Obamacare sticker shock!

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government Spending, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, Liberty, Macroeconomis, People, Philosophy, Politics, Taxes, U.S. Constitution, Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Obamacare sticker shock!

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Health_Care_gov

A spoof of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov home page from the Daily Show.

Credit: http://www.taylormarsh.com/blog/

While gasoline prices may be going down, premiums, deductibles and co-payments for health insurance plans are skyrocketing.

Beginning Jan.1 all individual and group employer-provided health insurance must comply with the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

More than 156 million Americans have their health insurance plans provided by their employers and another 25 million purchase their health insurance in the individual market, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

More than 60 million people age 65 and older and those younger with disabilities qualify for Medicare, a social insurance program that pays on average less than 50 percent of their health care costs. The balance of their health care costs must be paid for by the individual or the individual’s supplemental insurance.

More than 60 million Americans who are poor qualify for Medicaid, a government insurance program jointly funded by federal and state governments for individuals of all ages whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care. Obamacare expanded Medicaid coverage to those earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty line (about $15,000 for an individual and $32,500 for a family of four). Twenty-four states have opted out of the Medicaid expansion, including Texas.

Those who do not qualify for Medicaid because their earned income is higher than the federal poverty line may qualify for subsidies or credits paid for by taxpayers if they purchase a plan from one of the insurance companies offering them on the new health insurance exchanges.

Most individuals and small-group employers and their employees cannot keep their existing health insurance plans because of Obamacare.  They are shocked by the high premiums, deductibles and co-payments of the new plans offered by insurance companies to replace their existing health insurance plans.

Texas_Public_Policy_Foundation

Credit: Texas Public Policy Foundation

One reason the premiums and deductibles for non-grandfathered (not in existence on March 23, 2010)  individual and small-group employer (employers with 50 or fewer employees) health care insurance plans are significantly increasing is Obamacare requires the insurance companies to offer a minimum core package of items and services referred to as Essential Health Benefits (EHB). The only plans not required to have EHB are fully insured large group plans, self-funded administrative services only plans and grandfathered plans.

These essential health benefits fall into 10 categories: ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, rehabilitative services and devices, pediatric services, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services and chronic disease treatment. These EHBs must be included for plans offered both outside and inside the Health Insurance Marketplace such as those plans you find on the website HealthCare.gov.

A second reason the premiums, deductibles and co-payments for non-grandfathered health insurance plans are increasing is that individuals with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage and the plans cannot have a maximum lifetime limit for medical expenses.

Millions of Americans, because of their age, gender, lifestyle, marital status and religion, do not need maternity care and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, pediatric services, abortions and contraceptives. These Americans were satisfied with and could afford their existing health insurance plans and wanted to keep them.

Americans believed Obama when he repeatedly said, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

While in theory they could keep their plans under the Section 1251 “grandfather” provision of the Affordable Care Act, the regulations from the Obama administration interpreted this provision so strictly as to prevent most plans from being grandfathered.

Now the American people are learning from various news reports that the Obama administration officials knew in July 2010, when it was published on page 34,522 of the Federal Register, that “The Departments’ mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small-employer plans and 45 percent of large-employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013.” This represents about 93 million Americans facing cancellation of their existing plans because of Obamacare.

A sure way for a president to lose the trust of the American people is to misinform them about something they must pay for, such as the premiums, deductibles and co-payments for their health insurance plans.

Obama broke his promise to the American people and as a result his presidential job approval poll numbers have plummeted from an all-time high of 68 percent in Jan. 22-24, 2009 to a recent low of 39 percent on Nov. 5, according to Gallup.

Instead of making health insurance more affordable, Obamacare has made it more expensive for more than 181 million Americans who are now in sticker shock.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Obamacare: trick, treat or tax?

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Business, Congress, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government, Government Spending, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, Law, Liberty, Macroeconomis, Microeconomics, People, Philosophy, Politics, Taxes, U.S. Constitution | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Obamacare: trick, treat or tax?

