Tag Archives: Affordable Care Act

Rush Limbaugh Says ‘Disband the Republican Party’ for Passing Omnibus Bill

After the Republican-led Congress passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus budget bill, which was subsequently signed into law by President Obama, conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh said on The Rush Limbaugh Show last week, “The country was just sold down the river again by your very Republican Party.

Limbaugh cited the bill’s funding of Planned Parenthood, its funding of what he called Obama’s immigration, refugee resettlement, and climate change agendas, and its delayed enforcement of “the punitive” aspects of the Affordable Care Act to allegedly “prevent people from learning what they are” as examples of the Republican Party’s “repeated stabs in the [backs]” of conservative activists.

There is no Republican Party! You know, we don’t even need a Republican Party if they’re gonna do this. You know, just elect Democrats, disband the Republican Party, and let the Democrats run it, because that’s what’s happening anyway,” he said.

[RELATED: Reps. Amash, Massie Blast Congressional Spending Bill for ‘Unconstitutional’ Surveillance Measures]

Limbaugh complained that the Republicans who overwhelmingly won congressional elections in 2010 and 2014 on promises to cut spending instead became obsessed with avoiding disagreements with establishment Democrats that could result in a government shutdown, making it impossible for Republicans to use Congress’ power of the purse as leverage in negotiations.

Everything Obama wanted, everything he asked for [in the budget], he got. You go down the list of things, it’s there,” complained Limbaugh.

[RELATED: Limbaugh on Trump: ‘A Genuine Conservative Would Not Go after Cruz This Way’]

He added, “And this is causing some people to wonder if they just dreamed all that stuff about Boehner resigning. And then other people are wondering if they even dreamed all that stuff about the Republicans winning the largest number of seats they’ve had in Congress since the Civil War. We had two midterm elections in 2010 and 2014, which were landslide victories for the Republican Party. The Democrat Party lost over a thousand seats nationwide in just those two elections. People went to the polls in droves wanting exactly what was rubber-stamped [in the bill] [to be] stopped.

New IRS Regulation Threatens Small Businesses With Fines For Helping Workers With Health Costs

A new regulation that went into effect on July 1 threatens small businesses with fines from the Internal Revenue Service of up to $36,500 a year per employee, if the businesses help their employees with health costs by reimbursing them for the cost of their healthcare premiums or by paying for their health costs directly.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) reported that the new regulation, which is not part of the Affordable Care Act, states that employers who compensate their employees for health costs, rather than offering a group health plan, “can be fined $100 per day, per employee,” which adds up to “$36,500 per employee up to $500,000 in total.”

Gracie-Marie Turner, the founder of the Galen Institute and a contributor to Forbes, noted that this new regulation is more than “18 times greater than the $2,000 employer-mandate penalty under Obamacare for not providing qualifying health insurance for employees,” and while employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from the employer-mandate penalty under Obamacare, they are not exempt from this penalty from the IRS.

“The rule appears nowhere in the Affordable Care Act but was developed by the Obama administration’s regulation writers at the IRS,” Turner wrote. “The rule punishes small businesses for providing the only health insurance support many can afford – a contribution to help employees pay premiums for their individual or family health insurance policies or to help finance direct payment for medical services.”

Kevin Kuhlman, NFIB’s policy director, called the new regulations the “biggest penalty no one is talking about.”

“The penalty for compensating employees for healthcare-related expenses is enough to destroy most small businesses,” Kuhlman said. “Reimbursing employees for the cost of insurance or medical services is a way for small businesses to help their workers without the administrative headaches of setting up a costly group plan.”

In response to the regulation, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) introduced H.R. 2911 in the House and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced S.1697 in the Senate. Both bills are labeled as “Small Business Healthcare Relief Acts” and are awaiting congressional action.

House Votes To Repeal Obamacare, Pressing For Alternative Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act by approving a bill that would dismantle the current law and move forward to provide an alternative plan.

