The White House Doubles Down On Republicans Request To Delay The Individual Mandate

LONELY OBAMACARE NAVIGATOR (2)

Pictured: Navigator Dealing With The Public’s Not So Mad Rush To Enroll

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The White House has doubled down on the Republican’s November request to delay the “Individual Mandate” of the Affordable Care Act.

At least a major portion of it.

The only thing predictable about implementation of the Affordable Care Act is that . . . nothing is predictable. On Wednesday, the Obama Administration played “tooth fairy” to Democrat candidates up for re-election this November and gave American individuals and families with pre-2014 health insurance policies a reprieve on the mandate to purchase ACA compliant coverage for two years through 2016. Last fall the House argued and passed a bill allowing American individuals and families who liked their current health plan – to keep their health plan. As the President had originally promised they could do. But for just one year. Now, in what appears to be an entirely self-serving and purely political move to mitigate a loss of Democratic seats in the up-coming mid-term elections, the Administration Obama says . . . “Errrr – of course! You can keep your plan for two more years!” It is quite apparent the Democrats have correctly determined the backlash from plan cancellations mandated by law could be devastating in terms of their election. Therefore, they speculate, with this aspect of the law deferred they will fair much better at the polls.

As a health insurance broker, I must admit I feel this is something of reprieve for myself and many of my clients. My clients can keep their lower cost plans which, in Texas, average approximately 40% higher than pre-compliant plans (approximately 80% higher in Indiana and Ohio – not to mention a dearth of PPO options as opposed to the restrictive HMO options). As for me, I can cease worrying, for now, about losing clients en masse who would otherwise be forced off their existing plans and might go elsewhere for replacement coverage. I can also anticipate obtaining entirely new clients who choose to elect a new plan in order to cover a pre-existing condition or just to comply with the law. And therein lies the rub. Just because the White House says those who have a plan can keep their plan, does not mean the individual states or the insurance companies will agree to this. And for many, it is far too late – their policies already having been canceled. But–furthermore–this reprieve apparently does not carry over to those who have no coverage whatsoever. They must still acquire coverage by March 31st or be assessed the penalty and locked out of insurance for the remainder of 2014. (Unless, of course, they are also eventually granted clemency by the President.)

And how does your editor feel about this from an actuarial standpoint relative to the insurance companies and the ACA itself? In four words: “Politically Pragmatic Voodoo Economics”. Even Obamacare architect Ezikiel Emanuel, stated Wednesday while on MSNBC, that while he denounced the policy implications of yet another Obamacare delay, “for the political gain, it’s worth it”. Unabashedly self-serving.

If the insurance companies comply, they are once again forced to flex at the last minute and be left with two separate blocks of business. One old block containing less claim’s risk. And one new block where the only motivation to insure oneself will be to transfer personally large risk to the insurance company. This will be in terms of pre-existing conditions which were previously manageable or that arise for the first time. As evidence of this, in an attempt to limit the disruption to the insurance industry precipitated by this latest modification, the Department of Health and Human Services also announced yesterday that the “risk corridor” program (which has been described as a bailout to insurers) would be further modified to channel more money to the insurers in states affected by the change. This only reinforces my opinion that those behind this bill are not economists and never cared about the financial viability of this law. They are, however, very concerned with maintaining their political lives at all cost.

Admin. – Kenton Henry

http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

http://thewoodlandstxhealthinsurance.com

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FEATURE ARTICLE:

THE NEW YORK TIMES

Politics

Consumers Allowed to Keep Health Plans for Two More Years

By ROBERT PEARMARCH 5, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration, grappling with continued political fallout over its health care law, said Wednesday that it would allow consumers to renew health insurance policies that did not comply with the new law for two more years, pushing the issue well beyond this fall’s midterm elections.

The reprieve was the latest in a series of waivers, deadline extensions and unilateral actions by the administration that have drawn criticism from the law’s opponents and supporters, many saying President Obama was testing the limits of his powers.

The action reflects the difficulties Mr. Obama has faced in trying to build support for the Affordable Care Act and the uproar over his promise — which he later acknowledged had been overstated — that people who liked their insurance plans could keep them, no matter what.

Under pressure from Democratic candidates, who are struggling to defend the president’s signature domestic policy, Mr. Obama in November announced a one-year reprieve for insurance plans that did not meet the minimum coverage requirements of the 2010 health care law.

The Times would like to hear from Americans who have signed up for health care under the Affordable Care Act.

Wednesday’s action goes much further, essentially stalling for two more years one of the central tenets of the much-debated law, which was supposed to eliminate what White House officials called substandard insurance and junk policies.

