Subsidies

Federal court may breathe new life into case that could bring down Obamacare

The arguments on Obamacare’s contraception mandate weren’t the only heard about the law on Tuesday. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in another case yesterday, Halbig v. Sebelius, that could bring down Obamacare.

At issue is whether the Obama administration can legally provide tax subsidies to residents of states that haven’t established exchanges. This is a scenario that lawmakers didn’t anticipate. They didn’t expect state resistance to the law, and didn’t foresee the creation of a federal exchange.

A reading of the statutes in question (§1311 and §1321) confirms that the subsidies were meant to apply only to states with an established exchange, but the Internal Revenue Service illegally wrote rules to apply the subsidies to apply to the federal exchange as well.

Based on reports from those who witness oral arguments in the Halbig case yesterday, the challenge may well prove successful, at least temporarily:

Judge A. Raymond Randolph indicated he felt the statute was quite clear in repeating “seven times” in that section that the subsidies are available only “through an Exchange established by the State.”  He indicated that it “is not up to the courts to fix” a problem that Congress may have created for itself.  (Nor, we might add, is it up to the IRS to rewrite the statute in its regulatory interpretation.)

American taxpayers funding Russian companies, conservative group says

Ex-Im Bank

The Club for Growth has waded into foreign policy, an unusual area for an organization that exclusively emphasizes free market policies, by urging on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to join its call for an end to taxpayer-subsidized loans to Russian companies, amid escalating tensions between the United States and Russia.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Club for Growth pointed to a January 2013 story from Reuters on discussions between the Export-Import Bank and Gennady Timchenko, a Russian billionaire, for “U.S. government-backed funding to buy luxury aircraft.” Timchenko was described as “a long-time associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

Another story highlighted in the statement was an August 2000 report from the Center for Public Integrity which noted that the Export-Import Bank had “guaranteed $489 million in credits to a Russian oil company whose roots are imbedded in a legacy of KGB and Communist Party corruption, as well as drug trafficking and organized crime funds

“We don’t think that the Export-Import Bank should exist at all, let alone even consider giving loans and loan guarantees to Russian oligarchs and companies with ties to the Russian mob,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.

35% of uninsured Americans don’t plan to participate in Obamacare

Despite the Obama administration’s final push for Americans to sign up for health plans on the state and federal Obamacare exchanges, more than a third of the uninsured intend to stay that way, according to a new survey.

The poll, commissioned by BankRate.com, found that 35% of uninsured Americans don’t plan on buying health insurance. The reason most frequently cited is the cost of coverage, though some are refusing to buy insurance because they oppose Obamacare or they’re health and don’t believe they need a health plan.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of the uninsured do plan on purchasing coverage, though time is quickly running out for them to do so.

The poll also found that 46% of uninsured Americans are unaware of the March 31 deadline to purchase health insurance, after which they could be hit with a tax penalty, assuming they don’t claim the “hardship exemption” loophole that the administration recently carved out.

What’s more, a staggering 70% of the uninsured aren’t aware of the subsidies available for health insurance coverage purchased through the exchanges. This, despite efforts by the administration to highlight the availability of the subsidies.

“This is a staggeringly high percentage,” Doug Whiteman, an insurance analyst at BankRate.com, told CBS News. “The government has spent over half a billion dollars promoting the Affordable Care Act, and more than two-thirds of uninsured Americans still don’t know about the subsidies.”

Today in Liberty: Facebook CEO expressed NSA frustrations to Obama, CFOs say minimum wage hike would curb hiring

“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.” — Edmund Burke

— Pen and Phone: In its latest executive action, the Obama administration has decided to reverse cuts to Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies that it previously said would be trimmed because of the Budget Control Act, better known as the sequester. “Last year, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said the subsidies would face a roughly 7 percent cut under sequestration,” The Hill reports. “Budget officials changed that in their latest report, removing the subsides from a list of programs the sequester will hit.” Presumably, the administration will have to cut elsewhere in the budget to make up for preserving these subsidies.

Oklahoma man loses insurance, left with $100,000 in medical bills

Oklahoma man loses insurance, left with $100,000 in medical bills

President Barack Obama says that uninsured Americans should prioritize their spending so they can afford to buy costly health plans available through the Obamacare exchanges, framing as a way to avoid expensive doctor and hospital bills in the event that a family member gets sick.

“I guarantee you at $300 a month, if, heaven forbid, something happened to him or a family member where they got sick and really needed, let’s say, a week’s worth of hospitalization,” President Obama said at a recent healthcare town hall, “he will wish that he paid that $300 a month because he’s stands potentially to get bills of hundreds of thousands for treatment, and you cannot pay that without health insurance.”

You know, President Obama has a point. Health insurance does indeed exist to guard against the unexpected and catastrophic incidents. That’s why Lenny Hobbs, a self-employed contractor and Oklahoma resident, had coverage through his wife’s employer-sponsored plan.