The bill, H.R. 596, was introduced in the House on January 28th and passed 239-186 on Tuesday; there was no support from House Democrats and three Republicans voted in opposition to the bill. CNN reported that GOP leaders believe passage of H.R. 596 is “the beginning of their effort to show they have a better plan,” although no alternative has been provided yet.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), who voted “no” on Tuesday, said that he doesn’t support Obamacare but a “free-market alternative” must be ready to replace the current law and H.R.596 does not have one. “Had Congress voted for the full repeal of ObamaCare two years ago, families and small businesses would have been able to adjust to the change. Now, however, more than 60,000 Mainers have invested their time and energy in choosing health care plans that work for their families,” Poliquin said in a statement.

“If Congress fully repeals ObamaCare, it must be fully prepared to replace it with a free-market alternative that requires health care plans to cover pre-existing conditions and be portable for workers changing jobs. Any replacement law must also allow moms and dads to purchase health insurance plans that they can afford, and to choose the doctors and hospitals that best fit their family health care needs,” Poliquin said.

Rep. John Katko (R-NY) also voted “no” and made similar remarks to those of Poliquin, saying in his own statement that he voted against the bill “because we failed to include replacement legislation.”

“With a majority in Congress, I would like to see the GOP come forward with market-based solutions,” Katko said. “I am disappointed that the bill taken up by Congress today did not provide a real solution to the rising costs of healthcare, but I will continue to fight for comprehensive, bipartisan healthcare reform for Central New York in Congress,” Katko said.

According to Politico, the bill would “delay repeal for six months to give Republicans an opportunity to offer an alternative package.”

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) told CNN that “I have urged leadership to put forth a plan as soon as possible.”

The House has voted dozens of times to repeal or obstruct the Affordable Care Act; Republicans claim H.R. 596 is their 67th attempt at a form of repeal, while Democrats reported 56 past attempts. This bill is not expected to pass the Senate, and the President Barack Obama has vowed to veto any repeal of the law. “I don’t know if it’s the 55th or the 60th time that [the House is] taking this vote, but I’ve asked this question before: why is it this would be at the top of their agenda?” Obama said.

“We have the Republicans continuing to bay at the moon. They’re baying at the moon,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said regarding the vote. “Instead of proposing any- which we’d be welcome to hear- good suggestions they may have to improve the Affordable Care Act, they’re baying at the moon.”

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had introduced a separate bill on Monday to “repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 entirely.”

Report: Obamacare Website Sharing Users’ Information with Third-Party Tech Firms

On Tuesday, a report was released that shed light on the vulnerability of HealthCare.gov users’ information to third-party tech firms.

Following an investigation, the Associated Press revealed that the HealthCare.gov website is “quietly sending consumers’ personal data to private companies that specialize in advertising and analyzing Internet data for performance and marketing.”

This personal data may include the user’s Internet address, age, ZIP code, income, and information on whether the user smokes, or is pregnant.

According to the Associated Press, while the Obama administration claims the website’s connections to data firms “were intended to help improve the consumer experience,” there were connections to “dozens of third-party tech firms,” and seven of the companies were “also collecting highly specific information.”

In a letter to the Obama administration, Republican Senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Charles Grassley of Iowa voiced their concerns:

“This new information is extremely concerning, not only because it violates the privacy of millions of Americans, but because it may potentially compromise their security.”

The Associated Press reported that although third-party sites embedded on HealthCare.gov can’t see a user’s “name, birth date or Social Security number,” they can correlate the fact that the computer accessed the government website with the user’s other Internet activities.

While Cybersecurity was one of the topics Obama discussed during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the emphasis was on keeping private information from falling into the hands of foreign nations, rather than keeping users’ private information from being shared by the U.S. government

No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids,” said Obama. “We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber-threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism.”

TN GOP Governor Announces Plan to Expand Obamacare

On Monday, Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Haslam outlined his plan to expand Obamacare. According to The Tennessean, he has branded the plan Insure Tennessee and dressed it in states’ rights rhetoric, claiming that the plan, which he says qualifies for federal funding under the Affordable Care Act, is an alternative to expanding Medicaid. WATE-TV 6 quoted a press release by Haslam in which he said, “This plan leverages federal dollars to provide health care coverage to more Tennesseans, to give people a choice in their coverage, and to address the cost of health care, better health outcomes and personal responsibility.”

