Posts Tagged ‘Sebelius’

Where was the Cliff’s Notes version?

Jonathan Gruber, an MIT Professor, and Kathleen Sebelius, former Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, were both involved in the creation of the so-called “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” AKA “Obamacare.” That act was forced on America like a size 12 foot into a size 9 shoe. It was huge — thousands of pages long — and complex. So long and complicated that legislators had inadequate time to review it before it was “deemed passed.” Gruber and Sebelius have both expressed the view that the American public was too “stupid” or “insurance illiterate” to understand a law like that.

Ouch! Stupid? Really? We weren’t even allowed the five days for public comment that the President had promised for just such cases. I tried ambitiously to read it shortly after it was “passed” (without any Republican votes) and immediately found myself being referred by section and paragraph number to equally involved provisions of Social Security law. I quickly realized that it was a job for lawyers who had a lot more background and time on their hands.

Gruber stated that Obamacare was not transparent and that lack of transparency was a political advantage. Advantage for whom? Certainly not for those of us who had the greatest need to understand it. Gruber just couldn’t resist bragging about how cleverly the whole thing was put together. (I’m more deceptive than you are… nah nah, na, nah nah.)

It seems to me that someone who ostensibly was working on behalf of the American people (Sebelius) and someone who received about $400,000 of our money to help craft the bill (Gruber), should have been trying to make it as transparent and easy to understand as possible. Holding the views they’ve expressed about the (poor dumb ignorant) public, they should have been trying to guarantee that the people most affected by the law could understand it. Where was the Cliff’s Notes version?

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No “Fixes” for Obamacare

We have been told numerous times that the ACA, “Obamacare,” is the law of the land. Some of the law’s supporters have even called it the “settled” law of the land to emphasize the idea that it may not be changed.

Of course, even while these claims were being put forth in the media, our President was already diddling around with it, delaying the employer mandate feature of the law. This he did on top of other exemptions he had granted to one favored party or another.

Even some Democrats who strongly support it, or at least had supported it, are now urging that it be delayed. They have been stung by the ineptitude of the program’s introduction to the real world. Senators who supported the law and are up for reelection in 2014 are worried that their support may get them voted out of office.

Now we are hearing various suggestions for how to “fix” the law, and a cadre of computer programmers have been set to the task of correcting the code that is supposed to make it run smoothly. This process may not trouble some legislators who are always asking approval to “revise and extend” their remarks. But it disturbs me and should concern us all. These code writers could insert changes to the law either inadvertently or on purpose. Their craft is arcane enough that the ordinary citizen or congressional committee would be unable to monitor, let alone stop, any such changes. Indeed it might be tempting to “simplify” the law rather than create the code to make it run as originally conceived. To do so would be legislating by computer code, something that would be unconstitutional and start us down a slippery slope that could plague us for years.

The way to avoid it altogether is to repeal the law legislatively and start over again.

Dwight Boud

Fine or Tax?

Wait a minute. I’m confused. When the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was challenged in the Supreme Court, the challenge was based on the assertion that it unconstitutionally required citizens to buy a product (healthcare insurance) that they might not wish to buy. If they chose not to buy, they would be coerced into buying the product by the threat of a fine. Chief Justice John Roberts allowed that the law was within constitutional bounds because the “fines” were really “taxes” and the federal government has the power to levy taxes. Case closed.

Yesterday on TV I heard two spokespeople from opposite sides of the Healthcare controversy use terminology that underlined the original complaint. Rep. Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, referred to the money to be collected by the IRS from those who don’t buy insurance as a “tax.” It sounded to me like a dutiful adherence to the Supreme Court’s definition. The IRS would be collecting taxes, nothing new here.

Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, on the other hand, claimed that citizens were not forced to buy healthcare insurance because they had other options. They could choose instead to have money withdrawn from their accounts by the IRS. When describing the withdrawals, she called them “fines.”

Well now, which is it? It seems to me untenable to use the terms “tax” and “fine” interchangeably. Furthermore, shouldn’t the Republican (Cantor) be expected to use the word “fines?” And shouldn’t we expect the Democrat (Sebelius) to bolster the Supreme Court decision by using the word “tax?”

If they can’t get it straight, shouldn’t we take more time to sort it out. I believe a year’s delay in implementation of the law would allow all those affected to know everything that’s in it. We should delay it so we can find out what’s in it “away from the fog of controversy” to borrow a phrase from Nancy Pelosi.

Of course, no matter what we call it, it’s money forcibly taken out of the pockets of people who, for their own reasons, don’t want to buy healthcare insurance. It’s coercive. If you entered a market, looked over their wares, and decided they didn’t carry anything that you wanted, would you expect to have to pay a fee on your way out the door? That’s Obamacare.

Coercion breeds resentment.
Resentment breeds resistance.
Resistance breeds rebellion.
If you would avoid rebellion,
Avoid coercion.

Dwight Boud ©2013