Tag Archives: 36B

Does it pay for small business to SHOP?

Introduction

A key feature of the Affordable Care Act are the “SHOP Exchanges.” These are markets established by either a state exchange pursuant to section 1311 of the ACA or the federally facilitated market (FFM) pursuant to section 1321 of the ACA in which employers with fewer than 50 full time equivalent employees can purchase health insurance for their workers. They can do so without being subject to either rating based on the projected health of those covered or “experience rating” in which premiums are tied to health expenses in prior years.  SHOP exchanges are intended to be a mechanism whereby the burden of providing healthcare can remain where some people (not me) believe it belongs: with the employer.

To date, the key feature of the SHOP exchanges has been their complete failure to attract customers.  A GAO report issued in November, 2014, said that only 76,000 individuals—including employees, their spouses, and dependent children— had enrolled in SHOPs operated by a state and, although the data was, amazingly enough, not available from the federal government for the remaining states whose marketplace it operated, enrollment had apparently followed a similar dismal pattern.  This is in stark contrast to yet another stunningly wrong forecast of the Congressional Budget Office, which, as late as April 2014, had made forecasts that tax credits under section 45R of the Tax Code would cost $1 billion for 2014, an estimate that implies enrollment by more than a million, persons in the SHOP exchanges.

There have, of course, been multiple explanations of the failure of the SHOP exchanges in 2014.  As has been well documented, the computer systems for the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) simply did not work.  Applicants thus had to resort to more primitive paper processes. Second, the transient nature of a tax credit offered to some SHOP purchasers may have been insufficient to attract buyers, some of whom likely feared it would heighten expectations among employees of employer provided coverage that would be difficult to sustain in two years when the tax credit expired. And a variety of other explanations have been offered ranging from insufficient advertising to competition from non-SHOP-exchange markets, to difficulties with use of traditional intermediaries in the new market.

But perhaps, as some have noted, the basic problem is that it purchase of policies on a SHOP exchange at full or close-to-full price just doesn’t make doesn’t make a lot of economic sense when it appears that most employees could otherwise qualify for a taxpayer funded subsidy if they purchased similar policies on the individual exchanges.  If small employers have the funds to help their employees more and want to help them meet medical expenses, perhaps the best medicine would be green: cash.  Such a choice would have the fringe consequence — perhaps fringe benefit — of pushing more healthy people into the individual exchanges thereby reducing the risk of an adverse selection death spiral. It might also have distributional consequences that many would regard as an improvement. One can thus see the seed of bipartisan support for repeal of this provision.

The rest of this entry explores this proposition using four sample scenarios.   Given that employees can purchase policies on the individual exchange that, at least for now, will be subsidized by the federal government in many instances, does it make sense for benevolent employers to provide health insurance or to instead,  give workers higher wages, and let them choose to purchase policies that may be subsidized on the individual exchange?

Executive Summary

Several factors matter in determining whether it makes sense to SHOP from the perspective of an employer and employee:

1.  How much of a subsidy, if any, is the employee entitled to if it purchases a policy on the individual exchange.  This may in turn depend not just on the compensation the employer pays the employee but also on the size of the employee’s household and sources of income of other household members. The higher the subsidy, the less generally it is in the interest of the employee that the employer purchase coverage through the SHOP exchange.

2. Would the small employer be eligible for a tax subsidy under section 45R of the Tax Code (section 1421 of the ACA).?These subsidies can range up to 50% of premiums.  Generally, the higher the 45R subsidization rate, the greater the possibility that it is in an employee’s interest that the employer purchase coverage through a SHOP exchange rather than provide the employee with cash.

3. How do premiums in the individual market match up with premiums in the SHOP market for comparable policies.  Many supposed that SHOP market policies might be cheaper and provide an advantage to employer purchase.  But to the extent there are no such savings or, as perhaps is turning out to be the case, SHOP policies are more expensive, the case for having a SHOP exchange option is weakened.

4. To what extent do the preferences of the employer about which plan to select (Metal Levels and Plan Types) match the preferences of the employees.  To the extent the fit is poor, that is factor suggesting that benevolent employers do better to avoid the SHOP exchange and instead give their employees cash so they may do as they see fit.

If it turns out that few employees benefit from the existence of the SHOP exchanges or that its distributional consequences are not sensible,  the case for simplifying the Affordable Care Act by elimination of this component makes some sense.

