What's New with ObamaCare? -- Summer 2014 Edition
We’ve moved past the “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” nonsense. We’ve moved past the initial rush/panic of people who lost their insurance by government fiat trying desperately to get on the government’s website, healthcare.gov, which catalogued the litany of website problems they were having here. We’ve moved past then-secretary Sebelius and the president taking a victory lap for “enrolling” more than 7 million people (ignoring the RAND study showing only 858,000 previously uninsured people had obtained and paid for their insurance at the time of the celebration).
In July 2014, the Heritage Foundation released a paper that shows only 520,000 people obtained private health insurance in the open enrollment period from October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. The increase in the number of people enrolling in individual insurance is off-set 77 percent by fewer people enrolling in employer-based coverage. The authors estimate that due to slow processing of ObamaCare enrollments the number of those attaining private insurance could rise to 3-4 million for the period but that number is off-set by more than five million able-bodied adults with no dependent children being added to the Medicaid rolls through program changes made in ObamaCare.
(Actually, I just lied about us moving past liking and keeping your health care plan, but it’s okay because my intentions were good.)
A new round of healthcare plan cancellations is coming sometime around October 2014, a month before you can thank the Democrats who gave us ObamaCare. [KLE1]
According to the Washington Post, millions of Americans who receive health insurance through small business employers have a good chance of finding their plans cancelled or changed by the end of 2014. “Some of the small-business cancellations are occurring because the policies don’t meet the law’s basic coverage requirements. But many are related only indirectly to the law; insurers are trying to move customers to new plans designed to offset the financial and administrative risks associated with the health-care overhaul. As part of that, they are consolidating their plan offerings to maximize profits and streamline how they manage them.”
Color me a nit-picking pedantic, but that means it is a direct result of it.
The Post article also contained this nugget, “Jonathan Gruber, a key architect of the health law and a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the number of people covered by small-group policies that will be discontinued is ‘not trivial.’” We’ll get back to Mr. Gruber in a minute.
Okay, some people lost coverage, but most people are saving money, right?
President Obama promised that ObamaCare would save families money on health insurance plans they have and like up to $2,500 a year. John Nolte at Breitbart put together this video montage showing 19 times when Obama said that. How’s that promise working out so far? If you guessed “not so great,” congratulations, you win higher premiums.
The Manhattan Institute published a 49-state study in November 2013 that showed on average ObamaCare would raise premiums by 41 percent in 2014. That just screams “Affordable Care Act,” no? In June 2014, they released an analysis of ObamaCare in the 3,137 counties in the U.S. Spoiler alert: it was worse. The headline says, “ObamaCare Increased 2014 Individual-Market Premiums By Average Of 49%.” Women had rate hikes in 82 percent of counties; men had rate increases in 91 percent.
Maybe it’s just a “fluke,” but it appears things like “free” birth control cost everybody more money.
People receiving taxpayer-subsidized insurance are doing okay, though, for now. According to Betsy McCaughey, “What is clear is that without subsidies, the Affordable Care Act is just the opposite — hugely unaffordable. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 87% of people who signed up for ObamaCare for 2014 qualified for subsidies, and on average they paid 76% less than the true cost of their plan. $82 a month instead of $376 a month. That $82 price tag didn’t mean ObamaCare had succeeded in lowering health insurance costs. It just shifted the cost from premium payers to taxpayers.”
In two recent Circuit Court decisions, the fate of subsidies, and thus ObamaCare, hangs in the balance.
In the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in Halbig v. Burwell that the IRS regulation extending federal subsidies to people who buy health insurance through the federal exchange (because they live in a state that does not have a state exchange) is not legal. The judges said Congressional intent, as plainly stated in the Affordable Care Act language, was to extend subsidies (in the form of tax credits) only to policies purchased through state exchanges. In a contradictory ruling on the same day, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia ruled in King v. Burwell that the IRS may legally grant the subsidies. It appears the U.S. Supreme Court will have to take another look at ObamaCare.
As McCaughey points out, Section 1401 of the law “unambiguously states that subsidies will be made available ‘through an exchange established by the state.’” The Administration tried to argue that it was Congress’ intent to provide subsidies to everyone buying ObamaCare plans.
And that brings us back to Mr. Gruber, the architect of ObamaCare. There are at least two audio clips, here and here, that show Mr. Gruber basically saying tough stuff to citizens who live in states without state exchanges.
From a 2012 speech discussing ObamaCare at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gruber said, “In the law, it says if the states don’t provide them, the federal backstop will. The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an Exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits. But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these Exchanges, and that they’ll do it. But you know, once again, the politics can get ugly around this.” [Emphasis mine.]
Given these statements of intent, will the U.S. Supreme Court give President Obama, the Democrats in Congress, and Mr. Gruber a mulligan?
So far ObamaCare has brought policy cancellations, higher premiums, and yet another court case to determine the legality of one of the myriad regulations issued in an attempt to make an unworkable leviathan functional.
If I had a nickel for every time a law had unintended consequences brought about by good intentions, I could probably pay the unsubsidized ObamaCare premiums.