A House Republican alternative to Obamacare is coming this week, and some reports suggest it will include a refundable tax credit to subsidize health insurance. This would present some tough political and policy choices about whether and how to pay for a new program of tax credits.
Changing the tax treatment of employer-provided health insurance could provide one of the largest potential sources of financing for a new refundable credit. It also would bring hefty trade-offs. On the political side, capping the deductibility of employer-based health plans to finance refundable credits that are considered government spending would not please some Republicans. Put another way: Repealing Obamacare’s tax increases to replace them with other revenue increases is unlikely to go over well with conservative voters.
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Democrats should push for universal health coverage ahead of the November election, several health care advocates urged the committee drafting the Democratic National Committee’s platform at a recent session focused on health policy.
Their liberal health care proposals echo a similar theme from an environment-themed session the same day, in which activists criticized DNC members for not pushing harder on climate change.
The hearing was part of a series of regional events held by the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee “designed to engage every voice in the party.”
Too many people are still uninsured six years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, said many of the advocates who spoke before the committee in Phoenix on Friday. Still more are underinsured, they said, and people are struggling to pay for rising premiums and to afford prescription drugs.
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Oscar Health was going to be a new kind of insurance company. Started in 2012, just in time to offer plans to people buying insurance under the new federal health care law, the business promised to use technology to push less costly care and more consumer-friendly coverage.
“We’re trying to build something that’s going to turn the industry on its head,” Joshua Kushner, one of the company’s founders, said in 2014, as Oscar began to enroll its first customers.
These days, though, Oscar is more of a case study in how brutally tough it is to keep a business above water in the state marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act. And its struggles highlight a critical question about the act: Can insurance companies run a viable business in the individual market?
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A federal judge recently ruled that the Obama administration violated the Constitution by spending $7 billion on subsidies for insurance companies without Congress’s permission. Worse still, the administration knew all along that it was flouting the law.
If the ruling is upheld, Americans will face higher premiums and fewer choices in the health insurance market. If it comes to that, they’ll have President Obama to thank.
At issue are the Affordable Care Act’s “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies. Obamacare’s “essential benefits” mandates require all exchange policies to cover a long list of services, from maternity care to substance abuse treatment to speech pathology counseling. In a normal market, insurers would charge patients higher premiums, deductibles, and copayments to cover the costs of these extensive benefits.
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