American Elephants


Look Out! The IRS is Going After Small Businesses who Help Workers Buy Insurance. by The Elephant's Child
July 2, 2015, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Capitalism, Domestic Policy, Economy, Health Care | Tags: , ,

Female Owner Of Coffee Shop

Some small businesses who reimburse their employees for the cost of the premiums for individual health insurance policies, or who pay their employees heath costs directly will be fined up to $36,500 a year — per employee — under a new Internal Revenue Service regulation that took effect July 1, 2015.

The IRS is considering an employer arrangement that reimburses or pays for employee individual health premiums to be “a group health plan” that is subject to the $100 per-employee per-day penalty. The penalty applies whether the reimbursement is considered a before-tax or after-tax contribution.  This doesn’t sound like it would pass the smell test in the courts.

That penalty is enough to destroy most small businesses.  This rule under which small businesses that get caught helping their workers to buy insurance or pay medical bills —can be fined 18 times more than large businesses that don’t provide coverage at all.

Under the rule, which appears nowhere in the Affordable Care Act, employers who do not offer a group health plan, but give their workers additional pay to compensate for the purchase of health insurance or direct medical expenses can be fined $100 per day, per employee.  Over the course of a year that’s $36,500 per employee up to $500,000 in total.  The penalty on businesses for failing to comply with the employer mandate is only $2,000 per year. …

In fact, according to NFIB research 14 percent of small businesses that don’t offer group insurance reimburse their workers instead.  They think they’re doing a good thing but they’re walking into a minefield.

There is legislation in both houses awaiting action (S. 1697/H.R. 2911).

This seems to fall into the “You Will Obey” category.  The EPA also goes in a big way for enormous fines designed to make people fall into line quickly. I wonder how many owners of small businesses have even heard of this regulation? Typical Obama administration act — force compliance, issue more regulations, and be completely puzzled about why the economy is still in the toilet — but brag about the success of administration policies in the marvelous recovery.  Sigh.



Obama wants Doctors to warn their patients that global warming could make your health worse. by The Elephant's Child

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Americans generally trust their doctors, so the White House wants these trusted medical professionals to help out in the administration’s propaganda campaign to convince the people to support Obama’s global warming campaign.

We also need doctors, nurses and citizens, like all of you”President Obama said in a taped speech presented to medical professionals gathered at the White House, “to get to work to raise awareness and organize folks for real change.

The EPA has long tried to cloak their power grab and excessive regulation under risible claims that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant and must be eliminated. As Alan Carlin explained:

The much maligned carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, as EPA and Obama claim, but rather a basic input to plant photosynthesis and growth, which is the basis of life on Earth. Decreasing atmospheric CO2 levels would decrease plant productivity and therefore the food supply for the rest of the ecosystem and humans, and vice versa. Further, attempts to reduce it will prove enormously expensive, futile, harmful to human welfare, and in the longer run, to environmental improvement. It is now increasingly evident that efforts to reduce CO2 emissions by governmental coercion will have important non-environmental adverse effects in terms of loss of freedom of scientific inquiry, economic growth and development, and the rule of law.

Obama’s summit included the U.S. Surgeon General, top administration officials, and public health experts from around the country telling doctors nurses and other conference goers how to talk about global warming with their patients.

The central message: doctors should warn their patients that global warming could make their health worse. Uh huh.

As if doctors weren’t busy enough. The Surgeon General also wants them to ask their patients if they have any guns in the house. You’ve probably noticed that the inevitable paperwork you have to fill out is getting increasingly nosy. And with everything computerized, your entire medical record is open to any hacker who is interested.



Let’s Remember Just Why the Affordable Care Act is such a Mess by The Elephant's Child
June 26, 2015, 6:42 am
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Health Care, Politics | Tags: , , ,

Harry Reid glumHere is a really important article laying out just exactly why Obama Care is such a mess. Now that Chief Justice Roberts has decided that the intent, the viability of the Affordable Care Act is more legally important than its actual language, it’s worth taking a few moments to remember just how the law was passed, and why the inconsistencies and internal contradictions were not just predictable, but inevitable.

Obama keeps calling it health care and assumes that he has given millions of people who lacked health care a great gift. But he has given them only health insurance, and really poor insurance at that. The American people did not want it, and it polled poorly. The Democratic leadership, fearful that the momentum was failing decided to rush a bill through the Senate before they left for Christmas 2009.

