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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cruising the Web

The Wall Street Journal has caught Kathleen Sebelius speaking out of both sides of her mouth yesterday. Not that that is a surprise, but the context is amazing. She was asked if HHS's hardship exemption does, in fact, mean that anyone can get out of the individual mandate. She denied it, but then went on to confirm it.
"The hardship exemption was part of the law from the outset," the Secretary said. "There was a specific rationale there, and it starts with the notion that if you can't afford coverage you are not obligated to buy coverage." That's true: But in December last year HHS ruled that ObamaCare itself was a hardship; people whose coverage was cancelled and believe the new plans are unaffordable were thus relieved of the requirement to buy insurance or else pay a penalty for the law's first year. Our scoop was that HHS last week quietly extended this dispensation until 2016.

"The new piece is not the hardship exemption, which has always been part of the law," Ms. Sebelius continued. "It"—the new piece—"allowed people who could not find an affordable option to also have the option of purchasing a catastrophic policy." That's also true: HHS did expand eligibility for this special category of coverage otherwise designed for people under 30 to those who declare a hardship, regardless of age, in response to a plea from Virginia Senator Mark Warner and five other endangered Democratic colleagues.

The detail Ms. Sebelius is leaving out is that the exemption isn't simply a coupon for a catastrophic policy but also a get-out-of-jail-free card from the mandate. That's the definition of the hardship exemption—you are not obligated to buy coverage or pay the fine. As HHS puts it on the consumer website, "Under certain circumstances, you won't have to make the individual responsibility payment. This is called an 'exemption.'"

Or as Ms. Sebelius herself put in her letter to Mr. Warner & co., "I agree with you that these consumers should qualify for this hardship exemption, and I can assure you that the exemption will be available to them."

When HHS isn't obfuscating, it is telling insurers that the cancellation exemption categories and now their extension are merely "transitional" and few people will claim them. The truth is that the White House is trying to shield Democrats in advance from the millions of angry voters who will be penalized for not buying into ObamaCare. Such raw politics helps explain why Ms. Sebelius won't be "accurate" about relaxing enforcement of the individual mandate.
This is amazing. It means that all those people who got kicked off their plans last Fall now don't have to follow the individual mandate. But remember the reaction a few months ago when people were learning that they had lost their insurance and even Democrats were acknowledging that, yes, this was not a good thing. The administration first tried to persuade us that these people had inferior plans and should be happy to get the improved Obamacare plans. Except they weren't happy; they found out that they would have to pay more for plans with bigger co-pays and deductibles. So telling them they don't need to buy health insurance isn't that helpful. Their original policies are gone. They want insurance; that's why they had bought insurance in the first place. They are truly hardship cases, but their hardships were caused by Obamacare itself.

By sneaking in this exemption that anyone can get just by claiming a hardship means that a whole lot of people, especially young people, who didn't buy insurance before Obamacare now can continue to be uninsured. And since the whole edifice of Obamacare depends on bringing in those "young invincibles" to buy insurance on the exchanges. The insurance companies need those people to buy insurance so that they get their money to subsidize all the older and sicker people on their rolls.

Now the administration has quietly given those uninsured the green light to stay uninsured, insurance companies are going to have to raise rates in order to stay solvent. Remember that the administration argued before the Supreme Court that the individual mandate was absolutely, positively necessary for the whole program to survive. Today...not so much.

As Fox News reports, HHS is really messing with the entire program.
he situation is murkier than the administration makes it sound. It is up to state insurance commissioners and insurance companies whether to re-offer canceled plans, and not all are going along with the administration's reprieve. This continues to leave those who lost coverage seeking new policies that in some cases offer an inferior network of doctors or come with higher premiums.

As for those being allowed to avoid the mandate fine, the official guidance says it will apply to those who lost their coverage and "believe other Marketplace plans are unaffordable." It will also let them apply for bare-bones "catastrophic coverage" if they submit documentation showing their health plan was canceled.

The extension is another tweak to a law that's already been tweaked dozens of times since its passage.

Delaying the mandate rule for some poses a challenge to the IRS, an already embattled agency that will be tasked with enforcing the penalty. Many lawmakers have pushed for the administration to delay the mandate for everyone, but so far the administration has not agreed.

Jay Sekulow imagines the pitch Barack Obama would have had to make if he were to tell the truth about Obamacare.
“My fellow Americans, I’m going to pass a health care law that will require millions of you to switch your health plans to a government-approved plan. For many of you, this plan will cost much more and have higher deductibles. When I finally get around to enforcing it on your employers, expect to see higher costs there as well. I’m doing this in the hopes that a small percentage of the uninsured can be coaxed into signing up. But we can’t be sure until we try, so let’s overhaul the whole system.”
It's clear why he had to instead lie over and over about his program would work.

Noemie Emery explains why Ted Cruz's jibe about Presidents Dole, McCain, and Romney betrays a misunderstanding of history and reminds us that we also didn't have a President Goldwater.

It's telling that President Obama is threatening to veto House laws requiring the Executive Branch to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress and signed into law.

Karl Rove looks at the lessons to be learned from David Jolly's victory in the Florida special election Tuesday. He points out that there are more reasons than simply Obamacare why Alex Sink lost. So Republicans need to remember that they need more than talking about the problems of Obamacare if they're going to win in the Fall.

We have a winner for the prize as the dumbest member of Congress.

How desperate must the Obama administration be that they brought in a former member of 'N Sync to tout the benefits of Obamacare? And then he tweeted out the wrong website address. As Heritage notes, this is part of a long campaign to try to get young people to sign up. And the campaign has not been one of respecting their ability to reason carefully about their best interests.
The young people they’re targeting now are the ones they didn’t get with the singing animals video, porta-potty ads, “brosurance” ad campaign, NFL football tie-ins, pub crawls, Magic Johnson, or any number of other gimmicks they’ve tried.

Apparently, Serbians are so bereft of national heroes that they have to celebrate Gavrilo Princip whose assassination of Franz Ferdinand 100 years ago served as the spark to launch WWI and millions of deaths. But in Serbia, he's a hero deserving of statues and streets named after him.

At last - Congress passes a bill we can all get behind: stopping federal funding of presidential political conventions.

On a lighter note, enjoy this imagining of what it would be like of World War One had been a bar fight. Having just covered WWI in my AP European History class, I found this surprisingly apt.

Kevin Bacon attempts to explain the 1980s to millennials. It's a difficult task.

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