The extension could help Democrats in tight midterm election races because it may avoid the cancellation of policies that would otherwise have occurred at the height of the political campaign season this fall.

In announcing the new transition policy, the Department of Health and Human Services said it had been devised “in close consultation with members of Congress,” and it gave credit to a number of Democrats in competitive races, including Senators Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Mark Udall of Colorado.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Mr. Obama was trying to “smooth the transition” to a new system, using flexibility that exists under the law.

The move reflects the administration’s view that a divided Congress would not be willing to make changes to the law, but lawyers questioned the legitimacy of the action and said it could have unintended consequences in the long run.

“I support national health care, but what the president is doing is effectively amending or negating the federal law to fit his preferred approach,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. “Democrats will rue the day if they remain silent in the face of this shift of power to the executive branch.”

Mr. Turley said Mr. Obama was setting precedents that could be used by future presidents to delay other parts of the health care law or to suspend laws dealing with taxes, civil rights or protection of the environment.

Republicans said the move confirmed their contention that parts of the health care law were ill conceived and unworkable.

The number of people with noncompliant coverage is not known. Insurers sent out perhaps 4.5 million cancellation notices last fall, but some of the policyholders have bought new coverage that complies with the law. Administration officials said that the number of people with noncompliant policies would shrink by attrition in the next two years.The health care law sets dozens of federal standards for insurance, requiring coverage of services in 10 specific areas and providing many consumer protections not found in older policies.Under the transition policy announced by Mr. Obama in November, insurers “may choose to continue coverage that would otherwise be terminated or canceled.” Insurers were allowed to renew existing policies even if they did not provide the “essential health benefits” prescribed by law. In addition, the administration said, insurers could continue charging women more than men for those policies and could charge higher premiums based on a person’s health status, in violation of the new law.

A White House official said Wednesday that it would allow insurers to continue existing policies with renewals as late as Oct. 1, 2016, so individuals and small businesses could have noncompliant coverage well into 2017.

Under another policy announced by the administration on Wednesday, certain health plans will be exempt from new fees imposed on insurance companies and on many self-insured group health plans. Labor unions had been lobbying for such an exemption, saying the fees could be “highly disruptive” to Taft-Hartley plans administered jointly by labor and management representatives in construction, entertainment and other industries.

The Times would like to hear from Americans who have signed up for health care under the Affordable Care Act.

Wednesday’s action goes much further, essentially stalling for two more years one of the central tenets of the much-debated law, which was supposed to eliminate what White House officials called substandard insurance and junk policies.

The extension could help Democrats in tight midterm election races because it may avoid the cancellation of policies that would otherwise have occurred at the height of the political campaign season this fall.

In announcing the new transition policy, the Department of Health and Human Services said it had been devised “in close consultation with members of Congress,” and it gave credit to a number of Democrats in competitive races, including Senators Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Mark Udall of Colorado.

Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Mr. Obama was trying to “smooth the transition” to a new system, using flexibility that exists under the law.

The move reflects the administration’s view that a divided Congress would not be willing to make changes to the law, but lawyers questioned the legitimacy of the action and said it could have unintended consequences in the long run.

“I support national health care, but what the president is doing is effectively amending or negating the federal law to fit his preferred approach,” said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. “Democrats will rue the day if they remain silent in the face of this shift of power to the executive branch.”

Mr. Turley said Mr. Obama was setting precedents that could be used by future presidents to delay other parts of the health care law or to suspend laws dealing with taxes, civil rights or protection of the environment.

Republicans said the move confirmed their contention that parts of the health care law were ill conceived and unworkable.

But Republicans denounced the change. “The administration’s decision to carve out its union cronies from the Obamacare fee is beyond egregious and will leave others with self-insured plans on the hook to foot the bill,” said Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota.

Robert Laszewski, a consultant who works closely with insurers, said the reprieve for noncompliant policies “tends to undermine the sustainability of Obamacare” by reducing the number of people who will buy insurance through the exchanges.

The administration acknowledged that its transition policy could lead to “higher average claims costs” for people who buy insurance that complies with the Affordable Care Act. But health officials said the 2010 law provided several “shock absorbers” to help stabilize premiums.

http://thewoodlandstxhealthinsurance.com

http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

Facebook Posting Does Double Duty On This Healthcare Blog

Healthandmedicareinsurance.com followers – I spent enough time responding to the left on my facebook posting – I thought the effort could serve double duty on this blog.
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Before preparing for my trip, I would first like to respond to Kathy: No, I won’t be lobbying for an expansion of Medicaid in Indiana (or any other state for that matter) that has not already expanded it beyond 100% of the Federal Poverty Level. If Medicaid were expanded, it would be to include individuals up to and including those with an income of 133% of the FPL or a maximum income of $15,521 for 2014. Deserving or not aside – while these individuals currently do not qualify for Medicaid in Indiana or Texas – THEY DO qualify for a subsidy of approximately 88% of their health insurance premium. If they elect the plan recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services (“benchmark” plan) it will be the second lowest cost Silver Plan in their area. They are required to pay no more than $40.41 per month. No, I don’t feel sorry for them. They are certainly already receiving food stamps and government subsidized housing and Medicaid is already in financial trouble in most states without further expansion. (Of course I am aware financial feasibility and a balanced state or federal budget is not your concern.)

