Brian Gilmore

Recent Posts From Brian Gilmore

Republicans Didn’t Expand Obamacare

Drudge headline

Since when is repealing an Obamacare mandate met with such criticism from the Right?  This is the question I have been asking since last week’s passage of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 led to a Drudge Report headline implying Republican collusion to “improve” the fatally flawed law.

The Obamacare mandate at issue was a cap on the deductibles for small employer group health plans offered in and out of the SHOP exchange. The SHOP exchange is the Obamacare exchange for small employers and, inexplicably, congressional staff.

PPACA Section 1302(c):

(2) ANNUAL LIMITATION ON DEDUCTIBLES FOR EMPLOYER-SPONSORED PLANS.—

(A) IN GENERAL.—In the case of a health plan offered in the small group market, the deductible under the plan shall not exceed—

(i) $2,000 in the case of a plan covering a single individual; and

(ii) $4,000 in the case of any other plan.

As with so many Obamacare provisions, this mandate was poorly conceived.  For one, it was essentially impossible for a Bronze plan to comply because of other competing mandates to cover essential health benefits and conform the actuarial value to the required 60% of medical expenses covered by the plan.  A study by HealthPocket found that 96% of Bronze plans in the SHOP exchange have deductibles exceeding the $2,000/$4,000 cap.

Congressional Staff Obamacare Coverage Continues to Flaunt Statute

The idea from the start was that Congress and its staff would have to live under the same Obamacare rules as the rest of us.  Senator Grassley’s (R-IA) amendment to PPACA added Section 1312, requiring that they move from the enviable employer-sponsored Federal Employee Health Benefit Program to the sub-par coverage offered on the Obamacare exchanges:

(D) MEMBERS OF CONGRESS IN THE EXCHANGE.—…the only health plans that the Federal Government may make available to Members of Congress and congressional staff with respect to their service as a Member of Congress or congressional staff shall be health plans that are…offered through an Exchange established under this Act….

A good idea indeed, but one that has become a farce in practice.

First, OPM came out with the original exemption for Congress that preserved the 75% employer contribution from the federal government for exchange coverage, rather than the same subsidies available to the rest of us.  Then we learned that this congressional Obamacare exemption would be illegally offered on a tax-free basis.  Harry Reid followed this up by exempting some of his staff from the Obamacare exchange train wreck (earning multiple pinocchios for his explanation).

Obamacare’s Employer Mandate Delays Head-to-Head

“[The President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed…” — Article II, Section 3 (The Faithful Execution Clause)

Yesterday’s announcement of additional Obamacare employer mandate delays offers us yet another occasion to turn to actual the law passed by Congress.  When the four statutory Obamacare provisions below are viewed head-to-head against the new Obama Administration/IRS regulatory guidance, it’s clear that one of these things is not like the other.

EXHIBIT I: EFFECTIVE DATE

Statutory Authority - PPACA Section 1513(d):

(d) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.

Obama Administration/IRS - Preamble to the February 10, 2014 Final Regulations (Page 106):

Section 1513(d) of the Affordable Care Act provides that section 4980H applies to months after December 31, 2013; however, Notice 2013-45, issued on July 9, 2013, provides as transition relief that no assessable payments under section 4980H will apply for 2014…Notice 2013-45 provides that the employer shared responsibility provisions under section 4980H (and the information reporting provisions) will become effective for 2015.

Coburn to Focus Retirement Efforts on Article V Convention

Last month, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) announced that he will retire at the end of 2014, cutting short his second Senate term by two years.  His decision was in part the result of his health struggles related the recent recurrence of prostate cancer.  But Sen. Coburn also cited the dysfunction in Washington D.C., and particularly in the U.S. Senate, in stating: “As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere.”

John Ward’s HuffPost interview with Sen. Coburn last week sheds some light on exactly how Sen. Coburn intends to shift his focus:

“It’s time for me to go do something else,” Coburn said. “I know me. I’ve made lots of shifts in my life, and I know when it’s time. My faith comes into that. I pay a lot of attention to what I think I’m supposed to be doing. … And it’s just time for me to do something else. So I’m getting ready to walk through whatever door opens.”

“I don’t have any set plans whatsoever,” he said.

There are two exceptions to that statement. He has plans to play golf, a game he loves and has rarely been able to enjoy during his time in Washington. And he is going to lend his support to a growing effort in state legislatures across the country to call a convention to amend the Constitution with the aim of limiting the size and reach of the federal government.

Biggest Stories of 2013: Government Shutdown

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

shutdown

It all started with Speaker Boehner’s rule that would’ve staged a symbolic vote in the House to defund Obamacare, while still allowing the Senate to fully fund Obamacare in the CR.