Unfortunately, Hubbs lost his health insurance coverage because his wife’s employer stopped offering benefits to employee’s spouses. This is an unintended consequence of Obamacare that many businesses, like UPS, have resorted to so that they can reduce additional healthcare costs.

Obama: Cancel your cable and phones if you can’t afford Obamacare

During a recent healthcare town hall with Hispanic media, President Barack Obama was presented with a question from someone who said that he couldn’t afford the $315 monthly premium for a health plan available on the Obamacare exchange.

The cost of the premiums for health plans has been one of the biggest complaints about Obamacare. eHealthInsurance recently released data finding that premiums for individual plans have increased by 39% compared to pre-Obamacare rates and family plans have increased by 56%.

President Obama’s answer to this very real question was two-fold. First, he blamed states that haven’t expanded Medicaid like Texas and Florida and said that people “need to put pressure on those governors to expand” the program.

Here’s the video via The Federalist:

Private exchanges offer cheaper coverage, more choice than Obamacare

A new study from the National Center for Public Policy Research finds that Americans looking to buy health insurance faced more choice and cheaper premiums last year than the plans available on the Obamacare exchanges.

“Many supporters of ObamaCare insisted that the health insurance exchanges created by the law would result in consumers having a greater choice among insurance policies and lower prices,” wrote David Hogberg, a health care policy analyst at the National Center for Public Policy Research. “The results [of the study] show that the claims that the ObamaCare exchanges would offer greater choice and lower prices did not hold up.”

The lack of choice on the Obamacare exchanges has been highlighted in various news stories around the country, though most focus on rural areas. The cost of health plans available has also been a frequent complaint from consumers and critics of the law. The premium hikes are caused by the law’s mandates and actuarial requirements.

In the study, Obamacare Exchanges: Less Choice, Higher Prices, Hogberg looked at plans available on the exchanges in metropolitan areas in 45 states for both a single, 27-year-old male and female as well as a 57-year-old couple and compared the results to the 2013 plans available on eHealthInsurance.com and Finder.Healthcare.gov. The results confirmed what critics of the law already suspected.

Administration to allow subsidies for health plans purchased off exchanges

The Obama administration has made yet another unilateral change to Obamacare, this time by extending tax credit subsidies to those who purchased health insurance coverage outside of troubled, dysfunctional state exchanges:

The administration quietly issued a health law fix Thursday to help those states. Several Democratic-led states, including Oregon, Maryland, Massachusetts and Hawaii, are still trying to solve website problems that have eclipsed those experienced earlier by the federal HealthCare.gov site, now largely repaired.

Although the new policy fix is available to any state, Republican governors basically defaulted to federal control of online sign-ups in their states. Those who stand to benefit the most are Democratic governors who plunged ahead and ran into problems. Some are facing sharp criticism at home, from both sides of the political aisle.
[…]
HHS said state residents who were unable to sign up because of technical problems may still get federal tax credits if they bought private insurance outside of the new online insurance exchanges.

The federal policy change is significant because until now the administration has stressed that the only place to get taxpayer-subsidized insurance under President Barack Obama’s health law is through the new online markets, called exchanges. Previously, people who bought outside the marketplace were not eligible for subsidies, although they benefit from consumer protections in the law.

Venezuelans Are Fed Up With Socialist President Maduro

Nicolás Maduro

Since February 4th, students have been protesting in San Cristóbal, Venezuela. Protesters have been strongly opposed to current President Nicolas Maduro and his heavy-handed interventionist government and have decided to take it to the streets, which ended up triggering waves of violent attacks that are mostly perpetrated by paramilitary forces. At least 6 people have died so far.

Before the protests, Venezuelans were experiencing soaring crime rates, an annual inflation rate of 320 percent and shortage of basic goods, which are all mostly due to protectionist policies and Hugo Chavez’s National Bolivarian Guard’s crack down on the ‘over-pricing’ the government accuses producers and merchants of practicing.

Product shortages range from vegetables to toilet paper.

In Venezuela, food is subsidized. The government has instilled an idea among its citizens that cheap gas is every Venezuelan’s right, so oil is heavily subsidized as well. The president of the Venezuela’s national oil company is also the vice president in charge of the country’s economy, has also acted as the government’s energy minister.

Yes, Secretary Sebelius, Obamacare will reduce employment

While most Democrats seem to be hailing the news that Obamacare will reduce the incentive to work, Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius seems to be in complete denial.

At a stop in Orlando on Monday, Sebelius told reports that there is no evidence that Obamacare will reduce employment.

“There is absolutely no evidence, and every economist will tell you this, that there is any job-loss related to the Affordable Care Act,” Sebelius said. “Part-time physicians are actually down since 2010, not up. The number of full-time workers continues to increase. I know that’s a popular myth that continues to be repeated, but it just is not accurate.”

Well, there is evidence.

The Congressional Budget Office recently determined that Obamacare would reduce employment by 2 million full-time workers by 2017, up from an earlier projection of 800,000, rising to 2.5 million by 2024. The reason for the decline in workers is because the subsidies, which are tied to income, would encourage people to work less.


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