Insurance companies: Taxpayers will cut you a subsidy check
Nothing in ObamaCare actually works, including the fraud protection systems. They were treated as one of the lowest priorities by the system designers, and according to an IRS audit, it shows. From the Associated Press:
The rollout of the law has been hurt by canceled policies and problems with the federal website used by people to enroll in health plans, causing political headaches for the White House and for Democrats in Congress. The new problems concern subsidies that are available to low- and medium-income people who buy insurance through state-based exchanges that opened in October.
Those subsidies are administered by the Internal Revenue Service in the form of tax credits, and that’s where the trouble arises.
“The IRS’ existing fraud detection system may not be capable of identifying (Affordable Care Act) refund fraud or schemes prior to the issuance of tax return refunds,” said the report by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. “The IRS reported that the long-term limitations of its existing fraud detection system include its inability to keep pace with increasing levels of fraud,” the report said.
But then the IRS commissioner, and President Obama, said to just ignore all those frowny faces in the professional auditing division, because everything’s going to be swell. You can take their word for it. Try not to think of the billions of dollars in fraud already taking place under the existing tax system. Put your faith in the people who abused IRS power to punish their political enemies, and the President who told the biggest lie in modern history: “If you like your health plan, you can keep it, period.”
Sounding more upbeat, Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said, “The IRS has a strong, effective system in place for administering the Premium Tax Credit. We have a proven track record of safely and securely transmitting federal tax information and we have a robust and secure process in place to deliver this important credit for taxpayers.”
The president had a sunnier view, too. Seeking to regroup from the law’s disastrous rollout, Obama said Tuesday the government website is working well “for the vast majority of users.”
He acknowledged that other problems will likely arise, but “when they do, we’ll fix those too.”
Well, that’s reassuring. ObamaCare was sold to us as a brilliant central plan to take control of a vast and complicated industry, wisely allocating insurance resources according to the dictates of the Best and Brightest among us. In reality, it’s a rolling nightmare of crashes, broken promises, hastily improvised fixes, unilaterally delayed mandates, discarded components – remember the 1099 reporting requirements for business expenses? How about the CLASS Act? Did you know the White House was still touting the wonders of the CLASS Act even though it was repealed a year ago? – and of course, relentless political spin. We were promised a high-performance sports car; we got a battered, rusty jalopy cobbled together from obsolete parts, rattling and farting its way forward one news cycle at a time, while five million people lose their insurance and fall out of the rumble seats.
Speaking of those quick fixes, this one’s a humdinger, and it could easily lead to more waste and abuse than the individual fraud the IRS says it’s ill-equipped to prevent: As you may recall, the part of Healthcare.gov that remits subsidies to the insurance companies doesn’t actually exist yet, and the companies in question are getting mighty nervous about it, especially since the young and healthy suckers whose bloated premium payments would pull them out of the ObamaCare “death spiral” don’t seem to be signing up in the expected numbers.
What’s the quick fix? Well, the insurance companies can just take an educated guess about how much subsidy money they deserve, and the taxpayers will cut them a check.
No, seriously, that’s it. That’s how the brilliant commissars in charge of the Great Healthcare Leap Forward are going to handle it. As Reuters reports:
Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for CMS, said the government will make the payments to insurers for premium tax credits and cost sharing on time.
“We are committed to making sure they get paid in January and we will continue to work with them on that process,” she told reporters.
The administration is planning a “workaround” for payments, said Daniel Durham, vice president for policy and regulatory affairs at America’s Health Insurance Plans.
Health plans will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government. Once the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to “true up” payments, he said.
“The intent is to make sure plans get paid on time, which is a good thing,” Durham told Reuters.
Actually, under the law, it’s a necessary thing. Insurance coverage isn’t valid unless it’s paid for. But I suppose it’s rather quaint and antique to talk about the “law” with respect to ObamaCare, isn’t it? Otherwise we might ask if raiding the Treasury for billions of taxpayer dollars to hand off to insurance companies, based on their estimates, is legal, and that would tear the latest trip of duct tape right off the rickety ObamaCare jalopy.
This must be very confusing to the Obama faithful, because just yesterday Dear Leader was telling them how insurance companies are a bunch of crooks who overcharged them for “bad apple” insurance plans, which ObamaCare mercifully destroyed, replacing them with more expensive, higher-deductible plans that provide vitally needed maternity services for men. It was only a few weeks ago that President Obama gave his infamous “Fumble” press conference, in which he pointed fingers of blame at insurance companies for the millions of canceled policies that have sparked public outrage. (As of yesterday, he was back to dismissing those people as irrelevant “anecdotes” whose ruined lives are a small price to pay for the Great Leap Forward.)
The official Democrat party line, right up until the Thanksgiving holiday, was that nothing in the Affordable Care Act required the cancellation of those policies – it was all being done at the sinister discretion of the heartless and greedy insurance companies, who were ruthlessly using the excuse of the ObamaCare rollout as cover for canceling unprofitable plans they couldn’t wait to get rid of. Obama even offered to let them violate the law and ignore the ObamaCare mandates for an extra year, under his royal authority, just so he could turn around and blame them for failing to do so.
But now the insurance companies can be trusted to guess their own subsidies, and it’s all good? Does anyone really think tottering insurance companies, ravaged by the ObamaCare death spiral, will be cutting fat checks to reimburse taxpayers for excessively large estimated subsidy payments? It’s more likely that they’ll be getting another taxpayer bailout.
Personally, I don’t think insurance executives are the robber barons Democrats made them out to be, until this morning. They’ll do their best to make accurate subsidy estimates… and as Reuters points out, that will drop an additional, crushing paperwork burden on companies that are already supposed to follow up on tens of thousands of ObamaCare insurance policies that might not be valid, thanks to the garbage data spewed out by Obama’s $500 million crapware. And they’ve got virtually zero time to set it all up:
The fix puts an additional “burden” on insurance companies, already taxed by having to double-check faulty enrollment data from the HealthCare.gov system.
Now, companies need to quickly put together financial management systems to make the payment estimates, so they can be paid beginning in January, he said.
“They have to recognize that plans are already quite stressed and introducing this at the last minute just adds substantial burden for plans to deal with,” Durham said.
Paying insurers on time and accurately is critical for the long-term competitiveness of Obamacare marketplaces, said Kevin Lucia, senior research fellow at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute.
“I’m pretty deeply concerned about this,” Lucia said at a forum organized by the university and law firm Arent Fox.
Smaller providers and co-ops will be hit especially hard… and would be much less capable of making do without their subsidy payments for six months, a year, or however long it takes the people who can’t even launch a website to create the subsidy calculation system.
Isn’t Soviet-style central planning wonderful?