On December 18, Majority Leader Harry Reid merged two separate pending bills into a bill to be voted on by the Senate….  To meet the self-imposed Christmas deadline, Reid provided only six days for debate. The Senate bill passed on a strict party line vote, 60-39.

Few people, including Senators and their staffs, had time to read the whole 2,700 page bill, much less note any possible weaknesses, flaws, or ambiguities. Reid and other Senate Democrats weren’t terribly worried about this. The bill was set to go to the House, then back to the Senate, then to “reconciliation” between the House and the Senate versions, and then to the president for his signature. Everyone thought there would be plenty of opportunities to make changes.

But a major impediment arose soon after the Senate bill passed. Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy had died that past summer, and the January special election to replace him was won by Republican Scott Brown, who ran as a strong opponent of Obamacare. This deprived the Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and meant that the Senate would not be able to pass a revised bill. The only way to pass Obamacare at this point was to have the House vote on identical legislation to the Senate bill, while engaging in legally dubious procedural maneuvering. And that’s what the Democrats did.

They passed the bill as is and a separate reconciliation bill with minor changes, eliminating some of the most obvious flaws, but leaving the rest intact. So they passed a Senate Bill that nobody wanted and that no one had read in its entirety, and no one understood. Obama and the Democrats believed that it would become increasingly popular and Democrats would continue to control both houses of Congress. Anything wrong with it could be quickly fixed.

Didn’t work out that way. The people never liked it and Republicans took over the House and then the Senate, partly because of ObamaCare. Republicans don’t want to fix a law that they unanimously opposed. The Court, it was hoped, would realize that those who rush through a mess of  a law that they haven’t read and don’t understand, with no political support from the other side have to live with the consequences. Instead the majority decided that when the law is unworkable as written they should help out the other branches.

So, you blithely promise Americans who don’t want any such thing that their cost of heath care will go down, that they can keep their doctors, that their medical care will be more efficient, add volumes of regulations and taxes, add a vast bureaucracy to manage it all and make more regulations — pay for the new bureaucracy, then add all sorts of gimmicks sure to reduce costs (that don’t work at all) wrap it up in a computer debacle that only the federal government could manage to come up with, and there you have it. Only a Democrat would believe that could work.



Call it ScotusCare! The Supreme Court Does Legislating From the Bench. by The Elephant's Child

The Supreme Court announced their decision in King v, Burwell. Conservatives are dismayed at the Court’s complicity in rewriting the Affordable Care Act. President Obama has been threatening the court for days attempting to cow the Supremes. What influence his threats had is not known, but hopefully is is none. Nevertheless, Chief Justice Roberts bypassed the separation of powers, and decided to help the Democrats out by assuming that the law didn’t mean what it said, and he would fix it by rewriting it. Essentially what he did the last time around. Rewriting the words of Congress to mean what they would have to say to make the law work — is making law.  The Supreme Court is supposed to decide whether the words as written are Constitutional, that’s the judicial function. Justice Antonin Scalia, dissenting, called it “somersaults of statutory interpretation” but it is legislating, not judging.

Holman Jenkins got it right:

By one standard no government program can fail, and that’s the standard being applied to ObamaCare by its supporters: If a program exists and delivers benefits, the program is working.

The polls do show that 74% of ObamaCare’s eight million enrollees are satisfied with their plans, because 87% of them are getting taxpayer subsidies that amount to an annual $3,312 per recipient, which is a pretty good deal for the recipients, not so much for the taxpayers. Oddly enough, those who are basically in good health, but just need flu shots or treatment for some minor deal, a broken arm, a sore throat are pretty pleased with their health care.Taxpayers who find that their premiums are going up 20% – 30%. or who find out their deductible has gone up to $6,000 aren’t so happy, because they are paying their premiums and their full medical bills besides. Jenkins again:

The right question about any program is whether the benefits justify the expenditure of taxpayer money. ObamaCare’s cheerleaders provide not cost-benefit analysis but benefit analysis—as if money grows on trees or is donated by Martians or can be printed in limitless quantities by the Fed. …

In the meantime, however, no worthwhile thoughts about ObamaCare, pro or con, are to be heard from people who count a program as a success just because Americans enjoy receiving benefits at the expense of other Americans.



For Good Health Eat Chocolate? What Lovely Advice. by The Elephant's Child
June 17, 2015, 12:59 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Freedom, Health Care, Humor | Tags: , , ,

150615191518_1_540x360(photo credit: © larisabozhikova / Fotolia)

I take it all back. This changes everything. “Eating 100 grams of chocolate daily linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk.”

