Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Local Governments & Businesses Can't Afford the Affordable Care Act

When Regal Entertainment Group (RGC) in April blamed ObamaCare for the fact that it was cutting some of its workers' hours, backers of the law mounted a furious backlash against the theater chain, among other things filling its Facebook page with boycott threats.

"Greed and selfishness make me sick," one of them said.

Darden Restaurants (DRI) felt this intense heat last year after suggesting it might shift to more part-time work to minimize the cost of the law's mandate that companies offer coverage to all their full-time workers. CEO Clarence Otis even blamed its lowered outlook for 2013 in part on "recent negative media coverage" over "how we might accommodate health care reform."

Yet while private companies are getting all this unwelcome and hostile attention, local governments across the country have been quietly doing exactly the same thing — cutting part-time hours specifically so they can skirt ObamaCare's costly employer mandate, while complaining about the law in some of the harshest terms anyone has uttered in public.

The result is that part-time government workers — many of them low-income — face pay cuts that can top $3,000 a year, and yet will still be left without employer-provided benefits.

Here is just a small sampling of local news reports about what local government officials are saying about ObamaCare, and the steps they're taking to avoid or minimize its costs.

Phillipsburg, Kan.: "School administrators here say they are alarmed and confounded by the looming new costs they face with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act," according to the Kaiser Health Institute News Service. Chris Hipp, director of a Kansas special education cooperative, warned that ObamaCare's costs "could put us all out of business or change significantly how we do business," adding that "we are not built to pay full health benefits for noncertified folks who work a little more than 1,000 hours a year."

Dearborn, Mich.: "If we had to provide health care and other benefits to all of our employees, the burden on the city would be tremendous," said Mayor John O'Reilly, explaining why the city is cutting its more than 700 part-time and seasonal workers down to 28 hours a week. "The city is like any private or public employer having to adjust to changes in the law."

Indiana: "What I'm seeing across the state is school districts, unfortunately, having to reduce the hours that they are having some of their folks work, primarily so they don't have to worry about the (ObamaCare) penalties, or they don't have to provide them health insurance, which would be very, very costly," said Dennis Costerison, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Business Officials. Ft. Wayne Community Schools, for example, are cutting yours for nearly three-quarters of its part-time aides.

Omaha, Neb.: "The biggest problem is everyone said that ObamaCare is only going to help cut costs. Nothing could be further from the truth," said Mike Kennedy , who serves on the board of Millard Public Schools, just outside the city, and figures ObamaCare will raise its costs by $400,000. A neighboring school district is reducing hours for up to 281 part-time employees to avoid $2.5 million in new costs, which will result in pay cuts of up to $3,300.

Long Beach, Calif.: "We are in the same boat as many employers," said Tom Modica, Long Beach's director of government affairs. "We need to maintain the programs and service levels we have now." So the city is going to cut hours for 200 part-time workers so it doesn't have to pay $2 million to provide health benefits.

Salt Lake City: "With new provisions in the Affordable Care Act, there was going to be a significant burden upon Granite School District and our taxpayers to offset the cost of benefits," said spokesman Ben Horsley. He says covering the district's part-time workers would cost about $14 million, and so about 1,000 will have their hours cut to 29 a week.

Cape May County, N.J.: "A number of people in the nation who read it are recognizing how detrimental (ObamaCare is) to government and private employers out there," said Gerald Thornton, the county's finance director who is trying to figure out how to budget for the law.

Virginia: "The Commonwealth of Virginia is grappling with the same issues that many businesses in the private sector are as they struggle to deal with the costs imposed by the Affordable Care Act," Paul Logan, a spokesman for Gov. McDonnell, said. The state is requiring that about 7,000 part-time government workers put in no more than 29 hours a week.

Texas: "The Affordable Care Act has added so much complexity and administrative burden that there is nothing affordable about it," said Jared Pope, who is consulting with Texas municipal governments on ObamaCare. Dallas expects its health costs to climb $2.1 million next year. Plano is cutting hours to avoid $1 million in new costs.

Kern County, Calif.: "It will affect multiple departments, a majority of departments," said the county's deputy administrative officer Eric Nisbett, explaining that unless the county cut worker hours for 800 employees, ObamaCare would cost it up to $8 million a year.

Allegheny County, Pa.: "There's frustration and anger and sadness and resentment, you know, but you don't have a voice," said adjunct English professor Clint Benjamin in the wake of the Community College of Allegheny County's decision to cut hours for about 400 adjunct faculty and other employees so it wouldn't have to pay $6 million in ObamaCare-related fees next year.

