Debt-Flicks: Side Effects

August 1, 2013

Debt-Flicks: Side Effects

Last night it was reported that, in an extremely rare move, President Obama is now “personally involved” in resolving the uncertainty surrounding healthcare premiums on Capitol Hill. While other delays associated with Obamacare are temporary, this intervention seems like it will provide lawmakers and Hill staffers with a more permanent fix. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is expressing concern to no avail.


Gretchen Hamel, executive director of Public Notice, issued the following statement:

“Washington has obviously realized that Obamacare is a poorly designed bill, littered with flaws. First, they tried to backtrack by exempting businesses. Now, President Obama is promising Congress and their staff special treatment when it comes to the healthcare law. Not only is this frustrating, it further proves that our government is irresponsible and not looking out for the best interests of the American people. While most Americans are struggling to pay their bills, the White House is busy playing favorites. Instead of bailing out Washington from a health care law they helped create, the administration needs to start looking out for all Americans like they were elected to do.”



SHOT: Obamacare Could Cost Hill Staffers Thousands Of Dollars Each Year: “Currently, the government pays nearly 75 percent of these premiums. The government’s contributions are in jeopardy due to a controversial Republican amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which says, by 2014, lawmakers and their staff must be covered by plans ‘created’ by the law or ‘offered through an exchange.’ The Office of Personnel Management hasn’t said if the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan can contribute premium payments toward health plans on the exchange. If the payments stop, it could cost Hill staffers thousands of extra dollars each year.” (John Bresnehan And Jake Sherman, “Obama Enters Hill Health Care Dispute,” Politico, 7/31/13)

CHASER: President Obama Promises Quick Fix For Hill Staffers Forced Into Obamacare: “President Barack Obama privately told Democratic senators Wednesday he is now personally involved in resolving a heated dispute over how Obamacare treats Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers, according to senators in the meeting. … At issue is whether Obama’s health care law allows the federal government to continue to pay part of the health insurance premiums for members of Congress and thousands of Hill aides when they are nudged onto health exchanges.” (John Bresnehan And Jake Sherman, “Obama Enters Hill Health Care Dispute,” Politico, 7/31/13)

White House Is Working On A Solution, Will Have A Plan Soon: “It is extraordinarily rare, to say the least, for the president of the United States to get involved in an inside-the-Beltway flap over the payment of health care premiums. … At Wednesday’s meeting, Obama told the Democratic senators he was working to find a solution and the administration will soon present its plan to top lawmakers in both parties.” (John Bresnehan And Jake Sherman, “Obama Enters Hill Health Care Dispute,” Politico, 7/31/13)



Hill Staffers Are Just The Latest Group To Seek A Special Obamacare Exemption: 

Obama Administration Announces Delay In Employer Mandate. “The Obama administration said Tuesday it would delay enforcing a provision of the new health-care law that requires large employers to provide coverage for workers or pay a penalty in 2014, the biggest revision so far to the federal health-care overhaul.” (Louise Radnofsky, “Health Law Penalties Delayed,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/3/13)

HHS No Longer Attempting To Verify Eligibility For Insurance Subsidies. “HHS now says it will no longer attempt to verify individual eligibility for insurance subsidies and instead will rely on self-reporting, with minimal efforts to verify if the information consumers provide is accurate.” (Editorial, “Obamacare’s ‘Liar’ Subsidies,” The Wall Street Journal, 7/7/13)

Georgia Requests Emergency Delay On Health Care Exchanges: “Georgia may not start its Obamacare health exchange Oct. 1 when the rest of the country does because the state issued an emergency request late Monday for a delay. Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens asked U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for another 30 days beyond tomorrow’s deadline to approve the health plans submitted by seven insurance companies wanting to do business in the state.” (Walter C. Jones, “Georgia Requests Emergency Delay On Health Exchange,” Savannah Morning News, 7/31/13)

Flashback:Number Of Healthcare Reform Law Waivers Climbs Above 1,000.” “The number of temporary healthcare reform waivers granted by the Obama administration to organizations climbed to more than 1,000, according to new numbers disclosed by the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS posted 126 new waivers on Friday, bringing the total to 1,040 organizations that have been granted a one-year exemption from a new coverage requirement included in the healthcare reform law enacted almost a year ago.” (Jason Millman, “Number Of Healthcare Reform Waivers Climbs Above 1,000,” The Hill, 3/6/11)