Then came the revolt.  Emboldened by Rep. Meadows’ letter in the House and Sen. Lee’s letter in the Senate pledging not to support a CR that funds Obamacare, Tea Party, conservative, and libertarian groups like FreedomWorks led a grassroots uprising in opposition to the Boehner rule and in support of the defunding effort.  The movement succeeded.  Speaker Boehner embraced the defunding movement as if it were his own, and the House passed a CR that did not appropriate a single penny to Obamacare.

President Obama thinks he already saved your employer plan

At this point, everyone generally accepts that the President’s purported one-year delay in forcing you to lose your individual health insurance policy (and, more importantly, corralling you into the Obamacare exchange) was political grandstanding amounting to almost no practical benefit.  At last check, 19 states had rejected the so-called “fix.”  For those that have adopted it, congratulations on delaying the inevitable.

The Obama administration has recently tried to reframe the narrative of this fiasco by focusing on the fact that only 5% of Americans purchase an individual health insurance policy.  After all, why concern ourselves over the health plan of 14 or 15 million Americans when their sacrifices will benefit the much grander scope of universal utopia?

Obama could let you keep your plan, but he doesn’t want to

 If I like your plan, you can keep it

Last Thursday morning, President Obama issued his latest proclamation in an attempt to save face on his farcical promise.  Of course, the “relief” came far too late and with far too many restrictions to have any practical, real-world effect.

It’s become instinctive at this point to assume that every policy decision that comes from the Obama administration is a blatant violation of separation of powers.  After all, this is the administration that unilaterally delayed enforcement of Obamacare’s employer mandate in direct violation of the statutory requirements.  Many prominent commentators have immediately jumped back on this bandwagon again in this latest Obamacare edict.

But here’s the real legal low-down: President Obama and his executive agencies (HHS/DOL/IRS) have almost unlimited discretion in determining what is considered a “grandfathered health plan.”

Why Obamacare Grandfathered Plans are Going Extinct

President Obama’s “If you like your plan, you can keep it” pledge was never true.  Obamacare’s grandfathered plan structure was designed from the start to make sure that you can’t keep your pre-PPACA plan.  This is something we’ve been dealing with since 2010, but now it’s reaching the crisis point as we head into exchange-dominated 2014.

One-Year Individual Mandate Delay Wouldn’t Cripple ObamaCare

individual mandate

There’s no question that the individual mandate is the center of the ObamaCare universe.  Many other provisions are crucial to the law, but none to the extent of the individual mandate.  This is what made John Roberts’ decision last June to abandon originalism by constitutionally validating the individual mandate tax-penalty so painful.  Regardless of where the court came down on severability, the law could not have effectively functioned without the mandate intact.

Which brings us to the most recent episode of the ObamaCare delay game, this time focused on a one-year individual mandate delay.  At the height of the CR/debt-ceiling showdown, I wrote a post titled “Don’t Settle for One-Year Individual Mandate Delay,” arguing that any acceptable compromise would need to at least delay the exchange subsidies to be an effective barrier toward full implementation.

Those were the good ol’ days where there was hope that the Republicans would stand together and fight for real ObamaCare concessions.  Like defunding it or a one-year delay of the entire law.  In retrospect, I suppose I should have written a post titled “Don’t Settle for…Nothing.”

So here’s my point again: The first year of the individual mandate isn’t that big of a deal.  It’s an existential issue as a matter of constitutional law and individual liberty generally, but don’t believe the hype that the individual mandate is absolutely essential to ObamaCare in the first year.

There are two major reasons why:

Grand Theft Auto V’s Lesson in Liberty

GTA V's Trevor

If you identify somewhere on the libertarian to Tea Party spectrum, you’re likely used to a number of unfounded and illegitimate labels from the Left.  Their current in vogue talking point during the ObamaCare standoff, promoted endlessly by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), is that Tea Party members are “modern anarchists.” That’s an accusation not worth acknowledging with a full rebuttal.

What is worth acknowledging is that Grand Theft Auto V’s Trevor Phillips character may be the most captivating character in videogame history.  No, that’s not a non sequitur, because Trevor is the ultimate manifestation of a true modern anarchist.  A meth-dealing, mass-killing maniac who, in the moments of calm between fits of rage, is introspective enough to understand that his brand of chaos is a recipe for misery.

Spoiler Alert: If you have not played GTA V yet, what are you waiting for?!  Seriously though, spoilers contained below.

On Family

Anarchists reject marriage, monogamy, and nuclear family primacy.  Which might explain why our introduction to Trevor is the image above.  Enjoying a drug-addicted woman from behind while watching TV in his trailer.  Immediately followed by the brutal killing of that woman’s boyfriend.  This is Trevor in a microcosm.

“Mine ain’t nothin’ special, but this boy gets the job done.”

Brian Gilmore

Contributor


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