Tag: employer mandate

WSJ: ObamaCare Could Reduce Employee Health Benefits

ObamaCare supporters promised the law’s employer mandate would require employers to provide workers with comprehensive insurance. But they apparently didn’t read the bill very closely. It’s a recurring theme.

According to the Wall Street Journal, employers and employee-benefits consultants have found, and federal regulators now confirm, that the law actually requires most employers to offer no more than very flimsy coverage. Many employers are now exploring the option of offering limited-benefit health plans that cover preventive services and maybe “$100 a day for a hospital visit” but “wouldn’t cover surgery, X-rays or prenatal care.” Indeed, the law could push many employers to reduce the amount of coverage workers receive on the job.

The Obama administration’s reaction demonstrates they had no idea what they were doing. The Wall Street Journal:

Administration officials confirmed in interviews that the skinny plans, in concept, would be sufficient to avoid the across-the-workforce penalty. Several expressed surprise that employers would consider the approach.

“We wouldn’t have anticipated that there’d be demand for these types of band-aid plans in 2014,” said Robert Kocher, a former White House health adviser who helped shepherd the law. “Our expectation was that employers would offer high quality insurance.”

The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again.

This and other employer responses to the law could make the roll-out of ObamaCare’s health insurance “exchanges” even more of a train wreck.

  • To the extent ObamaCare’s employer mandate pushes firms to offer bare-bones plans, premiums for plans offered through Exchanges will rise. The healthiest workers will enroll in their employers’ bare-bones plans, but workers who have expensive illnesses (or with dependents who have expensive illnesses) will seek more-comprehensive coverage through the Exchanges. The influx of sick consumers will increase the premiums for Exchange-based plans. Many of these sick workers won’t receive any premium-assistance tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies because their employer’s bare-bones plan will likely satisfy ObamaCare’s definition of adequate – and because the statute forbids those entitlements in the 33 states that have declined to establish an Exchange.
  • Employers are also renenwing their health-benefits contracts early (i.e., before January 1, 2014), which allows them to avoid many of ObamaCare’s regulatory costs for several months. That move could also increase premiums for Exchange-based plans by encouraging workers with high-cost illnesses to seek coverage through Exchanges while healthy workers stick with their employer’s plans.
  • Many employers are also considering self-insuring their health benefits, an arrangement in which the employer bears the risk that is usually borne by the insurance carrier and just hires someone (often an insurer) to administer the coverage. This strategy allows also employers to avoid many of ObamaCare’s regulatory costs and could also increase premiums in the Exchanges and small-group market.

Again, the Journal:

Regulators worry that some of these strategies, if widely employed, could pose challenges to the new online health-insurance exchanges that are a centerpiece of the health law. Among employees offered low-benefit plans, sicker workers who need more coverage may be most likely to opt out of employer coverage and join the exchanges. That could drive up costs in the marketplaces.

These are the sort of unintended consequences that ObamaCare’s opponents warned would plague any attempt by Congress to centrally plan one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

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.

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:

Questions for Secretary Sebelius

Secretary of Health and Humans Services Kathleen Sebelius has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill, testifying in favor of President Obama’s proposed budget and generally trying to assure members of Congress that all is well with ObamaCare implementation. Even supporters of the law are freaking out nervous, as I discuss here.

Since everyone else is pestering Sebelius with questions, I thought I would post some questions I would like to hear her answer.

WSJ: ‘Roofer Union Calls for Repeal of Obama Health Law’

Take it, Janet Adamy:

A labor union representing roofers is reversing course and calling for repeal of the federal health law, citing concerns the law will raise its cost for insuring members.

Organized labor was instrumental in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, but more recently has voiced concerns that the law could lead members to lose their existing health plans. The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers is believed to be the first union to initially support the law and later call for its repeal.

“After the law was passed, I had great hope…that maybe the rough spots would be worked out and we’d have a great law,” said Kinsey Robinson, international president of the union, which represents 22,000 commercial and industrial roofers…

Mr. Robinson says the union’s concerns about the law began to pile up in recent months after speaking with employers.

The roofers’ union’s current insurance plan caps lifetime medical bill payouts at $2 million for active members and $50,000 for retirees. Next year, the plan has to remove those caps in order to comply with the health law. Other aspects of the retiree plan must become more generous in order to meet the law’s minimum essential coverage requirements next year. All that will increase the cost of insuring members, Mr. Robinson said, and has prompted the union to weigh eliminating the retiree plan.

