Curious Barry's October Surprise for Hillary
The Curious George series by Margret and H.A. Rey features as its protagonist a monkey who causes trouble by monkeying with things he knows nothing about. In Curious George Rides a Bike, he "helps" a boy with his newspaper route by folding the papers into paper boats and then crashing the bike, after which he feeds a bugle to an ostrich at an animal show.
The tale of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is similar. The apprentice decides, in his master's absence, to enchant a broom to perform his chores only to discover that he cannot stop the broom from fetching water and flooding the entire shop. The same theme appears in a far more terrifying form in Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, when an apprentice wizard gets far more than he bargained for when he recites a fascinating set of words from his teacher's book. The lesson in all cases is that it is very bad judgment to set powerful forces into motion without the competence necessary to control them, which is what Curious Barry (Obama) did with the so-called Affordable Care Act.
The Collapse of the "Affordable" Care Act
The ACA is now visibly crashing and burning, with premium increases of up to 116% in Arizona along with access to far fewer insurance plans as insurance companies exit the market. This always happens when a country allows its purported leaders to substitute partisan ideology for physical, natural, or economic science. Rudyard Kipling made that clear in "The Gods of the Copybook Headings."
In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."
Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.
When I looked for an ACA plan, I discovered that I would have to pay more than $640 a month for an almost worthless Bronze Level policy. A portion of this would support the salary of an insurance company CEO who has done nothing to earn any salary by, for example, working with the health care providers in his system to reduce waste and improve quality. I therefore count myself lucky to have gotten into the Altrua health cost sharing system for which my cost next year will be roughly $300 a month, and with a plan that has a lower deductible. Altrua, Liberty HealthShare, Medishare, and Samaritan Ministries achieve these lower rates ("contributions" rather than premiums) by not covering pre-existing conditions, not paying astronomical management salaries, and requiring members to forgo unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol abuse, and indiscriminate sexual behavior. The first two accept people of any religion, while you have to be a Christian to join Medishare or Samaritan Ministries.
The ACA's Collapse Was Foreseeable and Inevitable
The Gods of the Copybook Headings, who represent the nonpartisan and implacable economic and physical laws that govern the world, have explained the ACA's visible collapse in extensive detail. When insurance companies cannot refuse to cover pre-existing conditions, it makes perfect sense for people to do without insurance unless and until they develop a condition that needs expensive treatment. This is essentially the same as buying fire insurance after the building has burned down or auto insurance after a major crash. There is a huge moral and ethical difference between canceling somebody's insurance after he or she gets sick – the purpose of insurance is to cover unforeseen trouble – and allowing somebody to enroll in a plan only when he or she needs coverage. Premiums skyrocket as more and more healthy people opt out of the dysfunctional system, which accelerates the total collapse we are now seeing. Employers opt out of the system by cutting head count and/or hours so as to not be subject to the ACA's mandates.
The Obama administration has meanwhile done little or nothing to get the health care system to implement quality management methods, the kind that manufacturing companies have used successfully for decades, to reduce the preventable medical mistakes that are the third leading cause of death (after heart disease and cancer) in the United States. The cost of poor quality in health care has meanwhile been estimated as 30 to 60 percent of the nation's total health care cost.
Kipling predicted accurately how the ACA would come to a bad end:
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!
What You Can Do about Hillary
The first thing to do is to vote straight Republican for president, House, and Senate on November 8 to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House or at least ensure that she is a lame duck from her first day in office. If the Republicans can hold a majority in the Senate, she will appoint no Supreme Court justices, enact no legislation, and do not much of anything else. Anybody who fears a Trump presidency should realize, meanwhile, that enough Republican members of Congress dislike him that he won't be able to do anything outlandish, either. Four years of King or Queen Log will be infinitely preferable to four years of Queen Stork.
What You Can Do about the ACA Mandate
This is also the open enrollment period for the so-called "Affordable" Care Act. If you have no serious pre-existing medical conditions and are willing to forego unhealthy lifestyle choices, you can opt out of the ACA by joining a health sharing system. This means you won't be carrying insurance executives' enormous salaries, which, in light of their unwillingness or inability to control premiums, are simply expensive welfare handouts disguised as high-level jobs.
I am not qualified to give tax or financial planning advice, but there does appear to be yet another way to opt out of the ACA without paying a tax penalty. If, however, you get an illness that requires immediate treatment, you will have no insurance or health cost sharing protection whatsoever unless you buy a cheaper temporary insurance policy that does not meet ACA requirements.
For most unpaid taxes, there are a variety of ways that the IRS can recoup their money. But the text of the ACA is very clear in stating that taxpayers who don’t pay their ACA penalty are not subject to levies, liens, or criminal prosecution. The only way that the IRS can collect the ACA penalty is if you pay it voluntarily, or if you’re owed a refund.
The federal government's own website confirms this: "The IRS will hold back the amount of the fee from any future tax refunds. There are no liens, levies, or criminal penalties for failing to pay the fee." Note, however, that future tax planning must be done with equal care because future refunds can be confiscated to cover an earlier penalty.
This suggests that you can avoid the penalty by planning your taxes (e.g., by making lower estimated payments) so you will be owed no refund from which it can be deducted. It's important to ensure that you pay enough during the year to equal either 90% of this year's tax bill or 100% of the previous year's, as there is a separate penalty for too little withholding. This means that if you expect to owe $4,000 in federal income tax, you must pay between $3,600 and $4,000 during the year as withholding and/or estimated tax (or no less than your total bill for the previous year) and pay any balance when you file your return.
William A. Levinson is the author of several books on business management, including an annotated edition of Henry Ford's My Life and Work, as well as manufacturing productivity and quality.