Examples

Here are the families in the scenarios: Dora, the Dursley family,  James and Mary,  and Ada.

Example 1: Dora

Consider Dora, a 40 year old single woman making $27,195 per year working for a business Exploration, Inc. , that employs 40 full time equivalent workers and is thus ineligible for any sort of section 45R subsidy.  For concreteness, we’ll put Dora in Harris County, Texas (Houston).  If Exploration, Inc. goes to the SHOP marketplace for 2015,  it will find that the second cheapest silver plan is sold by Blue Cross for $400 per month ($4,800 per year) for a single person age 40.  The policy features a $3,000 all-inclusive deductible and a $6,350 all-inclusive out-of-pocket limit.  So, if Exploration, Inc. were to purchase this policy, Dora would have health insurance and no additional tax liability as a result.

Suppose that in lieu of paying $4,800 in premiums to buy health insurance for Dora, Exploration just raises Dora’s wage by $4,800 .  Call this her gross “in lieu compensation.”   Assuming Dora is in the 15% marginal tax bracket, she would actually receive $4,080 of in-lieu compensation from her employer.  If Dora then went to the federally facilitated marketplace for Texas, Dora would find that she could purchase an essentially identical policy from Blue Cross with the same deductible and out-of-pocket limit for $363.60 per month or $4,363 per year as a gross premium. But, at least until a decision against the Obama administration in King v. Burwell throws the nation into chaos , Dora would be eligible for a small subsidy from the federal government of $15.22 per month since the second cheapest silver plan in her area (a “Blue Advantage Silver HMO”) costs $250 per year.  Dora’s net premium would thus be about $4,181.

Thus, to be in almost exactly the same position as would have been had Exploration purchased a policy on the SHOP exchange, Dora would be out a net of $101. Maybe, at least for Dora, its marginally in her interest if her employer goes SHOPping.

Dora accounting
Dora accounting

But this small negative sum may well be offset by a benefit Dora receives as a result of Exploration not going to the SHOP exchange and not buying health insurance for its employees: freedom. Freedom could help Dora in a variety of circumstances.

Suppose, for example, that Dora is in great health, has some money saved up, and just wants a Bronze policy to cover her against catastrophic medical expenses.  Now Dora can go to the Exchange and pick up a Blue Cross Bronze “Blue Advantage Bronze HMO” policy for just $191.03 per month gross and about $176.03 per month after her subsidy.   After she pays this net premium and her taxes on the $4,800 she got from her employer, she’ll have about $1,970 left in her pocket.   If her medical expenses for the year end up being $4,970 or less for the year she’s come out ahead relative to where she would have been under the hypothesized Silver policy purchased by Exploration.

Or, suppose Dora isn’t in such good health and doesn’t like the risk created by a silver plan.  She wants a platinum plan.  She could obtain the “UnitedHealthcare Platinum Compass 250” plan with a deductible of just $250 and a out-of-pocket limit of $1,500 for a gross premium of $328.91 per month or $3,947 per year. The net premium for the policy after consideration of subsidies would be about  $3,764 per year.  She could buy this with the extra compensation she received from Exploration Inc. and still have $316 left over. If her medical expenses ended up being very low or somewhere between $1500 and $6,350 she will end up ahead.

Example 2: The Dursley Family

Vernon Dursley is the 40-year old Vice President  Grunnings, a small drill manufacturer in Potter County, South Dakota. His family consists of his 40-year old wife Petunia and his young son Dudley, who is diabetic.  Grunnings employs 15 individuals full time who have an average annual wage of $23,000.  Dursley himself earns $90,000 per year.  If Grunnings went to the SHOP exchange operating by the FFM for South Dakota, it would find a Bronze plan, “Sanford Simplicity-$3,000” available at a gross premium of $716.05 per month to cover the Dursley family.  Because, however, Grunnings employs fewer than 25 people and pays a low annual average wage, it is eligible under section 45R of the Tax Code (section 1421 of the ACA) for a federal tax credit for one third of the amount of such purchases.  Thus, the amount Grunnings would save by not purchasing the policy — at least with respect to Mr. Dursley — is $477.37 per month or about $5728 per year.

