrats’ frantic “liberation from job lock” spin worked out…about as well as one might have expected.  Obamacare’s cheerleaders have been wrong about virtually everything: Their law was not a job creator.  Their law has not bent the national health spending “cost curve” down.  Their law has not even approached lowering rates across the board.  Their law has not made healthcare more affordable.  Their law has not secured access to care.  Their law has not reduced emergency room visits, or decreased uncompensated care. Their law did not guarantee that satisfied consumers could keep their preferred doctors and plans. And their law has not attracted nearly as many enrollees as they expected, largely due to lack of affordability.  Their law has not signed up as many young and healthy consumer as they’d anticipated, raising new fears of an adverse selection spiral.

Gee, How many times have I said that very thing? 🙂

And their law has not become popular post-implementation.  Meanwhile, the string of high-profile failures among Obamacare co-ops is inflicting more chaos onto an already-strained system:

Health care providers could get stuck with unpaid bills in a half dozen states where co-op plans have collapsed. That’s because there’s no financial backstop in those states if the failed nonprofit startups backed by Obamacare loans run out of money before paying off all of their medical claims. That messy scenario is already playing out in New York, where the state’s co-op shut down at the end of November after its financial situation proved direr than originally known. The Greater New York Hospital Association estimates the co-op, Health Republic Insurance of New York, owes its members at least $165 million. And the Medical Society of the State of New York found that of more than 900 doctors surveyed, 64 percent reported being owed money by the co-op plan. For most insurers, a state’s guaranty fund – bankrolled by the industry – will cover unpaid medical claims if they become insolvent. But in some states, like New York, that fund doesn’t support plans that are licensed as health maintenance organizations, which is typically how the co-ops were set up. The other five states where providers could end up with unpaid bills if the failed co-ops run out of money: Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, Oregon and Utah…Just over half of the 23 co-ops seeded with $2.4 billion in loans have collapsed, with most set to cease operations at the end of this year. That’s left roughly 600,000 individuals scrambling to find new coverage.

On Capitol Hill this week, Republican lawmakers are demanding answers about how the government spent hundreds of millions of dollars on state-level Obamacare exchanges that ultimately collapsed, and have since been abandoned.  Here’s Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) grilling acting CMS administrator Andy Slavitt about whether or not he agrees with the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) recently-announced verdict that zero of the remaining state-level exchanges are “fully operational,” after five years and $1.45 billion in IT spending, courtesy of taxpayers:

Senate Republicans used a budget maneuver called reconciliation to vote to repeal vast swaths of Obamacare last week, approving a bill that would gut the law.  Once it passes the House, President Obama is expected to veto the legislation in order to protect his unpopular, harmful law. Hillary Clinton, who invented Obamacare, asserted last week that the law is working.

And The Ministry of Truth assures us that it’s all just a plot by dissidents and Thought Criminals and that they just want poor people to die. 🙂

THE AGENDA IS THE AGENDA. They fight for it to very last drop of YOUR blood. 🙂

 

Bend Over, Here Comes ObamaClaus

KING Barack Hussein Obama…

And he’s going to make it with your taxes. So the tax that’s a penalty that actually a tax is now going to raise your taxes to pay for the penalty that is a tax. Got it.

Obamacare is killing the heath insurance industry, but help for health insurers is on the way – and it will be coming out the pockets of American taxpayers via higher insurance rates and a federal bailout.

When the government says, “Explore other sources of funding” and “working with Congress on the necessary funding,” it’s time to hide your wallet and get ready to study a few more pages of tax code.

As MRCTV reported Thursday, United Healthcare lost $425 million on its policies sold via the Obamacare exchanges, and they might back out of the exchanges all together after 2016. And United Healthcare isn’t alone. U.S. insurers had to absorb nearly $2.9 billion in unexpected medical expenses from their customers in Obamacare’s exchanges in 2014, according to new data from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Milwaukee Sentinel Journal reports that some of the deficit will be made up with higher premiums, much higher premiums.

And Obama and Company will blame it on “corporate greed” not a fatally flawed partial socialized medicine designed to fail.

Many insurers have requested premium increases of 20% to 40% for next year. In August, Blue Cross Blue Shield secured approval in Tennessee for a 36.3% price hike, while Oregon OK’d a 25.6% increase for Moda Health Plan.

Even these premium increases are mild compared with what’s coming when the risk corridor provision and other stopgaps expire.

