Krieg Barrie

Delayed and confused


Issue: "Bright or rotten idea?," Oct. 5, 2013

WASHINGTON—After years of debate and controversy, Obamacare goes live on Oct. 1. That’s when the law’s health insurance exchanges can begin enrolling people for coverage starting in January. President Obama and other leading Democrats say the law is “working the way it’s supposed to.”

But numerous delays and changes already have hit Obamacare, and evidence continues to mount that the law will increase insurance costs and change the nation’s workforce as employers add part-time jobs instead of full-time jobs to avoid Obamacare’s mandate. Here is a look at some of the changes, delays, and numbers associated with the mammoth new government program that contains more than 9,600 pages of regulations and more than 7,400 pages of proposed rules.


• The employer mandate, which requires all firms with 50 or more full-time employees to offer government-certified health coverage or face fines as high as $3,000 per employee, delayed until 2015.

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• Enforcement of a number of eligibility requirements for taxpayer-funded subsidies. The government will rely on an honor system instead of verifying whether persons qualify for tax credits of $5,000 per person a year. The credits have an estimated cost of $23 billion next year, but that could balloon with the government not ready to implement its eligibility check system.

• Caps on some insurers and employers for out-of-pocket insurance costs are delayed for a year. These caps would have limited individual costs at $6,350 a year. Now some plans in 2014 could have higher limits or no limits on out-of-pocket costs.

• Provisions helping small businesses provide a choice of health plans to workers is delayed until 2015 at the earliest in most states. Small businesses will be limited to a single plan because most states aren’t ready to create the Small Business Health Options Program.


Republicans—with the help of some Democrats—have made the following changes to Obamacare, signed into law by the president:

• After concerns over an avalanche of paperwork, lawmakers repealed the small-business paperwork mandate that required all businesses to issue 1099 tax forms to any individual or corporation from which they purchase more than $600 in goods or services in a given tax year.

• Congress cut $2.2 billion in funding for Obamacare’s Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) and blocked increased IRS funding for the purpose of hiring new agents to enforce the health law’s individual mandate.

• Lawmakers adjusted eligibility requirements for certain Obamacare programs in a tweak that aims to reduce taxpayer funding by $13 billion.

• Congress rescinded $10 million earmarked for Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) and tightened restrictions on the use of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant money for lobbying purposes.

• Congress cut approximately $11.6 billion from various Obamacare funds and programs.

• Lawmakers cut $670 million from Obamacare by removing a provision that gives extra Medicaid funding to states where every county has been declared a disaster area. (Due to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Louisiana is one of possibly two states that meet this requirement.) It was known derisively as the “Louisiana Purchase” because it was designed to gain the vote of Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., for Obamacare.

• Congress repealed the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Act for about $6.5 billion in savings. The act created a new government entitlement program for long-term healthcare that would have required massive taxpayer bailouts to stay afloat. Sen. Kent Conrad, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, called CLASS “a Ponzi scheme of the first order.”

Obamacare by the Numbers

$1 trillion

obamacare1.pngNew taxes to be collected under Obamacare during the next decade.


obamacare2.pngThe average premium increase for individuals buying insurance on Obamacare’s exchange in Ohio. Florida officials expect a 35 percent average premium increase, while South Carolina officials estimate rates for individuals could rise as much as 70 percent. State regulators in Maryland approved rates for individuals that jump as much as 25 percent, but major insurance carrier Aetna withdrew from the Maryland exchange because that rate increase was too low. 


obamacare5_2.pngThe penalty in 2014 per adult for not complying with the mandate to purchase insurance. Fines also include $47.50 per child up to $285 per family, or 1 percent of taxable household income, whichever is greater. In 2016 it goes up to $695 per person for up to 3 people (or $2,085 per household) or 2.5 percent of taxable income.

$684 million

obamacare4_4.jpgThe estimated cost to taxpayers for Obamacare publicity, marketing, and advertising, including a $75 million PR budget for the Department of Health and Human Services and an estimated $67 million in grants to 105 groups, including Planned Parenthood, to enroll individuals into Obamacare.

$100 million

obamacare6_2.pngDelta Air Lines’ prediction for its increase in insurance costs next year due to Obamacare.

30 million

obamacare7_1.pngThe predicted number of nonelderly Americans still uninsured in 2022 despite Obamacare, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report. The CBO says approximately 53 million people, including illegal immigrants, are uninsured in the United States today. 


obamacare2_4.pngThe rough share of jobs created in the six months through July that have been part-time. Employers will not have to cover part-time workers under Obamacare.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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