Monthly Archives: January 2015

IRS Waives Penalties for Late Payments Linked to Obamacare

Because it’s too complicated – IRS Waives Penalties for Late Payments Linked to Obamacare – Bloomberg.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service will waive some penalties for taxpayers who owe taxes because of Obamacare.

The changes, announced Monday in Washington, apply only to people who received subsidized health insurance during 2014. On tax returns, they must reconcile eligibility for the credit with their actual income and pay back some of the subsidy if they received too much.

That can happen if someone got a higher-paying job or a raise during 2014 and didn’t ask the government to alter the subsidy.

The IRS will waive penalties for making that payment late or for failing to pay estimated taxes throughout 2014.

Taxpayers must send in a letter for a penalty waiver. They still must pay the taxes within a year and will owe interest after April 15, the due date for individual tax returns.

Rube Goldberg…

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Obamacare Penalty: More than $95! Who Knew?

“People would hear the $95, quit listening, and make an assumption that that was what their penalty was going to be,” said Chuck Lovelace, vice president of affordable care for Liberty Tax Service. “I think that a lot of people will be surprised when they get in there and find out that their penalty is [based] on their household income.”

via Obamacare penalty may come as shock at tax time – Washington Times.

For most, the penalty for 2014 is 1% of taxable income and for 2015 it will be 2%.

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People refusing Government Cheese

Americans Protest Obamacare by Refusing Health Insurance Subsidies – US News.

She wanted to keep the catastrophic health insurance plan she once had, which she says fit her needs. But under the Affordable Care Act, the government’s health care reform law, the plan was discontinued because it did not comply with the law’s requirements, and her bills doubled to more than $400 a month. “I wanted a minimal plan and I’m not allowed to have it,” she says. “That seems like an encroachment on my freedom.”

….

Though Brewer could pay less for a plan if she were to accept a subsidy from the federal government, she refuses. “I want to pay my own way,” she says. “I will not take a handout.”

Kudo’s to Grace Brewer and her refusal of Government Cheese. Unfortunately, for many, it is simply impossible to pay afford coverage at all with accepting a subsidy. That said, my experience is very similar to the broker quoted in the article…

Her sentiment is unusual, but brokers say they do hear from clients who are eligible for subsidies – which are based on household income and not assets – but want no part of them.

Yep unusual. Back to Government Cheese….

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More on the Harvard Faculty Whiners

Harvard Professors Balk As Obamacare Comes To Cambridge – Forbes.

In the case of the Harvard faculty one must ask if they are making a bold stand for egalitarian healthcare coverage or whining because they are being required to share the cost of healthcare. Most employees have had to wrestle with the confusing and often gut-wrenching impact of increasing healthcare costs for many years now. It is time that those in the ivory tower experience some of the challenges most of us face daily.

Spoiled, whiney arrogant brats.

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Received a subsidy? Visit a tax preparation service

Latest Tax Season Headache? Obamacare – Bloomberg View.

There’s been a lot of talk about the “hidden taxes” in the Affordable Care Act, but here’s one I hadn’t thought of before or seen mentioned anywhere: the sudden need for folks with simple tax returns to avail themselves of the services of a paid professional. If you have no income outside a modest salary, and not much in the way of potential deductions such as huge mortgage interest or state tax bills, then there was really no reason to use a tax preparer. Even the mathematically challenged should, with the aid of a calculator, be able to fill out their 1040EZ forms just fine. But Obamacare has introduced a significant level of complexity into the taxes of lower-middle-class wage earners. More of them are going to need an accountant to negotiate the process — or risk owing the government hundreds of dollars because they didn’t fill out the forms correctly.

The money doesn’t go to the government, of course, but in many ways this looks like a tax: Suddenly, people with simple incomes are going to need to pay a significant sum to keep themselves out of trouble with the IRS. This tax will be extremely regressive, because the people most likely to be hit by it are people whose incomes are (or have been) low enough to qualify for subsidies.

That’s not to say that these people are worse off because of Obamacare. For one thing, lower-middle-class workers have always historically used tax preparation services more than they really should, because they really need their refunds and they’re worried about getting it wrong. But it is one more symptom of the law’s Byzantine complexity that new costs keep popping up just where voters least expect them. (all emphasis added)

Goodbye 1040EZ, hello tax complications for those who can least afford it. Rube Goldberg I say.

Oh, the publically traded tax firms are H&R Block and Liberty Tax Services.

 

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Connect for Health CO: Exchange snafus trip up thousands

Exchange snafus trip up thousands as more cost overruns mount | Health News Colorado.

Amateur hour at Connect for Health Colorado:

A multi-million dollar IT system that Colorado officials promised would make signing up for health coverage simple has instead snagged thousands of customers and now will cost several hundred thousand dollars — if not millions — to fix.

Managers at Colorado’s health exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, plan to ask their board members on Monday to approve an emergency infusion of $322,000 for the next month to try to help customers get coverage by the Feb. 15 deadline. No warranty covers the work that the additional money will fund, the exchange’s chief technology officers said on Friday.

So who EXACTLY IS the exchanges Chief Technology Officer? Inquiring minds want to know.

