ObamaCare in need of a remake | Don Brunell

Summer is blockbuster movie season, a time when Hollywood releases its biggest productions. In our nation’s capital, the political version of a blockbuster, “The Affordable Care Act: Obamacare,” is now making its debut. But early previews suggest it’s not quite ready for the big screen.

Summer is blockbuster movie season, a time when Hollywood releases its biggest productions.

In our nation’s capital, the political version of a blockbuster, “The Affordable Care Act: Obamacare,” is now making its debut. But early previews suggest it’s not quite ready for the big screen.

Case in point: In regulations quietly released on Friday during the July 4 holiday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) informed 16 state exchanges and the District of Columbia that they need not confirm that people seeking taxpayer subsidies for health insurance premiums actually qualify. This only serves to undermine the financial integrity of the Affordable Care Act.

The rules say state exchanges may do only random income checks. In fact, comprehensive income eligibility checks are prohibited — banned — until 2015. In addition, states are not allowed to determine whether applicants already have coverage through their employer until 2015.

Critics say the rule is designed to bring large numbers of people into the program without confirming their eligibility and, once onboard, it becomes politically difficult to later remove them.

Unfortunately, by not confirming eligibility, HHS is opening the door to rampant fraud and abuse that will greatly increase costs for U.S. taxpayers. It also means those most in need of health care may come up empty-handed if the system is overloaded with requests from unqualified applicants.

The questionable HHS rule comes on the heels of a decision by the Obama administration to delay until 2015 implementation of the employer mandate, a central feature of Obamacare. The law requires that employers with 50 or more employees must provide government-approved health coverage by Jan. 1, 2014.

However, implementing the mandate promised to cause widespread confusion and disrupt the health plans of approximately 85 percent of Americans covered by their employer. The delay is widely seen as an attempt to avert a voter backlash in the 2014 mid-term elections.

Some in Congress say the administration doesn’t have the legal right to change the law, but what Congress can – or will – do about that remains to be seen.

As things stand, individuals will still be required to enroll by Jan. 1 or pay a penalty. But even that may be difficult.

UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest health insurer, announced it is leaving the individual insurance market in California — the second major insurer to exit the market in advance of Obamacare. Last month, Aetna Inc., the nation’s third-largest health insurer, made a similar move affecting about 50,000 existing policyholders in California.

Some insurers are having a difficult time getting individual coverage to “pencil out” because the bulk of new enrollees are expected to be people with pre-existing conditions who could not previously obtain coverage. The cost of their care was supposed to be subsidized by premiums from younger, healthier enrollees — but that logic may be flawed.

The Wall Street Journal found that premiums for healthy individuals could double or triple under Obamacare, making it unlikely that younger, healthier people will sign up. For example, the Journal reports that a 40-year-old male nonsmoker in Richmond, Virginia can currently get a bare-bones plan online for $63 a month. But Obamacare outlaws such plans, replacing them with more comprehensive — and costly — coverage. The least-expensive plan under Obamacare for a 40-year-old nonsmoker in Richmond will likely cost $193 a month, according to filings submitted by carriers.

Analysts think that younger, healthier people will opt to pay a small penalty rather than sign up for what they view as expensive, unnecessary coverage.

As the inherent weaknesses of the Affordable Care Act become increasingly clear, Congress needs to revisit the legislation. Either fix it or replace it. Because as things look now, this blockbuster is in need of a remake.

 

More in Business

Seattle’s misstep highlights need for new approach

Last week, Seattle’s City Council did an “about face” revoking the onerous… Continue reading

Washington’s expensive culvert court case

Too much money is spent in court where it should go to increasing the salmon population

Lt. Dan needs lots of helping hands

Gary Sinise formed the “Lt. Dan Band” in early 2004 and they began entertaining troops serving at home and abroad. Sinise often raised the money to pay the band and fund its travel.

New Enumclaw wine bar aims for broad audience

Bordeaux Wine Bar is scheduled to be open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Streamlining regulations makes more housing affordable

There were over 21,000 people homeless in Washington State last year.

New approaches needed to fight super wildfires | Don Brunell

Last year, wildfires nationwide consumed 12,550 square miles, an area larger than Maryland.

Skilled trade jobs go unfilled in our robust economy

Known as blue collar jobs, they routinely pay $45,000 to $65,000 a year or more.

Streamlining regulations helps Americans compete

The cost of regulations is a key American competitiveness issue. It is a major reason our companies re-locate to other countries and our manufacturers and farmers have difficulties competing internationally.

Water pressure mounting in West as population spikes

What is happening in California with water allocation disputes is a harbinger of what is to come in our state as well.

Railroads implementing positive track

While the investigation continues into the deadly AMTRAK derailment near Dupont, the clock continues to tick on the implementation of Positive Track Control (PTC). The deadline is Dec. 31, 2018.

Keep the holiday spirit all year long | Don Brunell

During the holidays, our thoughts naturally turn to giving — not just giving gifts, but donating our time and money to charities, disasters and community programs.

Finding balance in occupational licensing

Recently, the Institute for Justice (Institute) determined state licensing barriers for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs not only hurts people trying to establish themselves in a profession, but annually drives consumer prices up by $203 billion.