Remember the ObamaCare Website? It’s Still Not Finished. Your Money & Personal Info Are at Risk
First we had the website roll out disaster. It turns out the back end of the website still doesn’t work. That’s the part that manages the payments to the insurance companies. Oh well.There is something about government and large computer problems that an enterprising mathematician needs to study. They seem incapable of actually getting to grips with the scale, and the simultaneous need to make things secure. It doesn't help that the current administration just waves its hands and assume everything government tries will come out well the first time with no direction.
Latest on the tech front, the Chinese hacked into the Federal Office of Personnel Management database and surfed around in there for at least year. If you’re a federal employee, and maybe a member of the military or a veteran, the Chinese know more about you than your spouse does. A lot more.
And, it turns out that all of your ObamaCare information – your medical histories and all that stuff – is open to any enterprising hacker. We’re shocked.
All that may concern you, but it’s not a big deal to the insurance companies or the Obama administration.
The Obama administration is making billions in payments to health insurers under Obamacare without calculating the exact amount companies are owed, according to a federal audit released Tuesday.In other words, the Obama administration just guesses at how much the insurance companies should get and writes them a check. You can bet your last dollar they aren’t being underpaid.
Obamacare’s premium subsidies are paid each month directly to insurance companies, to ease the burden of health coverage to eligible customers in the health law’s government exchanges.
The Media Doesn’t Want Americans To Know Anything About King v. Burwell
According to a new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 7 in 10 Americans have heard little or nothing about King v. Burwell, the U.S. Supreme Court case that will, any day now, decide the fate of Obamacare’s health insurance subsidies for millions of Americans. Yet 63 percent of those surveyed also say that if the court rules against the government, Congress should act to keep those subsidies in place.You will rarely go wrong to assume the news is biased in favor of the democrats.
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But the media isn’t really interested in informing the debate with such pernicious facts. That’s why coverage of Burwell has focused almost exclusively on those who might lose subsidies and what congressional Republicans will do about it. The law’s defenders in the media and academia don’t want that to happen, so the polls they concoct assume the Burwell challengers are trying to undermine the law and Congress must do something to restore those subsidies.
Remember that the next time you see a poll about Burwell (or any other politically-charged issue) that doesn’t make any sense. Chances are, pollsters are begging the question—and doing it to keep Americans in the dark.
House GOP has a post-SCOTUS Obamacare plan
We knew this was coming. If the Supreme Court holds in King v. Burwellthat the IRS illegally provided subsidies to Obamacare customers in states with federally-established exchanges and it doesn’t stay its decision, then such subsidies will almost immediately halt for millions of Americans. That is going to be quite painful for many Americans’ bottom lines, and that pain is going to be blamed on Republicans.It's a hard knot to untangle, but before we cut it, we have to make sure the boat's tied up well.
Enter House GOP:
House Republicans appear to be coalescing behind a plan that would give states the option of keeping ObamaCare subsidies if the Supreme Court rules against the healthcare law.Let’s break this down a little more. First, the good news: as part of the package, the employer and individual mandates would be immediately repealed. States could opt out of the rest of the Obamacare regulatory system starting in 2016. That’s about it for the good news.
The plan, presented Wednesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would give block grants to states that want them, according to lawmakers who attended a briefing. States would get to choose how to spend the money to cover people in their state. The grants would last for two years, giving the next president a chance to enact an alternative to ObamaCare.
Now the part that hardcore conservatives (including my own coblogger, Drew M.) are going to hate: the plan is to “fix” Obamacare so that subsidies can continue to be provided for the rest of 2015, unless the Supreme Court stays its own decision for the same period. States that opt out in 2016 get block grants in the same amount as what their Obamacare customers would have gotten in subsidies, which the opt-out states can use to set up their own health systems as they see fit. Insert some mumbling about federalism and laboratories of democracy and the GOP’s historic strength among state legislatures and in governors’ mansions and you can see why the House GOP likes this idea. However, individuals in states that don’t opt out—that is to say, blue states and states with risk-averse GOP governors—continue to get subsidies just as they do now, but can use that money to purchase health insurance both on or off the federally-established exchanges.
Here’s the kicker: the whole thing, both for states that opt out and those that don’t, comes to a screeching halt in 2017, when the money portions of the deal sunset. This gives our next president an enormous headache right out of the gate and nevermind if he or she had planned to do something else in the first year.
Some House Democrats Join Republicans to Repeal Part of Obamacare
With the support of nearly 50 Democrats, the House passed legislation Thursday to repeal the medical device tax—a much-despised part of Obamacare.It always seemed like a remarkably stupid tax. You should tax what you want less of and subsidize that which you want more of. Do you want more and more medical devices or not?
The bill came to the floor as Capitol Hill anxiously awaits the decision in a Supreme Court case that could potentially change the future of Obamacare. Lawmakers are using that extra adrenaline to put their energy into the war on words regarding Obamacare's success or failure.
Most likely, this bill just makes a statement about the law itself.
"This tax is a prime example of Obamacare's flawed priorities," wrote House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan in a statement released shortly after the vote.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill, but that didn't stop 46 Democrats from joining with the GOP majority to pass it, 280-140.
Republicans aren't giving up hope of it being signed into law—perhaps in the future as part of a bill in response if the Supreme Court limits Obamacare's federal subsidies in the King v. Burwell case.
ObamaCare’s Oligopoly Wave
. . . the economics of ObamaCare reward scale over competition. Benefits are standardized and premiums are de facto price-controlled. With margins compressed to commodity levels, buying more consumers via mergers is simpler than appealing to them with better products, to the extent the latter is still legal. Synergies across insurer combinations to reduce administrative overhead and other expenses also look better for shareholders.Use the "google trick" to read the whole thing.
The mergers reflect the reality that government—Medicaid managed care, Medicare Advantage and the ObamaCare exchanges—is now the artery of insurance profits, not the private economy. The feds “happen to be, for most of us now, our largest customer,” Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said this month at a Goldman Sachs conference.
Mr. Bertolini added: “So there is a relationship you need to figure out there if you’re going to have a sustained positive relationship with your biggest customer. And we can all take our own political point of view of whether it’s right or wrong, but in the end-analysis, they’re paying us a lot of money and they have a right to give us some insight into how they think we should run our business.” Such domestication is part of ObamaCare’s goal of political control, and it may well be that only fewer, larger and more centralized insurers can survive financially.
Will Obama Intimidate Roberts, Supreme Court On ObamaCare?
. . . Once again, as in 2012, the president sounded a strikingly familiar tone. "If ... you have a contorted reading of the statute ... it would be disruptive," he contended. He went on to say that a "twisted" interpretation of the statute adverse to his position was "a bad idea," noting he was "optimistic" that the court would ultimately "play it straight" — Obamaspeak for "agree with me."It's pretty clear that the law was written to try to bribe states to create their own markets. Anyone who tries to argue otherwise ignores a lot of inconvenient evidence to the contrary. Congress should have to fix it's own mistakes. What, the democrats don't control Congress now? Too damn bad.
Once again, the focus has been on the chief justice. During oral argument in March, Roberts was relatively subdued. But Solicitor General Donald Verrilli mentioned that if the court were to hold against the IRS, "the tax credits would be cut off immediately, and you will have very significant, very adverse effects immediately for millions of people."
Justice Samuel Alito cut him off and offered a quick solution. "Would it not be possible," he wondered, "to stay the (order of the court) until the end of this tax year, as we have done in other cases?" That is, couldn't the court simply postpone the effective date of its decision to give Congress the time to correct any deficiency? Verrilli had no choice but to concede his point.