Haslam announced that he would push for the policy in a special legislative session after the 109th General Assembly takes over in January. Tennessee’s legislature features a strong Republican majority.

The Tennessean published an estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation which predicts that Insure Tennessee could result in over 160,000 additional Tennesseans qualifying for federal funds under Obamacare. Conservative critics in the state have pointed out the fact that federal funds for the program decline in future years, meaning the cost of the expansion could begin to leak into the state budget. Tennessee already has a state-run healthcare program called TennCare, which has been plagued by administrative failures of late, as thousands of Tennesseans found themselves stuck in a back log of applications earlier this year.

Insure Tennessee would expand the Affordable Care Act to low-income Tennesseans through a program called the Healthy Incentives Plan, which would be serviced through TennCare. Haslam’s health care overhaul would also include a program called the Volunteer Plan which would grant a voucher that qualified participants could use to pay for healthcare plans offered by their employers. It is not yet clear whether Haslam’s program would subject Tennesseans to Obamacare’s individual mandate, as low-income individuals in the state can currently claim an exemption to the mandate due to the state’s non-participation in the health care law’s Medicaid expansion.

Tennessee’s Democratic legislators praised the plan, as did Republican senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. Said Corker in comments to The Tennessean, “I’m pleased our state was able to adopt a solution that will build off of the innovative ways we deliver quality health care.”

In Tennessee’s state-level politics, Haslam is widely viewed as an establishment figure within the GOP, along with Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell. Earlier this month, Republican Representative Rick Womick led an unsuccessful conservative challenge against Beth Harwell for speaker. Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey told The Tennessean last Thursday, “I think if the governor can truly revamp the way our Medicaid is run and TennCare is run, then I think he may be able to sell that to the legislature.”

Obama Defends Obamacare, but Does Not Address the “Stupidity of the American Voter”

On Sunday, President Obama spoke out in defense of the Affordable Care Act, after comments from its original architect, Jonathan Gruber, called the bill’s transparency into question.

As previously reported, a video of Gruber saying that Obamacare was made to appeal to the “stupidity of the American voter,” with “lack of transparency” being a “huge political advantage,” in its creation, was released recently.

According to Reuters, Gruber’s comments were “quickly picked up” by Republicans in Congress, “who are committed to repealing or dismantling parts of the healthcare law.”

USA Today reported that Obama addressed Gruber’s comments while at a news conference after the G-20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, and insisted that the bill was “extensively debated,” before it went into law in 2010.

The fact that an adviser who was never on our staff expressed an opinion that I completely disagree with in terms of the voters is not a reflection on the actual process that was run,” Obama said.

Although Gruber was not a member of the staff, Politico reported that he was a  “paid consultant whose models were used to help assess the impact of various policy changes being considered as part of health care legislation,” and that “official logs show he visited the White House about a dozen times” from 2009 to 2014.

According to the Washington Post, Gruber’s comments should be taken seriously, due to the fact that he is “well-known in health-care circles as one of the intellectual godfathers of Obamacare,” and because he received “nearly $400,000” from the Obama administration for his contribution to the Affordable Care Act.

Obama went on to insist that if there were any questions, every press outlet present should “pull up every clip and every story,” that was written on the bill.

“I think it’s fair to say there was not a provision in the health care law that was not extensively debated and was fully transparent,” said Obama. “It was a tough debate.”

Among the controversial comments made by Jonathan Gruber, at an academic conference in October 2013, he also claimed that Obamacare was “written in a tortured way,” in order to ensure its approval from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure the CBO did not score the mandate as taxes,” said Gruber. “If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies.

According to the New York Times, while the Obama administration officials and congressional Democrats who were writing the law had “strong political incentives to ensure that the individual mandate they proposed would fit the CBO’s definition of things that don’t have to be counted on the federal government budget,” it is important to note that “the versions of Obamacare that received public discussion and debate never broke from that goal.”

