Tag: aca

Sebelius Shakes Down Companies She Regulates for Cash to Implement ObamaCare

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’ latest abuse of power has strengthened the case for her removal from office. Before discussing her latest misconduct, let’s review some of Sebelius’ past abuses of power.

  • In 2010, Sebelius described anonymous political speech as “dangerous.” Ironically, Sebelius’ lashing out at her political opponents’ free-speech rights is dangerous because it is the sort of rhetoric that might encourage agencies like the IRS to target groups that “criticize how the country is being run.” That’s exactly what the IRS has admitted doing – which in turn is a good argument for protecting anonymous political speech.
  • So too is Sebelius’ 2010 threat to put health insurance companies out of business. Shortly after ObamaCare became law, insurers began telling their customers how much it was going to increase their premiums. In a September 2010 letter to insurers, Sebelius shot back that premiums would rise no more than 2 percent, even as her department predicted increases as high as 7 percent. Insurers that didn’t toe the party line “may be excluded from health insurance Exchanges in 2014.” That was no idle threat, I wrote at the time. Since “Medicare’s chief actuary predicts that in the future, ‘essentially all‘ Americans will get their health insurance through those exchanges,” Sebelius was essentially threatening to put insurers out of business if they disagreed with her.
  • In 2011, Sebelius approved her department issuing hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to private health insurance companies under the rubric of ObamaCare that the statute expressly forbids HHS to issue.
  • In 2012, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel concluded that Sebelius violated the Hatch Act by campaigning for President Obama and other political candidates while traveling on official business, an offense for which other federal workers are fired.
  • In a July 2012 letter to the nation’s governors, Sebelius arbitrarily rewrote and narrowed the Supreme Court’s ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius to allow HHS to continue coercing states into implementing parts of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion.
  • When it became apparent that two-thirds of states would not implement one of ObamaCare’s health insurance “exchanges,” Sebelius dismissed the idea that a lack of congressionally authorized funding for federal Exchanges would stop her department from implementing them. “We are going to get it done,” she said. Now we learn she substituted her own judgment for Congress’ by raiding ObamaCare’s Prevention and Public Health Fund to the tune of $454 million to fund federal Exchanges. But even that wasn’t enough.

Now we learn, from the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff, “Sebelius has, over the past three months, made multiple phone calls to health industry executives, community organizations and church groups and directly asked that they contribute to non-profits that are working to enroll uninsured Americans and increase awareness of the law.”

This too appears to be unlawful:

IRS Chief, Who Defended Illegal ‘ObamaCare’ Taxes, also Denied Targeting of Tea-Party Groups

In 2011, members of Congress began criticizing a proposed IRS rule implementing ObamaCare’s health insurance tax credits. They claimed that the proposed rule violated the clear language of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as congressional intent, by issuing those tax credits in states that declined to establish a health insurance “exchange.” In effect, they claimed the proposed rule would result in the federal government taxing, borrowing, and spending hundreds of billions of dollars without congressional authorization. 

At the time, then–IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman leapt to his agency’s defense. He wrote that various provisions of the statute “support” the rule. He wrote that the “relevant” legislative history doesn’t show that Congress didn’t want the IRS to tax, borrow, and spend those hundreds of billions of dollars. He wrote that the proposed rule is “consistent with the language, purpose, and structure” of the law. The only thing he didn’t do was cite a provision of the law authorizing the rule, or even creating any ambiguity about the rule’s illegality.

The IRS finalized that illegal rule in May 2012. You can read all about it in my article with Jonathan Adler, “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA.”

It is worth noting that Shulman also leapt to the IRS’s defense against another charge that the agency was abusing its power. In 2012, conservative groups complained that the IRS was targeting them for audits. Shulman issued a forceful and categorical denial:

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress in March 2012 that the IRS was not targeting groups based on their political views.

“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman told a House Ways and Means subcommittee.

Shulman was wrong. Today, the IRS admitted it has been targeting conservative groups for audits

Perhaps some Friday afternoon hence we will be treated to an IRS admission that their tax-credit rule violates the Administrative Procedures Act and the PPACA, as two lawsuits now allege. I won’t hold my breath.

Targeting the Tea Party Isn’t the IRS’s Most Egregious Abuse of Power

Not by a longshot. 

As Jonathan Adler and I explain in this law journal article, and as I explain somewhat more accessibly in this Cato paper, the IRS is trying to tax, borrow, and spend $800 billion in clear violation of federal law and congressional intent.

Yes, you read that right: $800 billion.

Benghazi? Let’s Talk ObamaCare!

