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Mandate Madness

Jul 29, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 43 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Obamacare, it must be said, is looking more and more like an unmitigated disaster. Besides delaying the employer mandate, the administration also announced it was delaying the “mandatory employer and insurer reporting requirements.” The IRS, however, needs to have access to such reporting to determine whether individuals who apply for Obamacare’s hefty taxpayer-funded insurance subsidies are eligible for them. By law, the only people eligible for subsidies are those who have incomes below 400 percent of poverty and who aren’t offered “affordable coverage” by their employer. If employers are no longer required to report what insurance benefits they offer, the IRS cannot verify employees’ eligibility for subsidies. In the midst of a 606-page regulation released on Friday, July 5, the administration acknowledged this problem, stating that “the exchange may accept the applicant’s attestation regarding enrollment in [an] eligible employer-sponsored plan .  .  . without further verification.” In other words, exchange subsidies will now flow forth on the “honor system.”

That swings the door wide open for defrauding taxpayers. Think government programs are safe from such concerns? Think again. The Government Accountability Office estimates that, in 2011, Medicare and Medicaid made a whopping $50.7 billion in fraudulent payments. That same year, the combined annual profits of the nation’s 10 largest insurance companies were $13.7 billion. In other words, the government lost almost four times as much as private insurers made. Obamacare will significantly increase government losses to error and fraud, which is why House Republicans should vote to delay the implementation of Obamacare’s exchanges for at least as long as its employer mandate and the attendant reporting requirements are delayed.

None of this should be too surprising. As Obama’s secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told Americans shortly before it passed, Obamacare isn’t really conducive to being implemented in part or rejected in part. Sebelius said, “The president remains committed to the notion that we have to have a comprehensive approach, because the pieces of the puzzle are too closely tied to one another.” She added, “Pieces of the puzzle are necessarily tied together if you have a comprehensive approach.” Yet now a few key pieces have been removed by the administration itself—making Obamacare already look piecemeal, arbitrary, and impermanent.

In the meantime, the Obama administration continues to use taxpayer money and the bully pulpit to tout the supposed benefits of Obamacare’s taxpayer-financed exchange subsidies. Just last week, the administration alleged it was providing relief from what it claimed were $1,000-plus pre-Obamacare individual monthly premiums in states like New York—where Kaiser says the average individual premium was $357 a month in the year that Obamacare was passed—while desperately trying to lure people into the exchanges with the promise of “free,” and now largely unmonitored, money.

While the House moves forward on voting to delay the exchanges and the subsidies, Senate Republicans should do everything in their power to force a vote on the House-passed delays of both the employer and individual mandates. This legislation is ripe for a vote in the Senate. Senate Republicans should try and try again to force their Democratic counterparts to vote on what parts of Obamacare should be delayed—and what parts of our constitutional separation of powers should be discarded. The comprehensive repeal of Obamacare remains essential to our prosperity and our liberty. Last week the House of Representatives took a significant step in that direction.

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