October 4, 2013 10:46 AM
Americans aren’t the only ones talking about government shutdown this week. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi almost collapsed Italy’s government on Wednesday by threatening to pull his party’s support for the current left-right coalition government. Fortunately, he eventually relented. At their core, petty selfishness drives both President Obama and Berlusconi’s actions.
The former, by defending his signature healthcare law at any cost, hopes to preserve his spot in the history textbooks. The latter will pull out all the stops to prevent his expulsion from the Italian Senate—after a tax fraud conviction this summer--that would signal an end to his longtime pursuit for political glory.
I elaborate on their similar motives to gum up the political works in my recent op-ed in Forbes.
Obama won’t negotiate on the health law because it is the centerpiece of his domestic “legacy,” hoping to be immortalized alongside Democratic heroes like FDR and LBJ, who stuck to their guns in advancing their big-government vision for America. Public opinion be damned, Americans will learn to like it later.
Meanwhile, Berlusconi is on a hunt for glory, having portraying himself as an action hero poised to rescue Italy from the “edge of abyss.” And he doesn’t want to lose that moment in the sun, much as Obama doesn’t want to lose his “legacy.”
September 30, 2013 3:02 PM
In Tennessee, Obamacare will triple men's premiums, and double women's, in the market for individual health insurance. Nationally, Obamacare will increase men's premiums by 99 percent, and women's by 62%.
Kathy Kristof of CBS MoneyWatch describes experiencing a 67 percent spike in her premiums, for a worse policy than she had before:
The promise that you could keep your old policy, if you liked it, has proved illusory. My insurer, Kaiser Permanente, informed me in a glossy booklet that “At midnight on December 31, we will discontinue your current plan because it will not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.” My premium, the letter added, would go from $209 a month to $348, a 66.5 percent increase that will cost $1,668 annually. . .the things that mattered to me — that I would be able to limit my out-of-pocket costs if I had a catastrophic ailment — got worse under my new Obamacare policy. My policy, which has always paid 100 percent of the cost of annual check-ups, had a $5,000 annual deductible for sick visits and hospital stays. Once I paid that $5,000, the plan would pay 100 percent of any additional cost. That protected me from economic devastation in the event of a catastrophic illness, such as cancer.
Kaiser’s Obamacare policy has a $4,500 deductible, but then covers only 40 percent of medical costs for office visits, hospital stays and drugs. Out-of-pocket expenses aren’t capped until the policyholder pays $6,350 annually.
Meanwhile, some wealthy early retirees have figured out how to qualify for Obamacare subsidies at taxpayer expense. They do this by living on tax-free income and deferring their receipt of taxable income—an option not available to people who have to work for a living. As the commenter Alan Lovchik noted yesterday,Hey you RICH early retirees who are not on Medicare yet and are buying your own medical insurance!! The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (Obamacare) will give you TOTALLY FREE insurance coverage. You must be rich enough to take advantage, so the poor and middle class are probably left out of this wonderful opportunity.
September 26, 2013 10:30 AM
On the Obamacare health insurance exchanges, being married can cost you a lot. Get divorced (or avoid getting married, if you live together), and you save $7,230 per year if you are a fairly typical 40-year-old couple with kids (example: the husband working full-time, and the wife working part time, with the husband making $70,000, and the wife making $23,000). If you are a 60-year-old couple with equal incomes and no kids, and you make $62,041 a year, you save $11,028 a year by getting divorced or remaining unmarried. These are the amounts of money you will lose if you get married, since you will lose this amount of taxpayer subsidies due to Obamacare's discriminatory treatment of married versus unmarried couples. That's the reality confirmed by an Obamacare “calculator" provided by the pro-Obamacare Kaiser Family Foundation showing how Obamacare’s “tax credits” work.
This calculator is not designed to make Obamacare look bad: Indeed, it has been touted by Obama's own proxies at BarackObama.com, known as Organizing for Action: "In a September 13 email, Erin Hannigan of Organizing for Action’s 'Truth Team' bragged about" this “cool calculator” showing how Obamacare’s “tax credits” work, and encouraged everyone to “share it on Facebook or Twitter.”
