“Developments in the last ten days make it more likely that the entire U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will agree to hear the leading challenge of the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) to the Obamacare individual-mandate penalty — and whoever does not prevail at this level will have a compelling case to take to the Supreme Court. An order from the D.C. Circuit last week, instructing the Obama administration to respond to PLF’s petition for rehearing, and an impressive set of amicus briefs supporting PLF’s petition filed yesterday confirm that this is no ordinary litigation.
Readers will recall that Chief Justice John Roberts joined four justices in 2012 to hold that the individual mandate was not authorized by the Commerce Clause or other congressional power, but he sided with four other justices in holding that the penalty for not buying insurance could be read as a tax, pursuant to Congress’s taxing power. No judge below had accepted the tax theory, so the debate over the tax issue in the Supreme Court briefs was truly brief. The Court was careful to write that Congress still had to comply with all constitutional requirements for the exercise of its taxing power, so the initial Obamacare ruling did not purport to end litigation that raised that and other issues.”

“Insurance consultants were shocked recently to learn that Obama administration rules allow large companies to offer 2015 worker health plans that don’t include hospital benefits. Now the administration is concerned too.
Treasury Department officials are preparing to reverse course on an official calculator that permits plans without hospital coverage to pass the health law’s strictest standard for large employers, said industry lawyers who have spoken to them. These sources expect the administration to disallow such coverage by the end of the year.”

“There are dozens of ways to escape Obamacare’s individual mandate tax — but good luck figuring that out come tax season.
Tens of millions of Americans can avoid the fee if they qualify for exemptions like hardship or living in poverty, but the convoluted process has some experts worried individuals will be tripped up by lost paperwork, the need to verify information with multiple sources and long delays that extend beyond tax season.
“It’s not going to be pretty,” said George Brandes, vice president of health care programs at Jackson Hewitt, a tax prep firm. “Just because you theoretically qualify for hardship, or another exemption, doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.””

“It’s been more than four, long painful years since the Affordable Care Act became law.
When it passed, many believed small-business owners and their employees would suffer under its weight. That’s why my organization, the National Federation of Independent Business, tried to stop it by suing the federal government.
Since the Supreme Court’s disappointing decision in 2012 to uphold Obamacare, the results for small business continue to be alarmingly bad or disastrous.”

“President Obama said healthcare costs are rising for Indiana steel workers because employers are not “shopping” correctly for insurance plans during an event at Millennium Steel Service in Princeton, Ind., on Friday.
“We are seeing almost a double-digit increase in health-care costs every year,” General Manager Mihir Paranjape said. “Do you think that trend is going to go down, and what can we do to control that trend?”
“That’s really interesting, you’re gonna have to talk to Henry,” Obama said, referring to the company’s CEO, Henry Jackson. “The question is whether you guys are shopping effectively enough.”
Obama said healthcare premiums were rising at the slowest rate in 50 years and that the higher-ups at Millennium Steel were simply not aware of the options they have in the healthcare market to ensure they are getting the best deal.”

“As Rich noted the other day, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that the uninsured haven’t been rushing to sign up for insurance under Obamacare. From the WSJ:
Early signals suggest the majority of the 2.2 million people who sought to enroll in private insurance through new marketplaces through Dec. 28 were previously covered elsewhere, raising questions about how swiftly this part of the health overhaul will be able to make a significant dent in the number of uninsured.
Insurers, brokers and consultants estimate at least two-thirds of those consumers previously bought their own coverage or were enrolled in employer-backed plans.
Note, this is after decades of liberals insisting that the uninsured were desperate to get insurance and years of Obama officials and defenders swearing that this law would make it happen. Indeed, in order to make it happen the Democrats blew up the entire health-care industry casting millions of people off their existing insurance plans. When those people went to exchanges to sign up for new ones, the Obama administration took credit for it, as if they were doing something for the uninsured. But barely 1 in 10 of new Obamacare enrollees were previously uninsured.”

“On November 15, open enrollment in the Obamacare exchanges begins again. Before the second act of our national healthcare drama commences, let’s review what we’ve learned in Act I.
For starters, everyone now knows that federal officials are challenged when it comes to setting up a website. But they’ve demonstrated the ability to dole out a huge amount of taxpayers’ money for millions of people signing up for Medicaid, a welfare program. And they’ve proved they can send hundreds of millions of federal taxpayers’ dollars to their bureaucratic counterparts in states, like Maryland and Oregon, that can’t manage their own exchanges. But there are many other lessons to be gleaned from Year One of Obamacare.”

“Among President Obama’s many high-profile health care promises, there is this gem from his 2009 address to Congress: “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits–either now or in the future.”
But according to Republican staff on Senate Budget Committee, those dimes are starting to pile up. The Senate staff report says that the Affordable Care Act will add $131 billion to the federal deficits over the period 2015 to 2024.”

“As we have written before, Arkansas’ “Private Option” ObamaCare Medicaid expansion has been a disaster for taxpayers, patients and politicians alike. Costs have run over budget every single month since the program’s launch. The Medicaid director who spearheaded the program abruptly resigned to “pursue other opportunities.” The program’s chief legislative architect, a three-term Republican state representative, lost his primary for an open Senate seat to a political newcomer, despite a significant fundraising advantage. And it’s a disaster for patients as well: the ObamaCare expansion plan is already prioritizing coverage for able-bodied adults over care for truly needy patients like Chloe Jones.”

“There are dozens of ways to escape Obamacare’s individual mandate tax — but good luck figuring that out come tax season.
Tens of millions of Americans can avoid the fee if they qualify for exemptions like hardship or living in poverty, but the convoluted process has some experts worried individuals will be tripped up by lost paperwork, the need to verify information with multiple sources and long delays that extend beyond tax season.
“It’s not going to be pretty,” said George Brandes, vice president of health care programs at Jackson Hewitt, a tax prep firm. “Just because you theoretically qualify for hardship, or another exemption, doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.””