Better late than never, I suppose…

Today the House of Representatives passed a bill that would repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood. This is the same bill that passed the Senate last month on a 52-47, with the Republicans avoiding a filibuster with the same reconciliation process that enabled passage of Obamacare in the first place. The vote in the House was 240-181, nearly along party lines. So for the first time, President Obama will be confronted with legislation that actually would bring Obamacare to an end, and will be forced to veto it.

We were promised this for 2015, if the country would elect a Republican majority for both houses of Congress.

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Supremes to take up Hobby Lobby case

The Supreme Court of the United States will consider Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby as well as another case regarding the requirement in Obamacare for insurance to provide contraception. Hobby Lobby contends that the requirement violates the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment.

The court will consider two cases. One involves Hobby Lobby Inc., an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain with 13,000 full-time employees. Hobby Lobby won in the lower courts.

The other case is an appeal from Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a Pennsylvania company that employs 950 people in making wood cabinets. Lower courts rejected the company’s claims.

The court said the cases will be combined for arguments, probably in late March. A decision should come by late June.

The cases center on a provision of the health care law that requires most employers that offer health insurance to their workers to provide a range of preventive health benefits, including contraception.

In both instances, the Christian families that own the companies say that insuring some forms of contraception violates their religious beliefs.hobby-lobby-top

More lies? Ho-hum…

Are we becoming inured to the daily revelation of lies from our government? Each day news reports are filled with new examples of lying, to the public and to Congress, by the Administration. Today an exclusive CNN report reveals that a consumer friendly feature of Healthcare.gov was left out despite the fact that it worked. Why is this big news?

Henry Chao, the Deputy CIO of HHS, said he made the decision (to scrap “Anonymous Shopper”) in conjunction with colleagues and testified before Congress last week that it was because the feature “failed so miserably that we could not conscionably let people use it.”

Yet a CMS document made public by the same committee last week tells a different story. The agency and one of its subsidiaries, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, was working with government contractors on the website. It determined the Anonymous Shopper feature “tested successfully,” revealed “no high severity defects open” and that “remaining lower severity defects will not degrade consumer experience.” …

The source close to the project, however, said the anonymous shopper function did pass testing conducted in the weeks ahead of the HealthCare.gov launch.

Another lie. What did the Administration expect to gain from this departure from the truth? Probably that Anonymous Shopper would have allowed consumers to see the premiums and coverage limits; they were afraid that “sticker shock” would prevent potential insurees from going any further.

It seems obvious that considerations for the implementation of Obamacare have been primarily political. If the Administration cared as much about uninsured Americans as it does about “optics”, we might not be in as big a mess as we find ourselves now.

Henry Chao being sworn in before Congress

Henry Chao being sworn in before Congress

Sticker shock–in Congressional offices

Veteran House Democratic aides are sick over the insurance prices they’ll pay under Obamacare, and they’re scrambling to find a cure.

“In a shock to the system, the older staff in my office (folks over 59) have now found out their personal health insurance costs (even with the government contribution) have gone up 3-4 times what they were paying before,” Minh Ta, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), wrote to fellow Democratic chiefs of staff in an email message obtained by POLITICO. “Simply unacceptable.”

In the email, Ta noted that older congressional staffs may leave their jobs because of the change to their health insurance.

Sauce for the goose.

Are Americans becoming jerks?

Yes, we are, according to Christopher Flavelle at Bloomberg, citing recent polls that show decreasing numbers of Americans think that government should make sure everyone has access to health care.

New Gallup poll numbers show Americans increasingly dispute the idea that government has a responsibility to make sure everybody can get health insurance. It’s tempting to see that as an indictment against Obamacare, but it might just mean more Americans are becoming jerks.

What’s clear is that the shifting views on health care predate the Affordable Care Act. The number of Americans who think health care is the government’s responsibility hovered around two-thirds for the first half of the 2000s, peaking at 69 percent in 2006. Then those numbers started falling, hitting 50 percent in 2010 and 42 percent this year.

The shrinkage of American generosity during that period wasn’t just about health care. The onset of the recession corresponded with a change in public opinion on a range of issues, and in most cases the effect was to make Americans less caring about others.

This is the mindset of the liberal/progressive establishment today. If I do not support the government providing for less fortunate Americans, then I am a penurious jerk. On the other hand, I and many others believe, as Jesus Christ taught, that we as individuals, and as churches, are responsible for our neighbor. Flavelle cites poll numbers indicating fewer Americans support government giveaways, yet these statistics show a steadily upward trend in charitable giving (despite a small dip in 2008, the depth of the recession).

Americans have not become parsimonious, but are increasingly leery of government wealth transfer programs. We do not require the help of “experts” to decide how we should help our brothers and sisters in need.

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A change in attitude

According to Gallup, 56% of American adults say that it is not the responsibility of government to make sure everyone has healthcare coverage.

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As Ace points out, Obamacare was sold as providing healthcare coverage for those who didn’t have it, without costing the rest of us anything (and saving most people money). “Not one dime,” the President said. That is now obviously not true. Almost anyone would be in favor of healthcare for all, me included. Would we be willing to sacrifice enough that it changes our standard of living? Not likely. The American public was sold this bill of goods without any indication of the cost to each of us.