The person I feel sorry for is the poor working stiff who is making in the $50 – $60,000 dollar range and actually earning his or her income. They don’t qualify a health insurance premium subsidy. (Food stamps I’m not certain of because our government has made those available to virtually everyone including illegal aliens.) Because this responsible working person doesn’t qualify for a subsidy, they will be forced to pay 100% of the Silver plan premium–with an average annual cost of $4,113–entirely on their own. That amounts to 8% of their annual income (at $50k) before taxes which the entitlement person isn’t paying! That’s the person I feel sorry for! Then try providing them with a plan that has their doctor in the network and the benefits they would really like and their cost and that percentage soars! In summation – you keep lobbying for the entitlement class; I’ll keep lobbying for the working American.

Now to address Scott: Glad to see you are finally making a prediction which I feel is pretty much on target. As I’m the one on the front line signing people up for Obamacare, no one knows better the “adverse selection” (bad risk disproportionately selected for participation) than I. But I remember a few of my predictions you tried to dismiss. First – I said Barrack Obama would be elected in 2008. You said, “no”. In 2010 – I said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA for short) would pass. You said, “no way!”. Then, in June of 2012 – I said the Supreme Court is going to find a way to uphold the ACA as “constitutional”. You said, “not to worry!” God! I hate being right. (Almost as much as you hate being wrong!)
Anyway, I’m glad you are finally smelling the coffee which probably got to a stench with your latest health insurance premium increase. And, as such, this begs many questions – two of which I will address at this point:

(1) If the federal government cannot build a functional website, to insure the estimated 30 million uninsured, with 3 years lead time – How long is it going to take them to transition us to a “Medicare like” social welfare health insurance program that insures all 300 million plus Americans. And . . .

(2) If Social Security is on track to insolvency and Medicare is predicted to be insolvent by 2023 (nine years from now, people) – how the hell are they going to finance and subsidize healthcare for everyone? Redistribution. Because it wasn’t fair you’ve been so successful, Scott.

In my next blog post, I will address what I see as the specifics of why these things regarding the ACA are destined to transpire. In the meantime, I’m still going to Washington because the one thing we do know is – the person that never gets in the ring has already lost. The real issues I would like to confront our elected officials with are my suggestions for workable healthcare reform which guarantees coverage for pre-existing conditions while being financially responsible and feasible; term limits (I know, I know – when hell freezes over); amnesty and targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. I know they’ll try to get me back on point (theirs) – but not until I’ve made them say, “next question!”

I’m Can Help You Apply For ACA Health Insurance . . . Errrr . . . I Think!

As a licensed agent in Texas, Indiana, Ohio and Michigan I am certified with the Department of Health and Human Service through the Center for Medicare Service to enroll residents of those states in health insurance plans for 2014. This is whether they qualify for a subsidy or not. Premiums are the same whether you go through me, the Marketplace (Federal Exchange) or a Navigator. And I would like to assist you. Problem is – 5 days into the enrollment phase of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) I still have not succeeded in being able to create even my own account to see what all my options are. I have seen many of my options outside the Marketplace–in the private market–and my quoted premium is approximately 33% higher than my current premium for comparable coverage! I have read all news articles relative to enrollment numbers and although the White House says people are enrolling in the Marketplace (which is where residents of these states go for quotes unless coming to me) and–as of yesterday–no journalist has been successful in finding and interviewing one individual who has successfully purchased health insurance in the Marketplace! One individual, Chad Henderson, reported he and his father had but when swarmed by journalist and asked for details – his father said neither he or his son had. Turns out Chad was a campaign worker for the Obama administration last year and an active volunteer for Organizing for Action, the former campaign organization that now advocates for the President’s legislative agenda. You figure it out. This much I know – if you already know that based on your estimated income for 2014 you will not qualify for a subsidy – you should apply for coverage through me and avoid the wait (however long) on the Marketplace website. You can see your options and go directly into your chosen health insurance companies application for the plan you select.