Adding to those cost concerns is a new $63-per-enrollee fee on health plans that pays insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions next year. Looking ahead to 2018, when the law levies an excise tax on high-value insurance plans, Mr. Robinson predicts that at least some of the union’s plans will get hit by it…

Over time, Mr. Robinson says, his optimism that regulators or lawmakers would address the union’s concerns diminished. “I don’t think they are going to get fixed,” he said. On Tuesday, the union called for a repeal of the health law or a complete reform of it.

Will the last ObamaCare supporter please turn off the lights?

Reason.com: ‘6 Reasons Why States Should Continue to Oppose ObamaCare’

Drawing from my white paper “50 Vetoes: How States Can Stop the Obama Health Law,” Reason’s Peter Suderman highlights six reasons why states should refuse to implement any part of ObamaCare. Here are two:

3. Refusing to create an exchange potentially protects a state’s businesses from the law’s employer mandate.Obamacare fines any business with 50 or more employees that does not offer health coverage of sufficient value—as determined by the federal government—$2,000 per employee (exempting the first 30 workers).  The employer penalties, however, are triggered by the existence of the law’s subsidies for private health insurance. And as Cannon notes, the text of Obamacare specifically states that those subsidies are only available in states that choose to create their own exchanges. The IRS has issued a rule allowing for subsidies in states that reject the exchanges, but a lawsuit is already under way to challenge it. 

4. States also have the power to protect as many as 12 million people from the law’s individual mandate—the “tax” it charges individuals for not carrying health insurance. Obamacare requires that nearly everyone maintain health coverage or pay a penalty—a “tax,” according to the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the law last year. But Obamacare also exempts individuals who would have to pay more than 8 percent of their household income for their share of their health insurance premiums. So if states bow out of the exchanges, and as a result the law’s private insurance subsidies are no longer available, then the mandate will no longer apply to the low and middle income individuals who would have to pay more than 8 percent of their income to get health insurance. Cannon estimates that if all 50 states were to decline to create exchanges, a little more than 12 million low and middle-income individuals would be exempt from the law’s mandate.

Ohio, Missouri Introduce the Health Care Freedom Act 2.0

Ohio Reps. Ron Young (R-Leroy Twp.) and Andy Thompson (R-Marietta), and Missouri Sen. John Lamping (R-St. Louis County), have introduced legislation—we call it the Health Care Freedom Act 2.0—that would suspend the licenses of insurance carriers who accept federal subsidies through one of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) health insurance Exchanges. At first glance, that might seem to conflict with or otherwise be preempted by the PPACA. Neither is the case. Instead, the HCFA 2.0 would require the IRS to implement the PPACA as Congress intended.

Here’s why. Under the PPACA, if an employer doesn’t purchase a government-prescribed level of health benefits, some of its workers may become eligible to purchase subsidized coverage through a health insurance “exchange.” When the IRS issues the subsidy to an insurance company on behalf of one of those workers, that payment triggers penalties against the employer. Firms with 100 employees could face penalties as high as $140,000.

Congress authorized those subsides, and therefore those penalties, only in states that establish a health insurance Exchange. If a state defers that task to the federal government, as 33 states including Missouri and Ohio have done, the PPACA clearly provides that there can be no subsidies and therefore no penalties against employers. The IRS has nevertheless announced it will implement those subsidies and penalties in the 33 states that have refused to establish Exchanges. Applying those measures in non-establishing states violates the clear language of the PPACA and congressional intent. See Jonathan H. Adler and Michael F. Cannon, “Taxation Without Representation: The Illegal IRS Rule to Expand Tax Credits Under the PPACA,” Health Matrix: Journal of Law-Medicine 23 (2013): 119-195.

Whether legal or illegal, those penalties also violate the freedoms protected by the Health Care Freedom Amendment to Ohio’s Constitution, and Missouri’s original Health Care Freedom Act, which voters in each state ratified by overwhelming majorities. The Ohio (HB 91) and Missouri (SB 473) bills would protect employers and workers from those penalties, and thereby uphold the freedoms enshrined in Missouri statute and Ohio’s Constitution, by suspending the licenses of insurance carriers that accept those subsidies.

The question arises whether the PPACA would preempt such a law. It does not. The HCFA 2.0 neither conflicts with federal law, nor attempts to nullify federal law, nor is preempted by federal law.

The HCFA 2.0 concerns a field of law—insurance licensure—that has traditionally been a province of the states under their police powers. In preemption cases, courts “start with the assumption that the historic police powers of the States were not to be superseded by the Federal Act unless that was the clear and manifest purpose of Congress.” Wyeth v. Levine, 129 S. Ct. 1187, 1194-95 (2009). Courts then must determine whether the state law in question is nevertheless trumped by express or implied federal preemption.