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

halloween-haunted-house-pumpkin-lights-free-hd

Credit: http://www.wallcg.com

If you think Halloween is scary, you should see the HealthCare.gov website. It is frightening.

When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he made a firm pledge to the American people.

“If you who make less than a quarter of a million dollars per year which includes 98 percent of small business owners, you will not see your taxes increase one single dime under my plan — not your payroll taxes, not your income taxes, not your capital gains taxes, nothing. It is time to give the middle class a break. That is what I will do as president of the United States,” Obama said. This was captured in a YouTube video titled “Not a Dime in Tax Increase for Those Earning Less than $250,000.”

Once he was elected, Obama made another promise to the American people.

Obama said, “No matter how we reform healthcare, we will make this promise to the American people; if you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your healthcare plan, you will be able to keep your healthcare plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what. My view is that healthcare reform should be guided by a simple principle, fix what is broken and build on what works.” This statement was captured in a YouTube video titled “Obama to AMA keep your doctor and insurance we will build economy.”

On March 23, 2010, Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare. Before Obamacare was enacted into law, Obama was interviewed by ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. He asked the president, “You were against the individual mandate during the campaign. Under this mandate the government is forcing people to spend money and fining you if you don’t. How is that not a tax?”

Obama said, “…For us to say that you have to take responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it is saying is that we are not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you.”

Stephanopoulos responded, “I do not think I am making it up. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, tax, a charge usually of money imposed on persons or property for public purposes.”

Obama replied, “George, the fact you looked it up Merriam’s dictionary, that a definition of tax increase,   indicates to me that you are stretching it right now.” The entire exchange was captured in the YouTube video titled “Obamacare : FLASHBACK President Obama said Individual Mandate Is Not a Tax (Sept 20, 2009).”

When Obamacare was enacted, 26 states, along with several individuals and others challenged the constitutionality of Obamacare in the courts. They argued that the law was a violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which gives the federal government the power to regulate commerce between the states. The Supreme Court ruled that the law could not be upheld under the Commerce Clause. This was the primary argument of the government in arguing for the constitutionality of the law. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority said, “The federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance.”

However, the Supreme Court did accept the government’s tax argument that the individual mandate represented a tax on individuals who choose not the buy health insurance. The Court said, “going without insurance” is “just another thing the government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income.”

Americans are not required to buy health insurance under the individual mandate, according to the Supreme Court in its ruling. However, if you elect not to buy one of Obamacare’s individual metal (bronze, silver, gold or platinum) plans through a state or federal health insurance exchange, you may be subject to a tax penalty or fine by the Internal Revenue Service.

For 2014, the fine is the greater of 1 percent of income or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child up to $285 per family. For 2015 the fine is the greater of 2 percent of income or $325 per adult and $162.50 per child up to $975 per family. For 2016 the fine is the greater of 2.5 percent of income or $695 per adult and $347.50 per child up to $2,085.

Millions of Americans are now finding out from their insurance companies that as a direct result of the passage of Obamacare, they can no longer keep their existing individual plans or doctors. Instead, they have the choice of either purchasing one of the Obamacare metal health insurance plans with much higher premiums and deductibles or pay the IRS fine.

Thanks to Obama the American people believed their taxes would not rise and they could keep their existing health insurance plans and doctors. Obamacare is not a treat, but a trick or tax.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Government Shutdown, Obamacare Launch, Internet Working!

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Banking, Congress, Credit, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government, Government Spending, Health Care, Health Care Insurance, Law, Liberty, Macroeconomis, Microeconomics, Monetary Policy, People, Philosophy, Politics, Tax Policy, U.S. Constitution | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Government Shutdown, Obamacare Launch, Internet Working!

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

Get_Well_Obamacare

Credit: Drudgereport.com

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, …”1 so began Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities.”

The best of times in America in 2013: the Internet is up and running.