Medina, Ohio: "We feel bad as a city administration and as a council in having to cut hours from 35 to 29," Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said. "We have the budget to pay the people, but we do not have the budget to pay for the health care." If they hadn't made that cut, the city faced up to $1 million in new health costs courtesy of ObamaCare.

Birmingham, Mich. Commissioner Gordon Rinschler may have summed up best the reaction that countless businesses and governments are having to ObamaCare, saying: "We simply can't afford the Affordable Care Act."

Read More At Investor's Business Daily:

Monday, June 17, 2013

Step-By-Step Immigration Reform

By Bryan Baumgart-Douglas County Republican Party Chairman


Critics of immigration reform call for securing our borders first, but with effective reform, securing our borders on the basis of immigration isn’t necessary.

Rather than a comprehensive approach, I prefer a step-by-step approach to reform with an emphasis on “risk verse reward”…or as we like to call it in the field of behavior modification…“Principles of Behavior”. Our solutions should be incentive based.

First let’s analyse what is driving current behavior.  What is the incentive to bypass the legal immigration process?  As we know, the current system is extremely convoluted and expensive. It takes far too long and is rife with unintended consequences.

For example, a friend and former co-worker of mine from Brazil had spent years and thousands of dollars working through the system. When he was approached with an outstanding job opportunity with a different company, he was faced with the decision of turning down the offer or starting the immigration process all over again. In the end, he felt like it was just too much time and money to throw away. He was left stuck, extremely frustrated, and he lost out on a great opportunity to advance his career.

The first step in effective reform must be simplifying the legal immigration process. This is likely the most difficult step, but a legal immigration process that is affordable, timely, and efficient serves as an incentive rather than a deterrent.

The next question is what becomes of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in our country? Critics decry amnesty, but deportation is not a realistic option and neither is tearing families apart over a misdemeanor. Continuing to ignore their presence has proven to be a mistake. The people screaming, “No Amnesty” are the very same people upset about footing the bill. It’s a consequence of refusing participation in the system.

The only realistic option is to offer a pathway to citizenship. Not granting instant citizenship, but allowing undocumented immigrants to self-report and enter the now simplified legal immigration process just like everyone else. Providing a temporary work or school visa allows families to stay together while they work through the immigration process. Paying taxes, obtaining insurance and healthcare, and legally participating in the system helps to empower these hard working families and encourages them to buy into the American Dream. Being welcomed and becoming part of the system provides the incentive to assimilate and proudly view oneself as American.

The next step, indexing visas to meet the economic demand of the country. As a country that has thrived on capitalism, it only makes sense to allow legal immigration to meet the labor demands of American businesses. When these businesses are allowed to thrive, so does our country. They create more jobs and provide more revenue.

The final step is much easier. Effectively implementing E-Verify measures by cracking down on employers with strict penalties. The incentive for employers to seek cheaper labor is a reality we must face. It is an unintended consequence of government interference in the market with the implementation of minimum-wage laws. Indexing visas to ensure labor supply meets demand is a good start, but until the risk outweighs the reward, don’t expect employers to voluntarily comply with the law. Once employers do comply, the lack of job opportunities available to undocumented immigrants serve as an incentive to self-report and enter the now much simpler legal pathway to citizenship.

Finally, to be clear on securing our borders. I do favor securing BOTH of our borders, but on the grounds of national security, not immigration. Without the incentive for illegal immigration, securing our borders is not necessary. The only people who would be interested in sneaking across our borders would be the people who mean us harm. Thus…it’s an issue of national security.

"Under today’s immigration rules, very few of our ancestors would have been able to immigrate here legally." - CATO Institute

Friday, June 14, 2013

Broaden Immigration Reform Beyond Enforcement

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Affordable Care Act Not So Affordable to Low-Wage Workers

Obamacare may be unaffordable for many low-wage workers, but the employee could still face a federal requirement to get health insurance or face a fine. Just another oversight in the law that could have been avoided had Democrats followed traditional practice and taken the House and Senate versions of the bill to a conference committee. It was rushed and snuck through. Now that it was passed, we are all starting to find out what is in it. And it doesn’t look pretty.

WASHINGTON (AP) — It's called the Affordable Care Act, but President Barack Obama's health care law may turn out to be unaffordable for many low-wage workers, including employees at big chain restaurants, retail stores and hotels.

