Did you notice that in the standoff over the fiscal cliff, all the discussion was about the Bush tax cuts? Which ones would be made permanent? And for whom? There was no discussion about the ObamaCare tax increases. I think that was a huge tactical mistake on the part of the Republicans.
Over and over again, President Obama claimed he was trying to protect the middle class from higher taxes. It was a claim that went unchallenged ― by the Republicans and by the mainstream media.
Yet five of the tax increases Americans are facing this month are new taxes created under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Three of the five will hit people who are solidly middle class.
Next year, things will get worse. The new tax on health insurance is about as regressive as a tax can be. It will total $100 billion over the next 10 years and very little of that amount will be paid by anyone who can be called “rich.”
- The health insurance tax will fall on private sector Medicaid plans, which have about 70% of all Medicaid enrollees.
- The tax will fall on Medicare Advantage plans whose enrollees have below average incomes and are disproportionately minority.
- The tax will hit every small business and every individual who buys insurance in the commercial market place.
- The tax will not fall on self-insured plans whose enrollees include the highest paid workers and the highest paid CEOs.
The new “fiscal cliff” legislation hailed by some as a “one-year doc fix” of the scheduled 26.5% sustainable growth rate (SGR) cut that was scheduled to take effect on 1 January 2013, has passed the Senate and House as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act ( HR 8 ) goes to President Obama for his likely signature.
But was this “one-year doc fix” really a fix?
Not at all.
In fact, once again Congress has failed to resolve the ever-present sustainable growth rate cuts that repetitively surface year after year by kicking the proverbial can down the road another year.
The cost of the one year patch will be $25.1 billion dollars over 10 years and will be paid for almost entirely by health care cuts in other areas.
- Hospitals (increasingly doctor-employers now, remember?) will see audits of their billings increase as efforts to recoup some $10.5 billion of “overcoding” charges are seen as the largest source of revenue for the one-year “fix.”
- Hospitals will also see an extension of lower Medicaid payments to hospitals that treat a high number of uninsured or low-income beneficiaries, known as “disproportionate share hospitals” to find savings of about $4.2 billion.
- Another $4.9 billion offset will be applied to the lowered bundled payments given for patients with end-stage renal disease – some of the sickest people receiving services from Medicare.
The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is now settled law.
It will be implemented. It will also have to be changed but not until after it is implemented and the required changes becomes obvious and unavoidable. We can all debate what those things will be (cost containment is on top of my list) but it doesn’t matter what we think will happen––time will tell.
There are and will be more lawsuits.
I wouldn’t waste a lot of time worrying about those. Anyone in the market will do better spending their time getting ready.
But, when will the Affordable Care Act (ACA) be implemented?
So far, only about 15 states say they want to implement health insurance exchanges. Some of those may not make the October 1, 2013 kick-off date.
Maybe now that it is clear the law will go forward, some of the conservative states who have said they would not build one will get into high gear rather than have the Obama administration do it for them. But they may not have enough time to be ready in less than eleven months.
The Obama administration says they will be ready on time with federal exchanges. But they have not been at all transparent about just what they have so far done and can get done in the eleven short months that remain.
Starting today, the big question is can the Obama administration really be ready or will the October 1 insurance exchange launch date have to be pushed back, at least in some states?
It’s time for some post-election transparency and honesty from the administration.