May 24, 2017
Obamacare Marks Fifth Birthday, Not Everyone Is Celebrating Though

On social media, Team Obama has been touting Obamacare's fifth birthday and the benefits to America of the president's signature legislative accomplishment, but not everyone is joining in on the celebration of the healthcare reform law.

The administration maintains that Obamacare has delivered quality, affordable coverage to millions of Americans, many of whom were previously going without health insurance.

According to government statistics, U.S. hospitals saved $7.4 billion in uncompensated care costs in 2014 as a result of patients with Obamacare insurance or Medicaid.

"Nearly 11.7 million people have signed up on the Obamacare exchange for 2015 coverage. The growth in health care spending has slowed to record lows. Medicaid enrollment has soared to 70 million, up nearly 20% since mid-2013," CNN reported.

CNN also maintains that Obamacare has made America a healthier place because fewer people find themselves uninsured, Obamacare policies cover pre-existing conditions, young adults can stay on their parents plans up to age 26, and the government-approved plans require more preventative care.

As reported by many media outlets, however, many consumers have already encountered sharply higher premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, and getting locked out of existing provider networks as a result of the one-size-fits-all law formally known as the Affordable Care Act. More changes are on the way for job-based plans, now that the previously delayed employer mandate for big business has taken effect (the small business mandate was postponed until 2016). Already, Obamacare paperwork is costing small business upwards of $15,000 annually, USA TODAY noted, particularly in connection with the 30 hours per week threshhold for coverage.

In the wake of cancellations of millions of existing plans, President Obama's unfulfilled promise that "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan" wound up being designated as the lie of the year by Politifact. Citing increased costs, a number of high-profile employers have stopped providing medical coverage for all part-time employees.

The law's approval rating with the American people is stuck at about 40 percent based on current polling data and has never broken 50 percent.

"Obama predicted the law would lower premiums, but the raft of regulations imposed on insurance polices have driven up the sticker price of health insurance, which is particularly painful for those who don't qualify for taxpayer subsidies," the Washington Examiner declared.

According to an overview by a healthcare analyst in the New York Daily News, "The Obama administration claims the health-care law has been a success because millions have gained insurance coverage. But that coverage is worthless if they can't find a doctor or hospital who will see them."

Citing a report compiled by the National Bureau of Economic Research, "2014 premiums were 24.4% higher than they would have been without Obamacare," the Daily News added.

Across the ideological spectrum, many observers agree that there was too much logrolling (aka crony capitalism or corporate welfare) among Big Government, Big Insurance, and Big Pharma when Obamacare was crafted by "architects" such as Jonathan Gruber and other consultants and lobbyists.

As you may recall, after a lot of behind-the-scenes arm-twisting (which included such incentives as the "cornhusker kickback" and the "Louisiana purchase"), Obamacare passed the U.S. Senate on Christmas Eve, 2009, and the U.S. House on March 21, 2010, on a straight party-line vote when both chambers were controlled by Democrats. It officially became the law of the land on March 23, 2010 with President Obama's signed approval, following a fast-tracked, parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation. Under Article 1, Section 7, of the U.S. Constitution, all bills for raising government revenue are supposed to originate in the House rather than the Senate, however. No Republican in Congress voted for Obamacare. Thirty of the 60 Senate Democrats who voted for Obamacare are no longer in office as the new Congressional term began in January 2015 with both chambers under GOP control.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Obamacare individual mandate on a 5-4 ruling in June of 2012, with Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly switching his vote at the 11th hour.

This is the first year that consumers must pay an Obamacare IRS penalty if they forego health insurance. To many, the penalty (which will increase to $325 per adult in the 2015 tax year and will be indexed for inflation in the out-years) is coming as a surprise. In the midst of filing season, a major snafu has emerged in connection with the necessary tax forms, however, The Hill reported.

"The Obama administration announced [on March 20] that 80,000 corrected tax forms for people on plans through ObamaCare have still not gone out. It's unclear how many people will be affected by the delay, but the administration said people who have been notified of errors on their forms should wait to file if they can. If they have already filed, they do not need to refile unless they want to and will not have to pay any additional tax because of the error. The issues stem from the announcement last month that 800,000 people on insurance plans through ObamaCare received incorrect tax information. At the time, the administration said forms with corrected information would be sent out in the first week of March."
Those consumers who qualified for subsidized coverage on a government healthcare exchange might also be hearing from the tax man if, even in good faith, they miscalculated their adjusted gross income, especially for those whose income fluctuates over the course of the year.

Moreover, the constitutionality of the subsidies offered through, as opposed to the state exchanges, is currently before the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell with a decision expected in June. "The question in the pivotal case is whether the text of Obamacare restricts the law's popular premium subsidies to state-run exchanges, of which there are only 14, and bans them from the vast majority of states that use the federally-run exchange,," The Daily Caller explained.

In the meantime, according to H&R Block, 52 percent of taxpayer clients have been called upon to refund the federal government a portion of their healthcare insurance subsidy for 2014, which on average amounts to $530.

As The New York Times observed, "This filing season, for the first time, millions of Americans are facing tax implications — and new forms that even seasoned preparers are finding confusing — related to their health insurance status. The changes are not only complicating things for tax filers, but also costing many of them money."

On the fifth birthday of Obamacare, if you have health insurance through an Obamacare exchange, do you find the coverage satisfactory?

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images News]