The incredibly sloppy and hurried drafting of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is the gift that keeps on giving to opponents of ObamaCare. A “glitch” in drafting provisions for premium assistance in the healthcare law approved by Congress in March 2010 was first identified at an AEI forum that December by Vanderbilt law professor James Blumstein and former Justice Department attorney Thomas Christina, and later reported in early September by David Hogberg of Investor’s Business Daily. It was highlighted again last week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Jonathan Adler and Michael Cannon (“Another ObamaCare Glitch”). But the larger story is the continuing pattern by Obama administration officials and leaders of the previous Congress to stretch the law until it breaks and to try to bluff their way past political barriers to a sweeping, over-reaching health policy agenda.
ObamaCare hopes to use new insurance-coverage tax credits for tens of millions of Americans as a carrot to draw them into expanded coverage for Medicaid and highly regulated “exchange” plans. It also provides a stick to force employers to offer “qualified” coverage or face penalties, and to compel states to establish their own exchanges under tight federal rules or face a takeover by exchanges run directly from Washington. But the rush to pass something by any means necessary in the previous Congress in early 2010 meant that all the wires to this fiscal and regulatory bomb were not connected. It’s going to be another dud. The employer mandate penalty won’t apply in states where there is no state exchange established to distribute the tax credits. The threat of federally run exchanges is hollow without any money available from taxpayers. And the individual mandate has many other problems of its own (It’s unconstitutional, unpopular, weak, and largely unenforceable—but otherwise doing just swell).
Similar fiascos over the last year have included (1) the crash of the CLASS Act Ponzi scam for an inherently unsustainable long-term care program, (2) redefining “affordability” for employer coverage as applying only to the cost of single premiums for workers with dependents, (3) limiting grandfathering rules so narrowly that most workers will no longer be able to keep their coverage they like, (4) defining income eligibility rules for Medicaid so poorly that many higher-income, early retirees with Social Security benefits could also qualify for Medicaid and exchange-plan subsidies, and (5) having to waive broadly around annual limits for employers’ insurance benefits to prevent disastrous loss of more limited coverage for thousands of plans and millions of workers.
Folks, we are not making this up (but cannot rule out the possibility that the architects and advocates of ObamaCare continue to hope that they can continue to do so with a straight face). The provisions of the PPACA include more “oops” moments than a Rick Perry presidential debate response.
As Hardy once said to Laurel, so too should each voter keep reminding the designers of ObamaCare: “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.”