If there is one thing both Republicans and Democrats agree on in Washington, D.C., its that the stakes are high in the matter of King v. Burwell, pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. A case which could obliterate the Affordable Care act as we know it. According to the Hill report, “Both parties have acknowledged that a plaintiff victory could force a rewrite of the entire law.”
In the interim, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R – Utah, who is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee plans (according to the Hill, online, 2/24) will ultimately unveil a “backup plan” for Obamacare in case the Supreme Court finds against the law, as it well could in the summer of this year.
Republicans also view a high court striking of Obamacare as their “best chance of undoing Obamacare,” according to the Hill article by Sarah Ferris, who frequently writes about healthcare and politics for that publication.
Lawson Bader is President of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) which is providing support for the plaintiff-challengers to the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Bader writes in a new report for Human Events (online, Feb. 23) saying that a victory for Plaintiffs in the case of King versus Burwell would mean “some relief from Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates and penalties.” Bader’s report also says that a Plaintiff’s victory would usher in “healthcare alternatives.” The benefit? It may offer states more leeway in terms of being able to give people the option to choose plans more within reach of their pocketbooks. It also pointedly means, “insurance companies will no longer received ‘free money’ in the form of taxpayer dollars.”
Bader further elaborates in his Human Events piece, “Aspects of Obamacare have harmed millions of people by causing them to lose their jobs, reducing their hours or pay, and taking away their health plans or ability to choose their own doctor. And many Americans are also paying more for their insurance and higher taxes.”
Kelsey Snell reports some good news for U.S. taxpayers in a post for Politico (online, Feb. 24). Yet, it begins with some news of a rather disconcerting sort. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) utilized 2014 insurance information for calculating and figuring out Obamacare subsidies, instead of that for 2015. So now, the Obama White House is engaged in proactive damage control. The (some 50,000) U.S. tax filers who sent their returns in based on incorrect Obamacare subsidy information obtained from the feds will not be required to submit amended income tax returns. Also, the U.S. Treasury Department reportedly says the IRS won’t collect for underpayments caused by the glitch, according to Politico.
The root cause of this recent problem? According to Snell’s Politico story, “A glitch in HealthCare.gov that used the wrong year’s data for the calculations caused about 800,000 Americans to receive erroneous tax forms for their Obamacare subsidy. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services revealed the mistake last week.”
Meanwhile, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, recently sent letters to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, looking for specifics as to how the malfunction happened.
A report by Robert W. Wood, of Wood LLP.com, on a recent post for Forbes online (Feb. 17) asks how many ACA taxes are there – in reality? A most important question, since an appreciable segment of Obamacare , is also indeed about that – taxes and /or fines – (depending on one’s political philosophy). Either way it adds up to money you have to pay as an individual or employer.
Wood, a prominent tax attorney, points out, “Yet for most of the approximately 85 percent of Americans who have health insurance and who make less than $250,000 a year, you can relax. Most of the new taxes are unlikely to hurt you or your pocketbook. Even so, it’s easy to be overwhelmed, which is one reason the IRS has a 21-page Publication 5187 on the Healthcare Law: What’s New for Individuals and Families.”
Some of these taxes include ones possibly not well-known. They are:
A report in the International Business Times (IBT, online Feb. 18) by Amy Nordrum claims “the early technological woes of the HealthCare.gov rollout have been largely overcome.”
Yet, a main bone of contention remains. Some still say that classifying healthcare plans under the categories of: Gold, Silver, and Bronze leads unsuspecting consumers to believe that the Gold Plan (under the ACA) is necessarily the most desirable one for them to choose for their healthcare coverage. Concerns over such descriptions of healthcare plans were recently discussed in a New England Journal of Medicine study. It was co-authored by Peter Ubel, who is also a health marketing expert at Duke University.
It seems many of the state marketplaces, or exchanges, list plans, placing those with the lowest monthly premiums at the top. Ubel feels this scenario could prompt a significant number of persons to choose that first plan they first see.
In her IBT article, Amy Nordrum also points out, “These subtle cues inherent in the label and layout of the current marketplace may prompt consumers to make a decision that is not in their best interests.”
Atlantic Media’s Quartz, with a recent article by New York-based journalist Tim Fernholz (online, 2/24) reports Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has it wrong on Obamacare. The Texas Republican believes Internet regulation, or “Net Neutrality,” and aspects of the Affordable Care Act, add up to being similar – - if not the same.
Fernholz Quartz account asks us to regard both as being dissimilar. “For the sake of a thought experiment, consider that Obamacare for the Internet might look like: It would start with the recognition that Internet costs are spiraling out of control and costing the public too much. The government might decide to write a law requiring internet service providers cut costs and do more to expand access, but in return, it would require all Americans to pay for internet access, as Australia did.”
The Quartz article also points out that the restructuring of healthcare in the U.S. changed the way the feds expend hundreds of billions of dollars in the funding for it, with the goal of giving more Americans increased accessibility (affordability) regarding the insurance coverage for it. Congress even went as far as to author a law, the Affordable Care Act, requiring all Americans to obtain medical coverage. Additionally, lawmakers on Capitol Hill established subsidies – - funded by fresh taxes.