Politico reported that although Obama had a “dismissive tone toward Gruber,” he has previously acknowledge that “some of his own statements about the law were ill-advised,” such as his “repeated promises that if Americans liked their health care plans they could keep them.”

Obamacare Has Raised Healthcare Premiums by Up To 78 Percent

On Tuesday, a study revealed that under the Affordable Care Act, rather than decreasing the cost of healthcare, some groups have experienced raises by as much as 78% in insurance premiums.

The study, conducted by HealthPocket, a nonpartisan health insurance research company, compared the average healthcare premiums before Obamacare was enacted in 2013, to the current average premiums in 2014.

According to the Washington Times, the study 23-year-olds experiences the greatest increase in insurance premiums, with men “seeing an average 78.2 percent price increase before factoring in government subsidies, and women having their premiums rise 44.9 percent.”

The study also found that 30-year-olds experienced a dramatic increase, with men paying 73.4 percent more, and women paying 35.1 percent more.

The head of research and data at HealthPocket, Kev Coleman, said that the study was “very eye-opening in terms of the transformation occurring within the individual health insurance market.

I was surprised in general to see the differences in terms of the average premiums in the pre-reform and post-reform markets,” said Coleman. “It was a higher amount than I had anticipated.”

The Daily Caller reported that the major increase in insurance premiums for men can be explained by the fact that “Obamacare bans insurers from charging women more,” and by the fact that insurers are required to cover a plethora of services, even if the customers don’t want them, such as “maternity and newborn coverage,” for both men and women.

According to the Washington Times, the major increases among younger insurance buyers “could be a problem for Obamacare’s long-term solvency given that young people are needed to offset the higher costs associated with older policyholders.”


Federal Court Deals Potentially-Fatal Blow to Obamacare

“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it…” Nancy Pelosi’s famous Obamacare gaffe comes to mind today as Politico is reporting that a sloppy error in the language of the Affordable Care Act has brought it to the brink of collapse. While hearing the case Halbig v. Burwell, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that section 36B of the Affordable Care Act only allows the federal government to subsidize healthcare plans for individuals living in states which created state-run healthcare exchanges.

If this 2-1 ruling stands, only those individuals who live in the 14 states that established their own healthcare exchanges would qualify for subsidies aimed at reducing exploding health insurance premiums. Those who live in the other 36 states that either could not or would not create their own exchanges would not qualify for subsidies for plans purchased through Healthcare.gov. Since both the individual mandate and the employer mandate are tied to those subsidies via the language of the law, individuals and businesses in those 36 states would no longer be bound by the mandate.

The New York Times estimates that this ruling could cancel benefits for up to 4.5 million people who are already expecting them. Politico published an estimate that put the number of those who would no longer be given benefits at 7.3 million by 2016.

At issue in the case were the mandates in the Affordable Care Act. A group of individuals and businesses from states without state-run exchanges, unable to deal with the costs of the upcoming health insurance mandates that require employers with over 50 employees to provide insurance for workers and require individuals to purchase insurance plans for themselves, filed suit. They claimed that, since section 36B in the law does not allow the federal government to subsidize health insurance premiums for people in states without state-run exchanges, the employer and individual mandates, which are tied legally to those benefits, do not apply to them. Since the individuals in the case could not afford health insurance even with the subsidies, the lawsuit was necessary in order for them to acquire a hardship waiver exempting them from the individual mandate.

The New York Times quoted David Klemencic, one of the business owners who filed suit, as saying, “If I have to start paying out for health insurance, it will put me out of business. As Americans, we should be able to make our own decisions in matters like this.”

If fewer people end up receiving subsidies to offset premiums that are already exploding due to regulations in the Affordable Care Act, that would mean fewer enrollees, both by way of inability to pay and inability of the government to mandate them to pay, which could cause a death spiral, pushing premiums through the roof for those who are purchasing plans through exchanges.