The tax increases Obama demanded in the fiscal cliff deal also contain a “marriage penalty,” although only for upper-income households (since the maximum rate kicks in at $450,000 for married couples — that is, $225,000 for each spouse — versus $400,000 for singles). Obamacare's new tax on investment income, which applies to married couples making above $250,000 per year, also contains marriage penalties (for example, if an unmarried couple makes $390,000 -- $195,000 for each partner -- they owe no investment tax, even if all of their income is investment income, and even if a married couple with the same income would pay the Obamacare investment tax on a significant portion of their income).
MoveOn admits: "[I]f younger, healthier people don't participate, then costs will skyrocket and Obamacare will fail."August 30, 2013 1:14 PM
MoveOn.org yesterday sent me an appeal asking for $5 to help fund a $250,000 social media campaign supporting ObamaCare targeted to reach young adults. Here’s why they need my five bucks:
[R]ight-wing groups have launched a multi-million-dollar campaign to torpedo Obamacare before it even gets started. Their plan: Mislead young people about how the law works so they get scared and don't enroll. The problem is that it really could work because if younger, healthier people don't participate, then costs will skyrocket and Obamacare will fail. [Emphasis in original]
MoveOn.org footnotes a Washington Post article, which explains that last sentence. From the Post Wonkblog article by Sarah Kliff: “Young adults tend to have lower medical bills, which would hold down premiums for the entire insurance market. If only the sick and elderly sign up, health costs would skyrocket.”
So, as MoveOn itself acknowledges, ObamaCare is based on using insurance premiums from younger, healthier people to subsidize health care for older, sicker people. Yet, that is exactly the correct information free market and conservative groups opposed to ObamaCare are trying to get to young folks, so that they understand the racket they are being cajoled to join.
So then what does the “multi-million dollar right-wing misinformation campaign” aimed at young adults entail? It seems that the purpose of MoveOn.org’s social media campaign is to keep the wool pulled over young people’s eyes to protect them from the painful reality that ObamaCare is a con game designed to fleece them. Otherwise, why would they sign up for it?
August 16, 2013 1:07 PM
"Bring on the foreign doctors," writes Slate's Brian Palmer:
If President Obama’s health care reform plan is implemented in its current form, the United States will face an estimated shortfall of 130,000 doctors by 2025. . .There’s a simple solution to this problem: Import more physicians from abroad. And yet, it takes years for foreign trained doctors to earn a U.S. license. . .Even if a doctor has practiced for years in her home country, she must pass the same exams as graduates of American medical schools, then repeat three or more years of residency and fellowship training.
July 24, 2013 4:01 PM
The Washington Post reports on the ever-growing number of people losing wages and facing pay cuts due to the 2010 healthcare law:
For Kevin Pace, the president’s health-care law could have meant better health insurance. Instead, it produced a pay cut.
Like many of his colleagues, the adjunct music professor at Northern Virginia Community College had managed to assemble a hefty course load despite his official status as a part-time employee. But his employer, the state, slashed his hours this spring to avoid a Jan. 1 requirement that all full-time workers for large employers be offered health insurance. The law defines “full time” as 30 hours a week or more.
“We work so hard for so little pay,” he said. “You would think they would want to make an investment in society, pay the teachers back and give us health care.”
This month, the Obama administration delayed the employer insurance requirement until January 2015. But Virginia, like some other employers around the country that capped part-timers’ hours in anticipation of the initial deadline, has no plans to abandon its new 29-hour-a-week limit.
The impact on Pace and thousands of other workers in Virginia is an unintended consequence of the health law, which, as the most sweeping new social program in decades, is beginning to reshape aspects of American life. . . .[Even] Democratic-leaning communities, including Dearborn, Mich., and Long Beach, Calif., have imposed caps on part-time workers to keep them below the 30-hour threshold.
July 15, 2013 9:39 AM
The Wall Street Journal reports today that the leaders of three major labor unions are asking Congress to make fundamental changes to Obamacare, saying that without such changes, it will "shatter" employee health benefits, cut employee hours and wages, and "destroy" a "foundation" of America's middle class:
Since last year, union leaders have complained that many of the law’s requirements will drive up costs for union-sponsored health-care plans that are managed jointly by unions and mostly small employers, making unionized workers less competitive and potentially causing unionized employers to drop the plans that cover more than 20 million people.
