Obamacare open enrollments for 2017 start next Tuesday and, being just 1 week prior to election day, that couldn’t be worse timing for the Clinton campaign. As we’ve written on numerous occasion, Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster…so much so that even Obama recently acknowledged its failures by referring to it as a “starter home.” Now, even the New York Times is admitting that Obamacare is a farce, pointing out that millions of healthy Americans would rather pay massive penalties to the IRS than buy health insurance policies with sky-high premiums.
The architects of the Affordable Care Act thought they had a blunt instrument to force people — even young and healthy ones — to buy insurance through the law’s online marketplaces: a tax penalty for those who remain uninsured.
It has not worked all that well, and that is at least partly to blame for soaring premiums next year on some of the health law’s insurance exchanges.
The full weight of the penalty will not be felt until April, when those who have avoided buying insurance will face penalties of around $700 a person or more. But even then that might not be enough: For the young and healthy who are badly needed to make the exchanges work, it is sometimes cheaper to pay the Internal Revenue Service than an insurance company charging large premiums, with huge deductibles.
“In my experience, the penalty has not been large enough to motivate people to sign up for insurance,” said Christine Speidel, a tax lawyer at Vermont Legal Aid.
Some people do sign up, especially those with low incomes who receive the most generous subsidies, Ms. Speidel said. But others, she said, find that they cannot afford insurance, even with subsidies, so “they grudgingly take the penalty.”
The I.R.S. says that 8.1 million returns included penalty payments for people who went without insurance in 2014, the first year in which most people were required to have coverage. A preliminary report on the latest tax-filing season, tabulating data through April, said that 5.6 million returns included penalties averaging $442 a return for people uninsured in 2015.
Of course, with final Obamacare rates for 2017 up a staggering 25%, on average, across the country, Donald Trump and other Republicans are making its failure a key topic on conversation on the campaign trail leading up to election day.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2016
Hillary, on the other hand, has vowed to make changes to “fix problems” like soaring premiums but, as The Hill points out, her chances of success are fairly minimal. Unfortunately for most American’s, Hillary’s proposals to “fix” Obamacare entail doubling down on penalties on young/healthy people, increasing subsidies and adding a “public option”…all of which just means higher taxes.
Responding to the uproar over ObamaCare premium hikes, Hillary Clinton on Tuesday promised: “We’re going to make changes to fix problems like that.”
The question is: What changes could actually get through Congress?
Both parties agree that ObamaCare has problems. Premiums are rising sharply, and the pool of enrollees is smaller and sicker than expected.
But the agreement mostly ends there. Republicans say the law should be repealed, a position echoed by their presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
Should Clinton win the White House, as polls indicate, most if not all of her ideas for changing ObamaCare would have virtually no chance of passing Congress, so long as Republicans control the House and/or Senate.
Clinton is calling for adding a public insurance option to increase competition with private carriers, but Republicans and some Democrats fiercely oppose that idea.
She is urging an increase in the financial assistance available under the law to make premiums more affordable, but Republicans say that would be doubling down on a failed system.
In summary, “it’s the craziest thing in the world.”