All of this is purportedly facilitated by the healthcare marketplaces (or exchanges).
Conversely, Net Neutrality concepts have not brought newly codified regulations, levies; and no new additional expenditures.
One of the most common words in the English language is “such.” It is frequently employed to connect and/or describe phrases. It is this very word – depending upon how the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately interprets its meaning — which could determine whether or not Obamacare is sent to a legal scrapheap of history. According to a recent web post (online, Feb. 8) on the National Journal web site, by Sam Baker “Perhaps never before has so much been asked of “such.” It is this word prompting the Obama Administration to ask the High Court to not overturn the validity of the Affordable Care act, especially when it comes to its healthcare exchanges (or marketplaces as they are also known).
According to the National Journal report, this latest legal wrangle is no insignificant matter. ACA Section 1311, as authored by Congress, declares, “each State shall . . . establish an American Health Benefit Exchange . . . for the State,” and “an Exchange shall be a governmental agency or nonprofit entity that is established by a State.”
According to the National Journal, the ACA also established a contingency plan, “If a state did not “elect” to establish its own exchange, the statute says, the Health and Human Services Department “shall (directly or through agreement with a not-for-profit entity) establish and operate such Exchange within the State.” (Emphasis added).
The word such may mean that the federal government was assuming the state’s role, “In an effort to get people into the system and make health insurance affordable, the law provides subsidies to low-income families to help cover part of the cost of their premiums.”
Case Western law professor Jonathan Adler is quoted by the National Journal as saying, “‘such exchange’ is one of the government’s strongest arguments— but that the government can’t win on that alone.”
Baker’s National Journal account quotes Nicholas Bagley, of the University of Michigan law school, who is described as a subsidies case expert, “What you’re trying to do is make sense of the statute as a whole,” Bagley said. “The question is what did Congress mean — what message did it mean to communicate?”
A recently posted report in the Net Right Daily site, by Robert Romano, (online, 02/10) says prior to 2010, families in the U.S. actually had some options, at least when it came to their healthcare. They could have forked over nearly one third of their overall household earnings to pay their insurance premiums — or not. Now, with the individual mandate built into the Affordable Care Act, some healthcare choices are not so pleasant, people can purchase the more costly plans Obamacare established, or pay a fine (or tax as it is also known).
According to the Net Right Daily Story, “the real culprits for the continued, growing unaffordability of health premiums . . . are slower economic growth, slower population growth, and the slower growth in incomes that both bring. In fact, these have been trending downward along with job creation, interest rates, and inflation for a generation,” says Net Right Daily.
According to Kiersten Marek writing on the Inside Philanthropy webpage (online, Feb. 9) several groups would like to see the demise of Obamacare, and those organizations are not always governmental. Such entities be hard to pinpoint or clearly identify. Yet, according to the Inside Philanthropy article, identification may be easiest when starting some of the Affordable Care Act’s more notable adversaries, such the Pacific Research Institute. Marek says it (PRI) “has been a leader in litigating against the ACA over recent years, and took a lead role in writing a key amicus brief in support of King v. Burwell. The institute is headed by Sally Pipes, a healthcare expert and one the most visible conservative critics of Obamacare. From her platform at PRI, Pipes has made frequent media appearances, writes a regular healthcare column for Forbes, and published a 2010 book attacking the ACA entitled The Truth About Obamacare.”
Marek’s report also points out this scenario should lead to some additional questions, perhaps: “Who pays Pipes’s salary and underwrites PRI’s litigation work? Different funders.” Those sources of money include, the William Simon, Jacqueline Hume, and Bradley foundations. Marek’s report adds, “The Searle Freedom Trust has also been a frequent and generous funder, while some of PRI’s biggest grants have come from the Donors Trust, which channels money anonymously through donor-advised funds.”
Another organization, the noted conservative think tank, The Cato Institute has collaborated with the Pacific Research Institute in crafting closely legal and policy platforms against the Affordable Care Act. Cato’s money comes (in part) from identical foundations supporting PRI.
Those harboring the idea that the longer one is uninsured the more likely they are to rush to get health insurance, may wish to revisit that theory, especially when it concerns U.S. Latin Americans. Many remain uninsured, as in they haven’t taken advantage of Obamacare. The reason simply is because many Hispanics find the process of obtaining insurance under auspices of the ACA entirely too baffling. Furthermore, Mary Agnes Carey’s article on the PBS News Hour Web Page (online, Feb. 9, 2015) highlights the current healthcare coverage situation for one Hispanic couple. At one point they contemplated getting a plan, but as Carey explains, “Norma and Rodolfo Santaolalla have always worked but have never had health insurance. When the Arlington, Va., couple tried to apply online for coverage under the health care law, it was just too confusing.” . . . “I didn’t understand about the deductibles and how to choose a plan. It’s difficult. It’s the first time we’ve done that,” said Norma. Both Norma and Rodolfo eventually went to the Arlington Mill Community Center in Arlington, Va. for assistance.
Another obstacle to getting Hispanics on board with Obamacare is the rampant trepidation in that community; that those qualifying for health insurance in the U.S. could simultaneously jeopardize those within their own families who are undocumented aliens, even though administration officials swear applying for healthcare will not result in deportations.