But While The President Gets Personally Involved To Fix Obamacare For Congress, Other Complaints Are Chalked Up To Hollow Anecdotes:

White House Pushes Back Against “Anecdotal Stories” About Harmful Impacts Of Obamacare: “The White House is continuing to push back against a barrage of criticism and some recent bad press about the effect of President Obama’s health care law on the overall economy. … [A White House official] highlighted the restaurant industry in particular as a sector that has far outpaced others in both hiring and increases in hours worked by its employees, facts they emphasized in two animated GIFs on the White House tumblr page. This, the official argued, runs counter to anecdotal stories seen in recent media reports that restaurants are scaling back hours due to the ACA.” (Adam Aigner-Treworgy, “White House Defends Obamacare Impact On Economy,” CNN, 7/30/13)

“White Castle On Obamacare: We May Only Hire Part-Time Workers” “White Castle is considering hiring only part-time workers in the future because of fears Obamacare will impose detrimental costs on its business, Vice President Jamie Richardson said in an interview with HuffPost Thursday.” (White Castle On Obamacare: We May Only Hire Part-Time Workers,” The Huffington Post, 7/25/13)

California Tortilla Weighing Whether To Trim Hours: “At a California Tortilla restaurant in downtown Washington, D.C., managers say they’re still figuring out what strategy to use to comply with the new law’s mandate to provide health insurance for all workers who put in at least 30 hours a week: whether they should trim hours, hire more part-timers or leave things unchanged.” (John Ydstie, “Full-Time Vs. Part-Time Workers: Restaurants Weigh Obamacare,” NPR, 7/24/13)

Subway Sandwich Shops In Michigan Turn To More Part-Timers: “Ken Adams has been turning to more part-time workers at his 10 Subway sandwich shops in Michigan to avoid possibly incurring higher health-care costs under the new federal insurance law. He added approximately 25 part-time workers in May and June as he reduced some employees’ hours and replaced other workers who left.” (Julie Jargon, Brenda Cronine And Sarah E. Needleman, “Restaurant Shift: Sorry, Just Part-Time, The Wall Street Journal, 7/14/13)

CNN: “For Fatburger And Others, Obamacare Delay Came Too Late.”  “Because a 30-hour work week counts as full-time under Obamacare, Fatburger fast-food restaurants had started cutting worker hours below that threshold, CEO Andy Wiederhorn said. Some Fatburger owners even began ‘job sharing’ with other businesses, teaming up to share a higher number of employees all working fewer hours. Someone could work 25 hours at one Fatburger, 25 at another one with a different franchise owner, and still not be a full-time worker under Obamacare rules.”  (Jose Pagliery, “For Fatburger And Others, Obamacare Delay Came Too Late,” CNN, 7/8/13)

Fatburger CEO Andy Wiederhorn: “All It’s Doing Is Causing Confusion, Anxiety And The Workers Are Paying The Price. … Now, The Mandate’s A Moving Target. It’s Very, Very Challenging.” (Jose Pagliery, “For Fatburger And Others, Obamacare Delay Came Too Late,” CNN, 7/8/13)


Despite Changes For Businesses And Hill Staffers, No Help In Sight For The Rest Of Us:

Insurance Rates Could “Double Or Triple” On Healthy Consumers In The Individual Market. “Healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage under the federal health law later this year, while the premiums paid by sicker people are set to become more affordable, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of coverage to be sold on the law’s new exchanges.” (Louise Radnofsky, “Health-Insurance Costs Set For A Jolt,” The Wall Street Journal, 6/30/13) 

Implementation Of Obamacare Could Lead To Shortage Of Doctors, Backlog of Patients: “A shortage of primary care physicians in some parts of the country is expected to worsen as millions of newly insured Americans gain coverage under the federal health care law next year. Doctors could face a backlog, and patients could find it difficult to get quick appointments. … The problem will become more acute nationally when about 30 million uninsured people eventually gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which takes full effect next year.” (Ann Sanner, “Doctor Shortage Predicted Under Obamacare,” Associated Press, 6/19/13)

Associated Press: “Like Your Health Care Policy? You May Be Losing It.” “The goal is to cover most of the nation’s nearly 50 million uninsured, but even Obama says there will be bumps in the road. And discontinued insurance plans could be another bump. Also, it doesn’t seem to square with one of the president’s best known promises about his health care overhaul: ‘If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan.'” (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, “Like Your Health Care Policy? You May Be Losing It,” Associated Press, 5/29/13)


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