Consumer Power Report #492 [Subscribe here.]
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama’s signature law, including the entire field of Republican presidential candidates, say Obamacare has caused significant premium price increases and has forced millions of Americans out of insurance plans they enjoyed prior to the law’s passage.
While these burdens are significant and are limiting Americans’ access to affordable quality health care, one of the most important problems that has emerged from ACA is one neither the law’s opponents nor its supporters are talking about: the millions of hours of paperwork required for businesses and individuals to keep up with federal regulators’ demands.
Tara O’Neill, a health care policy analyst for the American Action Forum (AAF), says a new AAF report reveals the 106 regulations finalized since 2010 to implement Obamacare have forced businesses and individuals to spend 165 million hours completing paperwork to comply with Obamacare’s many requirements. AAF says these regulations have cost more than $45 billion.
The costs associated with increased paperwork extend beyond the funds needed to cover the added expenses of hiring additional employees to navigate the rocky waters created by federal regulators at the Department of Health and Human Services and Internal Revenue Service. For every hour an employee spends working on unnecessary paperwork, that employee could have been working to accomplish some other task to improve the business, whether that’s improving customer relations, assisting with a new marketing campaign, or engaging in some activity that could help expand business or reduce costs.
O’Neill says the 165 million hours of paperwork and 106 regulations do not include the hundreds of “guidance documents” published by numerous federal agencies or the multiple regulations expected to be added by federal regulators through 2020.
One regulation O’Neill says is likely to be particularly onerous for businesses is the High Cost Plan Excise Tax, popularly called the “Cadillac tax.” The Cadillac tax is a 40 percent levy on “high cost plans,” which ACA defines as plans that cost at least $10,200 for individuals or $27,500 for families. The tax was originally planned to start in 2018, but the Republican-led Congress agreed in December to delay implementation of the tax until 2020. AAF says once the Cadillac tax goes into effect, the paperwork costs associated with Obamacare will rise to even greater heights.
Former secretary of state and current Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is pledging to protect ACA from proposed changes offered by Republicans and some Democrats – including presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), who says he plans to create a government-funded single-payer health insurance system if elected in November. As the AAF report shows, the costs and lost productivity resulting from ACA harm businesses and families, who have had to pay rapidly increasing health insurance rates since the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces first opened in 2013.
The added regulatory expenses related to ACA represent only a small component of the growing regulatory burden the Obama administration has imposed on businesses, families, and governments. According to a June 2015 AAF report, “Since President Obama took office, his regulators have added $35 billion in unfunded regulatory costs and at least 75 million paperwork burden hours on state and local governments,” effectively bogging down local governments and diverting their attention away from problems affecting local communities.
The billions of pages of additional paperwork are not only damaging businesses, raising costs, and creating headaches for millions of Americans, their existence raises serious concerns about the protection of Americans’ personal information. With more paperwork comes additional opportunities for identity thieves to get their hands on private data, a problem the federal government has failed to prevent in recent years. In July 2015, it was reported by the Obama administration sensitive personal information belonging to 21.5 million people was accessed by hackers in what The New York Times referred to as “a colossal breach of government computer systems.” It is believed millions of Social Security numbers and an unspecified number of fingerprints were stolen by the hackers, and the Times reported the attacks likely originated in China.
A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows consumers purchasing “silver” health insurance plans in an Obamacare exchange have seen monthly premiums increase by an average of 11 percent in 2016; “gold” plan premiums rose by nearly 14 percent.
Rather than improving business or spending time with their families, Americans are now forced to spend countless hours working to comply with the countless regulations created by the Affordable Care Act, a destructive, inefficient, trillion-dollar mistake the next president and Congress should repeal and replace.
— Justin Haskins
IN THIS ISSUE:
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump tried Sunday to fend off critics who say he has been too cozy with Democrats and their causes – notably single-payer, government-run health care.
Mr. Trump, who leads Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 5 percentage points in a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll before Iowa’s caucuses on Monday, said he wants to scrap Obamacare and help poor people get health coverage by negotiating with doctors and hospitals, though he offered few specifics.
“We’ll work something out, that doesn’t mean single payer,” Mr. Trump told ABC’s “This Week.”
After a relatively slow week of Obamacare sign-ups, the number of customers shopping for insurance plans on the federal health marketplace was up by 50 percent on Thursday over the prior week, as the end of open enrollment drew near, officials said.
The sign-up surge, which is expected to grow in coming days, came as the Obama administration ramped up advertising and visits around the country by health officials urging people to beat Sunday’s cutoff for enrollment in individual health plans.
Both President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, along with other health officials, have done interviews with local TV news stations this week to push that theme.
Officials also emphasized Thursday that there will be no extension of the sign-up deadline.
SOURCE: By Dan Mangan, CNBC.com
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards withdrew a key Medicaid expansion item from a legislative committee agenda Friday morning (Jan. 29), hours after the Louisiana House announced its committee members would be mostly Republicans. “We didn’t need the approval today to continue to do what we have to do,” said Edwards, reiterating the Medicaid expansion is still on track in Louisiana.
The Edwards administration was planning to ask the Legislature’s joint budget committee to let it hire 248 employees at the Department of Health and Hospitals to handle Medicaid expansion. The hires eventually will be needed to fulfill one of the governor’s top priorities to provide more access to health care in the state. About 75 percent of the cost of paying for the new staff would be paid by the federal government.
The yanking of the item could signal that the House will make it difficult for Edwards to execute Medicaid expansion. Louisiana’s governors have typically had a lot of control over who is in legislative leadership, but the Republican-controlled House this year is exerting more independence and partisanship.
The administration withdrew the Medicaid item because the governor wasn’t given any advanced notice about which House members would be sitting on the budget committee that met Friday morning.
Republican lawmakers presented their plan for reauthorizing Medicaid expansion Wednesday, outlining a proposal that includes work requirements for recipients and asks insurance companies and hospitals to help foot the state’s share of the program’s costs.
“This is an important debate to many of my constituents,” said Republican Rep. Joe LaChance of Manchester, the bill’s prime sponsor. LaChance said he’s seen the positive effects of the program, which insures more than 45,000 New Hampshire residents, in his home city.
New Hampshire crafted a version of Medicaid expansion in 2014 that uses federal dollars to put people on private insurance plans. The program insures people who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $16,000 a year for an individual.
But federal funding for the expansion is set to start dropping next year, and the state’s plan will sunset at the end of 2016 if lawmakers don’t vote to reauthorize it. Republicans, who control the Legislature, have long said they won’t make taxpayers foot the state’s share of the bill.
LaChance’s proposal, also backed by GOP Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley and House Speaker Shawn Jasper, relies on an insurance premium tax as well as voluntary contributions from insurance companies and hospitals to pay the state’s costs, estimated to be $25 million in 2018.