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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The Senate spending bill to fund the Department of Health and Human Services and the Labor Department in 2017 will maintain Affordable Care Act funding, according to a senior GOP aide.

“We will fund all of the things we need to fund to try to keep it bipartisan,” the aide told Morning Consult, adding that this means some Republicans, specifically Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), will accuse appropriators of funding Obamacare.

The Senate’s Appropriations subcommittee on labor and health will vote on the proposal Tuesday. The full committee is slated to advance the bill on Thursday.

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The IRS raised concerns in early 2014 about the legality of certain ObamaCare payments that Republicans are now challenging in a lawsuit, according to a deposition from a former agency official.

David Fisher, who was the IRS’s chief risk officer, told the House Ways and Means Committee that agency officials questioned whether the Affordable Care Act provided the authority to make certain payments to insurers without an appropriation from Congress.

Most senior IRS officials ended up concluding that the payments were legal after a meeting with the White House to hear its legal justification, and the administration eventually went ahead with disbursing the funds.

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Yesterday, the New York Times detailed the highly irregular manner preceding the administration’s decision to make the CSR payments once Congress refused to grant the White House’s request for an appropriation. Despite strong disagreements over the legality of these payments among IRS employees, top political appointees with the administration, including then-Attorney General Eric Holder and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, signed off.

At a congressional deposition, David Fisher, an IRS financial risk officer at the time, testified that the process behind the authorization of the CSR payments was unusual. Moreover, he testified that the “cost-sharing reduction payments are not linked to the Internal Revenue Code, as far as I could tell, directly anywhere. There is no linkage to the permanent appropriation, nor is there any link to any other appropriation that was indicating what account these funds should be paid from.”

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House Republicans say that the Obama administration is ignoring subpoenas for documents related to ObamaCare spending they call illegal.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tuesday calling on it to comply. The committees issued the subpoenas on March 29, but Republicans say they have received only one heavily redacted page of one document from HHS in response.

“Your refusal to provide the requested documents and information raises serious concerns about the Department’s willingness to be accountable for the lawful execution of laws passed by Congress,” Upton and Brady write to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

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A federal district judge ruled this month, in a lawsuit brought by House Republicans, that the Obama administration lacks the authority to pay cost-sharing subsidies to health insurers if Congress has not appropriated the funds. Some civil servants in the administration may agree.

The House Ways and Means Committee released a deposition Tuesday of David Fisher, former chief risk officer for the Internal Revenue Service. In it, Mr. Fisher recounts a series of events in late 2013 and early 2014 regarding the source and legality of Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies to insurers.

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