individual mandate

Obama compares employer mandate delay to hardship exemption

President Barack Obama defended his administration’s latest delay of the employer mandate, telling reporters yesterday at a joint press conference with French President François Hollande that the purpose of the law “is not to punish” businesses.

“What we did [on Monday] was simply to make an adjustment in terms of their compliance, because for many of these companies, just the process of complying…may take them some time even if they’re operating in good faith,” President Obama said.

“[W]e want to make sure that the purpose of the law is not to punish them,” he said. “It’s simply to make sure that they are either providing health insurance to their employees or that they’re helping to bear the costs of their employees getting health insurance.”

Boehner on employer mandate delay: “We need fairness for all”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) struck a populist tone in a very pointed response to the Obama administration’s latest delay of the employer mandate.

“Once again, the president is giving a break to corporations while individuals and families are still stuck under the mandates of his health care law. And, once again, the president is rewriting law on a whim,” Boehner said in a statement.

The employer mandate is a provision of Obamacare that originally required businesses with 50 or more full-time employees, defined as someone who works at least 30 hours a week, to offer health insurance benefits or face a punitive, $2,000 per worker tax. The administration delayed enforcement of the provision last year, citing concerns from the business community.

The administration announced late yesterday afternoon that delay will enforcement of the provision for businesses with 50 to 99 full-time employees until the beginning of 2016.

The individual mandate coerces Americans to purchase coverage or face a tax. Those who fail to purchase health insurance by March 31, 2014 will face a tax of $95 or 1% of their gross taxable income, which ever is greater. The individual mandate tax will increase to $695 or 2.5% of gross income by 2016.

AR Senate: Pryor trails Republican challenger by 5, Obama disapproval at 63%

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), the most vulnerable Senate Democrat up for reelection this year, trails his Republican opponent (R-AR), by 5 points, according to the latest poll out of the Razorback State.

The poll, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, found that 45% of likely Arkansas voters would cast their ballot for Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR), while 40% would vote for Pryor. Five percent (5%) would back another candidate and 10% are undecided.

While the poll didn’t ask voters about Pryor’s job performance, it did show that his favorables are above water, at 48/43. Cotton, however, is viewed more favorably, at 51/37.

The drag on Pryor is, as expected, President Obama. Just 35% of Arkansans approve of President Obama’s job performance, while 63% disapprove.

Obamacare is also hurting Pryor. The poll found that 66% have an unfavorable view of the law. Just 30% view it favorably. Sixty-eight percent (68%) oppose the individual mandate and 73% believe that problems with the law will be fixed within the next year.

Pryor voted for Obamacare and opposed attempts to repeal or defund the law despite the overwhelming sentiment against it in his home state. Like many vulnerable Democrats, Pryor has been trying to distance himself from President Obama and his agenda.

The poll of 500 likely voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports between February 4-5. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.5%. The Rothenberg Political Report gives Republicans a slight edge in the race, which would be a pick-up and one seat closer to a majority.

Young people incentivized to avoid Obamacare

Recent Obamacare enrollment numbers were bad news for the Obama Administration, no matter how desperately the they tried to spin it. While it’s true that there was a surge in selected plans in December, though still far below anticipated numbers, the percentage of 18-to-34 year-olds is far too low for the law to be sustainable.

With a little over two months left in the open enrollment period, the administration is now gearing up its efforts to sell Obamacare to this group of people on whom the success of the law depends.

But would it be advantageous for young people to sign-up for a government-approved Obamacare health insurance plan? A new study from the American Action Forum state the case that most young people would be better off avoiding Obamacare.

“Recently released data from the Department of Health and Human Services on the breakdown of enrollee age shows young adults make up only 24 percent of total enrollment through December 28, 2013—well below the administration’s target level of 39 percent,” wrote Conor Ryan and Chris Holt of the American Action Forum, a conservative think tank.

“The ACA’s perverse economic incentives are well documented. The law makes health insurance more expensive for many young adults, while at the same time making the decision to go without health coverage exponentially less risky than it previously was,” the two analysts noted. “It is impossible to predict how many young adults will ultimately enroll in coverage, but it is clear that many young adult enrollees will be worse off financially if they decide to purchase health insurance.”

Obama Sends ObamaCare into Greater Chaos

Media icon Barbara Walters recently confessed that she and so many of her liberal ilk truly thought that Obama would be the next messiah, and that their hopes and dreams in that regard have been shattered by the utter fecklessness and incompetence of this administration in executing even the most basic of governing functions.

Yet, the complete overhaul of a massive, complex health care/insurance system that makes up nearly a fifth of the domestic economy is no simple task, and as Obama and his brain trust in D.C. have discovered (long after the rest of us), buying health insurance is a complex undertaking.

A few months ago, Democrats played chicken with the House Republicans and forced a government shutdown rather than allow the House bill to pass, the third iteration of which would have funded Obamacare, allowed it to proceed on schedule, but simply require that all members of Congress and their staff get coverage through the ObamaCare exchanges.

Up to that point, Republicans had unsuccessfully attempted to defund the law, to delay the individual mandate for a year, and make other changes to the law. Democrats sanctimoniously declared ObamaCare to be “settled law” to which there must be no protests and strict adherence (unlike, you know, the Second Amendment, which is more than two centuries old and enshrined in the Bill of Rights, but which liberal Democrats are constantly trying to repeal).

