Here’s a thought: as soon as we defeat Trumpcare, Democrats in both houses introduce Medicare Part M (for Middle-Aged), covering people ages 50-64.
A. It’s good politics:
1. These are the people who were going to be hit the hardest by Trumpcare premium increases. Offer them a better deal and they’ll support us–and people this age vote!
2. It sounds more moderate than Medicare for All, while also making a solid step closer to single-payer, which the Republicans have managed to make sound like pie-in-the-sky socialism with a side order of end-of-the-world.
B. It’s good policy:
1. These are the sickest people in the Obamacare exchanges–move them out of the pools and premiums go down.
2. BUT they’re healthier than most people now on Medicare: put them into that risk pool and the premiums go down there, too.
DON’T believe Trump when he says Obamacare is collapsing.
DON’T believe pundits who say the Democrats have no platform/positions: this plus increased minimum wage plus let’s get out of Afghanistan is platform a-plenty.
Kimberly Pinter is a tax attorney in northern Virginia*. So her April 3 article in the Weekly Standard, â€œObamacare Pinches the Poor,â€ on ACA’s tax requirements will understandably concern many low-income citizens.** She writes:
According to the www.healthcare.gov web site, you can get an income-based exemption if â€œyou donâ€™t have to file a tax return because your income is below the level that requires you to file.â€
Sounds simple enough, right? Until further investigation reveals that this exemption is claimed directly on the tax return. Thatâ€™s right â€“ the tax return youâ€™re not required to file.
While the circular nature of this exemption is ludicrous on its face, its effects are far-reaching and incredibly regressiveâ€¦.
Itâ€™s a safe bet that many members of this population will not be cognizant of their need to file simply to avoid the Obamacare penalty for being uninsured.
[â€¦.]compliance with this behemoth law disproportionately burdens the poorest of the poor.Â Like a shark silently stalking its unknowing prey, Obamacare lurks waiting to take a bite out of the unwary. And in this case, itâ€™s the poor.
Yet another stupid Rube Goldberg application of the Nanny State, right? Â Well no. actually. ACAÂ has its share of glitches and complications. But this isn’t one of them.Â As ACA legal expert Timothy Jost notes over email, Pinter is wrong.
Indeed here is the government’s actual directions to low-income people. I found this through a quick Google search at a website called IRS.gov:
If you are not required to file a tax return and donâ€™t want to file a return, you do not need to file a return solely to report your coverage or to claim an exemption.
This isnâ€™t Nanny State. It isnâ€™t Rube Goldberg. Nothing behemoth. No shark is stalking or biting. Itâ€™s not particularly complicated, either.
The Weekly Standard should run a correction on this important point.
*A friend notes that my description of Ms. Pinter as a tax attorney conveys the impression that Ms. Pinter is someone whose main duties are assisting people with their taxes. Her byline says: “Kimberly Pinter is a tax policy lawyer and writer in Northern Virginia.” Her Twitter byline notes that she is a “Tax policy expert, lawyer, lobbyist, jewelry designer, and Zumba fitness instructor.” Â Sounds kindof cool, actually.
**Update: I received a very professional email from the Weekly Standard.Â To their credit, they are now looking into this. I await a correction or amplification.
I wonder what Dr. King would think about the current health reform debate. OK I donâ€™t really wonder. Here, for example, are his comments, apparently made here in Chicago:
Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.
Martin Luther King supported health care as a human right. He also knew how far we had to go as a nation in making that right a reality.
King was the energizing force behind the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). I suspect he would be ashamed but unsurprised to see his home region so resistant to the basic expansion of health insurance coverage to Americans with incomes below the poverty line. To some extent, the extent of southern resistance is obscured by maps such as the oneÂ below, that display which states have rejected the Medicaid expansioÂÂÂn around the country:
Many of the shaded states such as Wyoming and Montana are huge but sparsely populated. Others such as Wisconsin have small populations left uncovered for other reasons.
Harvard post-doctoral researcher Laura Yasaitis is an expert at drawing different kinds of maps. At my request, she made me a map in which the size of every state was proportional to the number of people who landed in the â€œMedicaid gap.â€ (She couldnâ€™t quite do that, since states such as California and New York would simply vanish. We drew each of these states as if they had shut out 2,000 state residents instead of zero. She also taught me how to make Cartograms. SO you may see more such items in this space.)
Via the indispensible Sarah Kliff at Vox, this pre-post map of Kentucky health insurance coverage puts a lump in my throat. This is what we fought for ACA, and what we will eventually achieve when low-income red states eventually embrace the Medicaid expansion.