A recent University of Minnesota study found that after 2016, the cheapest plans would experience some of the most dramatic premium increases. Families who purchased “bronze” plans on the exchanges could see 45% increases. Some unlucky individuals could see their premiums shoot up 96%.

“Our data still indicate that — for at least the next decade — premiums will increase faster than they did in the years before the Affordable Care Act’s implementation,” cautioned one of the study’s authors. “Federal subsidies for ACA plans won’t be able to keep up.”

But, the federal government is going to try make the subsidies keep up. Pres. Obama’s Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) is promising insurance companies that taxpayers will help them out.

After the United Healthcare announcement on Thursday, HHS issued a letter to insurance companies recognizing the 2014 shortfalls and declaring that the U.S. Government needs to make good:

 In the event of a shortfall for the 2016 program year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will explore other sources of funding for risk corridors payments, subject to the availability of appropriations. This includes working with Congress on the necessary funding for outstanding risk corridors payments

Risk corridors were created by the Obamacare bill.  The corridors are meant to redistribute money (sound familiar?) from insurance companies who make a bigger profit from exchange plans than expected and give to companies who lost money on the exchange plans.

Yeah, it’s called redistribution. Socialism…

The problem with the risk corridor in 2014 was that too many companies lost money – so, there wasn’t enough money to cover everyone’s losses.  HHS is promising a bailout, or in HHS language, it will work with Congress to get more money for the risk corridors in order to cut insurance companies losses. 

Robert Laszewski, president of consultancy Health Policy and Strategy Associates in Virginia, told CNBC:

“‘The Obamacare business model doesn’t work,’ ‘Obamacare has got to be retooled.’ Laszewski cited the fact that insurers overall still are losing money selling exchange plans in the second year of Obamacare, and that as a result many of them are raising prices, which could in turn lead to current and prospective customers taking a pass on further coverage.” 

According to Nathan Nascimento, Senior Policy Advisor for Freedom Partners:

“We already knew that this Administration has no problem with putting special interests ahead of Americans’ health care – but yet another bailout for insurance companies on the backs of taxpayers only throws more good money after bad. Washington’s flawed one-size-fits-all approach to health care has failed, leading to plan cancelations, skyrocketing premium and out-of-pocket costs, and instability for American families and business. The solution is to get government out of the way – not dig the hole even deeper.”

Supporters of Obamacare are in denial. Much higher heath insurance premiums, insurance company losses needing a federal bailout, and news that almost half of the state-run Obamacare exchanges  have bitten the dust, add up to one inconvenient fact: Obamacare is a failure.  

Was never meant to be anything else.

But the supporters have no choice but to be in denial. They have wanted Socialized Medicine for 100 years and it’s failing so they have hide that from everyone, including themselves.

Sadly, it won’t be the politicians who forced the program down the American people’s throats who will be reaching into their pockets to pay for that failure.  It will be the rest of us, average American families, our children, and our grandchildren paying for this unmitigated disaster. 

Get ready to dig deep for failure. Also, get ready for the spin that will not make it the Liberals fault.

After all, they are always right and always have the best of intentions.

Welcome to the Road to Hell. 🙂

Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez
Political Cartoons by Glenn McCoy

 

 

United We Fall

A “Healthcare Workers for Obamacare” sign hangs torn in a parking lot in New York on Oct. 31, 2012.  AP

President Obama repeatedly promised that his signature health law, the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, would reduce insurance premiums by $2,500 for the typical family.

ObamaCare: United Healthcare’s surprise warning that it may scrap participation in federal health care exchanges is more than bad news for consumer choice. It’s a broader sign of an unsustainable system.

The nation’s largest health insurance provider surprised the markets Thursday by saying losses from its 550,000 individual ObamaCare exchange enrollments were sharply cutting its bottom line. That’s notable because ObamaCare exchange participation only forms a small slice of the $105 billion company by market capitalization.

Yet it was enough to make the giant company and all the value it creates throughout its many operations suffer enough to trigger, as IBD market reporter Jed Graham wrote, “a surge of red ink.”

The company forecast $425 million less revenue in the fourth quarter and cut its full-year 2015 earnings-per-share forecast to $6 from $6.25-$6.35.

Not surprisingly, its stock fell 5.6% by the close of trading Thursday, and other health care and hospital companies such as Aetna, Anthem, Tenet, Cigna, Humana and HCA took similar hits.

