The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Gold, Silver, Bronze (oh, Platinum too)

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


In years past, when people heard the terms Gold, Silver, Bronze, they thought about the Olympic medals.  Now, they likely think of ObamaCare with its metallic collection of expensive healthcare plans of Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. We have also heard of the numerous extralegal exemptions and delays for employers to provide, or for people to purchase, Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant healthcare insurance plans.  Ironically, the Olympics and the ACA (ObamaCare) exemptions have officially merged. According to an article in the April 11 Washington Post, the latest exemption from ObamaCare requirements are for U.S. Olympic athletes.  The Post writes that the “Olympic athletes’ health plan fails to meet Affordable Care Act rules. It might seem like common sense that top U.S. Olympic athletes would have excellent health insurance to cover potentially serious injuries and illnesses. But it turns out that the health plan for about 900 elite athletes — provided through the U.S. Olympic Committee — fails to meet minimum requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Under the law’s individual mandate, almost all Americans are required to have insurance or face a penalty, which is due when their income taxes are paid.  When it became apparent in recent months that athletes could face penalties for the 2014 tax year for having inadequate coverage — through no fault of their own — federal health officials decided to grant exemptions to all affected athletes who apply, according to federal health officials.  Athletes were informed about the potential problem by the USOC, and many of them have filed and received an exemption.” For tax year 2014, the fine for not purchasing health insurance amounted to $95 per adult or 1 percent of yearly HOUSEHOLD income, whichever is greater. While the point of The Post article may have been to show the “skimpiness” the U.S. Olympic Team healthcare plan, prior news reports discussed how many athletes are young and rely on their parent’s healthcare plan.  Other athletes rely on their spouse’s plan for healthcare coverage, just like other Americans.  Still others may have purchased supplementary insurance policies for catastrophic accidents.  But, while a diverse selection of health insurance plans were available before 2014 that is no longer the case.  All insurance plans must be ObamaCare compliant and the law's requirements have caused premiums to increase for millions of Americans, in particular for healthy young adults, especially young men. The danger not discussed in this story is how the Obama administration can blithely ignore the law and exempt anyone they want from the law’s mandates and taxes for any time period they choose.  According to the Galen Institute, a non-profit, public policy research organization that promotes patient-centered healthcare, there have been 47 changes made to ObamaCare with 30 by executive action alone.  Here are just a few examples of where the Obama administration has made random decisions regarding healthcare coverage:

  • Delayed and postponed the employer mandate, not once but twice, contrary to the statutory language in ObamaCare. Large employers (100-plus full-time employees) must offer coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees in 2015 and to 95 percent in 2016 and beyond.  Mid-size companies (50 to 99 full-time employees) do not have to offer insurance until 2016.  The law required all employers with more than 50 full-time employees to provide insurance starting January 1, 2014.
  • The law required the Secretary of Health and Human Service (HHS) to establish an initial open enrollment date not later than July 1, 2012. That enrollment deadline was set for mid-February 2014.  After the disastrous October 2014 rollout, the administration changed the individual mandate deadline by simply stating that anyone who had purchased insurance by March 31, 2014 could do so without a tax penalty.  The date was changed again to mid-April 2014.
  • The Obama administration, in cahoots with congressional leadership, gave Congress the ability to offer themselves, and all their staff, an employer premium contribution. But the law states that Members of Congress and their staff are to participate in ObamaCare (Section 1312, Page 65.)  Under the law, premium subsidies are not provided unless an individual’s income is between 100 to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).  Currently those income levels start at $11,700 and end at $47,080 annually.
  • Continuing to favor certain segments of the population, the administration exempted unions from a reinsurance fee, or tax.  The healthcare reform law required all large group insurance plans to pay the tax. The exemption for unions is for years 2015 and 2016.  Of course other large group plans will have to make up the loss of revenue.  (Any bets the unions will try to extend the exemption in 2017 and beyond?)
  • In order to avoid thousands of health insurance plan cancellations during the midterm elections, the Obama administration delayed the deadline for two years that requires health insurers to stop selling plans that are not compliant with ObamaCare mandates. Insurers will be able to offer their old plans until after the 2016 election.  (The decision on whether to utilize the delay was left to the states.)
  • The IRS ignored the clear language of the law that provides premium tax credits for individuals that purchase health insurance in “an Exchange established by the state” and allowed premium tax credits to be available through the federal exchanges. This action is now the subject of major lawsuit before the Supreme Court, King v Burwell.

Having the federal government, and in particular the IRS, overseeing your health needs and making random decisions based on a political calculus, rather than following the law, should give anyone cause for concern.  While these changes may seem benign to some for now, a future administration could decide to use their executive power in an even more nefarious way, such as punishing their “enemies” or for coercion.  Americans who want to be in charge of their healthcare needs should wish every day for this terrible law to be repealed.

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