That might seem strange since the law requires medium-sized and large employers to offer "affordable" coverage or face fines.

But what's reasonable? Because of a wrinkle in the law, companies can meet their legal obligations by offering policies that would be too expensive for many low-wage workers. For the employee, it's like a mirage — attractive but out of reach.

The company can get off the hook, say corporate consultants and policy experts, but the employee could still face a federal requirement to get health insurance.

Many are expected to remain uninsured, possibly risking fines. That's due to another provision: the law says workers with an offer of "affordable" workplace coverage aren't entitled to new tax credits for private insurance, which could be a better deal for those on the lower rungs of the middle class.

Some supporters of the law are disappointed. It smacks of today's Catch-22 insurance rules.

"Some people may not gain the benefit of affordable employer coverage," acknowledged Ron Pollack, president of Families USA, a liberal advocacy group leading efforts to get uninsured people signed up for coverage next year.

"It is an imperfection in the new law," Pollack added. "The new law is a big step in the right direction, but it is not perfect, and it will require future improvements."

Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union, the 2-million-member service-sector labor union, called the provision "an avoidance opportunity" for big business. SEIU provided grass-roots support during Obama's long struggle to push the bill through Congress.

The law is complicated, but essentially companies with 50 or more full-time workers are required to offer coverage that meets certain basic standards and costs no more than 9.5 percent of an employee's income. Failure to do so means fines for the employer. (Full-time work is defined as 30 or more hours a week, on average.)

But do the math from the worker's side: For an employee making $21,000 a year, 9.5 percent of their income could mean premiums as high as $1,995 and the insurance would still be considered affordable.

Even a premium of $1,000 — close to the current average for employee-only coverage — could be unaffordable for someone stretching earnings in the low $20,000's.

With such a small income, "there is just not any left over for health insurance," said Shannon Demaree, head of actuarial services for the Lockton Benefit Group. "What the government is requiring employers to do isn't really something their low-paid employees want."

Based in Kansas City, Mo., Lockton is an insurance broker and benefits consultant that caters to many medium-sized businesses affected by the health care law. Actuaries like Demaree specialize in cost estimates.

Another thing to keep in mind: premiums wouldn't be the only expense for employees. For a basic plan, they could also face an annual deductible amounting to $3,000 or so, before insurance starts paying.

"If you make $20,000, are you really going to buy that?" asked Tracy Watts, health care reform leader at Mercer, a major benefits consulting firm.

And low-wage workers making more than about $15,900 won't be eligible for the law's Medicaid expansion, shutting down another possibility for getting covered.

It's not exactly the picture the administration has painted. The president portrays his health care law as economic relief for struggling workers.

"Let's make sure that everybody who is out there working hard and doing the right thing, that they're not going to go bankrupt because they get sick, that they're going to have health care they can count on," Obama said in a Chicago appearance last summer during the presidential campaign. "And we got that done."

White House senior communications advisor Tara McGuinness downplayed concerns. "There has been a lot of conjecture about what people might do or could do, but this hasn't actually happened yet," she said. "The gap between sky-is-falling predictions about the health law and what is happening is very wide."

The administration believes "most businesses want to do right by their employees and will continue to use tax breaks to provide quality coverage to their workers," she added. Health insurance is tax deductible for employers, and the health law provides additional tax breaks to help small businesses.

Virtually all major employers currently offer health insurance, although skimpy policies offered to many low-wage workers may not meet the requirements of the new law. Companies affected have been reluctant to telegraph how they plan to comply.

"It clearly isn't going to be a morale-boosting moment when you redo your health plan to discourage participation," said Stern, the former labor leader, now a senior fellow at Columbia University. "It's not something most want to advertise until they are sure it's the right decision."

The National Retail Federation's top health care expert said there's no "grand scheme to avoid responsibility" among employers. "That is a little too Machiavellian," said Neil Trautwein.

Nonetheless, he acknowledged it's "a possible outcome" that low-wage workers could find coverage unaffordable because of the wrinkle in the law.

It might have turned out differently, added Trautwein, if Democrats had followed traditional congressional practice and taken the House and Senate versions of the bill to a conference committee. They could have worked out such quirks. But leaders determined that path was fraught with political peril after Democrats lost their 60-vote Senate majority in 2010.