Eating up to 100 g of chocolate every day is linked to lowered heart disease and stroke risk. The calculations showed that compared with those who ate no chocolate higher intake was linked to an 11% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 25% lower risk of associated death.

They base their findings on almost 21,000 adults taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk study, which is tracking the impact of diet on the long term health of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk, England, using food frequency and lifestyle questionnaires. …

The EPIC-Norfolk participants (9214 men and 11 737 women) were monitored for an average of almost 12 years, during which time 3013 (14%) people experienced either an episode of fatal or non-fatal coronary heart disease or stroke.

Around one in five (20%) participants said they did not eat any chocolate, but among the others, daily consumption averaged 7 g, with some eating up to 100 g.

This sounds like Edward Archer’s ‘ poor way of doing science,’ that is asking people in the study to remember what they ate. But but hey, it’s chocolate! Maybe this study is right. Wouldn’t hurt. How much is 100 grams?



It’s All Falling Apart. Chapter Six by The Elephant's Child
June 5, 2015, 4:36 pm
Filed under: Health Care, Regulation | Tags: ,

The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center was inspected by the Food and Drug Administration late last month and several quality problems were found, NIH disclosed on Thursday. The facility on NIH’s Bethesda campus, makes products for clinical research studies in hospitals and other facilities. It will be shuttered until  improvements can be made.

FDA inspectors found insects in two of the five clean room lighting areas last month. They found two vials of albumin, a human blood protein, contaminated with fungus. Vials from the same batch were administered to six patients, although it is unknown of those vials were contaminated. The six patients have been notified but have shown no evidence of infection or illness.

FDA inspectors found 17 quality problems at the facility, as well as three problems at a hospital pharmacy including not cleaning areas properly.

NIH Director Francis Collins said “This is a distressing and unacceptable situation.”



It’s All Falling apart. Chapter Five by The Elephant's Child
June 3, 2015, 7:44 pm
Filed under: Democrat Corruption, Health Care, Regulation | Tags: , ,

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The euphemistic name “The Affordable Care Act” always made people laugh. But already, it is reaching the point where “The Unaffordable Care Act” is more appropriate. The LA Times reports that large numbers of Californians enrolled in ACA plans are struggling financially under the cost.

Forty-four percent of exchange policyholders surveyed said it’s somewhat or very difficult to afford their premiums. That’s compared with 25% of adults who had employer-based or other private health insurance.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, acknowledged that many Californians find it hard to fit health insurance premiums into their household budget, even when they qualify for generous federal subsidies.

ObamaCare exchanges have a gimmick called a “risk corridor.” The idea was that insurers who made a profit would share a portion of that profit with other insurers. If there were not enough profit makers, the taxpayers would make up the difference. Republicans added a provision that required the risk corridors to be revenue neutral, meaning insurers  would no longer have access to taxpayer funds. But suggested rates for 2016 are beginning to show up.

In Oregon, five insurers on the exchange are proposing average premium increases for next year ranging from 25.6 percent to 52 percent…. Four insurance companies on Montana’s exchange are requesting average premium increases ranging from 22.4 percent to 45.1 percent.

The biggest company on Tennessee’s exchange, BlueCross/BlueShield, is proposing an average premium increase of 36.6 percent, while the co-op on the exchange, Community Health Alliance, is proposing a 32.6 percent increase. In New Mexico, Health Service Corp. is asking for a premium hike of 51.6 percent. The largest insurer on South Dakota’s exchange is Wellmark, and in Maryland it is CareFirst. They are asking for average rate increases of 42.9 percent and 30.4 percent, respectively.

Charles Krauthammer reports on what his doctor friends are reporting on the increasingly frustration conditions of clinical practice.

The complaint was not financial but vocational — an incessant interference with their work, a deep erosion of their autonomy and authority, a transformation from physician to “provider.”

“[A] never-ending attack on the profession from government, insurance companies and lawyers … progressively intrusive and usually unproductive rules and regulations,” topped by an electronic health records (EHR) mandate that produces nothing more than “billing and legal documents” — and degraded medicine.

Democrats have never understood the free market, nor incentives and disincentives, and they remain convinced that their brilliant friends in the federal bureaucracy can fix everything if they just have enough control. They’re working now on a study to determine how much they can narrow the window in which women can get a mammogram, so they can reduce that cost.

They added all sorts of nice-sounding benefits (free birth control pills) which add big costs, and when they are surprised by the increase, try to figure out what they can take away to compensate.




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