“We see no data pointing to improvement,” UnitedHealth Group CEO Stephen Helmsley said on a conference call. Patients, he explained, were using their plans more than the company had anticipated and, worse still, were dropping coverage when they got well.

Bad as that is for company profits, it’s a predictable outcome given the structure of the law and what it permits.

What Helmsley described was a company caught up in the classic “death spiral” that IBD and reputable economists have been warning about: Insurance policy sales going in the main to the sickest patients who use the most health care services, while the high prices of the larded-up government-mandated packages continue to drive off younger, healthier consumers.

DOH!  It’s not like it was predictable or anything… 🙂

In short, the ObamaCare master plan of having young and healthy consumers subsidize the oldest, sickest patients isn’t working as the White House’s central planners and self-proclaimed experts claimed.

<<chuckle>>

Not that the ideologically rigid Obama and The Democrats will care. They will continue to hammer on it until you give in to government control of who lives and who dies and the Insurance companies go bankrupt leaving only the government left.

That’s Democrat “compassion” for ya… 🙂

What’s striking here is that UnitedHealth is no tiny startup ship with a narrow margin of error riding the big ObamaCare regulatory waves. It’s the biggest of the big, a conglomerate that’s the product of the consolidation of the industry — Anthem and Cigna, UnitedHealth and HCA, HCA and private investors — that was supposed to enable the sector to absorb the blow of higher costs of insuring more customers and still continue to do well.

That’s not happening.

What’s more, UnitedHealth was in the ObamaCare exchanges for only a year, during a window of time when the government was supposed to cushion insurers against losses in the ObamaCare transition. The cushion ends next year, leaving companies on their own.

(Insert “Jaws” theme music here) 🙂

Will smaller health care companies really be able to make a profit in an atmosphere that even UnitedHealth found impossible to sustain a profit in? There’s plenty of reason to wonder, as the markets did Thursday. (IBD)

“We cannot sustain these losses,” CEO Stephen Hemsley said in an investor call Thursday morning. “We can’t really subsidize a marketplace that doesn’t appear at the moment to be sustaining itself.”

Several nonprofit insurance cooperatives that were supposed to compete for customers on the exchanges have folded. Meanwhile, some big publicly traded insurance companies, including Anthem, Aetna, Cigna and Humana, say they are enrolling fewer people than expected or even losing money.

A recent report by McKinsey & Co. found that the industry lost a total of $2.5 billion, or $163 per customer, in the individual market.

Insurance companies have had trouble attracting healthy customers to the exchanges to purchase their insurance products, many of which have deductibles of thousands of dollars.

The industry’s troubles are reflected in the insurance products being offered on the exchanges during the current enrollment period, reports The Wall Street Journal:

“For these plans, which will take effect in 2016, many insurers have raised premiums in order to cover the medical costs of enrollees, which have run higher than many companies originally projected, fueling this year’s losses. Insurers have also shifted to offering more limited choices of health-care providers”

Still, no other big insurer has signaled its intention to leave the exchanges. (NPR)

YET. But it will come. But don’t worry Obama and The Democrats are from the Government and they are here to help you! 🙂

The average premium for medium-benefit plans offered to 40-year-old non-smokers will rise 10.1% in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

 Political Cartoons by Glenn McCoy

Political Cartoons by Michael Ramirez

 

 

Death Spiral

The Supreme Court decision in King v. Burwell, the case challenging the Obama administration’s decision to award tax credits for health insurance sold through federally established exchanges, could turn on the question of whether a ruling that ends the tax credits on federal exchanges might cause something known as a “death spiral” in health insurance markets.

The good news is the answer is probably no, but the bad news is that’s only because the death spiral has probably already started.

A death spiral generally occurs when insurers are forced to raise premiums sharply to pay promised benefits. Higher premiums cause many of the healthiest policyholders, who already pay far more in premiums than they receive in benefits, to drop coverage.

When healthy policyholders drop coverage, it leaves the insurer with little choice but to raise premiums again because they now have a risk pool that is less healthy than before. But another premium increase means many of the healthy people who remained now drop their policies, too, and this continues until the only people willing to pay the now-very-high premiums are those with serious medical conditions.

The death spiral isn’t just a theory. Eight states learned this the hard way in the 1990s when they enacted two policies known as “community rating” and “guaranteed issue,” requiring health insurers to sell coverage to anyone who wanted it at the same price.

This quickly set off a death spiral because people knew they could wait until they were sick or injured to buy insurance, and premiums rose sky-high as healthy people exited the individual insurance market while the sick remained.