If, ultimately, you qualify for a subsidy – you may be relatively satisfied with your premium but it looks like (in order for that to be the case) you will have to accept a deductible much higher than what you anticipated. If you do not qualify for a subsidy – prepare for what in all likelihood will  be sticker shock.

Regardless, I have made about 15 unsuccessful attempts, consuming hours of wait time the last 5 days to open an account in the Marketplace and–for research purposes– obtain my own quotes and see what subsidy options look like. Even Chad Henderson claimed it took him 3 hours to create an account–and this allegedly took place at 3 a.m. in the morning! How am I supposed to take my clients who will qualify for a subsidy from my quoting engine into the online Marketplace and have us succeed in staying with each other while we wait hours for us to set up their account? Of course, these wait times will surely decrease over time, right? Errrrr . . . right?

Admin. – Kenton Henry

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FEATURE ARTICLE

UPDATED: Obamacare Poster Boy Chad Henderson and His Dad Didn’t Really Buy Insurance

An exclusive Reason.com interview with Bill Henderson.

Peter Suderman | October 4, 2013

UPDATED at 2.54pm ET: Scroll to end of this article for the latest development in this story. After speaking directly with Chad Henderson, The Washington Post has confirmed that he has not in fact enrolled in a health-care plan. 

Chad Henderson is the media’s poster boy for Obamacare. Reporters struggled this week to find individuals who said they had been able to enroll in one of the law’s 36 federally run health-insurance exchanges.

That changed yesterday, when they found Henderson, a 21-year-old student and part-time child-care worker who lives in Georgia and says that he successfully enrolled himself and his father Bill in insurance plans via the online exchange administered at healthcare.gov.

But in an exclusive phone interview this morning with Reason, Chad’s father Bill contradicted virtually every major detail of the story the media can’t get enough of. What’s more, some of the details that Chad has released are also at odds with published rate schedules and how Obamacare officials say the enrollment system works.

The coverage of Chad Henderson has been massive. He was featured in The Washington Post Thursday as “the Obamacare enrollee that tons of reporters are calling.” He was also profiled in The Huffington Post as someone who “beat the glitches to sign up for Obamacare.” He was interviewed by Politico, multiple local news organizations, and, according to his Facebook feed, was asked to be part of a conference call hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Chad’s story was tweeted out by the official Obamacare Twitter feed. It was promoted to the media by Enroll America, a health-care activist group headed by a former White House communications staffer, as a sign of Obamacare’s success. Henderson told reporters at multiple news outlets that after a three-hour wait to sign up online, he enrolled around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning in an unsubsidized private insurance plan that would cost him about $175 a month. He also said that his father enrolled in separate coverage plan that would cost about $250 a month after factoring in the subsidies for which his father qualified on his approximately $24,000 annual income.

Chad’s decision to purchase his own, separate plan might surprise some. A monthly premium of $175 would represent about 30 percent of his pre-tax take home pay—about $583 a month on the $7,000 part-time income he claimed. And he could have chosen to be covered by his father’s plan, which, under the Affordable Care Act, would have been required to cover dependents up to the age of 26. Chad said his father encouraged him to be covered under his own plan, even though the cost was higher. “He’s old school, so he wants me to take responsibility,” Chad told The Huffington Post.

Henderson’s story was promoted as proof that the new health law can work for individuals. That was exactly how Chad intended it. He was a volunteer with President Obama’s campaign last year, and his LinkedIn page still lists him as an active volunteer with Organizing for Action, the former campaign organization which now advocates for the president’s legislative agenda.

He told The Washington Post that he was sharing his story because he wanted the new health law to succeed.

“I’ve read a few articles about how young people are very critical to the law’s success,” he said to The Post. “I really just wanted to do my part to help out with the entire process.”

But details of Chad’s story proved difficult to verify. And in a phone interview conducted this morning, Chad’s father Bill contradicted major details of Chad’s story. I reached Bill Henderson by following a series of links at Chad’s Facebook page, through which I was able to speak directly to the father.

Bill Henderson told me that both he and his son were interested in getting coverage, but that he had not enrolled in any plan yet, and to his knowledge, neither had his son. He also said that when they do enroll, getting the most coverage for the least money would be the goal, and that he expects that he and his son will get coverage under the same plan.

Bill told me that Chad had been looking into plans online. “He told me that there’s different plans. And we haven’t decided which plans to enroll in yet.”

I asked him whether he and his son had talked about going on separate plans, and he told me that, “We’ll probably go on the same plan, more than likely.”

