Some of my colleagues are blasting the Republican leadership for delaying three of ObamaCare’s taxes as part of the $1.14 trillion end-of-the-year tax extender and spending package scheduled for a House vote on Friday.
The legislation provides a two-year delay in the “Cadillac” tax on high-cost health insurance policies that labor unions were pleading to repeal; a two-year delay in the medical device tax that is drying up research budgets in this critical industry; and a one-year delay in the Health Insurance Tax (HIT).
Health insurers nabbed a victory in the $1 trillion spending bill unveiled late Tuesday night, earning a one-year freeze on the so-called premium tax. The tax has been strongly opposed by insurance companies and business groups, who argue that the cost of the tax is passed on to workers in the form of higher premiums.
There has been some interesting coverage lately about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful effort to ensure that taxpayers were not on the hook for excess losses incurred by insurers participating in Obamacare’s exchanges. Today, however, two Associated Press reporters alleged that this victory against the law was one that Rubio “didn’t deliver.” But the facts show that Rubio is right, and the AP is wrong.
The House reached a deal late Tuesday on a $1.1 trillion spending bill and a huge package of tax breaks. Throughout Tuesday, major components of the spending legislation appeared to be falling into place, including an agreement to alter major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, delaying a planned tax on high-cost health insurance plans and suspending a tax on medical devices for two years. Lawmakers also agreed to delay the Cadillac tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans by two years, originally scheduled to take effect in 2018.
Mere hours before a deadline to begin or renew insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov for Jan. 1, federal officials said consumers could have extra time to buy health plans. People who want to have ObamaCare coverage on the first day of 2016 now have until 11:59 p.m. PST on Thursday to sign up on the federal insurance exchange, the marketplace’s chief executive announced Tuesday night.
The tax policy in the ACA is inefficient, at odds with the objective of raising revenue with as minimal interference on economic decisions as feasible, and not supportive of long-term growth. The overwhelming economic burden of the ACA taxes will fall on those in the middle-range income brackets. These are among the reasons that Senate conservatives used the recent reconciliation bill to repeal every single one of the ObamaCare taxes. Unfortunately, the president is expected to veto this effort.
Conservatives may get another bite at the apple – albeit with less than perfect policy – in the so-called extenders bill now before Congress. Specifically, reports indicate that the bill would provide for a 2-year halt of the medical device tax, a 2-year delay of the Cadillac tax, and a 1-year moratorium of the “premium tax” (the annual fee on health insurers).
Consumers anxious to beat the midnight Tuesday deadline to enroll on the federal insurance exchange overwhelmed call center lines Monday, federal officials said. Some people were being asked to leave their names so they could be called back after the deadline to be enrolled. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said they would still be able to have coverage effective Jan. 1 if they left their contact information before the deadline.
Three of the nation’s largest insurance companies – Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealth – have let researchers have a look at the negotiated prices they pay for services and procedures like C-sections, MRIs and hospital stays. This includes claims data for 88 million customers and $682 billion of healthcare bills. For a long time, economists like Martin Gaynor have believed the more hospitals merge, the more their monopoly power helps them drive prices up. Until now though, the evidence has been limited to single states or hospitals that have merged and it often relied on the sticker price listed by hospitals. This analysis is different because it comes from hospitals coast to coast and uses the actual amount insurers paid.
HealthSpan, the insurance arm of Catholic health system Mercy Health, is getting rid of its medical group and halting sales of ObamaCare policies just two years after acquiring Kaiser Permanente’s Ohio subsidiary. Spokesman Chuck Heald said HealthSpan will stop selling individual and small-group health plans on the ObamaCare exchanges to focus more on Medicare and employer plans. HealthSpan jacked up premium rates for 2016 individual and small-group plans anywhere from 9% to 32% to account for the sicker-than-expected exchange population.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United States spends $8,713 per person on health care — more than double the OECD average. But under ObamaCare, that high level of spending isn’t buying the best care. The law’s numerous regulations and intrusions have simply inflated the nation’s healthcare tab — without actually improving the quality of care available to patients. The US has long spent more than other nations on care. ObamaCare has just accelerated that trend, despite the law’s goal of reducing health spending. Last year, health expenditures jumped 5.3%, up from an average of 3.9% over the previous six years, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.