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.”

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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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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.

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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.

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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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Roughly 8 million people faced ObamaCare individual mandate penalties this year totaling more than $3 billion, an analysis of the latest IRS data reveals.

Despite the controversy and high-stakes legal battle that has surrounded the individual mandate, the scope of the penalties paid this year has gone unreported by major news outlets as attention has focused on ObamaCare’s latest and most glaring problems: weak enrollment, surging premiums, and insurer losses that have provoked the exit of UnitedHealth, Aetna and Humana from most state exchanges.

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Some of the nation’s largest companies are already taking steps to avoid ObamaCare’s “Cadillac tax,” according to a business survey released Wednesday.

About 12 percent of companies said they have taken steps to avoid being hit by the much-maligned tax on high-priced health insurance plans, which goes into effect in 2020.

Employers say they have either shifted more costs to workers, dropped their pricier options or picked plans with fewer providers, according to the annual employer benefits survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

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Steve Banke employs 40 people at 3-Points, a small IT outsourcing company he founded almost 15 years ago. And he wants those workers and their families to have strong health insurance options.

Employees at the firm, based in Oak Brook, Ill., can choose between two types of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois plans: a PPO with a broader network of hospitals and doctors or a cheaper HMO network. Banke’s company covers a percentage of the premiums, and those costs have risen rapidly over the past several years, often more than 12% annually, he said.

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Two bills cracking down on ObamaCare’s individual mandate are being fast-tracked through the Senate, setting up a potential election-year fight over the healthcare law.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) placed two GOP bills on the Senate calendar Thursday. The procedural move, known as Rule 14, allows the proposals to skip over the committee process.
One measure, from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would exempt people from ObamaCare’s individual mandate if they live in a county with fewer than two options for coverage. The second proposal, from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), would exempt people from the individual mandate if a state’s average premium increases by more than 10 percent.

A group of Republican senators on Wednesday introduced a bill to exempt people from ObamaCare’s individual mandate if they live in a county with one or no options for coverage.

 The lawmakers, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), argue that it is wrong for people to face ObamaCare’s financial penalty for lacking insurance if there is only one insurer offering coverage in their area, or none at all.
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