The worst of times in America in 2013: President Barack Obama ordered a partial shutdown of federal government with about 800,000 nonessential government employees furloughed and sent home and launched Obamacare on Oct 1. A shutdown takes place when Congress fails to authorize funds for government operations.

Since 1976 there have been 18 partial and full shutdowns of the federal government lasting usually a few days to three weeks. The last shutdown occurred 17 years ago under President Bill Clinton when the government was closed for 21 days over the budget deficit.

First, a recap of the congressional funding fight to keep the government open and funded including the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.

In round one the Republican-controlled House passed a continuing resolution on Sept. 20 to fund the government at a level of $986 billion and keep it open for 11 weeks until Dec. 15 but would have defunded Obamacare.

In round two the Democrat-controlled Senate on Sept. 27 passed a continuing resolution by a vote of 54-44 along party lines that would have funded and kept open the government through Nov. 15 including Obamacare.

In round three the House early Sept. 29 passed, in a near party-line vote of 231-192, another continuing resolution to fund the federal government for 11 weeks until Dec. 15, but instead of defunding Obamacare, it would delay implementation of some key provisions, including the individual mandate for one year. The resolution would also repeal a new tax on medical devices.

The House also passed a bill to fund the troops and some Defense Department workers and contractors in the event of a government shutdown. The Senate passed the bill without dissent on Sept. 30 and the president signed the bill.

In round four the Senate twice rejected on Sept. 30 the House resolution to delay the implementation of Obamacare for one year and sent back to the House a clean resolution without the one-year delay in Obamacare and with funding for six weeks. The Senate also rejected Oct.1 the House call for a conference meeting to reconcile the House and Senate continuing resolutions (CR).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) refused to designate anyone as negotiators and send them to the meeting. Reid said, “The government is closed because of the irrationality of what’s going on the other side of the Capitol.”

Reid also said, “The bottom line is this: House Republicans should pass the Senate’s clean CR.”

House Speaker John Boehner said in a news conference on Sept. 30, “That’s not going to happen.”

The blame games begin.

Obama blames Congress. In a video message released midnight Monday and broadcast on Armed Forces television, Obama said, “Unfortunately, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again.”

Republicans blame Democrats for the government shutdown.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said, “None of us want to be in a shutdown. And we’re here to say to the Senate Democrats, come and talk to us.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a leader of the Tea-Party Republicans and who spoke on the Senate floor for over 21 hours in an effort to defund Obamacare, said, “The House has twice now voted to keep the government open. And, if we have a shutdown, it will only be because when the Senate comes back, Harry Reid says, ‘I refuse even to talk.’”

The implementation of Obamacare could easily put the slow-growing U.S. economy into another recession with even higher unemployment rates. Also, if Obamacare does not live up to its expectations and results in higher health insurance premiums with less plan benefits and coverage, the American people may take out their dissatisfaction not only with the Democratic Party, but with the president.

Heads could roll come Election Day, Nov. 4, 2014.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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Obamacare’s Employment Consequences

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government, Government Spending, Health Care, Law, Liberty, Macroeconomis, People, Philosophy, Politics | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Obamacare’s Employment Consequences

By Raymond Thomas Pronk

obamacare-logo_full

Credit: http://www.bhvcpa.com

One of the unintended consequences of Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, is employers attempting to avoid the costs and penalties of the law by hiring mostly part-time employees and cutting the number of hours worked per week to less than 30 and to less than 120 per month. Businesses are also attempting to avoid the Obamacare employer-mandated health insurance for full-time employees by not hiring their 50th full-time employee.

Under the employer mandate provisions of Obamacare, businesses with more than 50 employees that do not provide a federal government qualified health insurance plan, must pay a penalty of $2,000 per year for each full-time employee minus 30. In the United States, less than 4 percent of businesses have more than 50 employees with less than 0.2 percent of these businesses not offering health insurance, according to a Forbes online article titled “Is The Affordable Care Act Really Bad For Business?”

Under Obamacare colleges are required starting in 2014 to provide health insurance coverage to employees who work more than 30 hours a week.  Most colleges have strict limits on the number of hours part-time instructors can work in a pay period so the college can avoid paying employee-benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans.

