According to the CBO, able-bodied adults on Medicaid receive about $6,000 a year in government health-insurance benefits. They pay no premiums and minimal copays. You’d think that eligible individuals would need no prodding to sign up for such a benefit.

And yet, according to its analysis of the GOP ObamaCare replacement, the CBO believes that there are five million Americans who wouldn’t sign up for Medicaid if it weren’t for ObamaCare’s individual mandate. You read that right: Five million people need the threat of a $695 fine to sign up for a free program that offers them $6,000 worth of subsidized health insurance.

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The Republican House health-insurance reform bill would replace Obamacare with a more consumer-driven system. Rather than having many provisions take effect in 2020, Congress should pass it soon and make it effective next year. But it is getting attacked from both the right and the left. What’s missing from the news coverage is improvements in the new bill. Here are six:

1. No employer mandate.

2. Refundable tax credits to buy health insurance.

3. Expansion of HSAs and FSAs.

4. Move Medicaid patients to regular coverage.

5. Lower costs for the young.

6. Incentives to keep coverage.

. . .

Following an Obama administration order, the IRS had been set to require taxpayers to indicate on line 61 on their form 1040s whether they had maintained health coverage in 2016 or paid the penalty. The IRS would have rejected returns if taxpayers failed to report their coverage status. But the IRS announced this week it would not reject returns that failed to check the appropriate ObamaCare boxes—an early indication of the administration’s efforts to provide relief from ACA mandates.

Filling out this portion will be optional:

“This year, the IRS put in place system changes [initiated by the Obama administration] that would reject tax returns during processing in instances where the taxpayer didn’t provide…information [attesting that the taxpayer had health insurance].

“The recent executive order [issued on day one of the Trump administration] directed federal agencies to exercise authority and discretion available to them to reduce potential burden.‎ Consistent with that, the IRS has decided to make changes that would continue to allow electronic and paper returns to be accepted for processing in instances where a taxpayer doesn’t indicate their coverage status.”

. . .

Trump administration officials have a lot of work ahead of them, but also a tremendous opportunity to make history. Returning the executive branch to its proper role under the Constitution will also spur Congress to enact reforms that make health care better, more affordable, and more secure.

Michael F. Cannon, Director of Health Policy at the Cato Institute, outlines 14 ways Trump-administration officials can restore the Constitution’s limits on executive power, provide relief to Americans suffering under Obamacare, and hasten repeal.

. . .


No one’s interested in trying to save Obamacare’s centerpiece as it faces certain death.

Even as the healthcare industry heavily lobbies Republicans to keep the Affordable Care Act’s other main components, such as its subsidies and Medicaid expansion, doctors, hospitals and insurers are stepping away from the law’s individual mandate for people to buy insurance or pay a fine.

Not even Democrats are campaigning to keep the mandate, which was once viewed as the key to making Obamacare successful. The thought was that the mandate would prompt enough healthy young people to buy coverage to keep premiums stable. But nearly everyone agrees it didn’t work as well as intended. And repealing it is top of list for Republicans.

. . .

President Obama will be leaving office with the Affordable Care Act, his signature policy initiative, in deep peril.  An incoming Republican president and Congress, concerned with the cost of ACA exchange plans jumping by an average 25 percent next year and employee health care costs rising, have pledged to repeal the law.  For his part, the President sought to shift the blame for rising out-of-pocket cost from the ACA’s flaws to employers and insurers.  During a recent speech defending the law, he said the ACA has had no impact on the affordability of employer-provided health care benefits “except to make it a better value.”  As the President put it, “if your premium is going up, it’s not because of Obamacare.  It’s because of your employer or your insurer — even though sometimes they try to blame Obamacare for why the rates go up.  It’s not because of any policy of the Affordable Care Act that the rates are going up.”

. . .

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.

. . .

The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow people who enrolled in failed health insurance “co-ops” under the Affordable Care Act to skip this year’s penalty for not having coverage. The Republican-backed bill passed on a mostly party-line vote of 258-165, but 16 Democrats broke with their party to support the measure. “It’s just wrong, it’s wrong, to hold these working families financially responsible for a co-op’s failure because it went under due to factors beyond their control,” said Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-LA).  President Obama says he will veto the bill if it reaches his desk.

. . .

The bitter, long-running fight over ObamaCare’s individual and employer mandates is all over but the shouting.

The problems plaguing the ObamaCare exchanges as enrollment lags, premiums spike and insurers from Aetna to UnitedHealth head for the exits have reached a critical stage, even as the penalties are about to spike for far too many millions of people who get a bad deal from the law. This year, 8 million people paid the individual mandate penalty — not too far from the 10.6 million who had coverage via the exchanges at the end of June. The status quo won’t survive the inevitable political backlash, nor should it. ObamaCare is like a car with a bad muffler: It can keep traveling down the road, even as everyone it passes begs the driver to pull over and get it serviced.

. . .

Yahoo Finance’s Ethan Wolff-Mann, who may have the best name in journalism, writes it’s not true that ObamaCare has caused employers to reduce workers’ hours because the new Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research Educational Trustsurvey found “a whopping 7% of employers with more than 50 employees actually gave part-timers full-time jobs since Obamacare was officially launched in 2013. Only 2% of employers cut full-timers to part-time.” Leaving aside the question of whether 7 percent is a whopping figure, the figures Wolff-Mann cites don’t necessarily support his claim.

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