Business groups were hoping a quick repeal of the Affordable Care Act would give employers more flexibility on health care and create momentum for priorities like a tax overhaul.
Friday’s decision by House GOP leaders and President Donald Trump to abandon a vote on the Republican health plan left them less certain on both fronts.
“This is a dismal failure,” said Juanita Duggan, chief executive of the National Federation of Independent Business, a group representing small businesses. “NFIB is officially unamused, and we’re not going to let them off the hook.”
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The 40% “Cadillac” Tax on expensive employer-sponsored health insurance is on a deathwatch because both parties in Congress dislike it. It would be best if Congress were to replace the Cadillac Tax with a simple and clear limitation on the tax preference for employer-paid premiums, as is called for the House GOP’s “Better Way” health plan. For decades, economists have complained that the open-ended tax break for employer-paid health insurance premiums is a major distortion in the marketplace. This approach is fair and promotes more transparency in the health care marketplace.
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Obamacare is collapsing. Its utter failures become more obvious by the day. We all remember the promises of Obamacare, chief among them that the “Affordable Care Act” would lower health care costs. The opposite has occurred. Despite the offer of subsidies through the exchanges, enrollment in Obamacare has been dismal. Younger, healthier individuals have little interest in paying exorbitant premiums for insurance plans that come with $5,000 deductibles. The result has been an unbalanced insurance pool where insurers must charge ever-increasing premiums to continue offering coverage.
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The Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent Employer Health Benefits Survey found that among firms with 50 or more full-time-equivalent workers (i.e., the one’s subject to Obamacare’s employer mandate):
“four percent of these firms reported changing some job classifications from full-time to part-time so employees in those jobs would not be eligible for health benefits”
“four percent of these firms reported that they reduced the number of employees they intended to hire because of the cost of providing health benefits” . , and 10% of firms reported doing just the opposite and converting part-time jobs to full-time jobs”
This is unequivocal empirical evidence that Obamacare has had some of the adverse effects on employment predicted for years by Obamacare critics: a shift towards part-time work and even a reduction in hiring. But according to the same survey, the latter impact was offset due to the 10% of employers who converted part-time jobs to full-time jobs in order to make them eligible for health benefits.
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Today, after years of hearings and speeches and debates, the Paul Ryan-led House of Representatives has done something it has not done before: it has released a comprehensive, 37-page proposal to reform nearly every federal health care program, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. No proposal is perfect—and we’ll get to the Ryan plan’s imperfections—but, all in all, we would have a far better health care system with the Ryan plan than we do today.
The first thing to know about the Ryan-led plan — part of a group of proposals called “A Better Way” — is that it’s not a bill written in legislative language. Nor is it a plan that has been endorsed by every House Republican.
Instead, it’s a 37-page white paper which describes, in a fair amount of detail, a kind of “conversation starter” that House GOP leadership hopes to have with its rank-and-file members, and with the public, in order to consolidate support around a more market-based approach to health reform.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan’s policy plan for health care, as expected, leans heavily on market forces, more so than the current system created by Obamacare. The proposal contains a host of previously proposed Republican ideas on health care, many of which are designed to drive people to private insurance markets.
Importantly for conservatives, as part of a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the current law’s mandates for individuals and insurers would disappear under the GOP plan. It would overhaul Medicare by transitioning to a premium support system under which beneficiaries would receive a set amount to pay for coverage. The plan also would alter Medicaid by implementing either per capita caps or block grants, based on a state’s preference.
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The number of part-time workers in jobs for economic reasons shot up by 468,000, apart from the 458,000 that left the workforce altogether. Slack work or business conditions accounted for 181,000 of these jobs, while another 77,000 could only find part-time work.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs have noticed this trend for some time, and put the blame on Obamacare.
“The evidence suggests that the [Affordable Care Act] has at least modestly elevated involuntary part-time employment,” Goldman Sachs economist Alec Philips wrote in a research note published on Wednesday. Obamacare had the greatest impact on industries that traditionally do not offer strong health insurance coverage, such as retail stores and the hospitality industry. Phillips noted that these have the highest levels of involuntary part-time workers, and believes that the ACA has forced “a few hundred thousand” to take cuts in hours or accept part-time work as a result.
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The Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate has at least modestly led to a rise in involuntary part-time employment, according to a Goldman Sachs study released Wednesday.
“We would estimate that a few hundred thousand workers might be working part-time involuntarily as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” said Alec Phillips, an economist at the investment bank, in a research note.
This is only a fraction of the 6.4 million workers employed part-time for economic reasons, he said, but would be a significant share of the “underemployment gap.”
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Here’s some bad news for the insurance industry: Unexpectedly generous corporate subsidies didn’t save companies selling ObamaCare policies from bleeding red ink. The worse news: Those subsidies are set to expire in 2017, meaning that insurers will have to make ends meet without billions in handouts.
Those are among the matters discussed in a study by the Mercatus Center, authored by Brian Blase, Edmund Haislmaier, and Doug Badger. Thestudy, based on detailed data derived from insurer regulatory filings for the 2014 benefit year, finds that companies that sold ObamaCare plans in the individual market lost more than $2.2 billion, despite receiving $6.7 billion (an average of $833 per enrollee) in “reinsurance” subsidies. Those reinsurance payments were 40 percent more generous on a per-enrollee basis than insurers had expected when they set their 2014 premiums.
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Even before President Obama leaves office, ObamaCare has begun unraveling.
The law was passed over the objections of a majority of Americans, it is still opposed by a majority of Americans — and their opposition has been vindicated. Last week, UnitedHealth Group announced that, after estimated losses of more than $1 billion for 2015 and 2016 under ObamaCare, the company was pulling out of most of its ill-fated exchanges. In fact, commercial insurers across the country are hemorrhaging money on ObamaCare at alarming rates.
The president promised these insurers taxpayer bailouts if they lost money, but Congress in its wisdom passed legislation barring the use of taxpayer dollars to prop up the insurers. Without the bailouts, commercial insurers are being forced to eat their losses — while more than half of the ObamaCare nonprofit insurance cooperatives created under the law failed.
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