Thursday, March 13, 2014

Obamacare Schadenfreude in the Wind

A strong cold front struck our region starting yesterday afternoon with rain, thunder and lighting, and eventually, gusty winds up to 40 mph that drove our temperatures from a balmy 66 yesterday afternoon to a low of 22 this morning. Spring is here! Sort of.

Death Spiral watch: Sebelius says Obamacare premiums will go up next year, but otherwise doesn't seem know much at all.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted Wednesday that Obamacare premiums will probably go up in 2015, that she does not know how many Obamacare customers have paid their premiums, and that she does not know how many Obamacare enrollees had insurance previously.

“I think premiums are likely to go up, but go up at a slower pace” than they did previously, Sebelius admitted at Wednesday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing.

“I can’t tell you that, sir, because I don’t know that,” Sebelius said when asked by Georgia Rep. Tom Price how many Obamacare customers have paid their first premiums. Sebelius said she also does not know how many Obamacare customers previously had insurance plans that were canceled.
 According to Preznit Obama, Obamacare isn't all that expensive; all you need to do is cut back on some expenses, like cell phones.

Actually, I agree with the Preznit on this. For us, health insurance is important enough that we pay (full ride) for it, and have cheap cell phones, and a very basic cable plan. But it's not the government's business to be making those choices for us, because now, we're subsidizing people with expensive cell phones, and top of of the line cable.

And a helpful reminder from the Federal Bureau of Propaganda National Public Radio, that you could end up paying a lot more than the minimum $95 "Shared Responsibility Payment" tax for ignoring Obamacare's mandate:
2014 is the first year most Americans will have to either have health insurance or face a tax penalty. But most people who are aware of the penalty think it's pretty small, at least for this first year. And that could turn into an expensive mistake.

"I'd say the vast majority of people I've dealt with really believe that the penalty is only $95, if they know about it at all," says Brian Haile, senior vice president for health policy at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. "And when people find out, they're stunned. It's much, much higher than they would expect."

In fact, "the penalty is the maximum of either $95 or 1 percent of taxable income in 2014," according to Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Health Policy Center. "For people with higher incomes, it can be much more sizable than $95."
. . .
"So if it's a two-adult household and both are uninsured, it's twice $95 — $190," he says. "Then if there are any children in the family that are uninsured, the penalty for each of them is half of the $95."

The flat-fee penalty maxes out at $285 next year. To help people figure out what they might owe, the Tax Policy Center, jointly run by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, just posted an online calculator. And Jackson Hewitt has its own "How much is my tax penalty?" worksheet.
. . .
"If you've got someone who comes home to live, it could cost you much more than a spare bedroom," he says. "If you claim that child as a dependent, or could claim that child as a dependent, then you suddenly become liable for penalties if that child lacks minimum essential coverage."

The 1 percent penalty, for those hit with that, also has a cap, but the penalty can still get pretty big. The cap is tied to the cost of the national average bronze-level insurance plan. This year's top penalty could be about $3,600 for an individual, and $11,000 for a family of four.
That's assuming you don't file under the new "I was confused by Obamacare" exemption option, or that you're clever enough arrange your taxes so you don't have a refund to deduct it from, the only collection mechanism the IRS allegedly has to collect it.

Tired of being nagged by the hoi polloi and Republicans to actually follow the Obamacare laws they uniformly opposed to begin with, the Preznit threatened to veto a law to require him to follow the law: How meta is that?
If he had a sense of humor, he’d sign the bills and then ignore them. Just like he did with ObamaCare. Forcing him to threaten a veto was, of course, the whole point of these bills in the first place.

H.R. 4138 - Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments of the Law (ENFORCE the Law) Act of 2014 - (Rep. Gowdy, R-South Carolina, and 11 cosponsors)
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 4138 because it violates the separation of powers by purporting to permit the Congress to challenge in court the exercise by the President of one of his core constitutional functions – taking care that Federal laws are faithfully executed.

Congress ordinarily has the power to define the bounds of the Executive Branch’s enforcement authority under particular statutes, and persons who claim to be harmed by the Executive Branch’s actions may challenge them as inconsistent with the governing statute. But the power the bill purports to assign to Congress to sue the President over whether he has properly discharged his constitutional obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed exceeds constitutional limitations. Congress may not assign such power to itself, nor may it assign to the courts the task of resolving such generalized political disputes.

If the President were presented with H.R. 4138, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
And finally, no Obamacare Schadenfreude report would be complete without a mention of David Jolly (R) beating Alex Sink (D) in the special election for Florida's 13th District, a race thought to be a referendum on Obamacare, in a historically Republican district that democrats thought they had a good opportunity to win with Sink's "Mend It, Don't End It" stance on Obamacare:
Republican David Jolly narrowly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in the special election for Florida’s 13th District on Tuesday in an unusually expensive race watched closely by both parties as the midterm election season kicks into high gear. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Jolly beat Sink, 48.5 percent to 46.6 percent, according to The Associated Press.

Both Democrats and the GOP plowed millions of dollars into the swing district race in hopes of an election year boost. The results appeared to vindicate the strategy of the GOP, which focused its attacks on linking Sink to Obamacare and managed to win with an untested candidate who had frustrated many in the national party.

Sink was “ultimately brought down because of her unwavering support for Obamacare, and that should be a loud warning for other Democrats running coast to coast,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden said in a statement.
Democrats countered that Sink, the party’s 2010 gubernatorial candidate and Florida’s former chief financial officer, had done fairly well considering the environment, and noted that another vote for the seat is just a few months away.
There are a lot of editorial electrons being sent to ground on this result, with Democrats mostly claiming it really doesn't show anything, it's all Koch money, and we didn't really want that seat that bad anyway, while Republicans claiming it shows that the midterm elections of 2014 will result in a tidal wave, sweeping the pro-Obamacare Democrats out to sea en masse, or possibly into the rubble of their campaign headquarters.

I suspect both visions are overblown, but I do expect the Pubs to gain in the the House, and possibly take the Senate. setting up a showdown with the Preznit over Obamacare in the final two years of his second reign term.

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