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http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

Your More Affordable 2014 Health Insurance Exchange Plan is Likely to Work Like an HMO or Medicaid

By Kenton Henry

If you have ever been covered on an employer’s group health insurance plan, you may have had to select your medical providers from a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). If you were enrolled in a plan of this type – it was probably because it was your only option or because you were young and thought yourself bullet proof. And the reason is – most older people would not elect an HMO if given a choice. Because if your plan utilizes one – you either see a provider within the network or you have no coverage at all. Most older people know that when your health problem is anything more than a common runny nose (which is all young people believe they’re ever going to suffer from) – a person wants to be able to select their own doctor or hospital.

 
Has your income ever been at the poverty level or below? If so then you probably qualified for Medicaid. That’s the government’s health plan administered by the states for the poor. And if you were covered by Medicaid, you know how difficult it was to find doctor’s to take Medicaid, get into an appointment or see a specialist.

 
Now comes Obamacare. And when the premiums for the new health care compliant plans become available for individuals and families to choose from October 1 for a January 1 effect date – be prepared for sticker shock. Without going into projections of an unknown quantity, suffice it to say, the word on the insurance street is the cost of these plans is going to make people in most states “have a cow”!

 
So naturally, you’re going to review the lowest cost plans – the bronze or “catastrophic” options and hope they meet your needs. And when you do – you best hope you ARE young and bullet proof because you are probably going to find your selection of providers is going to be what you had available in a larger group plan HMO divided by 10 . . . or more. Be prepared to wait a long time for appointments and heaven forbid you need to see a specialist or a special procedure because–if you do–you are probably going to have to get the President to issue another of his executive orders to make it happen.

 
And what if you’re not young and bullet proof? Get used to rationing. Because Obamacare doesn’t like specialists and who do you want to see when you have a serious problem? Who do you think is going to authorize a more sophisticated (expensive) procedure? I love my family doctor but when he thinks I need a more expensive procedure – he refers me to a neurologist or an orthopedic surgeon, etc. But be prepared for your new health plan pre-certification department to tell you – “There must be a pill for that.”

 
In conclusion, you’d better hope you qualify for the subsidy so you can add all or a portion of your premium to the national debt. If not . . . be prepared to pay Cadillac prices for what at best will be an Oldsmobile.

 
(For more a perhaps more objective take on this – go to:
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL; BUSINESS AUGUST 14, 2013:
Many Health Insurers to Limit Choices of Doctors, Hospitals
By Anna Wilde Mathews @ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323446404579010800462478682.html

 

http://allplaninsurance.com

The Foxes Long Ago Took Over the Hen House

08.06.2013
Last Friday, the President met behind closed doors with Congress to grant they and their staff (who have incomes of $100,000 or more) a waiver from paying for participation in health insurance exchanges. Supposedly, 75% of their premium will be paid by us – regardless of their income.You already knew he had reserved the right to grant waivers to unions and donor corporations, correct? And he has done that over 1,200 times to date. Well now he has done it for our employees who ultimately determine their own salaries and benefits. News of this was not released until they had left town under cover of darkness for their month long recess.
It is anticipated this special dispensation will be formally acknowledged next week by President Obama’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM)–one in the same as the federal government’s H.R. department–which is charged with administering federal benefits within the government.

For a succinct and cogent summation of what the unintended consequences of full Affordable Care Act implementation mean to the quality of our nation’s health care, please view this video of Michigan’ Congressman Rodgers as he makes his opening statement to the Chair on health care reform:

http://safeshare.tv/w/zwhKdMtFHf
Admin. – Kenton Henry
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Feature Article

Grassfire

08.05.2013

Moments before shuttering Capitol Hill for a month-long recess, Congress exempted 11,000 members and staff from ObamaCare. News of Friday’s last-minute deal making is especially frustrating since part of ObamaCare’s original sell to the American people was that lawmakers and aides had to use the plan.
According to The Wall Street Journal, both parties went ballistic when they learned staff would incur dramatically higher healthcare costs. “Democrats in particular, begged for help,” and President Obama leapt into action telling them in a closed-door meeting that “he would personally moonlight as H.R. manager and resolve the issue.”

He did … for Congress.

“A behind-closed-doors deal announced after Congress is safely away from the crime scene. This is exactly why America rightly hates Washington,” charged Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) in a press release posted on his official website. “Obamacare’s a train wreck, even for Congress. So it gets fixed … FOR CONGRESS ONLY” (emphasis in original).
Vitter is right. All Americans should be extended the same “resolution” that Congress is getting.

But with Congress safely tucked away in their districts, the countdown continues for the “less fortunate” Americans who, on October 1, start enrolling in ObamaCare.

* Congress returns on Monday, August 9

Obama About To Do Another Side-Step?

