Roughly 8 million people faced ObamaCare individual mandate penalties this year totaling more than $3 billion, an analysis of the latest IRS data reveals.
Despite the controversy and high-stakes legal battle that has surrounded the individual mandate, the scope of the penalties paid this year has gone unreported by major news outlets as attention has focused on ObamaCare’s latest and most glaring problems: weak enrollment, surging premiums, and insurer losses that have provoked the exit of UnitedHealth, Aetna and Humana from most state exchanges.
. . .
Some of the nation’s largest companies are already taking steps to avoid ObamaCare’s “Cadillac tax,” according to a business survey released Wednesday.
About 12 percent of companies said they have taken steps to avoid being hit by the much-maligned tax on high-priced health insurance plans, which goes into effect in 2020.
Employers say they have either shifted more costs to workers, dropped their pricier options or picked plans with fewer providers, according to the annual employer benefits survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.
. . .
Steve Banke employs 40 people at 3-Points, a small IT outsourcing company he founded almost 15 years ago. And he wants those workers and their families to have strong health insurance options.
Employees at the firm, based in Oak Brook, Ill., can choose between two types of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois plans: a PPO with a broader network of hospitals and doctors or a cheaper HMO network. Banke’s company covers a percentage of the premiums, and those costs have risen rapidly over the past several years, often more than 12% annually, he said.
. . .
Two bills cracking down on ObamaCare’s individual mandate are being fast-tracked through the Senate, setting up a potential election-year fight over the healthcare law.
A group of Republican senators on Wednesday introduced a bill to exempt people from ObamaCare’s individual mandate if they live in a county with one or no options for coverage.
“If Hillary Clinton were able to institute a public option, I anticipate it would accelerate insurers’ exit from Obamacare exchanges, making it unlikely that exchanges would ever become profitable, as Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed-care are. While those programs have bipartisan political support, Republican politicians are fully committed to opposing Obamacare exchanges.
However, a public option administered by the same contractors (subsidiaries of health insurers) which process Medicare claims would be a good business opportunity for insurers. So they should be quite happy to allow Obamacare beneficiaries to shift from risk-bearing plans to a government plan.”
. . .
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent Employer Health Benefits Survey found that among firms with 50 or more full-time-equivalent workers (i.e., the one’s subject to Obamacare’s employer mandate):
“four percent of these firms reported changing some job classifications from full-time to part-time so employees in those jobs would not be eligible for health benefits”
“four percent of these firms reported that they reduced the number of employees they intended to hire because of the cost of providing health benefits” . , and 10% of firms reported doing just the opposite and converting part-time jobs to full-time jobs”
This is unequivocal empirical evidence that Obamacare has had some of the adverse effects on employment predicted for years by Obamacare critics: a shift towards part-time work and even a reduction in hiring. But according to the same survey, the latter impact was offset due to the 10% of employers who converted part-time jobs to full-time jobs in order to make them eligible for health benefits.
. . .
Small businesses have been pumping the brakes on offering health benefits to their employees since 2009, according to new data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
“The fact is that small employers were less likely to offer these benefits to begin with,” Paul Fronstin, EBRI’s director of health research and education program and author of the report, told Bloomberg BNA July 28. “While the ACA was designed to try to get more small employers to” offer health insurance, “it hasn’t.”
The proportion of employers offering health benefits fell between 2008 and 2015 for all three categories of small employer, EBRI found: by 36 percent for those with fewer than 10 employees, by 26 percent for those with 10 to 24 workers and by 10 percent for those with 25 to 99 workers.
. . .
The Affordable Care Act continues to provide an opportunity for religious zealots to complain that someone, somewhere, might be doing something of which they disapprove. Another such case advancing through the courts is that of Missouri State Rep. Paul Wieland and his wife, Teresa, who assert that Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate tramples on their family’s religious rights even if they don’t make use of it.
St. Louis Federal Judge Jean Constance Hamilton thinks they may have a point. On Thursday she denied the government’s motion to throw out the case on summary judgment. Merely requiring individuals to buy an insurance policy that provides contraception could infringe on their religious conscience, she ruled in clearing the case for trial.
. . .
State and federal officials have negotiated a deal to delay a federal policy that threatened to destabilize health insurance rates at small businesses across Massachusetts.
Governor Charlie Baker’s administration said Tuesday that the agreement will postpone for one year a piece of the Affordable Care Act that requires a change in the way small businesses’ insurance rates are calculated. Massachusetts will have to phase out its current rules and switch to the federal formula by 2019.
The rules apply to businesses with 50 or fewer employees.
. . .