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ObamaCare: The Surprises Just Keep Coming

Well they sneaked this one in Friday. The deferral of the ObamaCare employer mandate on Wednesday wasn’t the only health care curve ball. Little noticed on Friday was an announcement in the Federal Register that eligibility for a subsidy for insurance purchased on state exchanges will be based on an honor system. No, you didn’t misread that. If you live in one of the 16 states setting up its own exchange you just attest to how much money you make and that’s that.

Here’s a little more detail from the Washington Post.

The Obama administration announced Friday that it would significantly scale back the health law’s requirements that new insurance marketplaces verify consumers’ income and health insurance status.

Instead, the federal government will rely more heavily on consumers’ self-reported information until 2015, when it plans to have stronger verification systems in place.

Frankly, the reporting on this is a bit confusing. Most of the reports I’ve read indicate that this change applies only to the 16 states which have set up their own exchanges and it’s business as usual for the rest of us. That doesn’t make a lot of sense as they either have or don’t have the systems to verify individual claims of income. Then again, given the cluster this is turning into it’s of no surprise that confusion reigns.

Avik Roy has a good article at Fortune discussing the change and a rather cynical take on the motives driving things right now.

The goal here is plain as day. The Obama administration is laser-focused on making sure that enough Americans enroll onto Obamacare-subsidized health insurance platforms, because if they do, it will be politically impossible for Republicans to repeal Obamacare in the future.

Politics ain’t beanbag, they say. But deliberately encouraging tens of billions of dollars of waste, fraud, and abuse in order to achieve a political objective is profoundly immoral. It’s a breach of faith with the hard-working taxpayers whose paychecks are being harnessed to a cause many of them don’t support.

Sadly, there’s more than a grain of truth in the accusation.

It’s worth asking what happens in 2015 when presumably the government can verify your coverage and your income. Are they going to ding some single mom making 40K a year for misstating her income or lying about the bare bones coverage she has at work so she can get a better deal from an exchange when they do presumably figure out how to verify things? Would they even start tossing boat loads of people out of the exchanges when the truth emerges? Think about the media reaction and you can pretty easily answer the previous questions.

Avik Roy suggests in his column that it might be time to just put everything on hold. Defer it for a year, get the systems working and them implement it like it was intended. Not a bad idea but probably politically impossible. It’s unpopular now and giving the Republicans time to hammer on it throughout 2014 would be to invite complete failure.

Perhaps there’s a ray of sunshine in all of this. We may be able to create a few new jobs in the cottage industry that’s sure to spring up advising people how to scam adhere to the ever changing law. No doubt the legal profession can profit as well defending those subsequently caught up in any dragnet, retained no doubt by taxpayer financed advocacy groups.

Addendum: I picked this up on Twitter a couple of hours ago. Peter Suderman of Reason Magazine more or less called this problem back in 2010. It’s a relatively long article and touches on several topics but worth your time and terribly prescient.

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