08.01.2013
Obama About To Do Another Side-Step?
Op-Ed

Do you remember when the snidely Governor of Texas, played by actor Charles Durning, in the movie, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, croon’s …
” Ooh … I love to dance the little sidestep / Now they see me, now they don’t / I’ve come and gone / And ooh, I love to sweep around a wide step / Cut a little swath / And lead the people on!”?
This is exactly the image I have of the President so often but–most recently this morning–on hearing his plans to meet again with the federal Office of Personnel Management. The purpose will be to address their concerns about being forced to abandon their Cadillac federal health plans to enter the Federal Health Insurance Exchange like so many of the rest of us. While this mandate became law when the Senate surprisingly went along with the House vote to do so – now that the time for them to enroll in the exchange is rapidly approaching – they are beginning to balk. (I guess they didn’t read the bill till it was passed!) Now it seems they would like, at the very least, for their premiums to be subsidized by the taxpayers to the tune of (a minimum) 75% as is currently the case. This in-spite of the fact that low paid interns and aides can apply for a regular subsidy (just like you and I) while Rank and File Senators and Representatives receive $174,00 in annual salary; Senate Majority and Minority Leaders $193,400; and The Speaker of the House $223,500. Doesn’t your heart just bleed for them?
Rumor has it the President has promised to see what he can do about it and meet with them again soon. Hence, I hear the words …
” Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don’t-I’ve come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step, cut a little swathe and lead the people on.
I’m a poor boy, come to greatness. So, it follows that I cannot tell a lie.”
Admin. – Kenton Henry
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FEATURED ARTICLE:

POLITICOPro
Lawmakers, aides may get Obamacare exemption
By JOHN BRESNAHAN and JAKE SHERMAN | 4/24/13 9:49 PM EDT
Congressional leaders in both parties are engaged in high-level, confidential talks about exempting lawmakers and Capitol Hill aides from the insurance exchanges they are mandated to join as part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, sources in both parties said.
The talks — which involve Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the Obama administration and other top lawmakers — are extraordinarily sensitive, with both sides acutely aware of the potential for political fallout from giving carve-outs from the hugely controversial law to 535 lawmakers and thousands of their aides. Discussions have stretched out for months, sources said.
A source close to the talks says: “Everyone has to hold hands on this and jump, or nothing is going to get done.”
Yet if Capitol Hill leaders move forward with the plan, they risk being dubbed hypocrites by their political rivals and the American public. By removing themselves from a key Obamacare component, lawmakers and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them and aides would be held to a different standard than the people who put them in office.

Democrats, in particular, would take a public hammering as the traditional boosters of Obamacare. Republicans would undoubtedly attempt to shred them over any attempt to escape coverage by it, unless Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) give Democrats cover by backing it.
There is concern in some quarters that the provision requiring lawmakers and staffers to join the exchanges, if it isn’t revised, could lead to a “brain drain” on Capitol Hill, as several sources close to the talks put it.
The problem stems from whether members and aides set to enter the exchanges would have their health insurance premiums subsidized by their employer — in this case, the federal government. If not, aides and lawmakers in both parties fear that staffers — especially low-paid junior aides — could be hit with thousands of dollars in new health care costs, prompting them to seek jobs elsewhere. Older, more senior staffers could also retire or jump to the private sector rather than face a big financial penalty.
Plus, lawmakers — especially those with long careers in public service and smaller bank accounts — are also concerned about the hit to their own wallets.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is worried about the provision. The No. 2 House Democrat has personally raised the issue with Boehner and other party leaders, sources said.
“Mr. Hoyer is looking at this policy, like all other policies in the Affordable Care Act, to ensure they’re being implemented in a way that’s workable for everyone, including members and staff,” said Katie Grant, Hoyer’s communications director.
Several proposals have been submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, which will administer the benefits. One proposal exempts lawmakers and aides; the other exempts aides alone.
When asked about the high-level bipartisan talks, Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, said: “The speaker’s objective is to spare the entire country from the ravages of the president’s health care law. He is approached daily by American citizens, including members of Congress and staff, who want to be freed from its mandates. If the speaker has the opportunity to save anyone from Obamacare, he will.”
Reid’s office declined to comment about the bipartisan talks.
However, the idea of exempting lawmakers and aides from the exchanges has its detractors, including Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), a key Obamacare architect. Waxman thinks there is confusion about the content of the law. The Affordable Care Act, he said, mandates that the federal government will still subsidize and provide health plans obtained in the exchange. There will be no additional cost to lawmakers and Hill aides, he contends.

