Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Obamacare Schadenfreude: Time to Drain the Bilge

There has been a buildup of Obamacare Schadenfruede in the bottom of the vessel, and it's about time to run the bilge pump and clean it all out.

Friday night document dump: Yet another “accommodation” on HHS mandate
After getting stung two months ago by the Hobby Lobby decision, the Obama administration had to go back to the drawing board to salvage the HHS contraception mandate. Late yesterday, HHS announced a new “accommodation” that supposedly will pass court muster after the Supreme Court decision, but will it? The new regulation offers for-profit businesses the same mechanism it had previously offered non-profits, and offering non-profits a more direct way of rejecting contraception coverage:
Effective immediately, the U.S. will start allowing faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals to notify the government — rather than their insurers — that they object to birth control on religious grounds.
A previous accommodation offered by the Obama administration allowed those nonprofits to avoid paying for birth control by sending their insurers a document called Form 700, which transfers responsibility for paying for birth control from the employer to the insurer. But Roman Catholic bishops and other religious plaintiffs argued just submitting that form was like signing a permission slip to engage in evil.
In a related move, the administration announced plans to allow for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Inc. to start using Form 700. The Supreme Court ruled in June that the government can’t force companies like Hobby Lobby to pay for birth control, sending the administration scrambling for a way to ensure their employees can still get birth control one way or another at no added cost.
How serious is this proposal? Well, offering it in a Friday night document dump certainly doesn’t instill much confidence in the effort. Why not roll this out during a substantial news cycle? After all, the Hobby Lobby decision was a high-profile loss by the White House, so offering something under the media radar should raise suspicions about just why the administration wants to push this out in the most low-profile manner possible.

At first blush, HHS seems to have created at least one of the same problems that the Supreme Court noted. The Hobby Lobby decision didn’t even get to the issue of whether the regulation violated the First Amendment rights of business owners, but instead hinged on the second threshold of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The first threshold tests to see whether a regulation “substantially burdens” religious expression, which the court held it did
. . .
The second threshold is whether the government used the least-burdensome method of satisfying a compelling state interest (we should note that the court didn’t address whether the interest was compelling in Hobby Lobby, either). The opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito noted that HHS offered Form 700 to non-profits but not to for-profit businesses, which meant that HHS even by its own standards didn’t meet the least-burdensome test. That’s why the Supreme Court ruled that HHS’ mandate violated RFRA — even though the court never got around to addressing whether Form 700 actually solved the overall issue of substantial burdens on religious expression. The court only concluded that the governmentbelieves it to be effective relief. . .

So now we have HHS offering for-profits the same Form 700. That would answer the challenge from Alito, yes? Well, actually no, because now HHS is offering another option to non-profits and attempting to sell that as less burdensome than Form 700 on religious expression. That leaves HHS in the same position as they were in the Hobby Lobby case — providing clear evidence that they aren’t using the least-burdensome method by their own definition to address what they see as a compelling state interest.

Why did they put themselves in this trap? The Supreme Court will be hearing cases involving non-profits next term, including the Little Sisters of the Poor and even more dangerous cases for the HHS contraception mandate. The Obama administration clearly wants to moot those cases and gain a little time, hoping to wait out the challenges to the mandate and perhaps tire out the plaintiffs challenging it. The Family Research Council calls this new “accommodation” nothing more than the same old, same old. . .
Apparently, the Obama Administration thinks if they keep offering the same shit sandwich over and over,somebody will eventually eat it. Maybe they're just stalling until someone on the Supreme Court dies or quits.

Time to start worrying about Obamacare's effect on your tax return: ObamaCare Taking Bite Out of Tax Refunds. From the linked USA today piece:
If you count on your tax refund and you're one of the millions getting tax credits to help pay health insurance premiums under President Obama's law, it's not too early.

Here's why: If your income for 2014 is going to be higher than you estimated when you applied for health insurance, then complex connections between the health law and taxes can reduce or even eliminate your tax refund next year.

Maybe you're collecting more commissions in an improving economy. Or your spouse got a better job. It could trigger an unwelcome surprise.

The danger is that as your income grows, you don't qualify for as much of a tax credit. Any difference will come out of your tax refund, unless you have promptly reported the changes.

Nearly 7 million households have gotten health insurance tax credits, and major tax preparation companies say most of those consumers appear to be unaware of the risk. "More than a third of tax credit recipients will owe some money back, and (that) can lead to some pretty hefty repayment liabilities," said George Brandes, vice president for health care programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.
The major news networks and papers won't highlight this because they're simply democratic operatives with bylines.  If it happens to you, just remember who did it to you.

Colleges are adapting to Obamacare by increasing share of costs:
Institutions say complying with the Affordable Care Act has caused them to pass on some costs to employees, according to a new survey from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

Since the act began to take effect, some 20 percent of institutions have made changes to benefits in an effort to control associated costs, the survey says. About the same percentage of colleges are considering making changes, or making further changes, in the year ahead. Of those institutions that have made changes so far, 41 percent have increased employees’ share of premium costs. Some 27 percent have increased out-of-pocket limits, while about one-quarter increased in-network deductibles or dependent coverage costs, or both. Some 20 percent increased employees’ share of prescription drug costs.
But it's working, they keep telling us. I suppose that depends on your definition of working.  Yes, the working are paying a larger share to cover those who don't.

Abortion Coverage Mandatory in California Obamacare (can the rest of the states be far behind?)

The decision rests on the assumption that abortion is "medically necessary":
Health insurance companies in California may not refuse to cover the cost of abortions, state insurance officials have ruled in a reversal of policy stemming from the decision by two Catholic universities to drop elective abortions from their employee health plans.

Although the federal Affordable Care Act does not compel employers to provide workers with health insurance that includes abortion coverage, the director of California's Department of Managed Health Care said in a letter to seven insurance companies on Friday that the state Constitution and a 1975 state law prohibits them from selling group plans that exclude the procedure. The law in question requires such plans to encompass all "medically necessary" care.
Now, some abortions may be medically necessary, but many of them fall into the same category as liposuction, the removal of unwanted tissue for appearances and lifestyle.

Remember How Obamacare Is Supposedly No Longer a Campaign Issue?
Sure you do. Of course, the facts show that Obamacare remains very much a campaign issue–the unsubstantiated claims of Greg Sargent and Paul Krugman notwithstanding–and now, via InstaPundit, we have an indication that if anything, not enough is being made about the deleterious effects of health care “reform” . . .
This is a new wish/meme being promulgated by the democrats and the reigning media, that all's well with Obamacare, and that if ya'all people would just shut up about it, the democrats can sneak past the midterms with their Senate majority intact if somewhat diminished. Don't let it happen.

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