ObamaCare's summer of fall


Events of the past two weeks have shined a light on just how unwieldy and inoperable the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act already is, even though most of its provisions haven’t been implemented yet.

But the roots of this law were rotting well before ObamaCare became the law. Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner reported Tuesday that as early as December 2009 — as ObamaCare was heading toward passage in Congress — portions of the bill, propped up as structurally sound, were starting to collapse.

At that time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., touted the legislation’s long-term care program, known as the CLASS Act. Sen. Reid staunchly defended the economic viability of the program, stating it was “fully paid for,” even “decades and decades into the future,” Mr. Klein noted. Apparently, that meant about two years. In October 2011, the program was scrapped, with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stating there was not a “viable path forward for CLASS implementation.”

To the surprise of none of ObamaCare’s critics, there have been several other draw-downs or delays since then.

Just ahead of the July Fourth holiday, the administration announced it would break its signature law by delaying the employer mandate one year, until January 2015, sparing companies from tax penalties for not offering health coverage to workers. But another big revision came the afternoon of July 5 — a classic late-Friday release of bad news to diminish national attention. The administration announced the delay of a requirement that insurance exchange applicants have their income and insurance status verified before receiving federal subsidies. The government is going to take applicants at their word when they ask for tax money.

So Washington won’t penalize businesses next year for not meeting the employer mandate, and it won’t verify individuals’ eligibility for insurance subsidies or even whether those Americans have been offered insurance from their employers. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where some companies dump their insurance for a year — until and if the employer mandate kicks in — sending employees to the insurance exchanges, where surely some will give inaccurate information to qualify for a subsidy. The Wall Street Journal noted in an editorial last week that without eligibility verification, millions of people could receive subsidies, even though they don’t legally qualify, causing a huge increase in ObamaCare spending. Between 21 and 25 percent of earned income tax credits go to people who aren’t eligible, the editorial reports, and a similar rate for ObamaCare could lead to $250 billion in improper payments over a decade.

How would an honor system work out for the IRS when it comes to collecting taxes? How would an honor system work out for the state of Nevada? With no attempts to verify individual eligibility for subsidies, there will be fraud within Nevada’s insurance exchange and those everywhere else.

Already, some Democrats in Congress desperately want to repeal ObamaCare’s 2.3 percent revenue tax on medical devices, which took effect this year and is hammering large employers and drying up venture capital for start-up companies in the industry.

A miserable couple of weeks for President Barack Obama’s signature achievement didn’t end there. On Tuesday, the delay of yet another provision was revealed because of a conflict between the law’s premium penalties for smokers and its restrictions on insurance rates. As reported by Investor’s Business Daily, the law forbids insurance companies from charging older people more than three times what it charges younger people. But that’s impossible to adhere to when the older person is a smoker, due to the smoking penalties. The only way to square it: huge premium charges for healthy young people, which will compel them to decline coverage and instead pay the $95 tax penalty to the IRS.

Getting healthy young people to pay into the health care system was a must to make ObamaCare pencil out. Good luck with that. And it only gets worse from here, no matter what stays in place, what gets delayed and what gets dumped.

Some Democrats contend that Republican obstructionism is exacerbating these issues. Not so. ObamaCare is a poorly written, poorly scrutinized piece of legislation that is proving harder by the day to implement, which has nothing to do with obstructionism. A couple of months back, Republicans got a Twitter hashtag trending: #Obamacareinthreewords. The Obama administration happily jumped on board with this tweet: “It’s. The. Law.”

Then the administration should let the law go into effect, on time in all facets, so it can collapse under its own weight — as it already is. Or, better yet, since Mr. Obama apparently has the authority to pick and choose what gets implemented and when, don’t implement any of it — ever.

Repeal and replace. Eliminate coverage mandates instead of adding new ones. Allow insurance to be sold across state lines, and wean the country from employment-based coverage, which would increase competition and drive down costs. To reduce the number of uninsured, make insurance a safety net instead of a prepaid health care plan. Enact tort reform to end lawsuit lotteries and dial back defensive medicine. Give the federal government less power over care, not more.

 

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