Category: New Health Care Law

Obamacare Cuts IRS Customer Service

According to the New York Times, Obamacare is to blame for the Internal Revenue Service’s decline in customer service:

The IRS’ overloaded phone system hung up on more than 8 million taxpayers this filing season as the agency cut millions of dollars from taxpayer services to help pay to enforce President Barack Obama’s health law.

What is sadly funny about this new disclosure is that when Obamacare opponents pointed out that Obamacare funded new IRS tax inspectors instead of doctors and nurses, its supporters alleged that the new bureaucrats were going to help ensure people who were owed tax credits got them.

Obamacare Increases Food Stamp Dependency

An investigation by the Associated Press has turned up an interesting outcome from Obamacare:

President Barack Obama’s health care law has had a surprising side effect: In some states, it appears to be enticing more Americans to apply for food stamps, even as the economy improves.

New, streamlined application systems built for the health care overhaul seem to be making it easier for people to enroll in government benefit programs, including insurance coverage and food stamps.

An Associated Press analysis finds unforeseen enrollment increases over two years in 11 states, including Illinois, California, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

This is really the only, unspoken, reason for having government exchanges. If it were only to enroll in health insurance, there was already an industry of brokers and agents, online and in person, who did that.

I have recently proposed that all federal safety-net funding be bundled into into Opportunity Grants for which states and civic organizations can apply. That’s a long way from just making it easier for people to become dependent on a hodge-podge of government programs.

 

Obamacare Exchanges Still A Bad Consumer Experience

The media have cheered the fact that Obamacare exchanges in 2015 operated better than 2014. It is one of the “achievements” that led them do declare “Mission Accomplished” for Obamacare.

Improvement over 2014 is a very low bar. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how the exchanges could possibly have performed worse this year. New research from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania concludes that the exchanges are still ineffective:

Wharton

…… when users were provided with non-standardized plans sorted by price, an overwhelming 60% relied on a simple rule of thumb for making their selection: choose the plan with the lowest monthly premium. This emphasis on premium cost defeats the entire purpose of the exchanges.

The portals also came up short in helping consumers understand what they were purchasing. Research has shown that health insurance consumers have only a limited understanding of technical aspects of how health insurance works. In a study by the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the Leonard Davis Institute, only 14% of consumers were able to correctly answer four multiple-choice questions about the most important terms in health care: deductibles, copays, premiums and maximum out of pocket costs

Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion Does Less Than It Claims

I am still playing whack-a-mole with journalists and others who keep confusing Medicaid with health insurance. The latest is the coverage of the Urban Institute’s latest Health Reform Monitoring Survey. The Hill reported it as” “Uninsured rate falls by half in states that expanded Medicaid”.

Imagine if a state expanded cash welfare payments versus its neighbors. The media would report that the number of people reporting no cash income had dropped faster in that state, despite creating no jobs.

Obamacare and Employment (Again)

Vox’s Mattew Yglesias, an undaunted Obamacare supporter, has listed “7 charts that show what Obamacare critics are getting wrong”. The first is, you guessed it, that chart from the Gallup survey of health insurance that this blog has been analyzing and criticizing pretty relentlessly.

I’m not going to go through all seven, but focus on his claim that Obamacare is not causing part-time work at the expense of full-time work. Here it is:

Vox

Tax Day: Obamacare Comes Home To Roost

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) has released its latest analysis of  “tax complexity”:

This year’s new analysis of tax complexity from National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) found some startling lead figures: a $234 billion cost to the economy due to 6.1 billion lost hours of productivity and $32 billion spent out-of-pocket to comply with America’s insanely complicated tax system.

Looking deeper at NTUF’s research, there is one big reason to think this could be the beginning of a trend in the wrong direction: 3,322 pages of legal guidance for Obamacare (or the ACA) added to IRS.gov (1,077 pages of regulations, 1,377 pages of Treasury decisions, 669 notices, 100 revenue procedures, and 12 revenue rulings).

Essentially, Obamacare is coming home to roost.

NTUF

Why Are So Many Working-Age People On Medicare Since Obamacare Started?

Gallup has released the full results of its first quarter survey of health insurance. It concludes that the proportion of uninsured Americans has collapsed to the lowest level ever – 11.9 percent.

13-obamacare.w1920.h1276.2x (2)

The early release of the estimate had predicted 12.3 percent, and it got a little better as the dust has settled on the second open season.

More Than One in Five Obamacare Enrollees From 2014 Have Not Re-Enrolled

Avalere Health has released a new analysis of exchange enrollment, emphasizing that states with the federal Obamacare exchange (healthcare.gov) retained more 2014 Obamacare beneficiaries than states with their own exchanges:

Federally-facilitated exchange states reenrolled 78 percent of their 2014 enrollees in 2015, on average. In state-run exchange states , that percentage drops to 69 percent of 2014 enrollees. California, the state with the highest enrollment in 2014, only retained 65 percent of their 2014 enrollees.Avalere

Will Obamacare’s Tax Dodgers Take Advantage of Special Enrollment?

Those of us who take the time to understand the burdens that the federal government increasingly impose on us might be excused for envying the Obamacare tax dodgers, who got a special enrollment period to sign up for Obamacare if they let the February 15 deadline for enrollment whizz by.

From the Administration on February 20:

For those who were unaware or didn’t understand the implications of the fee for not enrolling in coverage, CMS will provide consumers with an opportunity to purchase health insurance coverage from March 15 to April 30. If consumers do not purchase coverage for 2015 during this special enrollment period, they may have to pay a fee when they file their 2015 income taxes.

These are the folks who, despite massive media coverage of Obamacare (which was signed in 2010) lived in blissful ignorance that the federal government now imposes a mandate on them to purchase a government-certified health plan. When they file their taxes, they will be shocked and appalled to learn that they owe a penalty.

For every other American, of course, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Obamacare is so unpopular, however, that the Administration knew it had to give relief to these folks.

Well, the early figures for the special enrollment are in, and they are pretty laughable: Only 36,000 of 4 million eligible enrollees signed up by March 29. Charles Gaba, an Obamacare advocate and leading expert on estimating Obamacare enrollees, thinks it’s too early to panic: Folks have another month to enroll.

I tend to agree: Someone who has still not figured out – after five years – that Obamacare imposes this mandate is unlikely to file his taxes early – or even on time.

Health Insurers Just Fine Under Obamacare

New research from the Commonwealth Fund, a pro-Obamacare think tank, shows that health insurers are doing just fine under Obamacare.

Well, the stock market has been telling us that for years. The report’s purpose is to cheer the rebates that insurers which made too much money paid to consumers. Obamacare regulates the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR). If an insurer does not spend enough premium on medical claims, it has to pay a rebate to its beneficiaries.

Rebates have collapsed from over $1 billion in 2011 to $325 million in 2013. The report concludes that Obamacare caused insurers to reduce their overhead expenses and profits. Actually, there is less to this story than meets the eye. Exhibit 5 shows that there has been very little change in insurers’ income statements over the three years.

T5

(Source: Michael J. McCue & Michael A. Hall, The Federal Medical Loss Ratio Rule: Implications for Consumers in Year 3, New York, NY: Commonwealth Fund, March 2015, page 6.)