Obamacare madness, Christmas edition.4:31 PM, Dec 20, 2013 • By JAMES C. CAPRETTA
The wrecking ball swung again toward the crumbling Obamacare edifice yesterday. Ironically, it continues to be the Obama administration that is operating the heavy machinery.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced, in the form of a letter to Democratic senators, that Obamacare’s individual mandate tax will be waived in 2014 for persons who had their policies canceled in 2013 due to Obamacare.
At this point, after months of on-the-fly pronouncements, delays, and exemptions (often announced, not coincidentally, in the days just before a major national holiday), perhaps nothing should surprise us anymore about Obamacare’s disastrous rollout. But yesterday’s announcement is still startling because of what it says about the state of the president’s signature domestic legislation. The law is falling apart before our eyes.
No doubt the administration’s defenders will argue that this is simply a tactical retreat, executed with surgical precision, and intended to protect the law from more serious legislative threats in 2014. Better to give a little by executive action now than to invite an impossible-to-control revolt by Democrats in the Senate later, the thinking goes. And by orchestrating the tactical retreat in conjunction with political allies (the Sebelius letter followed by one day a letter requesting the change from six Senate Democrats), the administration is hoping its party will get credit with voters for “smoothing the transition” to Obamacare.
But by conceding that the individual mandate can and should be delayed for one group, the administration has opened a major can of worms. For starters, this exemption is going to strike many Americans as blatantly unfair and arbitrary. It comes at the 11th hour, after millions of people, including those with canceled plans, have already made their choices based on the rules they thought would be in effect. The administration said for months that the mandate would not be waived for anyone, even those with canceled policies, and it vowed a veto of any delay legislation coming out of Congress. Now the rules have been changed, and some families who have committed to pay thousands of dollars in insurance premiums will feel very personally betrayed by an untrustworthy administration.
This exemption also further undermines the Obamacare exchanges, which are already teetering. The administration claims that there are only 500,000 people with canceled policies who haven’t signed up for new coverage yet. But this is an unverified number put out by the administration for damage control. Insurance industry insiders believe that, come January 1, most carriers will be looking at lower net enrollment in their plans compared to the previous year, meaning that cancellations will exceed new Obamacare enrollment in private plans. So the number of people with previous coverage who haven’t signed up with new coverage could easily be twice or three times the administration’s estimate.
In addition, what’s to stop those with canceled policies who fought their way through healthcare.gov from now changing their mind and dropping their plans in light of the administration’s announcement? These families would need only to file a form indicating that the premiums they were facing in the exchanges are unaffordable. As matters stand, the administration would have no basis for denying an exemption to such households.
The upshot is that the administration has voluntarily opened another very big escape route out of Obamacare, and the most likely escapees will be young and healthy Americans who don’t want to pay high premiums for Obamacare’s expensive benefit plans. Even before yesterday it was clear that the risk pools in the exchanges were going to be unbalanced, with too little enrollment by the young and healthy relative to the old and sick. Now, there’s more reason than ever to expect the exchanges to resemble slightly enlarged versions of high-risk pools that have been in existence for years in the states.
New legislation shows Congress and American public are united in their distrust of Obama's Iran deal.4:14 PM, Dec 19, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
A recent AP/GfK poll shows that a majority of Americans, 55 percent, disapprove of how Barack Obama is handling the Iran issue.
30 members support the House Resolution calling for civil action.1:49 PM, Dec 12, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Congressman Tom Rice of South Carolina, a Republican, is sponsoring a resolution in the House of Representatives that would, if adopted, direct the legislative body "to bring a civil action for declaratory or injunctive relief to challenge certain policies and actions taken by the executive branch." In other words, Rep. Rice wants to take President Obama to court for not faithfully executing the laws.
11:31 AM, Nov 18, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Democratic congressman Nick Rahall says he voted for the Keep Your Health Plan Act because President Obama's Obamacare fix lacked the "legal underpinning" he believes is necessary:
"Did you vote yes because you think that the president didn't go far enough?" a CBS reporter asked the congressman.
"I voted yes, perhaps that was part of the reason," said Rahall. "But the main reason was, I'm not sure he had the legal underpinning to do what he did."
2:40 PM, Nov 15, 2013 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Remember back (a few short weeks ago) when the Democrats were arguing that Obamacare was the law of the land, that it hadn’t been struck down by the Supreme Court (as if avoiding that ignominious fate by a razor-slim 5-4 vote were a selling point), and that Republicans—and the American people—just needed to get over it and accept Obamacare as settled law forevermore? Well, it now appears what they meant was that, while the American people are powerless to change (or repeal) the law that the Democrats passed, the Democratic president can do so at his whim. Apparently, the federal lawmaking authority has now moved to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
3:21 PM, Nov 12, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reported last week that in 2011, the IRS paid out $3.6 billion in fraudulent refunds on tax returns filed by identity thieves. Even that amount was an improvement over the previous year when the total fraud was $5.2 billion. However, on Tuesday, TIGTA released a new report that found that though the IRS is making some progress against fraud, it is not using all available tools to prevent erroneous refunds and improper tax credits.
3:31 PM, Nov 7, 2013 • By TERRY EASTLAND
“Detroit civil rights lawyer Shanta Driver made a last-minute decision to argue in a high-profile Supreme Court affirmative action case on Oct. 15 in part, she said, because so few African-Americans appear before the justices.”
11:49 AM, Nov 6, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
It looks like labor unions might be getting tax relief from Obamacare, according to a report from kaiserhealthnews.org.
"Weeks after denying labor’s request to give union members access to health-law subsidies, the Obama administration is signaling it intends to exempt some union plans from one of the law’s substantial taxes," reads the report.
7:35 AM, Oct 28, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Beginning with a speech last Thursday, President Obama is seeking to rejuvenate his administration's push to alter immigration laws and perhaps draw some attention away from the Obamacare launch debacle that has been dominating the headlines for much of October.
7:36 AM, Oct 8, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Eugene Robinson makes the case for Obamacare by writing, essentially, that it is a done deal. Time to get over it and move on. This is a corollary of the "law of the land" argument, which asserts that the thing has been written in stone and those who are still opposed and favor repeal should quit and acknowledge their defeat in its utter finality.
12:28 PM, Sep 19, 2013 • By JIM SWIFT
Yesterday, President Obama signed a number of supposedly uncontroversial bills into law.
One new law contains a provision that has been controversial in the past.
The law, S. 256, gives the government of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) authority over submerged lands surrounding its coastlines, gives the President authority to establish naval defensive sea areas there, and also delays scheduled increases in the minimum wage for the remote island.
9:45 AM, Aug 21, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
Despite a law passed 15 years ago, some Internal Revenue Service employees continue to use the designation "Illegal Tax Protester" and other similar designations in their case narratives, according to an audit just released by TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration). While the IRS has not reintroduced an actual code for such designations, the audit found out of 257 million records, there were:
1:21 PM, Aug 19, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The latest sequester victim: lawyers. As of September 1, court-appointed panel attorneys for the federal defender program will be hit with a $15/hour reduction in compensation. The following announcement appeared Monday on the United States Courts website:
1:56 PM, Jul 19, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden met with law enforcement officials and delivered a statement on immigration. Via the pool report: