Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

What we voted for: new Obamacare taxes coming in 2014

The New York Post reports.

Excerpt:

The cost of President Obama’s massive health-care law will hit Americans in 2014 as new taxes pile up on their insurance premiums and on their income-tax bills.

Most insurers aren’t advertising the ObamaCare taxes that are added on to premiums, opting instead to discretely pass them on to customers while quietly lobbying lawmakers for a break.

But one insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, laid bare the taxes on its bills with a separate line item for “Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes.”

The new taxes on one customer’s bill added up to $23.14 a month, or $277.68 annually, according to Kaiser Health News. It boosted the monthly premium from $322.26 to $345.40 for that individual.

The new taxes and fees include a 2 percent levy on every health plan, which is expected to net about $8 billion for the government in 2014 and increase to $14.3 billion in 2018.

There’s also a $2 fee per policy that goes into a new medical-research trust fund called the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

Insurers pay a 3.5 percent user fee to sell medical plans on the HealthCare.gov Web site.

[...]Americans also will pay hidden taxes, such as the 2.3 percent medical-device tax that will inflate the cost of items such as pacemakers, stents and prosthetic limbs.

Those with high out-of-pocket medical expenses also will get smaller income-tax deductions.

Americans are currently allowed to deduct expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their annual income. The threshold jumps to 10 percent under ObamaCare, costing taxpayers about $15 billion over 10 years.

Then there’s the new Medicare tax.

Under ObamaCare, individual tax filers earning more than $200,000 and families earning more than $250,000 will pay an added 0.9 percent Medicare surtax on top of the existing 1.45 percent Medicare payroll tax. They’ll also pay an extra 3.8 percent Medicare tax on unearned income, such as investment dividends, rental income and capital gains.

Right now, Obama is furiously trying to re-write the law by arbitrary executive decisions. But all this does is remove the amount of money being paid into the system, while keeping the amount being spent the same. What will be the end result of a massive shortfall in funding for Obamacare? As Byron York argues, the end result of will be that the Democrats bail out health care insurance companies to keep them from going bankrupt.

Transcript:

COLBY: What do you think about these bailouts of insurance companies, as well? Could that happen?

YORK: It absolutely will happen –

COLBY: Will happen?!

YORK: As a matter of fact, it’s written into the law. There’s something called “risk corridors,” which basically ensure that if an insurance company ends up paying a lot more in benefits than it takes in in premiums, then the federal government will bail it out — it will make it good. And it looks like we are entering a situation — certainly in the first month of January — where the insurance companies will be in that situation. And they’e not going to take the losses. It will be the taxpayer who makes up for those losses.

Do you think that raising the debt from $8.5 trillion to $17 trillion was irresponsible? Then wait until the government has to bail out all their left-wing cronies in the health insurance industry.

One thing is for sure – the Republicans will be running on Obamacare in 2014:

New Hampshire:

Minnesota:

This money that is being wasted due to socialist incompetence doesn’t come from government workers or politicians – they don’t earn any money of their own. The money comes from government borrowing from your children. Honestly, I if I had children, I might be tempted to leave this country, especially if I wanted to have lots of them. This really isn’t the place for a big family any more.

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International tests show US children lagging despite record spending on education

Jay Richards tweeted this article from the Wall Street Journal.

Excerpt:

Since 1998, the Program for International Student Assessment, or Pisa, has ranked 15-year-old kids around the world on common reading, math and science tests. The U.S. brings up the middle—again—among 65 education systems that make up fourth-fifths of the global economy. The triennial Pisa report also shows—again—that East Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea produce the best outcomes.

U.S. performance hasn’t budged in a decade. For 2012, U.S. students placed 26th in mathematics, a bit below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average, and 17th in reading and 21st in science, close to the average. The U.S. slipped in all categories compared to international competitors, plunging from 11th in reading as recently as 2009.

American teenagers seem especially weak in core academic subjects with high cognitive demands, such as translating concepts into solutions for real-world problems. A quarter never become proficient in math. In Shanghai and Korea, the comparable figure is 10% or fewer. Some 7% of U.S. students reached the top two scientific performance levels, compared with 17% in Finland and an amazing 27% in Shanghai. Is it tiger moms or tiger schools, or maybe both?

The U.S. is way out front in one measure: per-student spending. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland spend more. Despite laying out $115,000 per head, the U.S. did no better than the Slovak Republic, which spends $53,000.

Perhaps most depressingly, the data show no statistically significant U.S. achievement improvement over time. None. In an era when it pays to be thankful for small mercies, at least we’re not getting worse, but America’s relative standing is falling as other countries improve.

[...]Massachusetts has been running public schools since 1635 and today is home to some of the best performers in the nation. The state entered Pisa as if it was its own country—but students of the same age in Shanghai performed as if they had two more years of math instruction than those in the Bay State.

[...]Pisa also adds another count to the bill of indictment for the Democrats who block reform to serve their teachers union patrons. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called the report “a picture of educational stagnation,” but liberals are major impediments to more accountability, merit-based compensation and school-choice competition. The Justice Department has even gone so far as to sue Louisiana to block its modest voucher program, which is a moral crime against the students consigned to failing schools.

There are a few areas of economics that I think that Christians really ought to understand, and education is one of them. We definitely need to be concerned about policies that make it harder for poor, minority students to get ahead. We keep throwing money at the unionized public school system, and we get no results. We need to think about making education more like online shopping. What makes online shopping great is choice and competition. If schools were allowed to compete with one another, then the customer would be assured of getting more quality for less money. The public school system is a monopoly, and it serves the teachers and the education bureaucrats – not the children.

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Doctor shortage: how Obamacare makes it harder to find a doctor

Remember how Obama promised that if you liked your doctor, then you could keep your doctor? It turns out that there is more to making policies than just saying what you’d like to do in a scripted campaign speech. The truth is that some health care policies will make you lose your doctor, regardless of what the President reads off of a teleprompter. Is Obamacare one of these policies? Let’s see.

Avik Roy writes about it in Forbes magazine.

Excerpt:

On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that, due to Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare Advantage, among other factors, UnitedHealth expects its network of physicians “to be 85 percent to 90 percent of its current size by the end of 2014.” The result? Some retirees enrolled in Medicare Advantage will need to find new doctors. And it’s a trend that could accelerate in future years.

[...]Over the next ten years, Obamacare was designed to spend around $1.9 trillion on expanding health coverage to the uninsured. The law pays for this new spending with $1.2 trillion in new taxes, and $716 billion in cuts to Medicare, relative to prior law.

[...]The private insurers who supply Medicare Advantage plans, like UnitedHealth and Humana, have been responding to the cuts by squeezing out inefficiencies in the way they deliver care. One obvious way to do that is to pay doctors and hospitals less—or kick out the providers who refuse to accept lower reimbursement rates. And that’s what United has done, according to the WSJ report from Melinda Beck.

“Doctors in at least 10 states have received termination letters, some citing ‘significant changes and pressures in the health-care environment,’” writes Beck.

Another one of my favorite health care policy experts is the ex-Canadian Sally C. Pipes, who knows all about the horrors of single-payer health care. It killed her mother! Here’s what she had to say about the doctors shortage in a Forbes magazine article from earlier this year.

The first problem is that we have an aging doctor population and since we do such a poor job of educating our children (public school indoctrination centers) we aren’t making any new ones:

Right now, the United States is short some 20,000 doctors, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The shortage could quintuple over the next decade, thanks to the aging of the American population — and the aging and consequent retirement of many physicians. Nearly half of the 800,000-plus doctors in the United States are over the age of 50.

The second problem is that adding more regulations and burdensome paperwork makes a lot of people not want to be doctors any more:

Obamacare is further thinning the doctor corps. A Physicians Foundation survey of 13,000 doctors found that 60 percent of doctors would retire today if they could, up from 45 percent before the law passed.

The third problem is that the government isn’t reimbursing doctors as much as private insurance companies do, and it makes them refuse to take government-funded patients:

They’ve long limited the number of Medicaid patients they’ll treat, thanks to the program’s low reimbursement rates. According to a study published in Health Affairs, only 69 percent of doctors accepted new Medicaid patients in 2011. In Florida, just 59 percent do so. And a survey by the Texas Medical Association of doctors in the Lone Star State found that 68 percent either limit or refuse to take new Medicaid patients.

Medicaid pays about 60 percent as much as private insurance. For many doctors, the costs of treating someone on Medicaid are higher than what the government will pay them.

These underpayments have grown worse over time, as cash-strapped states have tried to rein in spending on Medicaid. Ohio hasn’t increased payments to doctors in three years; Kentucky hasn’t raised them in two decades. Colorado, Nebraska, South Carolina, Arizona, Oregon, and Arizona all cut payments in 2011.

By throwing nine million more people into the program without fixing this fatal flaw, Obamacare will make it even harder for Medicaid patients to find doctors.

It’s not just Medicaid that’s the problem, either. It’s the government-controlled exchanges.

Healthcare providers are signaling that they may turn away patients who purchase insurance through the exchanges, too.

In California, for example, folks covered by Blue Shield’s exchange plan will have access to about a third of its physician network. The UCLA Medical Center and its doctors are available to customers of just one plan for sale through the state exchange, Covered California. And the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is not taking anyone with exchange insurance.

Now I know what you’re thinking – why not just force doctors to work for lower wages, like a good socialist country might? Well, that actually makes the shortage worse, because people don’t like to learn hard things and then work hard for little pay. And doctors work VERY hard – it’s not an easy profession to get into. That will just make all the doctors leave the country for other countries where they can be paid fairly for the work they do.

And in fact that is exactly what happened in a 100% socialized health care system in Venezuela, according to this report from the left-leaning Associated Press.

Excerpt:

Half the public health system’s doctors quit under Chavez, and half of those moved abroad, Natera said.

Now, support staff is leaving, too, victim of a wage crunch as wages across the economy fail to keep up with inflation.

At the Caracas blood bank, Lopez said 62 nurses have quit so far this year along with half the lab staff. It now can take donations only on weekday mornings.

I recommend reading that entire article for a glimpse of where the Democrats are trying to take us. There is not a dime’s worth of difference on policy between the Democrat party and the socialist party of Venezuela, except that the socialists have been in control in Venezuela for longer, and so they are further along the road to serfdom.

In other news, the Washington D.C. insurance commissioner was fired after raising concerns about the “fix” proposed by Obama in his speech last week. That’s also something that you might expect to see in a country like Venezuela. That’s what happens in authoritarian socialist countries. Whistleblowers and critics just disappear.

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Why do so many people oppose Obamacare and why isn’t Obama willing to fix it?

This article from National Review provides a simple overview of a few of the main problems with Obamacare.

I’ll just highlight a few of the points in the article.

Higher health care costs, higher health insurance costs, higher taxes:

Under ACA, health-care spending is expected to rise significantly, even beyond the usual inflation in medical prices. President Obama’s economic advisers originally had calculated that the bill would reduce health-care spending by $200 billion a year, from whence the president derived his intellectually indefensible conclusion that the bill would save the average family of four some $2,500 a year. Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services calculated that ACA will not reduce health-care spending at all and will instead add about $70 billion per year in the immediate future. Estimates of the program’s expense keep growing. It will spend more than originally estimated, it will tax more than originally estimated, and its vaunted deficit-reduction benefits have been evaporating at a pace suggesting that, as many predicted, they will never come to pass. In 2010, CBO projected that ACA would reduce the deficit by $140 billion through 2019; today that projection is a mere $4 billion. The estimated tax increases in the bill have doubled.

It discriminates against men by forcing them to subsidize women’s health care:

The difference between the increase in men’s rates and those in women’s rates is one of the more naked bits of ideology apparent in the bill. Women spend considerably more on health care than men do, and hence have paid higher health-insurance premiums. The architects of the ACA decided that this was not permissible, and so by fiat eliminated the difference, meaning a disproportionate increase in men’s rates. Likewise, because there can be only so much difference permitted in prices paid by the young and the old, the young will pay much higher rates.