To offset the expected rising costs of these “multiemployer” plans, several union groups want their lower-paid members to be able to remain on the plans while also getting access to federal insurance subsidies to be provided under the law. Their problem is that under the law, the subsidies were designed to be used by low-income workers who don’t have employer coverage, as a way to help them buy private insurance. The bottom line: they want lawmakers to apply the subsidies to people in the multiemployer plans.
In a letter dated July 11 to Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, union officials also said they are concerned the Affordable Care Act is leading employers to cut workers’ hours below 30 hours a week so that workers can avoid requirements to provide health coverage for those workers in the future.
Without changes, the health-care law “will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class,” the union officials wrote.
July 9, 2013 7:38 AM
The Obama administration has illegally discarded the reporting requirements mandated by the 2010 healthcare law, which were designed to prevent countless billions of dollars in fraud by claimants seeking reimbursement for healthcare expenses in Obamacare's state health-insurance exchanges. Eligible participants in the exchanges can commonly claim thousands of dollars in federal subsidies for participating them. The reporting requirements, which require that exchanges verify participants' income and health insurance status, were designed to ensure that such people do not defraud the taxpayers by seeking subsidies even though they already have employer-provided health coverage, or have an income high enough that they do not qualify for any subsidy.
Now, the subsidies will be available to people who lie about whether they are eligible. The Wall Street Journal calls them "Obamacare's Liar Subsidies”: "Remember 'liar loans,' the low- or no-documentation mortgages that took borrowers at their word without checking pay stubs or W-2s? ObamaCare is now on the same honor system, with taxpayers in tow."
The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein observes:
In a regulation released Friday and flagged by Washington Post reporters Sarah Kliff and Sandhya Somashekhar, the administration will now rely on self-reported data. You read that correctly. A man who earns $50,000 per year and gets insurance through his employer could log on to the new government website and say he earns $20,000 and gets no insurance through his employer, and the government would not even attempt to confirm that the information is accurate before forking over generous taxpayer subsidies. It’s a recipe for rampant fraud, which is already widespread in Medicare and Medicaid.
According to the rule as reported by Kliff and Somashekhar, “The exchange may accept the applicant’s attestation regarding enrollment in eligible employer-sponsored plan ... without further verification” and “the Exchange may accept the attestation of projected annual household income without further verification.”
The authors’ note that if anybody is caught lying, that they would be subject to a $25,000 fine and forced to repay any excess subsidies they received. But just like a waiter who under-reports cash tips, it likely won’t be very hard to get away with lying on Obamacare forms.
With this news coming after the employer mandate delay announcement, the Obama administration has now openly conceded that it is in way over its head when it comes to implementing this unworkable law. Thus, the new strategy is to simply set up a mechanism to feed taxpayer subsidies to as many Americans as possible so that even if Obamacare is a complete train wreck, it will make enough people dependent on government to make repeal politically impossible. Republicans should seize on this immediately, and force the administration to defend a policy that would open the floodgates to fraud.
June 28, 2013 5:27 PM
Contraceptives are easy to obtain, and forcing employers to include a broad array of contraceptives in employee health insurance makes as little sense as forcing an auto insurer to cover routine oil changes. Actually, it makes much less sense, since without an oil change, your car will eventually break down, but some people have no desire to ever use any contraceptive (and get by just fine without them).
But that did not stop the Obama administration from imposing a contraceptive mandate on employee health insurance, requiring even religious employers (with the exception of churches) to provide them (and not just contraceptives, but -- more controversially -- certain abortifacients). Some objectors, like Bishop Lori, have likened the administration's demand that Catholic institutions provide contraceptive and abortifacient coverage to forcing a kosher deli to serve ham.
HHS Secretary Sebelius admits that she did not even seek a legal opinion about the legality of this mandate before imposing it, even though many legal scholars have since criticized it, and it created a political firestorm in 2012.
Now, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has revived a legal challenge to the contraceptive mandate, ruling in favor of an appeal by the religious employer Hobby Lobby. The court ruled that Hobby Lobby has shown that it will likely succeed on its challenge to the mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and is probably entitled to a preliminary injunction against it. As Judge Tymkovich put it in his opinion for the court:
This case requires us to determine whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Free Exercise Clause protect the plaintiffs—two companies and their owners who run their businesses to reflect their religious values. The companies are Hobby Lobby, a craft store chain, and Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain. Their owners, the Greens, run both companies as closely held family businesses and operate them according to a set of Christian principles. . . the plaintiffs brought an action challenging a regulation that requires them, beginning July 1, 2013, to provide certain contraceptive services as a part of their employer-sponsored health care plan. Among these services are drugs and devices that the plaintiffs believe to be abortifacients, the use of which is contrary to their faith.
