April 15, 2015 Congress just passed a big bipartisan health care bill, overwhelmingly and on a tight timeline. Now, some Democrats might hope the Supreme Court didn't notice.
Republicans and Democrats defied just about everyone's expectations by passing a permanent "doc fix" after punting on the issue for more than a decade.
National Taxpayers Union Foundation
This year’s new analysis of tax complexity from National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) found some startling lead figures: a $234 billion cost to the economy due to 6.1 billion lost hours of productivity and $32 billion spent out-of-pocket to comply with America’s insanely complicated tax system.
As always, there is much more to the story.
Since 2010, tax complexity costs have remained sky-high, at well over $200 billion each year. From fiscal year 2005 to 2013, the Treasury's paperwork burden rose from 6.4 billion hours to 7 billion hours never making up less than 74 percent of the burden imposed by all government agencies combined.
While last year’s (covering 2013) totals actually trended downward compared to the previous year (2012), there was little reason to believe that was the beginning of a trend toward continued relief.
As millions of Americans scramble to file their tax returns, many are shocked by the full cost of ObamaCare’s individual mandate.
“Those who failed to obtain minimum essential health insurance coverage last year will have had to send the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) a check for $1,130, on average,” Doug Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, testified today before a congressional hearing.
An estimated 6.3 million people will be required to pay a penalty this year because they didn’t buy qualifying health insurance in 2014, Holtz-Eakin testified.
A new report shows that as the United States' tax system grows more complicated because of Obamacare regulations, the economy is taking more of a hit.
According to data from the National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF), complying with the federal income tax cost the economy about $234 billion in productivity last year.
The group came to that figure by adding the out-of-pocket cost of tax preparation assistance ($31.7 billion) and the estimated cost of $202.1 billion due to lost labor hours Americans spent dealing with their 2013 tax returns that were filed in 2014.
Special: IRS Loophole That Could Protect You From Economic Instability
The economic hit was lower than the previous year by almost $10 billion, and the NTUF concludes that "was an anomaly."
The increase to this year's figure, according to the NTUF, stems from the Affordable Care Act and the mountain of paperwork it has created at the IRS.
"Looking deeper at NTUF's research, there is one big reas
The special health insurance enrollment period set up for people surprised by their tax penalties hasn't appeared to increase either awareness or enrollment by much, new research shows.
People who live in the 34 states that use HealthCare.gov and didn't know about the requirement to have health insurance can sign up through April 30 for 2015 coverage.
But nearly half of people planning to file taxes said they had heard nothing or very little about the requirement to report whether they have insurance on their tax return, according to new research funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation..
"Very few people are reacting to the news by insuring," said Kathy Hempstead, who directs insurance coverage issues at RWJF.
"So far it doesn't seem we're seeing this mass teachable moment."
The Wall Street Journal
The tax filing season has uncovered lingering wrinkles in the 2010 health-care law that have caused headaches for consumers who incorrectly estimated their income, didn’t use a government exchange to buy an insurance plan or changed coverage during the year.
Marta Chapman saw her anticipated $850 federal refund wiped out because she received too much in advance tax credits in 2014 to pay her insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act. That prompted her to drop her plan for this year.
“I canceled because I was very upset. To me it was kind of a trick,” said the 48-year-old personal-care aide in Aztec, N.M. “If I knew that, I wouldn’t have got the insurance.”
Federal officials said they have been working hard to help people get used to the law’s system of financial help to pay health premiums, and will continue to try to make it easier for them.
The Wall Street Journal
Early this summer the Supreme Court will render a decision on King v. Burwell, the case challenging the IRS workaround that allows ObamaCare subsidies to be paid through federal exchanges. Many on the right believe that if the justices rule against the administration, it would be the final stake in the heart of ObamaCare. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Millions of Americans would lose their federal subsidies and therefore be unable to pay for expensive ObamaCare coverage. In that case we can expect President Obama to declare immediately a crisis that can only be fixed by more government. As Rahm Emanuel, the president’s former chief of staff, once said, you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.
If the court rules against him, President Obama’s response will be diabolically simple and highly effective. He will ask Congress to pass a one-sentence bill allowing the subsidies to flow through federal exchanges.
Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in King v. Burwell, a case critical to the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or so-called Obamacare). Readers interested in the details of the case should find them elsewhere. Suffice it to say here that the case concerns whether individuals can receive tax credits for buying health insurance on exchanges established by the federal government, though the text of the ACA indicates such subsidies are provided for those buying coverage through an “exchange established by the State.”
The case has the potential to invalidate substantial subsidies now being provided by federal taxpayers to millions of Americans using federal exchanges in 37 different states. Given the uncertainty created by the pending case, legislators on both sides of the aisle are considering how to react to various possible scenarios arising from a court decision.
The Wall Street Journal
Has the effort peaked to sign up uninsured Americans for coverage? The announcement that the nonprofit organization Enroll America is laying off staff and redirecting its focus in the face of funding cuts comes amid inconsistent sign-ups during the second Affordable Care Act open-enrollment period and concerns about affordability.
A recent New York Times analysis compared Kaiser Family Foundation estimates of potential enrollees with sign-up data from the Department of Health and Human Services. While some states that signed up few people in 2014 recovered during the 2015 open enrollment, other states lagged: “California, the state with the most enrollments in 2014, increased them by only one percentage point this year, despite a big investment in outreach. New York improved by only two percentage points. Washington’s rates are unchanged.”
Most states could not post consistent gains in both open-enrollment periods.
New analysis from Avalere finds that while exchanges have succeeded in enrolling very low-income individuals, they continue to struggle to attract middle and higher income enrollees.
Specifically, as of the close of the 2015 open enrollment period, exchanges using HealthCare.gov had enrolled 76 percent of eligible individuals with incomes between 100 and 150 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) or $11,770 to $17,655. However, participation rates declined dramatically as incomes increase and subsidies decrease. For instance, only 16 percent of those earning 301 to 400 percent FPL picked coverage through an exchange, even though they may be eligible for premium subsidies.
“People receiving more generous subsidies are expected to enroll in the exchanges at higher rates. However, participation levels decline as incomes increase, even among individuals who would be eligible for both premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions,” said Elizabeth Carpenter, director at Avalere.