Giving Mr. Dursley $5,728, will not, however, be enough to enable him to purchase comparable coverage for his family on the FFM for individual policies for South Dakota.  He is not eligible for a subsidy because his income is more than 400% of the applicable federal poverty level.  First, the Dursley’s marginal tax rate is likely to be 25%.  Thus, he will not net $5,728 from the Grunnings bonus; he will net $4,296. The least expensive Bronze policy for the Dursleys would be the “Dakota Reserve 6000” for $558.58 per month or about $6,703 per year.  Thus, the Dursleys would be about $2,407 worse off if Grunnings failed to purchase a SHOP policy.

Dursley accounting
Dursley accounting

The underlying reason that the Dursleys do better if Grunnings SHOPs is that that Mr. Dursley is a well compensated employee of a company that is eligible for a tax credit if it goes to the SHOP exchange.  Thus, even if premiums in the individual market are a little lower for comparable benefit packages as they are in the SHOP market, that benefit ends up being overwhelmed by the differential tax treatment.

Example 3: James and Mary

This example is somewhat more complicated but it is also quite important.

James is a 60 year old worker in medium health working for Peaches Unlimited in Peach County, Georgia.  He’s married to his 60 year old wife,  Mary.  His household makes $50,000 per year.  Peaches, which has 30 full time equivalent employees, has considered going to the SHOP Exchange and providing Bronze coverage for its employees and spouses, paying for all of the employee’s premium expenses and for half of the spouses. When it does so, it finds one plan: “BCBSHP Bronze Pathway X Enhanced 5000 30 6600 Plus” a POS (point of service) plan from the Georgia Blue Cross/Blue Shield carrier.   The premium attributable to a 60 year old couple is $14,652.  But Peaches will only pay half the premium for spouses, so, if Peaches were to purchase this policy, the annual incremental cost attributable to James and Mary would be $10,989.  For this, James and Mary would get a plan with a $10,000 deductible for medical expenses, an additional $1,000 deductible for drugs, and a $13,200 out-of-pocket limit.   If they wanted the policy, however, James and Mary would have to cover half of Mary’s premium, which would add an additional $3,663 to their costs.  So, if we are to compare apples to apples, we need to see what James and Mary’s financial position would be if they shopped instead on the individual exchange.

Suppose that Peaches gives James and Mary $10,989 in in lieu compensation. They would likely have a marginal tax rate of 15%, which would make their after-tax additional compensation about $9,341.  If James and Mary try to acquire a matching plan, the closest it looks they can come is the Humana Bronze 6300/National POS – OpenAccess plan, which has a gross premium of $1,181 per month or a hefty $14,177 per year.   The net premium, however, will be only $5,578 after premium tax credits are received.  Thus, James and Mary will be able to take the $9,341 in after-tax compensation they received, pay $5,578 and have  $3,762 left over.  But it’s better than that.  James and Mary won’t have to pay $3,663 for half of Mary’s policy.  So, in fact they will be $7,426 better off and Peaches no worse off if Peaches does not go to the SHOP exchange.  For a couple making $50,000 that is a lot of money.

SHOP_Exchange_mathJamesMary_-_Google_Sheets
James and Mary accounting

How has this happened?  It is the result of three factors coming together: (1) James and Mary being eligible for a large subsidy from the federal government due to their age and the consequent high cost of a silver policy; (2) Peaches having too many employees to be eligible for any sort of tax benefit from the government;  and (3) the high price of SHOP policies in Peach County relative to individual policies. As shown here, when these factors come together, employees should prefer a situation in which employers give them cash, not expensive health insurance policies.  Moreover, if Peaches does not go to the SHOP exchange, James and Mary are no longer wedded to the likely small number of plans Peaches wants; they can pick any plan that best meets their needs available in the individual exchange.

Ready for one more?

Example 4: Ada

Ada is a 30 year old programmer at Babbage Enterprises , a small tech firm in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  It has 10 employees but their average wage is $75,000 per year, making Babbage ineligible for any section 45R tax credit.  Ada is single and makes $100,000 a year.   It believes employees should have the best health care available. Babbage, which has a CEO  with recurrent heart problems, could go to the SHOP Exchange and purchase a Platinum PPO for its employees — the “UPMC Small Business Advantage Platinum PPO $250 $10/$25 – Premium Network” for which the cost of adding Ada would be $353.94 per month or $4,247 per year.  For that Ada would receive a plan that had a unified $250 deductible and a unified $1,250 out-of-pocket limit.

