ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR and JACK GILLUM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A little-known side to the government’s health insurance website is prompting renewed concerns about privacy, just as the White House is calling for stronger cybersecurity protections for consumers.

It works like this: When you apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, dozens of data companies may be able to tell that you are on the site. Some can even glean details such as your age, income, ZIP code, whether you smoke or if you are pregnant.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Filing a federal tax return is about to get more complicated for millions of families because of President Barack Obama’s health law. But they shouldn’t expect much help from the Internal Revenue Service.

Got a question for the IRS? Good luck reaching someone by phone. The tax agency says only half of the 100 million people expected to call this year will be able to reach a person.

By Ben Casselman

On Friday, I posted this chart, showing that nearly all the job growth since the recession ended has been in full-time jobs. Part-time employment is pretty much flat.

I wasn’t trying to make a political point, but many readers saw one anyway. Specifically, they saw it as a refutation of a frequent Republican talking point: that the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” is killing full-time jobs because it requires employers to offer health insurance to their full-time (but not their part-time) workers.

Bruce Bialosky

Deluged with catastrophes, court challenges and criticism, Obamacare (ACA) has had a controversial life to date. Yet it is ready to enter a completely new phase where the implementation gets shifted to the Internal Revenue Service – America’s favorite three words. If you liked the health care plan up to now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — If you’re among the millions of consumers who got financial help for health insurance last year under President Barack Obama’s law, better keep an eye on your mailbox.

The administration said Monday it has started sending out tax reporting forms that you’ll need to fill out your 2014 return. Like W-2s for health care, they’re for people who got health insurance tax credits provided under the law.

Services to taxpayers are likely to drop to their worst levels since 2001, when the Internal Revenue Service first started measuring its performance, the agency’s taxpayer advocate said in her annual report released on Wednesday.

Five years of budget-cutting have “brought about a devastating erosion of taxpayer service, harming taxpayers individually and collectively,” wrote Nina E. Olson, who leads the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office within the I.R.S.

In the next few days, consumers who enrolled in qualified health plans through the marketplaces in 2014 will begin receiving IRS form 1095-As from the marketplaces, be they the federally facilitated marketplaces (FFMs) or state-operated marketplaces. The form 1095-A is the form that provides individuals who have enrolled in qualified health plans through the marketplaces the information they need to fill out form 8962, which in turn is the form enrollees will need to reconcile the advance premium tax credits (APTC) they received in 2014 with the premium tax credits they were actually entitled to. The marketplace also reports the information on the 1095-A to the IRS.

Mere days into a Republican Congress, Democrats are making charges of ideological bias when it comes to the majority’s handling of the Congressional Budget Office. A group of leading Senate Democrats wrote a letter to House Speaker John Boehner specifically noting that “a CBO director should not be required to revise the score of the Affordable Care Act in order to please partisan interests.” It’s an ironic charge, given that it’s far from partisan to question why the CBO failed to perform analyses that could have predicted the collapse of an $86 billion Obamacare program — exactly what happened under its current director, Doug Elmendorf.

New York Times correspondent Abby Goodnough asks if the latest legal challenges to ObamaCare are signaling a divide within the party or are Republicans still recovering from getting burned when the ACA went to the Supreme Court last time?”
About 5 million middle-income people in 36 states currently are receiving subsidies for health insurance through the federal exchanges. Since 87 percent of them are receiving subsidies to purchase coverage, many likely would no longer be able to afford coverage.
Ms. Goodenough reports that after the health overhaul law was passed in 2010, Republicans on both the state and federal level spoke with one voice flatly rejecting ObamaCare. However, in the years following ObamaCare’s passage while the majority of governor’s still remain critical of the law, nine governors have expanded their Medicaid programs and four more governors are considering Medicaid expansion this year at the urging of hospitals and business groups.
In the past months, a number of conservative groups and political leaders have filed Amicus briefs in the King vs. Burwell challenge that will be heard by the Supreme Court on March 4. As a result, Ms. Goodenough reports that new attention is being drawn to the divisions within the Republican Party over the law. . Almost two dozen briefs were filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in the King case, but she says “shockingly few state officials” signed on.
One of the few exceptions was the Amicus brief filed by the Galen Institute which had 19 Republican state legislators in Tennessee and two in Ohio join. Other notable briefs include one filed by six Republican state attorneys general- in Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia. Divides in the party can be seen within states like Florida where Senator Marco Rubio who signed a brief with 14 members of Congress, but Florida’s Republican Attorney General, Pam Bondi, did not join in the States brief.

On Sunday evening, CBS’ 60 Minutes did a feature story on Steven Brill’s new book, America’s Bitter Pill, in which Brill complains that Obamacare didn’t do enough to tackle the exorbitantly high price of U.S. hospital care. “Obamacare does zero to change any of that,” says Brill. That’s not exactly right. What Brill—and CBS—don’t tell you—is that Obamacare is driving hospitals to charge you more than they already do.

The U.S. hospital industry is crony capitalism at its finest