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Oops: Two Other Things Obama Says Health-Care Reform Will Do This Year in Doubt

4:00 PM, Mar 24, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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This is Obama selling another element of his health-care plan that will go into effect this year, yesterday at the signing ceremony:

And this year, young adults will be able to stay on their parents' policies until they're 26 years old. That all happens this year.

And, again, we find this measure isn't actually in the Senate bill, which passed Sunday night, and about which Obama was talking yesterday. It's dependent upon the passage of the reconciliation bill going through, which is being debated in the Senate today, and likely late into the night.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer notes, "For young adults, there's a hitch in health-care law."

The bill Obama signed leaves a giant loophole, one that will be fixed if the reconciliation bill now being debated in the Senate passes.

The law exempts current insurance policies from having to include coverage for the young adults.

"That's how politics works," said Jennifer Tolbert, a policy analyst at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that has been closely tracking the legislation.

Tolbert said the president was talking about the package - the law he signed yesterday and the pending reconciliation legislation in the Senate - because Senate Democrats believe they have the votes to pass the bill.

None of the legislation spells out who is supposed to pay for the coverage.

Patty Murray's promise, made on the floor yesterday, was even more explicit, and is already officially broken:

“Starting today, insurance companies are going to be required to permit young people to stay on family policies until the age of 26, which is especially important, I must say, now that so many young people are having trouble finding that first job.”

So, already two of the president's priorities—what the White House deemed to be the most popular, immediate selling points of the bill— were not adequately planned for in the bill he signed into law.

But once again: those worried that Congress might make some mistakes in governing 1/6 of the American economy should rest assured that the rest of this sucker is precisely, painstakingly designed with care to result in all good things and no bad things from now until forevermore. Congratulations, America.

To be fair, Nancy Pelosi warned us that we'd have to pass the bill so we could find out what was in it. Who knew the president would be finding out right alongside us?

CBS found out that the bill—surprise!— incentivizes small business owners to dump employees into the government health exchanges and take the tax hit instead— a fact, which up until the health-care bill passed was known as "misinformation."

• Businesses with fewer than 25 employees that pay an average of no more than $40,000 will get a tax credit - up to 35 percent of the company's share of their total health care premium.

• Companies with 26-49 workers are unaffected.

• Businesses with 50 or more workers must offer coverage or pay $750 per worker. That penalty applies for every employee if even one signs up for government-subsidized insurance.

But there are potential problems. Case in point: It would be much cheaper for Dick Bus to drop the generous coverage he now offers and take the hit at $750 a head for his 120 workers. The penalty would be $90,000 a year. He's currently spending $480,000.

Bus would save $390,000, but canceling his plan would force his workers to the health plan exchange and could cost more than they're paying now. The Senate is considering an increase in the $750 penalty to prevent that scenario.

Maybe the Senate should have thought about what it was doing before it passed the bill. The law also clearly incentivizes business owners to stay under 26 workers instead of hiring new ones and incentivizes those in the 50-employee range to think about downsizing, undercutting yet another Obama promise about the bill delivering nothing but goodness to small business "this year."

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