Colleges across the nation are reducing the number of full-time faculty and hiring mostly part-time instructors, known as adjunct professors or jokingly as “road scholars”. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), “In 1975, only 30.2 percent of faculty were employed part time; by 2005, according to data compiled by the AAUP from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), part-time faculty represented approximately 48 percent of all faculty members in the United States.”

Obamacare will only accelerate this growing trend toward part-time faculty with strict limits on the number of hours worked, especially at community colleges like Richland.

Starting with this year’s fall semester, “an adjunct faculty member may only teach a workload of nine credit hours or less each week (less than 20 clock hours per week) according to Teachers Retirement System guidelines,” as set forth in the online Part-Time Employment Guidelines of the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD).

Furthermore, “part-time hourly, adjunct faculty-credit, adjunct faculty-continuing education (CE) and substitute faculty employees may work a maximum of 1,014 hours per fiscal year (hours include the cumulative total of all positions worked at all District locations),” according to Dallas County Community College District’s online document, Extra-Service Guidelines for Instructional Delivery.

The Department of the Treasury announced on its website on July 2 that the employer mandate would be delayed one year from Jan. 1, 2014 as required under Obamacare until Jan.1, 2015. Now that Obama has delayed implementation of the Obamacare employer mandate, 56 percent of American voters favor delaying for a year the individual mandate as well, with only 26 percent opposed according to the July 13 Rasmussen Reports. While American voters oppose the individual mandate by a 2-to-1 margin, most voters favor the employer mandate for businesses with 50 or more employees, 59 percent to 34 percent, according to Rasmussen.

During the first six months of 2013, about 963,000 more people were employed and about 936,000 were part-time jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Aug. 2, Household Survey.

“Over the last six months, of the net job creation, 97 percent of that is part-time work,” said Keith Hall, a senior researcher at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center and former head of the US Bureau of Labor (BLS) Statistics from 2008 to 2012.

Unlike members of Congress in Washington who receive taxpayer subsidies to pay for their health insurance under Obamacare, ordinary Americans are not exempt from pay and/or employee-benefit cuts resulting from the implementation of Obamacare.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

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King Obama Decrees Subsidies to Congress and Staff for Obamacare: The Ruling Class vs. The American People

Posted on November 13, 2013. Filed under: Business, Economics, Fiscal Policy, Government Spending, Health Care, Law, Liberty, Macroeconomis, Microeconomics, People, Philosophy, Politics | Tags: , , , , , |

King Obama Decrees Subsidies to Congress and Staff for Obamacare: The Ruling Class vs. The American People
By Raymond Thomas Pronk

United States Capitol Building

United States Capitol Building, Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.       Credit: blog.timesunion.com

Only the ruling class in Washington, both Democrats and some Republicans, not believe in the proverb, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

The The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010 and commonly known as Obamacare, requires members of Congress and their staffs (currently about 11,000 people) to purchase their health insurance plans through new states-based markets known as insurance exchanges.

Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) originally proposed this requirement as an amendment to the Obamacare bill, said at the time he wanted “members of Congress and Congressional staff to get their employer-based health insurance through the same exchanges as our constituents.”

Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) revised the Grassley amendment when the Obamacare bill was rushed to a vote on Christmas eve December 2009. The resulting 2,500 page bill failed to include legislature language that would continue premium contributions for members of Congress and their staffs that the federal government makes for its employees and requires them to purchase Obamacare mandated plans through the exchanges.

Currently members of Congress and their staffs obtaine their health insurance plans through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) that covers more than eight million people including government employees and their families, provides dozen of competing plans and is the nation’s largest employer-sponsored health insurance program. This will soon end as the state insurance exchanges begin operation on Oct.1.

