We must pass the bill to find out what’s in the bill.
The Obama administration announced Friday that it would significantly scale back the health law’s requirements that new insurance marketplaces verify consumers’ income and health insurance status.
Instead, the federal government will rely more heavily on consumers’ self-reported information until 2015, when it plans to have stronger verification systems in place.
Well, I can’t imagine what could possibly go wrong there. I mean, if you need to be below a particular income and not have access to a particular level of employer provided coverage to qualify for a chance to dip into the taxpayer funded coffers, we don’t need to check things like that, do we? Nobody would be such a scofflaw as to violate the “honor system” in America. Wait… are you really saying this is going to run on the honor system?
It is not unprecedented for the government to use the honor system in situations in which it collects data on millions of individuals, said Timothy S. Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., and a consumer advocate. For example, people are expected to report their cash tips to the Internal Revenue Service as income.
“An awful lot of the economy is a cash economy,” he said. “If we had to verify every statement that was made to the IRS, our economy would collapse.”
When you combine this with the delay in the employer mandate, won’t that make it rather hard to enforce anything to do with the implementation of this program? That’s the question that Avik Roy is asking at Forbes.
I, and several others at the time, said “wait a minute.” According to the law, you aren’t eligible for Obamacare’s subsidies if your employer has offered you what the government considers “affordable” coverage. But if employers are no longer going to report whether or not they’ve offered “affordable” coverage, how can the government verify whether or not workers are eligible for subsidies?
Opening the door wide open to fraud could well increase the number of people in the exchanges, but it will also make that number far less meaningful—casting a shadow over whatever is achieved by the enrollment effort set to launch in the fall. It will also, needless to say, increase the cost of the exchange subsidies. The administration is clearly worried enough about enrollment to take that risk and bear that cost. It seems to be operating under the assumption that the way to secure Obamacare’s future is to get as many people as possible into the system and receiving subsidies. Maybe they’re right, and maybe they’re wrong, but they certainly seem increasingly desperate.
That definition of “affordable” (as determined by Uncle Sam) will undoubtedly loom large in the future, as Forbes rightly suggests. Even if your employer provided coverage used to be affordable, we’ve seen story after story about providers jacking up premiums in advance of the major Obamacare roll-out, so what qualifies as “affordable” after all those changes take place? Well, since nobody is going to be checking what you put down on your application for taxpayer subsidized coverage, I suppose you can decide if your current plan costs too much. But that might result in a stampede of people heading for the new exchanges and handing the costs off to the taxpayer. If only somebody had warned them about all this before the bill was passed.
Oh, wait… we did. And as Ed recently pointed out, things like this essentially undermine the entire White House agenda.