Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 31, 2013

Obamacare Glitch: Some Families to be Priced out of Health Coverage
by Associated Press
January 30, 2013

Some families could get priced out of health insurance due to what's being called a glitch in President Barack Obama's overhaul law. IRS regulations issued Wednesday failed to fix the problem as liberal backers of the president's plan had hoped.

As a result, some families that can't afford the employer coverage that they are offered on the job will not be able to get financial assistance from the government to buy private health insurance on their own. How many people will be affected is unclear.

The Obama administration says its hands were tied by the way Congress wrote the law. Officials said the administration tried to mitigate the impact. Families that can't get coverage because of the glitch will not face a tax penalty for remaining uninsured, the IRS rules said.

"This is a very significant problem, and we have urged that it be fixed," said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an advocacy group that supported the overhaul from its early days. "It is clear that the only way this can be fixed is through legislation and not the regulatory process."

But there's not much hope for an immediate fix from Congress, since the House is controlled by Republicans who would still like to see the whole law repealed.

The affordability glitch is one of a series of problems coming into sharper focus as the law moves to full implementation.

Starting Oct. 1, many middle-class uninsured will be able to sign up for government-subsidized private coverage through new healthcare marketplaces known as exchanges. Coverage will be effective Jan. 1.

Low-income people will be steered to expanded safety-net programs. At the same time, virtually all Americans will be required to carry health insurance, either through an employer, a government program, or by buying their own plan.

Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus, an advocacy group for children, cited estimates that close to 500,000 children could remain uninsured because of the glitch. "The children's community is disappointed by the administration's decision to deny access to coverage for children based on a bogus definition of affordability," Lesley said in a statement.

The problem seems to be the way the law defined affordable.

Congress said affordable coverage can't cost more than 9.5 percent of family income. People with coverage the law considers affordable cannot get subsidies to go into the new insurance markets. The purpose of that restriction was to prevent a stampede away from employer coverage.

Congress went on to say that what counts as affordable is keyed to the cost of self-only coverage offered to an individual worker, not his or her family. A typical workplace plan costs about $5,600 for an individual worker. But the cost of family coverage is nearly three times higher, about $15,700, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

So if the employer isn't willing to chip in for family premiums — as most big companies already do — some families will be out of luck. They may not be able to afford the full premium on their own, and they'd be locked out of the subsidies in the healthcare overhaul law.

Employers are relieved that the Obama administration didn't try to put the cost of providing family coverage on them.

"They are bound by the law and cannot extend further than what the law provides," said Neil Trautwein, a vice president of the National Retail Federation.

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Gun Control Takes Center Stage
by Bob Barr
January 30, 2013

The race to further the gun-control agenda in the wake of last month’s tragic shooting by a crazed gunman in Newtown, Connecticut is moving into high gear. The Grand Old Lady of Gun Control, California Senator Diane Feinstein, last week introduced a bill that not only seeks to reinstate the 1994 “Federal Assault Weapons Ban” (AWB), but goes far beyond the scope of the earlier law (which expired a decade later) in undermining Second Amendment protections for law abiding Americans.

Feinstein’s proposal specifically targets 157 modern sporting rifles -- or, as she almost gleefully refers to them, “assault weapons.” In addition to these firearms, the California liberal’s bill prohibits the sale, transfer, manufacture and importing of semi-automatic rifles and pistols able to accept detachable magazines, and which have at least one cosmetic “military” characteristic (the “Clinton Gun Ban” only banned those types of rifles with at least two such characteristics). The bill goes on to outlaw magazines with capacities greater than 10-rounds, and bans the sale or transfer of larger, grandfathered magazines.

Don’t even think about trying to get a semi-automatic shotgun with a rocket launcher attached; Feinstein specifically listed those as well.

By now, Americans should realize that gun bans such as Feinstein’s have little to do with stopping crime or solving the plague of gun violence. As Feinstein herself said, the goal is eventually to “dry up the supply of these weapons over time,” and completely remove them from our society. In other words: take them out of the hands of the millions of law-abiding citizens who use them without incident every year; and leave the military and law enforcement -- and criminals -- with a monopoly as such firearms and ammunition clips.

Following the Clinton Gun Ban’s expiration in 2004, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) studied the results. Unsurprisingly, they found “insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes.” Additionally, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service reported “the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”

Gun control advocates, of course, remain undeterred. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, “they may trip over the truth, but get right back up, simply dust themselves off, and keep right on going.”

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Government Report: Women in Combat to Cost Money
by Jeryl Bier
January 31, 2013

Ever since outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a week ago that the U.S. military would lift its ban on women in combat roles, the debate, which has been simmering for decades, boiled up again. Much of the argument has centered on cultural, social, and morale-related effects that such a change would bring about, though other practical issues have been raised as well. However, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released just this week may bring some other considerations to the fore, among them, the financial impact.

According to the introduction to the GAO report, the National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2012 charged the GAO with conducting “a review of the female-specific health care services provided by DOD to female servicemembers...”  Though not directly addressed by the GAO, the report raises a perhaps unanticipated consequence of lifting the ban on women in combat. With an increasing number of women in combat units, as well as presumably an overall increase in women enlisting in the service now that more positions will be open to them, there may be a corresponding increase in health-related costs. For example, the report says:

DOD has put in place policies and guidance that include female-specific aspects to help address the health care needs of servicewomen during deployment. Also, as part of pre-deployment preparations, servicewomen are screened for potentially deployment-limiting conditions, such as pregnancy, and DOD officials and health care providers with whom GAO met noted that such screening helps ensure that many female-specific health care needs are addressed prior to deployment.

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