Individuals without qualified health insurance coverage through their employers or covered by Medicare or Medicaid are required by law to purchase health insurance coverage by January 1, 2014 and may qualify for federal subsidies. Low-income individuals and families above 100% and up to 400% of the federal poverty level will receive federal subsidies on a sliding scale if they choose to purchase insurance via an exchange. For 2013 the federal poverty guideline level for an individual is $11,390 and for a family of four is $23, 550 (see Annual Update of the HHS Poverty Guidelines, https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/01/24/2013-01422/annual-update-of-the-hhs-poverty-guidelines)

Starting in 2014 Members of Congress and their staffs by law must purchase their health insurance through the exchanges and no longer through FEHBP. United States senators and representatives have earned $174,000 per year starting in 2009. The Speaker of the House and the House Majority and Minority Leaders earn $223,500.Senate majority and minority leaders earn $193,000 as do other House leadership. Members of Congress and their highly paid staff would not be eligible for any subsidies under Obamacare.

Reid has made it very clear that “There are not now, have never been, nor will there be any discussions about exempting members of Congress from Affordable Care Act provisions that apply to any employees of any other public or private employer offering health care.”

However, those who work for Congressional committees and leadership offices, such as  Senate Majority leader Reid’s office, are apparently exempt from requirement to obtain their health insurance coverage through the exchanges and can continue to obtain their subsided health insurance plans through the FEHBP.

Obama’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on Aug. 7 issued regulations that members of Congress and their staffs will continue to receive premium contribution subsidies based on the FEHBP’s defined-contribution formula that covers about 75 percent of the cost of the average health insurance plan or about $5,000 for an individual and $11,000 for a family for fiscal year 2014 that begins Oct.1, 2013.

“These proposed regulations implement the administrative aspects of switching Members of Congress and congressional staff to their new insurance plans – the same plans available to millions of Americans through the new Exchanges,”  said OPM Director of Planning and Policy Jon Foley.

The OPM claims that a legal loophole in the Obamacare law, the phrase “notwithstanding any other provision of law”, is legal justification and authority for continuing Member of Congress and staff keeping their employee subsidies. This proposed regulation simply ignores  the fact the Obamacare law “prohibits an employer from providing a qualified health plan through an Exchange as a benefit under its cafeteria plan.”

Furthermore, most Congressional staff employees will most likely remain under FEHBP and not be forced into the mandated health insurance exchanges because the term “official office” of a Member of Congress does not have an existing statutory definition under Obamacare.

The ruling class in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans, will continue to be subsized by the American taxpayer. While more than 30 million individuals and small businesses will be forced to purchase health insurance plans that do not want and many cannot  afford.

Now that Obama has also delayed implementation of the Obamacare employer mandate for those with 50 or more employees until Jan.1. 2015, 56 percent of American voters favor delaying for a year the individual mandate as well with only 26 percent opposed according to the July 13, 2013 Rassmusen Reports. While American voters oppose the individual mandate by a 2 to 1 margin, most voters favor the employer mandate for businesses with 50 or more employees by 59 percent in favor and 34 percent oppose, according to Rassmusen Reports.

The House of Representative controlled by the Republicans has passed legislation to repeal Obamacare in its entirety 40 times. The Democratic controlled Senate has blocked such legislation from becoming law. However, tea-party Senators lead Mike Lee (R-Ut.), Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), Rand Paul (R-Ky), Marco Rubio (R-Fla) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and eight other Senators and 60 House Republicans have signed a letter urging the Republican leadership to defund Obama by passing a continuing resolution that would fund the federal government for fiscal year 2014 in its entiretly except for Obamacare.

The only way this tea party initiative can succeed is for the American people to rise up against the ruling class in Washington. Senator Cruz said, “The most important Constitutional check that Congress has on an overreaching President is the Power of the purse. If Republicans stand together, we can actually succeed in defunding it.”

During the August Congressional recess the tea party Senators and Representatives will be mobilizing the support of the American people to defund Obamacare.

Raymond Thomas Pronk presents the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 4-5 p.m. Monday thru Thursday and from 3-5 p.m. Friday and authors the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com.

 

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