 

New Jersey enacted both community rating and guaranteed issue in 1992. By 2003, the lowest monthly premium for a family policy in the state was $3,810 and nearly 40 percent of the people in the individual market had dropped their coverage.

Obamacare includes both community rating and guaranteed issue. The hope of the politicians who passed Obamacare was the individual mandate would keep the relatively healthy from dropping insurance coverage, thereby avoiding a death spiral.

They hoped to FORCE people to pay by government cudgel to avoid the inevitable. Remove the choice to cause the death spiral and subsidize the hell out of it (literally and figuratively). Sounds like an Agenda rather a “good” thing, doesn’t it? 🙂

During oral arguments in King, Justices Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed concerns that not allowing subsidies in the 37 states using the federally established exchange would set off a death spiral in those states. Their fear was that while subsidies would no longer be available, and there would effectively be no individual mandate, community rating and guaranteed issue would remain.

Many commentators saw Justice Kennedy’s comments as a signal he isn’t willing to stop subsidies on federal exchanges, either because of the serious consequences of doing so or because surely Congress could not have intended to put states in the position of choosing between creating an Obamacare exchange or seeing health insurance markets destroyed.

What Justice Kennedy and many others may not understand, however, is the death spiral is probably already underway in all 50 states, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules in this case.

According to the Manhattan Institute, premiums climbed by 41 percent on average from 2013 to 2014, and premiums are likely to rise sharply again after two insurance company bailout programs included in Obamacare expire in 2017.

The other sign health insurance markets are in the early stages of a death spiral is the age mix of those buying policies through Obamacare. Originally it was estimated that around 40 percent of enrollees had to be in the relatively healthy 18 to 34-year-old age segment, so their premiums could be used to pay for the health expenses of older, less-healthy enrollees. So far it appears only some 28 percent of enrollees are in that coveted age group, which also comprises around half of the uninsured.

All of this means insurers are getting a risk pool that is less healthy than expected, and more premium hikes are around the corner. While subsidies hide some from the full impact, others in the middle class will not be shielded.

It will undoubtedly take a few years to know for sure, but for anybody concerned about setting off a death spiral or thinking Congress surely didn’t intend to do so, don’t worry. It looks like it’s already here, whether Congress intended it or not.

Political Cartoons by Chip Bok
Political Cartoons by Lisa Benson
But enough about President Obama.
Political Cartoons by Nate Beeler

The Time is Coming

People without insurance are running out of time to avoid the hefty ObamaCare penalties that the IRS will be handing down in 2016.

Watchchya wanna bet that gets “delayed” again because of politics. 🙂

Consumers face a Feb. 15, 2015, deadline to buy insurance, after which those without coverage could be hit with fines of $325 per adult or 2 percent of family income, whichever is higher.

Uninsured people looking to escape the penalties are turning to the exchanges before they close, while insurance companies and tax preparers are seizing on the looming tax hit as a business opportunity.

One recent mass mailer from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield obtained by The Hill warned potential customers in the Washington, D.C., region that going without health insurance coverage would come with a steep cost.

“When you don’t have health insurance … you put your financial security at risk,” the mailer states. “That’s because under the new Affordable Care Act legislation, millions of Americans will have to pay an increased penalty tax of at least 2 percent of their income in 2015 if they go uninsured.”

The “good news,” the letter said, is that CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield has “solutions” to help people avoid the penalty, including coverage that is “compatible with financial assistance or free money from the government that will help qualifying individuals pay for insurance.”

The company declined to comment on the mailer.

The message is part of a shift in focus for the health insurance industry as ObamaCare continues a relatively smooth second year of enrollment.

Last fall, issuers were hesitant to mention the mandate as technical glitches plagued HealthCare.gov and stopped some consumers from enrolling.

The penalties for going without health insurance were also more modest, with uninsured people due to pay $95 per adult or 1 percent of family income this tax season. Under the second-year enrollment rules, families that forgo insurance could end up owing $1,000 or more.

Tax preparation companies are touting their expertise in handling the IRS’s ObamaCare rules as they gear up for a new filing season.

Part of the pitch is helping consumers avoid the mandate through an exemption if they are eligible. 

A variety of hardship qualifications makes this route possible for many people, including those who experienced the death of a close relative, had their previous health plan canceled or saw an increase in necessary expenses due to caring for an aging family member.

