Dirty Secret: Employer Mandate Delay Slams Taxpayers
by BETSY MCCAUGHEY, PHD July 23, 2013
On July 3, the Obama administration said that it won't enforce the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate until 2015, though the law says it must start Jan 1, 2014. The cost to the taxpayers will be huge.
White House adviser Valerie Jarrett depicted the change as a mere tweaking. Some tweaking: It will affect 10 million workers.
And, depending on how many of these workers and their dependents seek coverage and federal subsidies via the new health exchanges, the administration's decision could add $60 billion or more in costs to the taxpayers in 2014 alone. That's more than the cost of major federal programs such as the Medicare Part D prescription-drug program.
The delay seems to be part of the administration's desperate strategy to prop up the health exchanges, which are scheduled to open Oct. 1.
Weeks ago, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius implored the NBA and NFL to sell young fans on the idea of buying coverage on the exchanges. Young, healthy enrollees are needed to offset the costs of the sick and middle-aged and prevent premiums from spiking even higher than they already have. But the sports leagues said no to shilling for ObamaCare.
That's when the administration postponed the employer mandate - making sacrificial lambs of the 6.9 million uninsured full-time workers whose employers otherwise would have been compelled to start providing them with coverage on Jan. 1 or pay a penalty. (Data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, Bulletin 376.)
Add another 3.1 million workers now covered by mini-med plans (that have annual or lifetime caps on benefits). The waivers allowing these plans expire Jan. 1, 2014, leaving these workers uninsured as well.
So, all in all, 10 million workers will have to either sign up for an exchange plan or pay a penalty to the IRS for not being insured - because the law says everyone must have coverage by Jan 1, 2014.
Those who are single will likely opt to pay the $95 first-year penalty. But many uninsured workers with dependents are apt to enroll in the exchange plans, more than doubling the expected cost to the taxpayer of exchange subsidies in 2014.
The average per-person subsidy, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will be $5,290. So if half the 10 million workers seek exchange coverage for themselves and at least one dependent, the cost to taxpayers will be a staggering $52.9billion the first year.
If only a quarter of these employees and dependents signup, the cost to taxpayers would be less, but still a hefty $26.4 billion.
Add to that the $10 billion in foregone penalties that CBO had predicted the employer mandate would produce the first year, and the total cost to you and me of delaying the mandate for a year could be $36.4 billion or even $62.9 billion.
And that's before fraud.
On July 5, the administration quietly released a ruling that state exchanges will not routinely verify the income and insurance status of those applying for subsidies. That's a welcome mat for fraudsters.
Across the nation, community activists are being hired to help with enrollment. In California, the NAACP, SEIU and the AFL-CIO already are canvassing door-to-door and phone banking. Activists get paid for each person who signs up for a health plan - with no penalty for enrolling those who lie about their eligibility or who have no ability to meet their monthly premium payments. Sound familiar? Get ready for a premium default crisis, similar to the mortgage crisis.
The Urban Institute claims that delaying the mandate will have a negligible impact. Don't be swayed. Its analysis is based on a simulation constructed several years ago, not on current facts. It ignores the 10 million who are now uninsured or underinsured, and even falsely presumes that all states expanded Medicaid, when in truth only half did.
Adding as much as $62 billion to the cost of ObamaCare in one year isn't negligible, it's a fiscal crisis.
But the biggest crisis facing this nation is constitutional. Once again, President Obama is picking and choosing what laws or parts of laws he will enforce. The damage done to the rule of law is even greater than the hit to the taxpayers.