For all of the maneuvering, attacking, and counter-attacking by Republicans, it seems now that nothing Republicans have done has been more damaging to confidence in the ObamaCare law than simply letting the implementation play out unimpeded. Each week seems to bring a new report of another aspect of the law that Obama has unilaterally changed, in defiance of the limits placed on his powers under the Constitution.

Politically motivated Obamacare delay a surprise to insurers

The Obama Administration’s delay of the individual mandate came as a surprise to health insurers participating in the state and federal Obamacare exchanges, according to an industry consult.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an agency under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), made the decision after a handful of Senate Democrats, including vulnerable incumbents up for reelection next year, expressed concern about insurance cancellations. The millions of canceled health plans have created a political firestorm, in addition to the poor rollout of the federal exchange website.

Robert Laszewski, an insurance industry consult, offered some insight in a blog post on Friday in which he noted that the administration officials didn’t discuss the delay with insurers. He also wondered what other politically motivated changes insurers can expect.

“The change was made without consulting the health insurance industry and it was a surprise to them,” wrote Laszewski at his blog, Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review. “It is another Obamacare change months after their 2014 rates were set under the presumption all of these cancelled policyholders would be paying a lot more premium into the pool than they pay today.”

Mandate delayed for those with canceled health plans, administration admits coverage is unaffordable

Because of the political firestorm around the millions of health insurance cancellations caused by Obamacare, the Obama Administration will give those who’ve lost their plans a pass from the individual mandate:

The Obama administration will not require the millions of Americans who received health-insurance plan cancellation notices to purchase a new policy next year.

They’re granting those consumers an exemption from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a Department of Heath and Human Services spokeswoman confirmed. The mandate requires everyone to have health insurance or face a tax penalty, the greater of $95 or 1 percent of income in 2014.

The administration will also allow those consumers to sign up for catastrophic coverage. Those bare-bones plans are available to people who are under 30 or qualify for a “hardship exemption.”
The White House estimates the allowance will affect roughly 500,000 people, whom it has determined received cancellation notices but have not yet purchased a new plan. The number was released late Thursday after officials compiled data from states and insurance companies.

But the deal for consumers is yet another burden for insurers, who earlier this week went along with the White House’s request to grant leniency to consumers paying premiums in January. Consumers will now be allowed to send payments until Jan. 10 and receive coverage retroactively to Jan. 1.

Al Franken: Individual mandate may have to be delayed

Al Franken

If the technical problems with federal Obamacare exchange,, aren’t worked out before the end of November, as the White House and Obama Administration officials promised, then enforcement of the individual mandate may have to be delayed, says Sen. Al Franken (D-MN):

“I think then we have to consider extending the deadline for the mandate, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” Franken told MPR.

Franken has so far been relatively quiet about potential changes to the health-care law, but he now joins a growing group of Senate Democrats in seats that could be targeted by the GOP in 2014 who are speaking up on the issue.

While the GOP is mostly focused on winning a half dozen red states held by Democrats, there are another group of Democratic-controlled swing states and nominally blue states that have formed the second tier of GOP targets. Democrats facing reelection in these states in 2014 — Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Jeff Merkley (R-Ore.) — have pushed for changes ranging from allowing people to keep their current insurance plans to extending the open enrollment period.

Two House Democrats running for open seats — Iowa’s Bruce Braley and Michigan’s Gary Peters — also voted for a House GOP bill that would achieve the former goal.

Another brutal poll for President Obama and Obamacare

President Barack Obama has faced an avalanche of bad numbers since the embarrassing launch of the federal Obamacare exchange website and reports of millions of insurance cancellations, but the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll has to be among the worst, if not the worst (emphasis added):

The flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act has pushed President Obama to the lowest point of his presidency, with dwindling faith in his competence and in many of the personal attributes that have buoyed him in the past, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Opposition to the new health-care law also hit a record high in the survey, with 57 percent saying they oppose the president’s most significant domestic initiative. Forty-six percent say they are strongly against it. Just a month ago, as the enrollment period was beginning, the public was almost evenly divided in its assessments of the law.

Disapproval of Obama’s handling of the health-care law’s rollout stands at 63 percent, with a majority saying they strongly disapprove. Last month, 53 percent disapproved.
[Obama’s] overall approval rating has fallen to 42 percent, having dropped six percentage points in a month, and equals his record low in Post-ABC polls. His disapproval rating stands at 55 percent, which is the worst of his presidency. Forty-four percent say they strongly disapprove of the way he is handling his job, also the worst of his presidency.

Ads promoting Obamacare don’t mention individual mandate

If you were watching television or listening to the radio, both before and after the launch of the state and federal Obamacare exchanges, you may have noticed the ads promoting the law. These 30-second ads featured positive imagery of families and people doing fun activities and placed heavy emphasis on getting covered.

What you won’t hear in these ads is any mention of the individual mandate, the provision in Obamacare that requires virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance coverage. That’s something The New York Times recently noticed:

The state and federal health insurance exchanges are using all manner of humor and happy talk to sell the Affordable Care Act’s products. But the one part of the new system that they are not quick to trumpet is the financial penalty that Americans will face if they fail to buy insurance.

On state exchange websites, mention of the penalty is typically tucked away under “frequently asked questions,” if it appears at all. Television and print ads usually skip the issue, and operators of exchange telephone banks are instructed to discuss it only if asked. The federal website, now infamous for its glitches, mentions the penalty but also calls it a fee, or an Individual Shared Responsibility Payment. …

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