“There are a lot of people who will qualify for an exemption,” said Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson. “If a company can save someone the 2 percent fine on $50,000 of income, that is significant.”

Firms are also offering to help current enrollees understand how changes in income can affect their tax credits to buy coverage. In some cases, they can also help the uninsured select health plans.

In promotional materials, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service say they can provide consumers relief, arguing that healthcare reform is making tax planning more difficult.

“The ACA [Affordable Care Act] has changed the landscape of both healthcare and tax,” H&R Block states online, inviting consumers to calculate their mandate penalty or receive a “tax impact analysis” when they become a client.

Jackson Hewitt urges consumers to stop by one of its locations, promising that their employees “work harder to keep up with the latest tax law changes to protect you from possible penalties — not everyone else does.”

The marketing around the healthcare law is taking flight at a time when surveys show the public remains deeply confused about the mandate.

Almost half of U.S. adults are unaware they must report their health insurance status on their 2014 tax returns, according to a TurboTax survey released earlier this month.

And while about three in five uninsured people know the law penalizes people without coverage, nearly 90 percent do not realize the 2014 deadline has already passed.

As a result, experts are urging insurers and the federal government to do more to emphasize the mandate this enrollment period.

Mendelson said the insurance industry is talking about the penalties more than last year, though the Obama administration has not yet adopted that approach.

“You have to remember that most people will sign up for this benefit in the very last weeks before they have to, so you wouldn’t want to message negatively until the end,” he said. “They have a choice about whether to motivate by fear or by benefit. I think the fear might come late.”

Anne Filipic, president of the campaign-style group Enroll America, said the mandate is coming up more frequently this year.

“We will always lead our conversations with the great benefits that are available to consumers,” Filipic said in a joint interview with The Hill and The Wall Street Journal last month.

“As for the fine, that is something that we will communicate to consumers about as well. It’s about delivering the facts.” (The Hill)

The fact is you’re screwed. The Government gets to decide if you live or die, and how you live. Welcome to Hell.

Sen. Tom Harkin, who co-authored the law and is retiring at the end of this Congress, said, “We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified healthcare, made it more efficient and made it less costly, and we didn’t do it, So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all.

But that would have ignored 90 years of itch-scratching hell-for-leather ends justifies the means Holy Grail of Liberalism and that was an itch they had to scratch at any cost, especially to the American People. Hindsight maybe 20/20 but political hindsight is usually very myopic.

“What we did is we muddled through and we got a system that is complex, convoluted, needs probably some corrections and still rewards the insurance companies extensively,” he added.

And it was all Democrats and they paid a price for it.

But it’s still here and Jar Jar Boehner and The RINOs were the universe’s gift to Liberals and the scourge of the American people.

With businesses’ one-year reprieve from financial penalties under ObamaCare ending, the horror stories of complying with the costly health care law already are trickling in. The worst is yet to come.

ObamaCare Hits Small Business Hard in ’15

Starting Jan. 1, employers with 100 or more full-time workers face hefty increases in their health insurance costs as they comply for the first time with the mandate.

They must now offer the government’s comprehensive coverage — including “free” preventive care — for all employees working 30 or more hours a week, or risk being fined $2,000 per employee per year.

But many of these small businesses are retailers that don’t have the kind of margins where they can cover workers and still stay in business.

Many grocers and restaurants have opted to pay the fine rather than swallow the larger cost of buying coverage for all workers. Others are cutting back worker hours to duck the law altogether.

Universal health care is hardly “free,” and its costs hit both employees and customers hard. Service companies — including even garbage collectors — are passing on the added cost to customers in the form of higher bills.

Take God Bless the USA, a trash collection company outside Charlotte, N.C. It recently notified customers that it’s raising prices 5% to help cover expenses.

“Due to the Affordable Care Act, effective Jan. 1, 2015, we are obligated to provide health care coverage to all of our employees,” it explained in a Dec. 5 letter. “Unfortunately, we are unable to internalize this cost and are sorry we have to pass this cost on to you.”

Requirements under ObamaCare tighten in 2016, when smaller firms employing 50 to 99 full-time workers also have to offer coverage or face fines.

A few small businesses in Michigan that did offer employee-sponsored health coverage are now preparing to stop next year, says Michigan Group Benefits, an East Lansing-based insurance agency.

Why? Sticker shock from the pricier ACA-compliant policies, which provide everything from “free” mammograms to colonoscopies.

