Evolving health law


A new IRS rule on “Employer Health Care Arrangements” doesn’t appear on the Internal Revenue Service website under either “What’s Hot” or “News Releases.” Yet, there has been no change in the so-called Affordable Care Act that will have a more significant impact on the nation’s employers.

Similarly, a new Obamacare regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services doesn’t turn up in a search of “News Releases, Speeches and Testimonies” on the HHS website. Yet, it will cost the deficit-ridden federal government billions of dollars it cannot afford.

That the Obama administration has soft-pedaled both the new IRS rule and new HHS regulation suggests to us that it is wary of backlash from the majority of Americans who disfavor Obamacare.

Indeed, we think it no coincidence that the first news report on the latest in a plethora of changes to the Affordable Care Act happened to appear during the long Memorial Day weekend, when fewer people typically are paying attention.

The IRS rule declares that larger employers may not steer their workers to Obamacare health exchanges under so-called employer payment plans, whereby an employer reimburses employees for the government-subsidized premiums the workers pay for their health insurance.

The rule addresses an unintended consequence of the Affordable Care Act — the incentive for large employers to dump their workers onto Obamacare. Indeed, since the president’s health care law was enacted in 2010, IBM, Caterpillar and DuPont, among other corporations, announced plans to offload their Medicare-age retirees to private exchanges.

A survey last year by the consulting firm Towers Watson &Co. indicated that 44 percent of companies planned to stop administering retiree health plans by 2015 — when Obamacare’s employer mandate is expected to take effect.

The HHS regulation, green-lighted by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on her way out the door, would provide government aid to insurance companies that suffer financial losses this year as a result of participating in Obamacare exchanges.

The reason insurers are facing losses, the reason they are considering substantial rate increases for 2015, is that their Obamacare enrollees are older and less healthy — thus, more expensive — than HHS projected.

The Obama administration hopes the payout to insurers will dissuade them from charging higher premiums, increasing deductibles and ratcheting up co-payments as Democrat backers of Obamacare look ahead to November’s mid-term elections.

Republicans rightly oppose the payments, which they characterize as a taxpayer bailout of insurance companies that gambled on the president’s health care law and lost money. Indeed, what HHS proposes to do, in effect, is wipe those losses off the books of Obamacare’s insurers.

What we find most objectionable about both the IRS rule and HHS regulation is that they write and rewrite, respectively, provisions of the Affordable Care Act approved by Congress in 2010.

Such significant revisions should be approved by Congress, not unilaterally imposed by executive branch fiat.

— From the Orange County Register

 

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