Insurers helped cheerlead the creation of Obamacare, with plenty of encouragement – and pressure – from Democrats and the Obama administration. As long as the Affordable Care Act included an individual mandate that forced Americans to buy its product, insurers offered political cover for the government takeover of the individual-plan marketplaces. With the prospect of tens of millions of new customers forced into the market for comprehensive health-insurance plans, whether they needed that coverage or not, underwriters saw potential for a massive windfall of profits.
Six years later, those dreams have failed to materialize. Now some insurers want taxpayers to provide them the profits to which they feel entitled — not through superior products and services, but through lawsuits.
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Insurers from Oregon to Pennsylvania, including a failed health-care co-operative and two long-established Blues plans have lost billions of dollars selling Obamacare policies. Now they are suing the federal government to recoup their losses. In a testament to industry desperation, insurers are asking federal judges to simply ignore a congressional ban on the payment of these corporate subsidies.
The regulatory atrocity that is Obamacare inspired this race to the courthouse. Despite billions in subsidies — to both low-income individuals and well-capitalized insurance companies — the industry has incurred big losses in the individual market.
In a paper published June 28 by the Mercatus Center, Brian Blase (Mercatus), Ed Haislmaier (Heritage Foundation), Seth Chandler (University of Houston), and Doug Badger (Galen Institute) used data derived from insurance-company regulatory filings to determine the extent and source of those losses. The study examined the performance of 174 insurers that sold qualified health plans (QHPs) in 2014 to both individuals and small groups (generally companies with 50 or fewer workers).
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The billboards went up quickly. The customers came in droves.
Then, in October, Arches collapsed as suddenly as it went up.
Now eight months after it was announced that the state’s only nonprofit insurance co-op would be dissolved, Utah hospitals are still waiting on about $33 million in outstanding claims that the Utah Department of Insurance says it likely cannot pay until 2017.
Officials with the insurance department say they are doing the best they can to create a “soft landing” for Arches after the federal government reneged on what was supposed to be a $11 million payment this summer.
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The GOP House blueprint for health reform repeals these taxes. Specifically, the report cites:
- the 3.8 percent bracket in the Medicare payroll and self-employment tax
- the 3.8 percent “net investment income tax” (NIIT) on savings and investment
- the additional 10 percentage point surtax for non-qualified health savings account (HSA) withdrawals
- the “medicine cabinet tax” which denies the use of pre-tax HSA, health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), and flexible spending account (FSA) dollars for the purchase of non-prescription, over-the-counter medicines
- the $2500 cap on medical FSA deferrals
- the “Cadillac plan” tax of 40 percent on high cost health insurance plans
- the “health insurance tax” (HIT)
- the tax penalties associated with the individual and employer mandates
- the medical device excise tax
- the industry tax on pharmaceutical companies
- the “high medical bills tax” which disallows an itemized deduction for medical expenses for millions of middle class families
- a tax on employers helping their retired employees purchase Medicare Part D plans
With time running out for the Obama administration to prove the success of the Affordable Care Act, officials are aggressively targeting a group that could help turn things around: young people.
Federal health officials announced Tuesday they will comb tax records to find 18-34 year-olds who paid the penalty stipulated under President Barack Obama’s health act for not buying health insurance and reach out to them directly with emails to urge them to avoid even higher penalties scheduled for this year. They also plan to heavily advertise the enrollment campaign, including a promotion with trendy ride-sharing service Lyft to offer discounted rides to enrollment events.
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ObamaCare officials are partnering with the IRS to help drive down uninsured rates among young people.
For the first time, the federal tax agency is working with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reach out directly to taxpayers who paid the required fee last year because they lacked coverage.
About 45 percent of people who paid the fee — or claimed an exemption, like financial hardship — were under 35, according to HHS.
The planned mailings will lay out options for coverage and include details about how to qualify for federal subsidies. HHS will also again partner with the ride-hailing service Lyft, which will offer discounts to customers who attend open enrollment sessions.
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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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Obamacare has invented a dangerous new way to hide federal spending, including more than $100 billion designed to look like tax cuts.
In defiance of standard United States government accounting practices (and the government’s standard definitions of terms), Obamacare labels its direct outlays to insurance companies “tax credits” (not outlays)—even though they don’t actually cut anyone’s taxes. In this way, Obamacare is masking some $104 billion in federal spending over a decade.
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The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that the total net subsidy provided by the federal government for people under the age of 65 will amount to approximately $660 billion in 2016. The CBO and JCT project that this subsidy will rise annually at a rate of 5.4 percent. The forecasted net subsidy for the 2017-2026 period discussed in the report is $8.9 trillion.
Most of the costs of these subsidies can be attributed to Medicaid and to employer-sponsored health insurance coverage for those under age 65. The latter cost arises primarily because health insurance premiums paid by employers are exempt from federal income and payroll taxes. These employment-based coverage subsidies are expected to increase to $460 billion in a decade and will total around $3.6 trillion during the 2017-2026 period.
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