But what if Babbage instead provided Ada with $4,247 in additional compensation?  Ada could go into the FFM for Pennsylvania and find a policy similar to the UPMC one listed above.  She could get the “UPMC Advantage Platinum $250/$20 – Premium Network” for a gross premium of $391.75 per month ($4,701 per year )with a unified $250 deductible and a $1,500 out-of-pocket limit.  Ada would have to dig into her own pocket to do so, however.  Because Ada is in likely in the 25% marginal tax bracket, she will net only $3,185.25 from the additional compensation.  And, because Ada’s income is well above 400% of the federal poverty level, she will receive no advance premium tax credit to help pay for the policy.  Thus, Babbage’s decision not to purchase on the SHOP exchange will end up costing Ada about $1,516 if she wants a comparable policy.

SHOP_Exchange_mathAda_-_Google_Sheets
Ada accounting

Ada is worse off largely because she gets no subsidy and because, by receiving cash instead of health insurance, she loses the current tax advantage offered by the latter.  Thus, it is the wealthy individual who is hurt by having to go to the individual market.

Provisional Conclusion

All of the above is hardly a proof.  There are lots more scenarios to be considered. But my initial conclusion is that the SHOP exchanges tend to be most useful only for the wealthy who would not get a premium tax credit were they to go to the individual exchange.  Also since my preliminary research indicates that, on balance, SHOP policies are at least as expensive as individual policies and because the employer purchasing a SHOP policy generally ends the ability of the employee to get a subsidized policy on the individual exchange, the option to purchase in fact may hurt employees and their families.

So, we have to ask.: If we are going to keep some version of Obamacare, why not help stabilize the individual exchange pools by bringing some additional people into them: the generally healthy people who work for small employers.? So long as the market works and those employers pass on to their employees what they would have spent on the SHOP exchange for health care, most except the wealthiest are likely to be better off. Although one answer to this provisional suggestion is that doing so will hurt the federal budget — more people will get section 36B tax subsidies — there may be many who share the preference for a simpler Obamacare, and one that helps breaks the peculiar stranglehold that employer provided health insurance has had on this nation since the government distorted the market after World War II.

Note

My colleague Professor Jessica Roberts has alerted me to a fine academic article on this subject: http://www.uiowa.edu/~ilr/bulletin/ILRB_98_Hoffman.pdf

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Latest unlawful Obama administration “fix” may create standing for challenges

This past Thursday, the Obama administration issued its latest “fix” to the troubled roll out of the Affordable Care Act. The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a guidance that permits federal funds to go to insurers and insureds involved in sale of an individual health insurance outside of either a federally established or state-established Exchange. The premise of the guidance is that, in certain states such as Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Oregon, the complete dysfunctionality of the websites that were intended to determine eligibility for Obamacare subsidies may have led people to enroll in policies off the Exchanges; these purchasers, the guidance directs, should be treated the same as if the state Exchanges had made a timely determination and the individuals had enrolled in an Exchange policy. The guidance implements this concept by retroactively making such individuals eligible for premium tax credits the same as if they had purchased a policy on the Exchange and requires their insurers to readjudicate their claims both retroactively and for the remainder of the policy year as if they were eligible for the same cost sharing reductions that would have applied had they purchased a policy on the Exchange.

The Obama administration’s guidance calling for expenditures of taxpayer money plainly violates the Affordable Care Act. Unlike prior violations incurred in an effort to rescue the ACA from implementation and architectural infirmities, however, this one may actually hurt legal entities in a traceable and individualized fashion.  Some off-Exchange insurers may have standing to challenge the violation in court should they have the courage to pursue that option.

The illegality problem

Here’s why the Obama administration’s action is unlawful.

Premium Tax Credits

Under section 1401 of the ACA, which creates new section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code, the government may provide premium tax credits to the individual only for a “coverage month.”  The idea was that households with incomes less than 400% of the federal poverty level would ultimately see their federal income  taxes reduced to help compensate for the cost of purchasing health insurance.  But not any kind of health insurance purchase constitutes a “coverage month.”  Under section 36B(c)(2)(A), a coverage month is only one in which the taxpayer “is covered by a qualified health plan … that was enrolled in through an Exchange established by the State under section 1311 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”  (emphasis mine) But the policies the Obama administration are now going to subsidize were not enrolled in through an Exchange established by a State (or the federal government); indeed, such is the entire “innovation” of this CMS guidance. And, thus, there is no statutory authorization for the federal government to be giving these taxpayers a credit.