Blue Cross Blue Shield and other insurers have stopped allowing businesses to renew policies that aren’t compliant with ObamaCare. In their place, they’re offering plans with 14% to 45% rate increases, the National Association of Health Underwriters says.

Though employers with fewer than 50 workers are exempt from mandates, they too are feeling ObamaCare’s pain.

Kaiser Permanente already has sent cancellation letters to such employers, explaining that their existing plans don’t offer ObamaCare’s richer benefits and therefore are no longer available.

Some two-thirds of the 31 million employees who work for such firms and get health insurance from them could receive similar cancellation notices over the next year.

When the president signed ObamaCare in 2010, he promised it would “lower costs for families and for businesses.” As it turns out, neither is true. (IBD)

Political Cartoons by Gary Varvel

 

Political Cartoons by Jerry Holbert

 

 

Hoist By Their Own Petard

More ObamaCare mess.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a federal regulations that implemented subsidies that are vital to President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, in direct conflict with another ruling on the issue handed down earlier on Tuesday.

A three-judge panel unanimously said the law was ambiguous, and that it would defer to the IRS’s determination that subsidies could go to individuals who purchased health insurance on both federal and state-run exchanges.

The second court was obviously more liberal agenda driven since the Law does state the Feds are excluded from the exchanges. This was a political attempt, that partially failed, to get Republican Governors to cave-in and they didn’t. Now the Agenda has a new problem.

The ACA (ObamaCare) say the subsidies shall be available to persons who purchase health insurance in an exchange “established by the state.” But 34 states have chosen not to establish exchanges.

Nothing a few Agenda-driven judges can’t confuse! 🙂

A separate panel from a federal appeals court in Washington on Tuesday morning said the IRS could not offer premium tax credits to people who purchase insurance through the federal insurance marketplace that serves most of the 8 million consumers who have signed up for private coverage for 2014.

Analysts estimate that as many as 5 million people could be affected if subsidies disappear from the federal marketplace, which serves 36 states through the website HealthCare.gov.

The subsidies are available to people with annual incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $94,200 for a family of four.

The subsidies were the bribes to get people in the door of ObamaCare in the first place, as well as the cudgel against Republicans.

Did anyone mention cost? 🙂

Democrats in Congress passed a law that explicitly limited Obamacare subsidy eligibility to consumers who purchased plans on state-level exchanges. They did so in order to coerce and bribe states into setting up their own marketplaces under the law. (Another attempt at coercion, mandatory Medicaid expansion, has been struck down 7-2 by the Supreme Court). Given the controversial law’s unpopularity, a majority of states declined to establish exchanges, forcing the federal government to create the infamous federal version — with Healthcare.gov as its centerpiece. Subsequent New York Times reporting indicated that HHS never expected to have to set up any exchange at all, let alone for 36 states. That’s because they were laboring under the belief that the law’s sticks and carrots would compel every state to implement marketplaces on their own. Many did not, and the plain text of the law clearly states that anyone buying coverage through any system other than a state-based exchange would not be eligible to receive generous taxpayer subsidies, which relieve much of the heavy cost burden for many consumers (even with the subsidies, many enrollees say they’re struggling to pay).
Faced with this predicament, the IRS decided that Congress’ true intent was for all exchange consumers to have a shot at subsidies if they were financially eligible, so it simply decreed it to be so in the form of a regulation that effectively rewrote a major provision the law. Today, the Court ruled that the law says what it says, and that the IRS overstepped. This decision, at least for now, plunges Obamacare into chaos — and furious Democrats have no one to blame but themselves. When you ram through a lengthy, hastily slapped-together, unpopular law without reading it, unintended consequences sometimes arise. And this one’s a biggie. Then again, as Will notes in his piece, a strong case can be made that this passage of the law was very much crafted intentionally, even if today’s fallout was ‘never supposed to happen.’ Congress debated how to phrase the subsidy eligibility language, and ended up passing the Senate’s version — a move made necessary by the anti-Obamacare election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts. A previous House version’s verbiage had been much more encompassing. But it didn’t pass. Obamacare did. If it stands, this ruling not only strips subsidy eligibility from many Americans (which could/will touch off a breathtaking adverse selection death spiral), it liberates tens of millions from the unpopular individual mandate tax. Why? (Guy Benson)

Time for King Fiat and His Executive Order Super Glue? 🙂

Political Cartoons by Bob Gorrell

So Israel should stop being so mean to the Palestinians… 🙂

Political Cartoons by Steve Kelley