"I can't help but thinking, they would have figured out a few more of these corners that don't meet," Trautwein said. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Obamacare to Leave Newly Insured Without Access...

Not good news for anyone on Medicaid or anyone purchasing insurance through Obamacare exchanges. Doctors plan on refusing new Medicaid patients and patients purchasing insurance through the state exchanges as well. Obamacare is not good news for anyone. Ever increasing premiums for the rest of us are all but guaranteed as insurance providers are forced to take on a higher proportion of healthcare costs.

By Meghan Foley

June 12, 2013

While Obamacare will provide 16 million people with health insurance through the expansion of Medicaid and the new exchanges next year, recent data suggests that the influx of millions of new patients into the healthcare system will exacerbate some of the system’s other problems as well.
America’s is currently suffering from a doctor shortage and more than half of the nation’s emergency rooms are over capacity.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the United States is short approximately 20,000 doctors, and that shortage could quintuple over the next decade because of the aging of the American population. Nearly half of the 800,000-plus doctors in the United States are over the age of 50.
Obamacare is only serving to further decrease the nation’s doctor corp.

A Physicians Foundation survey of 13,000 doctors discovered that 60 percent of respondents would retire today if they could, an increase from 45 percent who gave the same answer before the legislation was passed.
The prospect of 9 million more Medicaid patients and an onslaught of individuals covered under plans bought on state-run insurance exchanges is a daunting one. Doctors have long limited the number of Medicaid patients they will treat because of the program’s low reimbursement rates. The program pays just 60 percent as much as private insurance. A study published by the peer-reviewed journal Health Affairs found that:
Only 69 percent of doctors accepted new Medicaid patients in 2011.

For many doctors:
The costs of treating a patient on Medicaid are higher than what the government will pay.

Problems have only become worse as cash-strapped states have attempted to rein in spending on Medicaid; many states have not increased payments in many years. In fact, Kentucky has not raised them in two decades.
By throwing nine million additional people into the system, without finding a remedy for this problem, the Affordable Care Act will make it even harder for Medicaid patients to find doctors.

With the government involving itself to a greater degree in healthcare, as Obamacare mandates, insurance providers worry that they may have to take on a greater proportion of healthcare costs.
{which will no doubt be passed on to consumers through increased premiums}.
Already, healthcare providers have signaled that they may turn away patients who purchase insurance on the exchanges as well.

For example, individuals covered by Blue Shield’s exchange plan in California will have access to just about a third of its physician network. Furthermore, the UCLA Medical Center and its doctors are available to customers of just one plan for sale through Covered California, while the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Center is not taking anyone with exchange insurance.
If Medicaid patients and new exchange enrollees cannot actually see doctors, their only recourse will to visit the emergency rooms for care. But with so many ERs filled over capacity, causing the closure of more than 650 in the past two decades, that is not a good solution.
There are facts that back up this supposition; Harvard researchers have discovered that emergency room utilization increased in all 11 Massachusetts hospitals after a carbon-copy of Obamacare was implemented in 2006.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Obama's Plantation...

By: Bryan Baumgart

June 8, 2013

President Obama is the antithesis of Abraham Lincoln. No President has done more to enslave the populace (particularly black America) than Obama. 

The best way to enslave someone is to take away their self-reliance. People won't bite the hand that feeds them. You just have to be smart about how you go about it. Claim compassion and insist it is all being done in the spirit of philanthropy. 

Once the populace is dependent on you for their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) and some perks (education, cell phones, a fat check from the IRS (off earned income credit), etc.) you can do what you want to them. Tyranny can rule over liberty. You can spy on them, confiscate emails, listen in on phone calls, collect their DNA without probable cause, violate their right of conscience, force them to purchase bogus "health insurance", seize their land and call it eminent domain, indoctrinate their children with your beliefs in public schools, intimidate and control the media, print money until their money is worthless, etc., etc., etc. They won't be able to stand up to you for fear of losing access to their basic needs. You could falsely imprison their neighbors and they will keep quiet so their children don't starve. You could rig elections and they won't protest for fear of losing their access to housing. 

Dependence paves the way for tyranny and leads to slavery!

Consider: During Obama's presidency so far: 75 people added to food stamps for every ONE job created.

"Under President Barack Obama, the number of people on disability has shot up 13%, and food stamp enrollments have skyrocketed 39%. Individuals forgo job searches in order to hang out to taxpayer-funded welfare benefits. Today, nearly 90 million Americans are no longer in the labor force."