We hold that Hobby Lobby and Mardel are entitled to bring claims under RFRA, have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm. But we remand the case to the district court for further proceedings on two of the remaining factors governing the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction.
More specifically, the court rules as follows:
As to jurisdictional matters, the court unanimously holds that Hobby Lobby and Mardel have Article III standing to sue and that the Anti-Injunction Act does not apply to this case. Three judges (Kelly, Tymkovich, and Gorsuch, JJ.) would also find that the Anti-Injunction Act is not jurisdictional and the government has forfeited reliance on this statute. These three judges would also hold that the Greens have standing to bring RFRA and Free Exercise claims and that a preliminary injunction should be granted on their RFRA claim. A fourth judge (Matheson, J.) would hold that the Greens have standing and would remand for further consideration of their request for a preliminary injunction on their RFRA claim.
Concerning the merits, a majority of five judges (Kelly, Hartz, Tymkovich, Gorsuch, and Bacharach, JJ.) holds that the district court erred in concluding Hobby Lobby and Mardel had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on their RFRA claim [and] further holds that Hobby Lobby and Mardel satisfy the irreparable harm prong of the preliminary injunction standard. A four-judge plurality (Kelly, Hartz, Tymkovich, Gorsuch, JJ.) would resolve the other two preliminary injunction factors (balance of equities and public interest) in Hobby Lobby and Mardel’s favor and remand with instructions to enter a preliminary injunction, but the court lacks a majority to do so. Instead, the court remands to the district court for further evaluation of the two remaining preliminary injunction factors. . . .Accordingly, for the reasons set forth below and exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1), we reverse the district court’s denial of the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and remand with instructions that the district court address the remaining two preliminary injunction factors and then assess whether to grant or deny the plaintiffs’ motion.
June 18, 2013 2:30 PM
The so-called rate shock from Obamacare has hit Ohio. The state’s Department of Insurance announced last Thursday that the average individual-market health insurance premium in 2014 will cost approximately $420," per month, "representing an increase of 88 percent.” "We have warned of these increases,” said Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. “Consumers will have fewer choices and pay much higher premiums for their health insurance starting in 2014." Projected costs ranged from $282.51 to $577.40 for individual health plans. "But for many experts who understand the economics of health insurance, the premium increases are not shocking at all. In August of 2011, the actuarial firm Milliman predicted that the Affordable Care Act would increase individual-market premiums in Ohio by 55 to 85 percent.
Most of these cost increases are not only a matter of red tape and compliance burdens, but also related to cost-shifting (what some might view as robbing Peter to pay Paul), and requirements that insurance cover routine minor expenses, rather than performing insurance's traditional function of protecting against risk by paying unexpected expenses such as medical treatment for injuries and illnesses. Wall Street Cheat Sheet's commentary "Proof that Obamacare ‘Rate Shock’ Is Real" says that "two main drivers" cause most of this increase: Risk pool composition changes will require the young to subsidize the old and the healthy to subsidize the sick; and Obamacare’s expansion of insurance benefits, particularly its required reductions in deductibles and co-pays."
Health insurance expenses also will go up because of state court rulings that invalidate common-sense limits on meritless lawsuits, such as the Oklahoma Supreme Court's recent ruling in Wall v. Marouk . In that case, the court struck down a requirement medical malpractice lawsuits not be filed unless they are supported by evidence the physician violated the standard of care (in the form of an expert affidavit), even though such evidence is required for liability. In so doing, it encouraged nuisance lawsuits that drive up the cost of healthcare by encouraging doctors to order unnecessary tests and practice other forms of costly and unnecessary "defensive medicine." (The activism of the court's decision is buttressed by the fact that the same day it did that, the Oklahoma Supreme Court also nullified the state's general tort reform in its entirety. (Here is some coverage: WLF, TortsProf, Tulsa World, Reuters, NewsOK, Beck ("the Oklahoma Supreme Court was plainly out of control in Ysbrand, and unfortunately it remains out of control to this day"), Douglas v. Cox Retirement Properties).)