Polls Clearly Indicate the Affordable Care Act Losing Popularity

07.30.2013

Polls clearly indicate that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is losing popularity with not only Democrats and Republican politicians but the American public in general. In spite of the fact that no real costs of the Affordable Care Act to employers have been realized (other than those spent in attempts to decipher it through paid consultants or in house benefits directors and actuaries) popularity for the law continues to diminish. Much of this disenchantment could stem from the fact that more of us are realizing we really may lose our current health coverage and–perhaps more importantly–our providers. Others realize part-time employment may become the norm as employers attempt to avoid the mandate they provide health insurance to full time employees, i.e., those working 30 or more hours per week. It is a highly unpopular mandate with labor unions which have always supported a minimum 40 hour work week as the definition of full-time employment. It seems only logical many employers will restrict workers to less than 30 hours in attempt to avoid providing health insurance coverage. Another unintended consequence of government’s attempts to improve things.

Admin. – Kenton Henry

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Featured Articles (Reprints June 30th and 26th Editions of the National Association of Health Underwriter’s Washington Update)

Is Health Reform Losing Its Base?

It is no secret that public support for health reform has always been mixed at best and that many Republicans have strongly disliked this law from the start. Now it seems like moderate Democrats are joining the pessimistic about health reform crowd. A recent poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News showed that moderate Democrats (who were previous PPACA supporters) are becoming lukewarm about the health reform law. When the law was initially passed in 2011, 74% of moderate and conservative Democrats were in favor of the law. Now, that number is down to 46%. Even more notable is that support is 11 points lower than what it was last year at this time. Liberal Democrats on the other hand still strongly support the law, with 78% of them still loving it to be exact. Among the public at large, 42% support and 49% oppose the law, retreating from an even split at 47% last July. On average, 56% of Democrats now support the law, according to the poll, down 10% from last year.
The same day these polling results were released, President Obama gave a speech out of Knox, Illinois on the economy. While the focus of the speech was the nation’s economy, President Obama unsurprisingly, given the magnitude of its economic impact, brought up the health reform law and tried again to raise support. This time, the president noted that the law is in fact working in the states that embrace it. Many of the states that have decided to fight the law are not seeing as many positive results. He cited states such as California and New York as proof that the law is driving costs down. The president also said that we are “well on our way” to full implementation of the law and that once implemented, the law’s benefits will provide security to middle class families.