The whole premise behind Obamacare is cost-shifting. If one group of people cannot afford the cost of healthcare, then the cost must be shifted to others. You can say “The rich will have to pay a little more,” but the wealth of the “One Percent” would not cover this bill if you took it all. This law would be a massive transfer of wealth from middle income to lower income citizens (which may have been the goal to begin with).

I have heard others say that healthcare is a right. No, a right is given by God, not provided by the government. The government can protect rights, or take them away, but it does not grant them. Healthcare is a service, and like all services, comes with a cost. The United States has a safety net that provides healthcare for the elderly and the poor. The cost of this service is already astronomical, and reform of the system that provides it is badly needed, without adding the costs involved in Obamacare.

Return to a market-based system, it seems to me, is the answer to the problem of access to healthcare for all. Medicare and Medicaid have driven up the cost of medical care to levels that would not be seen with a free market system. There are several ways that this could be done, but medical savings accounts with catastrophic insurance would be the way to go with most folks. Over-utilization should be addressed–no services should be provided without some cost to the consumer. Genuine tort reform would lower the cost of doing business for doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. Reform of the regulation of pharmaceutical and technological advances would lower the cost of bringing new drugs and devices to the market.

Am I against access to healthcare for all of our citizens? Of course not. But the Affordable Care Act is not a workable, or affordable, solution. Lying to the American people to get it passed was despicable, and continuing to lie about “fixing” it is worse. Obamacare does not need to be fixed, it needs to be scrapped.

Gotcha!

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Sen. Mary Landrieu (D,LA) last week:

“We said to people that if they have insurance they like, they can keep it,” Landrieu said in her floor speech. “We didn’t say that if they have insurance they like that doesn’t meet the standards or that meets the minimum standards they keep it. We said and the president said over and over that if people have insurance and they like the insurance they have, they can keep it.”

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D,LA) in 2009:

QUESTION: My question would be about accountability. Would you be willing to accept 100% responsibility, 100% accountability for the failure or success of whatever you vote for?”

MARY LANDRIEU: I do, already, because that’s what I do every election. I mean I, you all have to…when I run for reelection you say to me “Senator we like what you’ve done we voted for you, we don’t like what you’ve done we voted against you.”

Enjoy the election ads in 2014, Senator!

The legality of the Obamacare fix

There is considerable doubt that the President’s announced “administrative fix” is either workable or legal. What Obama proposes does not change anything in the Affordable Care Act. His plan is to not enforce the provisions of the law that caused insurance companies to cancel policies for millions of people. Inquiring minds want to know, “Where in the Constitution does the President get the power to not enforce the law as it is written?”

From Jonathan Adler:

The legal requirement remains on the books so the relevant health insurance plans remain illegal under federal law. The President’s decision does not change relevant state laws either. So insurers will still need to obtain approval from state insurance commissioners. This typically requires submitting rates and plan specifications for approval. This can take some time, and is disruptive because most insurance companies have already set their offerings for the next year. It’s no wonder that some insurance commissioners have already indicated they have no plans to approve non-compliant plans.

Yet even if state commissioners approve the plans, they will still be illegal under federal law. [See clarification below.] Given this fact, why would any insurance company agree to renew such a plan? It’s nice that regulators may forbear enforcing the relevant regulatory requirements, but this is not the only source of potential legal jeopardy. So, for instance, what happens when there’s a legal dispute under one of these policies? Say, for instance, an insurance company denies payment for something that is not covered under the policy but that would have been covered under the PPACA and the insured sues? Would an insurance company really want to have to defend this decision in court? After all, this would place the insurance company in the position of seeking judicial enforcement of an illegal insurance policy. If there’s an answer to this, I haven’t seen it [but see below]. It’s almost as if the Administration has not thought this through.

The new policy announced by the President does not alter any of the PPACA’s legal requirements. Under the PPACA, only plans that meet various requirements are “qualified health plans” (QHPs). Only QHPs may be sold on exchanges or satisfy the minimum coverage requirement (the individual mandate). More importantly, under Section 300gg-6 insurers are barred from offering health insurance plans in individual and small group markets that do not include the essential health benefits package. This obligation remains. Would it affect the enforceability of such an insurance policies terms in private legal dispute in state court? It’s understandable if insurance companies will be in no rush to find out.

So the fix is probably illegal, but challenging the President’s power to implement it may be problematic. Only someone who has been injured can bring it before the court, and failure to enforce may not leave anyone with standing. Mike Lee seems to think that this is the case. “If you are simply reducing legal burdens on people rather than curbing their behavior, it’s hard to prove an injury. It’s a dangerous precedent because it could give presidents a path to ignore laws they don’t like.”

I am not an attorney, so this is way over my head, but even I can see that Obama’s plan is unworkable. Insurance companies have 32 days to reprogram, and I do not see how that can be done. Even if they could do so, state insurance commissioners seem unwilling to approve the policies. An even bigger train wreck is on the horizon.

UPDATE: From the President’s hometown newspaper:

[I]n this country we don’t change bad laws by presidential fiat. We change them by having Congress rewrite them or by starting from scratch. Obama doesn’t want to reopen this law for fear that Republicans and some Democrats will substantially rewrite it. But that’s what has to happen.

What we don’t understand is their reluctance to give that failure more than lip service. Many of the Americans who heard their president say Thursday that “we fumbled the rollout of this health care law” would have been pleased to hear him add: So we’re admitting it. This law is a bust. We’re starting over.