Other courts, including the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, have ruled the other way on this issue in other lawsuits, meaning the law is not quite yet settled and the subsidies are not yet being canceled. The Department of Justice is likely to pursue an appeal, which would come in the form of an “en banc” ruling by the entire 11-member DC Court of Appeals, which is made up of seven Democrats and four Republicans. It is also possible that this case could end up before the Supreme Court. The DC Court of Appeals’ decision, if it stands, would effectively eviscerate Obamacare’s mandates and subsidies in a majority of US states.

Despite the fact that a fundamental error in the Affordable Care Act’s language may just have disrupted the US health insurance market, the Obama administration is spiking the football and declaring victory. Said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, “There are four different cases making this point that are working their way through the federal court system. Two of them have been dismissed at the district court level, and two of them are awaiting their initial rulings. This of course is the appeal of one of those cases… For those who are keeping score, we’re still ahead 2 to 1 here.”

Conscripted Into Obamacare, I Conscientiously Object

I have been trying to work out why I am so upset about Obamacare.

We already live in a social democratic state that forcibly takes my money through taxes for things that I don’t think anyone’s money should be taken for. I may feel there is a better way to build the roads than have the government pay for them through massively redistributive taxation, collected essentially by force, but I don’t get angry about using them every day.

So isn’t there a prima facie case to be made that if we are stuck with a huge state, taxing and spending to the tune of about a third of the economy, then at least the attempt to save lives and maintain health through this questionable system is better than the funding of secret agencies to spy on us and otherwise eliminate our basic civil rights, the deployment of massive military capability that makes more enemies rather than eliminating any immediate threat, or the transfer of the hard earned wealth of working Americans to already privileged financiers?

How can Obamacare possibly be as bad as that litany, and why do I find myself angry about it, even as I find deeply hypocritical the objections of many Republicans whose party was actually responsible for designing the ACA that they now decry?

I am one of those whose healthcare coverage was cancelled. The nearest equivalent policy from the same insurer would have cost me 67% more than that the one I lost. A slightly worse policy (which I have purchased) costs me 20% more – presumably somewhat “subsidized” on account of my modest income. Ironically, the 67% increase would have been enough to price me out of health insurance, which has become for me much less affordable under the ironically named Affordable Care Act.

What could possibly justify cancelling my healthcare plan, and forcing me to replace it with a more expensive plan that covers drug addiction treatment that I shall never use because I do not take drugs, maternity care that I shall never use because I am male, and pediatric dental coverage that I shall never use because I don’t have children and have no plans to have any?

The answer is, I suppose, the pragmatic and superficially humane notion, which most advanced societies have arrived at, that a wealthy, civilized society does not let its own suffer from bad health, and that since no one knowingly brings physical harm upon themselves, it would be wrong not to socialize resources to save lives and prevent suffering. After all, goes one argument, we accept taxation and the socialization of resources for much less necessary ends, so why would we not socialize for this? (There is also an implied (and much more tenuous) State and societal interest in reproduction, to justify my paying for the medical expenses incurred by someone else who chooses to have a child, even while I cannot afford to have my own child.)

You may agree or disagree with the above justification of Obamacare, but when it is used to justify a legal takeover one seventh of the American economy by the State, you end up with the greatest single move toward a communistic (used advisedly) society since the New Deal. Whether that is a step that America wants to make is for America to decide, but it is a step so large that it demands honest and extensive debate that can only legitimately end in informed consent (to borrow another idea from the field of healthcare that carries far too little respect among our political class) or dissent. And if the social democrats were successful in persuading the rest of us that we really wanted to change our culture and politics so massively as to socialize all healthcare, then we would have either to change the Constitution or to agree on some interpretation of it under which the socialization of healthcare is justified as the Constitutional protection of life, liberty and/or pursuit of happiness. (While many of my readers might find that latter notion incredible, just imagine how much more honest, comprehensive and principled a debate we would be having if anyone were to try even to make that case.)