I’ll never be involved in another presidential campaign as I was with the Obama campaign and the fight for health reform between 2007 and 2012. I knocked on hundreds of doors, made I-don’t-know-how-many-phone-calls in the hope of achieving near-universal coverage.Â Maps like this make me so glad that I participated in that fight. That map reflects hundreds of thousands of lives changed, in a single small state that went against President Obama, big time, in both 2008 and 2012.
Our wide-ranging conversation covered his pride in health reform, his thoughts on how our health care system is changing, Princeton Universityâ€™s high-ranking law school, and his disappointment in implementation screw-ups typified by the flawed rollout of HealthCare.gov.
Cutler was the author of a prescient and scathing 2010 analysis warning of the need for stronger management of information technology (and other matters) in the implementation of health reform. During the darkest days of website malfunction, theWashington Postâ€˜s Ezra Klein labeled Cutlerâ€™s analysis â€œthe memo that could have saved Obamacare.â€
We covered the full range of health-wonk topics. Emanuel is scathing about many short-term implementation failures of the Affordable Care. Yet he is quite bullish about health reform’s long-term prospects.
There are a few surprises, too. For starters, Emanuel notes that ACA might have included further malpractice reforms had physician groups or Republican senators really wanted that. Whatever was said in public, behind closed doors doctors didn’t prioritize malpractice; nor were Republicans ready to actually negotiate about it. President Obama and others were ready to deal–were there a deal to be had.
Emanuel also offers some striking blue-sky predictions. Most notably, he predicts that the long trend of explosive health care cost growth will abate. Over the coming decades, he predicts, health expenditures will grow no faster than the national economy: “GDP+0.” If this actually happened, our nation’s public finances would be fundamentally different.
It acknowledges gravity, while making changes. While PCARE talks of repeal of the ACA, it locks in a good deal of the structure of the ACA, and addresses changes from that new status quo. For example, no lifetime limits (sec 201) is retained from the ACA, as is keeping people up to 26 on their parents health insurance, while the current 3-to-1 age banding premium regulation is replaced with 5-to-1 (now a 64 year old could not be charged more than 3 times what a 20 something could be charged;now they could be charged 5 times as much). Winner 20-somethings, loser 60-somethings. Eventually they say they plan to allow States to set these rules with a looser federal touch, meaning a state could decide to stick with the 3-to-1 premium banding by age, for example. I want to hear more about guaranteed renewability and related insurance market regulations as the 2nd full paragraph of page 2 is a bit slippery. For example, it contains this quote: “Insurance companies would also be banned from makingÂ unfairÂ coverage terminations of health coverage.” (emphasis mine). What might “fair” ones be? Continue reading “Thoughts on Burr, Coburn, Hatch Health Reform Plan”
I was a discussant of Casey Mulligan’s paper Average Marginal Labor Income Tax Rates Under the ACA at the UNC Tax Symposium hosted in Chapel Hill, NC by Doug Shackelford this past Saturday. His figure 3 summarizes changes in the marginal tax rate of labor income over the past 7 years, accounting for both explicit and implicit taxes for someone with median wages. For example, in 2014, there is an increase in the marginal rate due to a reduction in work incentive that occurs for someone with median wages because premium subsidies are based on a income-linked sliding schedule–an implicit tax on earning more because you lose insurance subsidy as you earn more income. The paper also identifies increased implicit incentives to work more, for example, the fact that exchange subsidies cannot flow to those below 100% of poverty.
The huge variance between states in the takeup of private insurance policies under ACA.
As you all know, December was an excellent month for the ACA exchanges, federal and state. The official HHS totals at 28 December were 2.15 million for market policies, 1.58 million for Medicaid/SCHIP. Charles Gaba’s running total for all new ACA coverage â€“ including the mass Medicaid baptisms by transfers from state schemes, private policies contracted outside the exchanges, and under-26es added to their parents’ policies â€“ stands at a round 10 million today.
The HHS report rightly ignores the puerile talking point that the private policies aren’t all paid up. So what? Why should anybody shop with great difficulty for medical insurance, choose a policy, and abandon it at the till at the last minute like an excess packet of cornflakes?
It does go in detail into the demographics, as a high takeup by healthier young people will be crucial to the actuarial viability of the plan. I’ve nothing to add on this issue to the full commentary of others. Matt Yglesias’ worries were answered, to my mind conclusively, by Kevin Drum, Sarah Kliff and Josh Marshall. Short take: the ranking expert at Kaiser says the takeup by under-35s is currently at the minimum for viability, with modest premium increases, and on past experience and by common sense the proportion will rise. Above all, the insurance industry is silent. If there were a real risk of a death spiral, they’d be screaming blue murder.
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