By Chris Jacobs
We’ve seen few administrative controversies with Obamacare’s second open-enrollment season, but as a Wall Street Journal article noted last week, the start of the 2014 tax-filing season could bring a new wave of public discontent.
This tax-filing season brings the first enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate–the complexity of which could become a boon for tax-preparation firms. The instructions for completing the mandate exemption form run 12 pages, list 19 types of exemptions (with multiple codes), and include worksheets that may require individuals to go to their state exchange’s Web site to find the monthly premiums that will determine whether they had access to “affordable” coverage.

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The outrage was swift and loud. Millions of people were feared to be in danger of losing their health insurance last year because their plans did not comply with the Affordable Care Act..

To keep people covered and quell consumer anger, President Barack Obama and many states allowed people to renew their old plans temporarily — including 73,000 in Maryland.

But that offer has expired and now people like Raymond Liu have been thrust onto health exchanges where they must purchase new plans. Many are finding higher premiums or less coverage, as they worried would happen.

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By Tevi Troy
The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, has had a tough run of it since being signed into law nearly five years ago. It has faced constitutional challenges, voters ousting congressional Democrats who supported it, and the disastrous rollout of its federal website in October 2013. This past fall, supporters launched a public-relations campaign dedicated to the proposition that things were finally going well for ObamaCare’s 7 million sign-ups, but their campaign was derailed when the Obama administration admitted that it had added 400,000 dental patients to the roster of health-insurance enrollees to falsely claim it had reached the 7 million number.

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By Grace-Marie Turner

The Internal Revenue Service usurped its authority and overturned longstanding norms of federalism in ruling that health insurance subsidies could be available through federally-created exchanges, the Galen Institute and state legislators argued in an Amicus brief submitted Monday in the pending King v. Burwell lawsuit.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on March 4, and a decision is likely by June.

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Jeryl Bier
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is looking for vendors to run its “National Data Warehouse,” a database for “capturing, aggregating, and analyzing information” related to beneficiary and customer experiences with Medicare and the federal Obamacare marketplaces. Although the database primarily consists of quality control metrics related to individuals’ interactions with customer service, potential contractors are to “[d]emonstrate … experience with scalability and security in protecting data and information with customer, person-sensitive information including Personal Health Information and Personally Identifiable information (personal health records, etc.).” Vendors are also instructed that one of the requirements of a possible future contract would be “[e]nsuring that all products developed and delivered adhere to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance standards.”

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The new Republican Congress may not be able to repeal and replace Obamacare entirely, but it could make substantial progress by targeting the health law’s key structural components.

This November’s electoral wave reopened and widened the strategic playing field for critics of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republican control of both houses of Congress, plus larger majorities of state governors and state legislatures present both opportunities and challenges to move beyond rhetorical opposition and advance changes in national health policy. Initial speculation tends to focus more on tactical considerations on Capitol Hill: which items are easiest to pass in the Senate, how to use budget reconciliation, and which votes will “look good” politically even if vetoed by President Obama.

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By Megan McArdle: While I was away last week, Vermont decided to scuttle its single-payer health-care plans. I predicted as much six months ago, for one simple reason: A single-payer system would cost too much. When faced with the choice of imposing double-digit payroll taxes or dropping his cherished single-payer plan, the governor of Vermont blinked.

“But Megan!” I hear you cry. “Single-payer systems are cheaper, not more expensive! Look at Europe!”

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The one state that not only embraced Obamacare but insisted on going beyond it to a full single-payer system was Vermont, the haven of hippies and expatriate New Yorkers, which has become one of the most liberal states in the nation. In 2011, it adopted a form of neighboring Canada’s government-financed health care and promised to implement it by 2017. (And Jonathan Gruber was a key architect of this plan as well as of Obamacare.) This week, however, Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, admitted the state couldn’t afford the plan’s $2 billion price tag and consequent sky-high taxes, and pulled the plug. The lessons for Obamacare are obvious and profound.

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Avik Roy: Last week, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin (D.) announced that he was pulling the plug on his four-year quest to impose single-payer, government-run health care on the residents of his state. “In my judgment,” said Shumlin at a press conference, “the potential economic disruption and risks would be too great to small businesses, working families, and the state’s economy.” The key reasons for Shumlin’s reversal are important to understand. They explain why the dream of single-payer health care in the U.S. is dead for the foreseeable future—but also why Obamacare will be difficult to repeal.

Leading left-wing economists worked on Vermont plan

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Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus: Fifty-two percent of Americans say they find basic medical care affordable, but that’s down from 61 percent last December. Today, for 46 percent of Americans, paying for medical care is a hardship, up 10 points.

Similarly, just over half of Americans are at least somewhat satisfied with their health care costs, while 43 percent are dissatisfied.

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