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).
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 two-year “Cadillac tax” delay under consideration by Congress is the worst kind of special-interest legislation. It will enrich labor unions and big business at the expense of taxpayers. ObamaCare’s Cadillac tax is a clunky but constructive first step in reforming the employer tax exclusion. It has problems—its structure as an excise tax is punitive, and it contains carveouts for favored Democratic constituencies—but the basic idea of equalizing the tax treatment of employer- and individually-purchased health insurance is a good one.
The 2015 United Auto Workers union contracts with General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV allow the companies to alter hourly-worker health plans if they are likely to trigger a 40% federal tax on some high-cost health-care plans. The most likely change: adding yearly deductibles for affected workers.
Last week, the U.S. Senate approved legislation that would repeal the majority of ObamaCare. The bill will almost certainly pass the House. From there, it will go to the president’s desk, where it faces an even more certain veto. Even so, we are witnessing a historic moment. The House and Senate have held dozens of votes to repeal ObamaCare in whole or in part. Congressional Republicans have even worked with President Obama to repeal or curtail portions of the law. But while full-repeal legislation has passed the House, nothing like the bill that just passed the Senate has come anywhere near the president’s desk.
Individuals who do not obtain health coverage, through any source, are subject to a tax penalty unless they meet certain exemptions. The penalties under the so-called individual mandate were phased in over a three-year period starting in 2014 and are scheduled to increase substantially in 2016. This analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation provides estimates of the share of uninsured people eligible to enroll in the marketplaces who will be subject to the penalty, and how those penalties are increasing for 2016.
Those without health insurance have a lot to consider. On one hand, the fine for remaining uninsured steeply increases for next year. On the other, the cost of the individual mandate penalty is cheaper than buying the least expensive insurance plan for 7.1 million of the nearly 11 million uninsured eligible to enroll in health exchanges, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis released Wednesday.
Federal officials said Monday that if uninsured people don’t obtain coverage within the health law’s official enrollment period, which ends Jan. 31, they won’t get an extension to avoid the law’s penalty for going without insurance this time around. Earlier this year, the Obama administration offered uninsured people a reprieve if they missed the sign-up deadline for 2015 coverage, originally set at Feb. 15. People were given through April to sign up if they said they had learned about the penalty for going uninsured only when they filed their taxes.
The penalty for failing to have health insurance is going up next year, perhaps even higher than expected. Among uninsured individuals who are not exempt from the ObamaCare penalty, the average household fine for not having insurance in 2015 will be $661, rising to $969 per household in 2016, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.