Cost Sharing Reductions

Under section 1402 of the ACA (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 18071), the Secretary requires insurers to offer contracts with reduced cost sharing (deductibles, copays, out-of-pocket limits etc.) to individuals who purchase “Silver” plans. Purchasers are broken down into categories such that purchasers who fall into progressively lower income categories receive progressively more generous reductions. The program effectively converts “Silver” policies into “Silver-Plus”, “Gold Plus” and “Platinum Plus” policies. The government subsidizes insurers issuing these policies so that the cost sharing reductions should not cost them anything (providing the math is done properly). What the Obama administration is proposing is to extend these cost sharing reductions to insurance purchased off the Exchanges, at least where an application had been made to an Exchange.

Again, the problem is that the statute does not authorize cost sharing reductions for all “qualified health plans” sold on or off an Exchange. Under section 1402(a), such payments are authorized only for an “eligible insured.”  And the definition of “eligible insured” is quite clear. Section 1402(b)(1) requires that an eligible insured “enroll in a qualified health plan in the silver level of coverage in the individual market offered through an Exchange …” (emphasis mine).  Again, that pesky “through an Exchange” language gets in the way of the administration’s goal.  The policies now being offered subsidization are precisely those not offered through an Exchange.” The payments to these insurers announced by the Obama administration are illegal. From a financial accountability standpoint, it is not much different than if the Obama administration just decided to give government money to those ineligible for Medicaid simply because it felt badly for some of them.

Why insurers may have standing to challenge the new regulations

The Obama administration has made a habit in its implementation of the Affordable Care Act to exploit the law of “standing.” This is the doctrine that usually denies individuals with generalized grievances about a law or its implementation from bringing suit. Standing usually requires, among other things, that the plaintiff in a legal action have suffered individualized injury from the statute. Thus, when the Obama administration simply declines to collect taxes (as with the refusal to enforce the employer mandate), it becomes challenging to find someone who can use the judicial system to overturn the action. A similar problem plagues efforts to challenge the Obama administration’s decision to permit insurers to continue to sell policies that do not conform to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. It’s challenging to find an individual or business that is hurt in a particularized and traceable fashion.

With the latest lawless action, however, the Obama administration may have gone too far.  Insurers who sold off Exchange will be hurt by the cost sharing reductions.  The reason is “moral hazard.” The idea of moral hazard is that the more generous an insurance policy is the greater the frequency with which insureds encounter covered events. In the health insurance arena, people with lower co-pays and deductibles go to the doctor more.  Indeed, the major reason for co-pays and deductibles is precisely to induce insureds to be judicious in their use of expensive medical services.  Moral hazard is one of the major reasons that platinum policies cost more than bronze ones.

When cost sharing reductions imposed on off-Exchange insurers effectively convert their silver policies into silver-plus, gold-plus and platinum-plus policies, those insurers end up paying more in claims.  And, while insurers selling policies on the Exchanges could have taken the induced demand created by cost sharing reductions into account in pricing their policies, there may well be insurers who sold only off the Exchange who, of course, did not take this additional moral hazard into account. Those insurers never dreamed that the government would reduce the amount its insureds would owe in cost sharing. Such insurers should have a strong case for standing in bringing a declaratory judgments to challenge the new guidance or, perhaps, in refusing to honor the demand for cost sharing reductions. Such insurers will, of course, need to be willing to take the political heat that may come from taking on an Executive Branch that more than ever is regulating their products.

A practical problem with imposition of cost sharing reductions on off Exchange policies

There’s also a practical problem with retroactive imposition of cost sharing reductions on off-Exchange insurers.  The guidance issued last week does not seem to address it. There are a lot of ways of achieving cost sharing reductions.  Some insurers might choose to reduce a deductible for some benefits.  Other insurers might choose to reduce a different deductible.  Still others might choose to keep the deductible but reduce copays.  For this reason, insurers selling policies on the Exchanges needed to specify in advance how they were going to achieve cost sharing reductions for their policies. Hence the government’s “Actuarial Value Calculator.” But insurers selling policies off the Exchange may never have gone through such an exercise.  Since CMS is now going to tell these insurers to readjudicate claims once they find out the income level of their insureds, the insurers are somehow going to have to come up, retroactively, with a system of cost sharing reduction.  How the insurer chooses to do so will affect how much each insured gets rebated.