Things must be going poorly for President Obama if he wants to change the subject to ObamaCare.

Today, most of Washington is questioning whether the U.S. government was derelict in its handling of the September 11, 2012 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which heavily armed assailants injured 10 Americans and murdered four, including the U.S. ambassador. However, over at the White House, President Obama is launching a PR defensive of ObamaCare, at which he will basically ask mothers to nag their kids to waste their money on ObamaCare’s over-priced health insurance

The contrast brought to mind this passage from University of Chicago law professor M. Todd Henderson’s article in the latest issue of Cato’s Regulation magazine:

When the president sought to make birth control a mandatory part of all insurance plans, this was a political decision regarding health care. This is not to disparage political decisions in general, but merely to point out this feature of them, that they bind those who disagree…

A relatively simple, low cost, and widely accepted practice like birth control became a firestorm when individual choice and local variation were overridden on the grounds of improving social welfare. The airwaves and print media were filled with analysis, name-calling, and hyperbole. Kitchen tables, like my own, were filled with debate about how we should vote about the financing of other peoples’ use of birth control… Just imagine what the debates will look like when the stakes become—as they inevitably will—whether expensive cancer therapies, surgeries, or other procedures will be paid for, or whether more controversial matters like abortion, gender reassignment, and the like will be paid for…

When … matters are decided by experts or politicians, mistakes can be made and made in ways that necessarily are coercive. This coercion does not admit easy exit, as one can exit an insurance policy, especially if done at the federal level. The central lesson is that centralized power over complex matters risks making larger mistakes than decentralized power, admits less innovation, provides for less tailored satisfaction of preferences, and generates greater political conflict. Ironically, those risks may undermine the important work that government must do to improve the world we live in.

Every minute the government spends trying (and failing) to improve people’s health is a minute it cannot spend making them safer.

Read the rest of Henderson’s article, “Voice and Exit in Health Care Policy.”

Strange Things Are Afoot at the Circle K

The Washington Free Beacon reports:

Circle K Southeast joined a growing list of national companies shifting workers to part-time status this week, in order to avoid paying Obamacare’s mandatory benefits, CBS-WTOC reports.

The alternative is to pay a $2,000 fine per fulltime worker who is not covered, leading Circle K to become the latest in a long line of companies to slice employee hours to avoid increased costs.

Here’s the video:

NYT Room for Debate: the Oregon Medicaid Study & ObamaCare

Today’s New York Times Room for Debate” feature poses the question, “Do the mixed results of an Oregon health care study show that government medical insurance should provide only catastrophic coverage?” From my contribution:

ObamaCare aims to cover 16 million poor uninsured adults through Medicaid, plus 16 million higher-income uninsured Americans through government-subsidized “private” insurance. Supporters portrayed these “reforms” as a matter of life and death, particularly for the poor. Yet a monumental new study finds that “Medicaid coverage generated no significant improvements in measured physical health outcomes” for poor adults. These findings strengthen the case that states should stop implementing ObamaCare, and Congress should swiftly repeal it…

The absence of physical-health improvements indicts the entire enterprise. Supporters have an obligation to show that the $2 trillion in entitlements ObamaCare will launch next year would actually improve enrollees’ health. The Oregon study shows they cannot meet their burden of proof. What part of “no discernible improvement” don’t they understand?

Read the whole thing here. See also the contributions by Drew Altman, Austin Frakt, Robert Reich, and Grace-Marie Turner.

Wyden, Starr, Other ObamaCare Supporters Worry about Rollout

From Reuters:

“There is reason to be very concerned about what’s going to happen with young people. If their (insurance) premiums shoot up, I can tell you, that is going to wash into the United States Senate in a hurry,” said Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat…

“Why in late April can’t they show us any of what they’ve got planned? The rollout plan should already be in existence,” an exasperated Democratic Senate aide said separately…

Reform is facing challenges on several fronts. Big insurers appear wary of participating, raising questions about how competitive the exchanges will be. Businesses are mounting a new legal effort to stop the use of federal subsidies in exchanges run by Washington. And most states have balked at the exchanges and the Medicaid expansion…

“I don’t see how what they’re planning to do is going to be adequate. The resources are too limited, the (law’s) penalties are too weak and elite opposition in much of the country will undermine” enrollment, said Paul Starr, a Princeton professor and former health adviser to President Bill Clinton…

An April survey of 1,003 people by HealthPocket, an online company that helps consumers find insurance, also found that the law’s penalty for not buying coverage would not induce most 25-to-34-year-olds or 18-to-24-year-olds to purchase it…