America has not had that debate because Obamacare is not what we were told it was. The continued involvement of insurance companies in the healthcare industry provides the illusion of continuity, of the operation of a market, and of free contract and choice. The ultimate decision by social democrats not to advocate for the single-payer system that most directly and visibly realizes the changes they are trying to make gives the appearance that individuals will continue to be responsible for their poor health choices – not that they will be paid for by their fellow Americans. The ACA hurts some Americans very much more than others – something else no one told us to expect. (The worst case was that we could keep our coverage, remember, so there wasn’t to be a downside. (Yes, I know it’s laughable when you see it written down.))

There is at least something “honest” about the single-payer system: government as sole provider of, and payer for, universal healthcare is the most direct implementation of the socialistic purpose that drives it. Single-payer doesn’t t pretend to individualism by having “individual mandates” (isn’t all taxation for public welfare a mandate on the individuals who pay it?) or the involvement of insurance corporations as potential scapegoats for the State and/or the public – corporations who now received legally extorted (again used advisedly) business.

But even Hillary Clinton, who a decade ago did extensive work from the Left, as it were, on Healthcare reform, could see that Americans didn’t want such a single-payer system: it was, in fact, rejected so comprehensively that even Obama, with all the political capital he won in a landslide swing against the Republicans in 2008, didn’t try to push it. Rather, Obama’s Democrats adopted a Republican plan that the GOP now hypocritically decries.

A single-payer system would be funded, presumably, out of our familiar progressive taxation system. While many conservatives and libertarians have no love for that idea or direct taxation, itself, even they would much rather be forced to pay for something that the country had honestly chosen after a proper national debate in which they had a chance to propose alternatives and lost. I know that because I polled the question among 14,000 liberty-curious and libertarian Americans, leaning from liberal to conservative, and an overwhelming majority said they’d take a single-payer system over the current Republicrat (I am not letting the Republicans off the hook for this) Affordable Care Act.

Obamacare is funded by doing disproportionate harm to a few – of which I am one. If I knew that the country had broadly and consciously consented to the deeply socialistic principles on which the system of healthcare that I was being forced to finance was based, I would swallow it and pay up, like I do with all my taxes. But clearly, it did not. The individual mandate, the involvement of the insurance industry, the use of taxation to compel me to enter contracts against my will, are all means by which the political class has hid its purpose from the people.

But there is something even worse: the ACA forces me into a new degree of supplication to the state. It essentially forces individuals like me to take hand-outs.

Although I have a modest income, I declare every penny I make and I pay my share of taxes. I have never taken a penny in welfare from this or any other country – and that is important to me. Of course, I use those things that I have to use to conduct a modern life, even if they are funded through taxation – such as roads, the air-traffic control system etc., and I accept the fact that I live in a nation where too many goods are deemed to be public goods and paid for accordingly.

But paying taxes and using public goods is rather different from what the ACA makes me do: it essentially blackmails me: it damages me financially by increasing the cost of something it tells me I must buy (but was buying anyway) and then forces me to accept a government subsidy as an individual to undo the damage. I resent that deeply. I resent it in the way I would resent a more blatant violation of my first amendment right to live by my own beliefs as long as I harm no one else.

It is all the more offensive because I am sure that if the nation had been honestly told this was to happen, the nation would not have allowed me or anyone else to be put in this position. In short, Obamacare feels like a massively personal and covert impingement.

Now some may say the ACA subsidy is ultimately no different from any other tax rebate – after all, all taxes and subsidies go into and out of the same pot – so my feeling is unwarranted. To which I ask, if that is the case, then why aren’t we funding this whole thing from the tax system we already have in place without the need for any rebates at all: why don’t we have the single-payer system? The answer, as we’ve seen, is that the nation rejected that system, so the ACA, which punts in decidedly the same direction, could only be (mis)sold to us with all this smoke and all these mirrors.

I am not a partisan. I am as sick of the Republican repetitions of the need to repeal the ACA that they mostly designed – without offering a principled alternative reform – as I am of the way the Democrats bounced us into this. As usual, a pox on both their houses.

But I have been conscripted into a rather covert attack on some simple American values and preferences. And as a conscript, I conscientiously object.