Employers are forced to make full-time employees work part-time:

[The employer mandate creates a] powerful economic preferences for part-time workers. By mandating coverage for those working 30 hours or more, the employer mandate makes part-time workers that much more attractive to businesses, a fact not lost on President Obama’s erstwhile supporters in organized  labor. “The ACA will shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40-hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class,” reads a joint letter from the major labor unions.

It creates incentives to not marry and to not work:

And in an especially clumsy move, the program’s architects have designed the income limits on its subsidies as hard cutoffs rather than gradual phaseouts. For example, as Ed Driscoll points out, a married couple earning $62,040 would face a $10,000 penalty for earning $1 extra — unless they get divorced. That’s a very high effective marginal tax rate. Likewise, a married couple with two children with $93,000 in joint income would pay far more for insurance than they would if they divorced and custody were granted to the lower-earning spouse. So while the employer mandate creates a disincentive to hire, the high penalties for extra income create a disincentive to work — hardly the thing that’s called for in a period of high joblessness and record welfare dependency.

That’s enough – read the article for many, many more. And the article doesn’t even cover all the problems, although some of my previous posts (like this one) have talked about these other problems that weren’t mentioned in the National Review article. And there are even ethical problems, like the abortion drugs coverage mandate and the fact that pro-life taxpayers will be subsidizing abortions from day one. I could go on, but I’ll try to keep this post short.

So what is Obama doing about the problems in his policy? The Republicans have asked him to delay the individual mandate for a year, and to make Congress give up their exemption from Obamacare – a law they passed themselves!

The Wall Street Journal explains Obama’s response to the problems in his health care policy.

Excerpt:

President Obama is sitting out one of the most important policy struggles since he entered the White House. With the government shutdown, it has reached the crisis stage. His statement about the shutdown on Tuesday from the White House Rose Garden was more a case of kibitzing than leading. He still refuses to take charge. He won’t negotiate with Republicans, though the fate of ObamaCare, funding of the government and the future of the economic recovery are at stake. He insists on staying on the sidelines—well, almost.

Mr. Obama has rejected conciliation and compromise with Republicans. Instead, he attacks them in sharp, partisan language in speech after speech. His approach—dealing with a deadlock by not dealing with it—is unprecedented. He has gone where no president has gone before.

[...][A]s he was predicting widespread suffering, Mr. Obama steadfastly refused to negotiate with Republicans. He told House Speaker John Boehner in a phone call that he wouldn’t be talking to him anymore. With the shutdown hours away, he called Mr. Boehner again. He still didn’t negotiate and said he wouldn’t on the debt limit either.

Mr. Obama has made Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid his surrogate in the conflict with Republicans. Mr. Reid has also declined to negotiate. In fact, Politico reported that when the president considered meeting with Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell, along with the two Democratic congressional leaders, Mr. Reid said he wouldn’t attend and urged Mr. Obama to abandon the idea. The president did just that.

[...]The president’s tactic of attacking Republicans during a crisis while spurning negotiations bodes for a season of discord and animosity in the final three-and-one-quarter years of the Obama presidency. That he has alienated Republicans doesn’t seem to trouble Mr. Obama.

The important lesson we must all learn from this is that Barack Obama had no experience in health care policy. He didn’t surround himself with people who understood health care policy, either. The next time that we have the opportunity to elect a President, we need to realize that we are not picking a favorite celebrity or an American Idol. The President’s job is not to dance and sing and act to amuse us. The President’s job is to solve problems. Part of being a problem solver is also being a good negotiator. We need to pick someone who has experience successfully solving the problems that are facing us as a nation. Speeches are no substitute for past performance.

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Obamacare will increase average individual-market premiums by 99% for men

% Increase in health insurance premium before and after Obamacare

Percent increase in average health insurance premium after Obamacare

What will you be paying for the privilege of electing a socialist who made you feel good about yourself?

Avik Roy counts the cost in Forbes magazine.

Excerpt:

For months now, we’ve been waiting to hear how much Obamacare will drive up the cost of health insurance for people who purchase coverage on their own. Last night, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finally began to provide some data on how Americans will fare on Obamacare’s federally-sponsored insurance exchanges. HHS’ press release is full of happy talk about how premiums will be “lower than originally expected.” But the reality is starkly different.