The demand for readjudication gives insurers a second basis for standing.  Claims adjudication is not free.  The insurer is now going to have to go back through claims and resolve them for a second time.  Programming computers to adjust claims on a new basis is not costless. Figuring out whether a given service qualifies for cost sharing reductions is not costless. Cutting checks is not costless. And, having an actuary figure out what forms of cost-sharing reductions actually qualify as appropriate under the ACA is hardly costless either.  In short, the CMS guidance places new and completely unanticipated burdens on insurers who may have chosen to sell off Exchange precisely to avoid some of the regulatory burden that comes with on-Exchange sales.

The possible abortion problem

The “fix” concocted by the Obama administration may also end up violating restrictions in the ACA on federal funds being used to fund elective abortions. I will admit this is a bit speculative, but here’s the issue.  The general problem is that the ACA is an extremely integrated federal statute in which various provisions were enacted on the assumption that the conditions set forth in other provisions would hold.  Once the administration starts lawlessly changing certain parts of the ACA, other sections of the act begin to unravel. With abortion, the problem is that section 1303 of the ACA  (42 U.S.C. § 18023) prohibits federal tax dollars from being used to pay insurers via advances on premium tax credits  to fund elective abortions. Nor may federal funds be used to reduce the amount of “cost sharing” (deductibles, copays) that certain poorer ACA policy purchasers would otherwise pay for services other than elective abortions. There’s an elaborate mechanism specified by the statute involving segregated accounts and allocations that keeps government out of the elective abortion business, almost as if the insured purchased two policies — one for elective abortion and one for everything else — only the latter of which was subsidized by the government.   As a result, to the extent that various plans sold on the Exchanges provided for elective abortions — and apparently plans in at least nine states do so — they were structured to avoid receipt of such payments through segregated accounts.

Policies sold off Exchange never anticipated being the recipient of federal taxpayer money via premium tax credits and cost sharing reductions.  To the extent they provided for elective abortion coverage — and probably some of them did — there would have been no reason to structure them with segregated accounts to avoid receipt of federal funds for abortion.  Thus, when the Obama administration now proposes paying these off-Exchange policies federal tax dollars, the mechanisms for addressing abortion will not exist. I suspect that insurers who chose to sell off Exchange will not be excited by the administrative costs of now establishing segregated accounts. And, of course, if these off-Exchange insurers are not required by the Obama administration to prevent use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions, expect a firestorm of protest from those who believe that the federal government should not be subsidizing elective abortion.

 Conclusion

One can be sympathetic to the plight of individuals in states such as Oregon, Maryland and others that wanted subsidized and community rated health insurance and, through no fault of their own, could not get it due to dreadful implementation of database systems that many states managed to accomplish with far fewer problems.  In a world of cooperation, it might have been possible for the Executive branch and Congress to work together to hold these individuals harmless for these failings while preserving political and legal accountability for government officials and contractors who collaborated in the various debacles. Instead, however, we have an illegitimate attempt to use the Executive pen to write around the problem and bail out those responsible for embarrassing state implementations of the ACA.

This fix is not only lawless, it is very sloppy.  It fails to prescribe a method by which the retroactive cost sharing reductions are to be done.  It imposes costs on insurers who may have traded the opportunities of selling on the Exchanges in favor of the comparative regulatory freedom that came with selling off the Exchanges. If the guidance is not clarified, it  may enable strategic behavior by those who purchased off the Exchange without suffering through a dysfunctional Exchange first; it may permit those people to apply for Exchange coverage now, reject it, but still obtain retroactive premium tax credits and cost sharing reductions for their off Exchange policies.  And the guidance as it stands fails to take into account sensitivities concerning elective abortion funding. And, of course, this spending of taxpayer money appears to be proposed via a “guidance” and not even a full fledged regulation promulgated with at least minimal process.

For proponents of the “flexibility” the Obama administration has shown in implementing the ACA in the face of a hostile Congress, however, the main sloppiness with the latest guidance is that it enables the judicial branch to rule on the pattern of unilateral Executive action that has characterized recent implementation of the ACA. Insurers off the Exchange will be hurt by the cost sharing reductions imposed by the guidance and by the administrative costs it creates. The question is, will any of them have the guts to sue.

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