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Legislation and Policy

Republicans Divided Over Threat To Defund ACA.
Many outlets, mostly out of the beltway, focus on the political machinations surrounding funding for the Affordable Care Act. The reports highlight a growing rift among factions of the Republican party: those who are pushing to defund the law using a spending bill, and those who believe the move, which could ultimately result in a government shutdown, would be politically dangerous.
Roll Call (7/30, Dennis, Fuller, Subscription Publication) reports that “with 60 Republicans already pushing…to defund Obamacare in any spending bill,” Speaker John Boehner “may not be able to cobble together a House majority” to stave off a government shutdown without courting Democrats. The article notes, though, that “several prominent Republicans” have spoken out against the effort, as this threat “would surely backfire on Republicans if they carry it out.”
FOX News (7/30) reports on the “divide” in the GOP, saying that the “aggressive” push to defund the Affordable Care Act is “increasingly pitting Republicans against Republicans.”
Indeed, several Republicans have spoken out against defunding the law. Politico (7/30, Arkin) reports that in an appearance on MSNBC Monday, House Deputy Whip Tom Cole (R-OK) warned that “shutting down the government to defund Obamacare is a ‘suicidal political tactic.’” Cole is quoted as saying, “Shutting down the government is a suicidal political tactic. Eventually it will be reopened, but the president will not have capitulated and you will have discredited yourself and along the way you will have hurt the American people.”
The Washington Examiner (7/30, Carroll) reports on another high profile Republican who is against defunding the Affordable Care Act, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who called the efforts “dishonest” and “hype.”
Also reporting on Republican opposition to the tactic are MSNBC (7/30, MacDonald) and the Tulsa (OK) World (7/30, Greene).
However, many Republicans are still pushing for the tactic, led Monday by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Politico (7/30, Kopan) reports that in an interview with Glenn Beck Monday, Cruz argued that Republicans have the opportunity to can defund the ACA, but “‘scared’ Republicans are standing in the way.” Cruz said, “What I can tell you is there are a lot of Republicans in Washington who are scared. They’re scared of being beaten up politically.”
The Washington Examiner (7/30, Spiering) reports that Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) “defended” the proposal, saying, “With all these problems why would anyone want to continue with this failed experiment? Only in Washington do people double down on their mistakes.”
Other outlets reporting on Republicans who support fighting for defunding the ACA include the Huffington Post (7/30, Schlanger), the NBC News (7/30, Hunt) website, the Deseret (UT) News (7/30, Askar), The Hill (7/30, Baker) “Healthwatch” blog, The Hill (7/30, Jaffe) “Ballot Box” blog, and the Washington Examiner (7/30, Spiering).
As one of the few Democrats inserting himself into the intra-GOP rift, Politico (7/30, Everett) reports that on Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “If Republicans force us to the brink of another government shutdown for ideological reasons, the economy will suffer. I would suggest to any of my Republican colleagues that has this idea: Give a call to Newt Gingrich. … Ask him how it worked. It was disastrous for Newt Gingrich, the Republicans and the country.”
Commentary Considers GOP Rift Over Defunding ACA. In addition to accounts of the Republican rift over defunding the Affordable Care Act, several outlets carry analyses and opinion pieces reacting to the debate. Despite some maintaining sympathies for the Republican cause, all conclude that the tactic is certain to fail at the least, and potentially dangerous for the party at the most.
Well-known conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin, in her Washington Post (7/30) “Right Turn” blog, quotes various Republican leaders who are speaking out against the tactic, including Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who called it “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Rubin concludes that it is a “certainty” that “the GOP is not going to defund Obamacare on its namesake’s watch.”
Sean Sullivan, in his Washington Post (7/30, Sullivan) “The Fix” blog, calls Cruz’s decision to call his GOP colleagues “scared” for not going along with his plan “a perilous move.” While he is confirming his “conservative bona fides,” Sullivan writes, Cruz is also highlighting his “willingness to be an antagonist at virtually every turn.”
Brent Budowsky, in a piece for The Hill (7/30) “Pundits Blog,” writes that as many Republicans agree, “threatening to shut the government down over healthcare is profoundly unwise policy for America and profoundly unwise politics for the GOP.”
Avik Roy offers a lengthy analysis of the tactic in his Forbes (7/30) “Apothecary” blog, saying that a one year delay of the ACA’s central provisions may be better than a complete repeal.
On the MSNBC (7/30) website, Geoffrey Cowley criticizes Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) for doubling down on the “kill-it-at-all-costs rhetoric,” seeking to blame President Obama for a potential government shutdown.
Dennis Byrne, a Chicago writer, calls the plan “more than stupid,” in the Chicago Tribune (7/30). He argues that the tactic “will surely fail,” and could very well “cost the GOP in the 2014 elections, possibly including control of the House.” The only way to repeal the law, he concludes, is to “turn the spotlight on what they’d replace it with.”
Similarly, in an editorial, the Baton Rouge (LA) Advocate (7/30) criticizes Republicans for continuing to oppose the Affordable Care Act without coming up with a viable alternative. The paper argues that any sort of GOP-sanctioned replacement “requires legislative initiative, not just opposition.”
Syndicated columnist Jules Witcover writes in the Baltimore Sun (7/30) that despite continued unpopularity, the Affordable Care Act “will nevertheless prevail.”
House To Vote This Week To Repeal Part Of ACA For 40th Time.
The Hill (7/30, Baker) “Healthwatch” blog reports that this week, the House will vote “for the 40th time to repeal part of ObamaCare.” The bill, sponsored by Representative Tom Price (R-GA), restricts the IRS from implementing any part of the law. The article points out that this is part of the GOP’s “effort to keep up the negative pressure” following the employer mandate delay.
Republicans Seek To Change ACA’s Definition Of Full-Time Employment.
CQ (7/30, Attias, Subscription Publication) reports on the “ongoing debate” over whether Congress should revise the Affordable Care Act’s definition of full time employment. So far, “Republicans and business representatives” have voiced their support for “an effort to change the definition to 40 hours a week,” but Democrats aren’t behind it.
The Delmarva (MD) Daily Times (7/30, Gaudiano) also reports on the effort to change the full-time employment threshold.
ACA Call Center Under Fire For Not Offering Health Benefits To All Workers.
FOX News (7/30) reports that a call center set up to offer Affordable Care Act assistance in Contra Costa, California, is making news for not offering health insurance to all of its employees. The state’s budget “only allows for half of the customer service agents hired to work full-time,” which many in the community find “disappointing.”
Feds’ Marketing Of ACA To Young People May Violate Age Discrimination Act.
The Daily Caller (7/29, Howley) reports that the Obama Administration’s public relations campaign touting “the benefits of enrolling in Obamacare” to young people “appears to violate the federal Age Discrimination Act,” which “states that no program that receives federal money can discriminate with respect to age.” The Daily Caller notes that the “campaign-style demographic targeting” would “at least initially have the discriminatory effect of not equally promoting subsidized health care to older participants whose participation would not be as favorable for Obamacare’s convoluted apparatus.”


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