Based on a Manhattan Institute analysis of the HHS numbers, Obamacare will increase underlying insurance rates for younger men by an average of 97 to 99 percent, and for younger women by an average of 55 to 62 percent. Worst off is North Carolina, which will see individual-market rates triple for women, and quadruple for men.

[...][M]any 27-year-olds will face steep increases in the underlying cost of individually-purchased insurance under Obamacare. For the states where we have data—the 36 reported by HHS, plus nine others that we had compiled for our map that HHS didn’t report—rates will go up for men by an average of 97 percent; for women, 55 percent. (In the few cases where HHS reported on states that our map includes, we went with HHS’ numbers.)

Worst off was Nebraska, where the difference between the cheapest plan under the old system and under Obamacare was 279 percent for men, and 227 percent for women: more than triple the old rate. Faring best was Colorado, where rates will decline for both 27-year-old men and women by 36 percent. The only other state to see a rate decline in this analysis was New Hampshire: 8 percent for both men and women.

(Still missing are data from Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, and Nevada. The data from New York and New Jersey should be taken with a grain of salt, as their individual insurance markets are not like those of other states.)

[...]40-year-olds, surprisingly, will face a similar picture. The cheapest exchange plan for the average enrollee, compared to what a 40-year-old would pay today, will cost an average of 99 percent more for men, and 62 percent for women.

You might be asking why men have to pay more than women for Obamacare premiums, and the answer is simple. Even though women use a lot more health care, companies are now forbidden from making women pay more because they use more. Women will be paying less because men will be picking up the cost. That’s called “equality”. The same thing happened with the stimulus, which also favored women, because they are more likely than men to support big government Democrats at election time.

What about the subsidies that are being offered by the government to ease the transition to government-controlled health care?

However, the overall results make clear that most people will not receive enough in subsidies to counteract the degree to which Obamacare drives premiums upward. Remember that nearly two-thirds of the uninsured are under the age of 40. And that young and healthy people are essential to Obamacare; unless these individuals are willing to pay more for health insurance to subsidize everyone else, the exchanges will not serve the goal of providing coverage to the uninsured.

Democrats like to make much of the subsidies that they are offering to offset these skyrocketing premiums, but that money is being borrowed from the children of today. They are the ones who will have to pay the money back. In effect, we are borrowing money from the next generation of workers to pay off the health care of the retirees of today. Obamacare is a massive transfer of wealth from young people to older people. Young people are still very much under the influence of the brainwashing they got from their teachers in government-run public schools. They have been taught that in order to be good people, they need to vote for socialism. And they do. It’s only much later that the bill comes due – for now they are blissfully unaware of what they are doing to themselves.

Health insurance premiums have been going up since 2008

Remember, premium shave already gone up $3,000 on average since Obamacare was passed, despite Obama promising they would drop by $2,500. That’s a $5,500 difference.

From Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

During his first run for president, Barack Obama made one very specific promise to voters: He would cut health insurance premiums for families by $2,500, and do so in his first term.

But it turns out that family premiums have increased by more than $3,000 since Obama’s vow, according to the latest annual Kaiser Family Foundation employee health benefits survey.

Premiums for employer-provided family coverage rose $3,065 — 24% — from 2008 to 2012, the Kaiser survey found. Even if you start counting in 2009, premiums have climbed $2,370.

What’s more, premiums climbed faster in Obama’s four years than they did in the previous four under President Bush, the survey data show.

There’s no question about what Obama was promising the country, since he repeated it constantly during his 2008 campaign.

In a debate with Sen. John McCain, for example, Obama said “the only thing we’re going to try to do is lower costs so that those cost savings are passed onto you. And we estimate we can cut the average family’s premium by about $2,500 per year.”

At a campaign stop in Columbus, Ohio, in February 2008, Obama promised that “We are going to work with you to lower your premiums by $2,500. We will not wait 20 years from now to do it, or 10 years from now to do it. We will do it by the end of my first term as president.”

A $5,500 difference doesn’t mean a lot to Obama. But maybe it means a lot to you. We’re going to find out exactly what we voted for very soon now.

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