Other interesting factoids…

About half of the 21,000 people who bought private insurance through the end of December through the exchange have not qualified for tax subsidies. They can skip the problematic sign-in system if they don’t want to try to qualify for subsidies.

This is not exactly correct. I believe what they are trying to say is +/- 10,500 applicants elected to not try and get a monthly subsidy. They may still be eligible for premium assistance on their tax return. Also, here’s a HINT:

IF YOU ARE CONFIDENT THAT YOU WILL NOT QUALIFY FOR PREMIUM ASSISTANCE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, THEN DO NOT APPLY THROUGH CONNECT FOR HEALTH COLORADO. SIGN UP DIRECTLY WITH THE CARRIER OF YOUR CHOICE. A BROKER CAN HELP WITH PLAN SELECTION AND APPLYING OR YOU CAN DO IT YOURSELF.

Time out for a self serving advertisement: Oh, by the way…  if you’re in Colorado and need a broker, please contact me at 303.495.3045 (or text me at 303.859.1709)! The cost to you is the same as if you did it yourself. Moving on…

The big issue has been the Shared Eligibility System between Connect for Health and Medicaid.

Colorado officials were supposed to build the shared system in 2013 and failed to do so. Since then, Medicaid head Sue Birch repeatedly has promised she would build a simple, streamlined system that would be as easy to use as Kentucky’s much-hailed sign-up system, Kynect. Colorado officials informally said the system here would be like “Kentucky on steroids.”

Instead, the system is limping along, and Drews this week had to send an apology note to exchange partners that outlined more than two dozen “known and reported issues.” Click here to see Drews’ letter.

“We realized issues have been difficult and frustrating for many since the start of open enrollment, and they have hampered your ability to serve your customers,” Drews wrote. “While we don’t anticipate a perfect system when launching new technology and programs, we certainly had higher expectations than we’ve delivered.”

Exchange board members were furious Thursday, saying they felt cornered into approving additional spending without adequate advance notice.

“We’re being told there’s no time for suggestions. We have to have it done right away,” said Dr. Mike Fallon, a board member.

“These problems didn’t start today,” Fallon said. “It’s every issue: you approve it or the sky is falling.”

Enough with the faux outrange Dr. Fallon, certainly you have your own internal and external sources of information on how Connect for Health is performing? If not, you should resign from the Board of Directors.

A side note on Connect for Health enrollment propaganda statistics..

Exchange spokesmen routinely report “enrollment gains” by lumping renewals and Medicaid sign-ups with the new customers who sign up for private health insurance.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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The Obamacare tax man cometh: Will you be ready?

The Obamacare tax man cometh: Will you be ready?.

While more than 75 percent of filers are expected to have no problem complying with a new disclosure requirement, millions of others could face a time-consuming, complicated process to determine if they owe the government money or are owed money in connection with subsidies they received to help pay for their Obamacare health insurance plans.

If peoples’ annual incomes were higher than they first estimated when they applied for those subsidies, they will owe money back to the government. The reverse is true if their incomes were lower than estimated. About 85 percent of the 6.7 million paying Obamacare customers as of October were receiving subsidies, and research suggests that many of them could have had income swings during the year.

Millions of other people will be trying to figure out during tax season if they qualify for one or more of a slew of exemptions from the Obamacare mandate that they have health insurance during 2014 or face a fine.

Resources:

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Lavish ‘Cadillac’ health plans dying out

Lavish ‘Cadillac’ health plans dying out as PPACA tax looms | LifeHealthPro.

Large employers are increasingly putting an end to their most generous health-care coverage as a tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans looms closer under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Employees including bankers at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and college professors at Harvard University are seeing a range of moves to shift more costs to workers. Companies are introducing higher deductibles and co-payments, rising premiums and the imposition of wellness programs that carry penalties for people who don’t comply.

Requiring employees to shoulder more of the cost burden may undermine public support for PPACA just as Congress, now firmly under Republican control, considers new ways to gut the law. (emphasis added)

Is that all it takes to undermine the PPACA, slightly reducing benefits of people with Cadillac health plans that live in an alternate reality? Color me skeptical.

 

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ALERT: Harvard Faculty now has a $250 Deductible!!!

What a bunch of arrogant, pompous, spoiled brats – When ObamaCare came to Harvard | New York Post.

Q: How many Harvard professors does it take to figure out that free government benefits aren’t actually free?

A: As many Harvard professors as are forced to pay the indirect costs of those benefits.

In case you missed the headline, what is the deductible that has sent these Professors into such a spoiled brat uproar?

Actually, the changes Harvard is experiencing are quite mild. By any measure, the school’s plan is still incredibly generous. Faculty will, for instance, now have an annual deductible of $250, which is hardly exorbitant.

Perhaps the Harvard faculty foolishly believed that other alum, President Obama, when he said ObamaCare would save the average family $2,500?

Personal note to Harvard Professors, you make me wanna puke. You are no where close to as special as you think you are. Suck in some air of the reality around you, be careful, the pollution of reality is likely to choke you.

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Harvard Prof’s meet Obamacare and they don’t like it

Allow me to translate for you. Harvard Professors are spoiled brats. Talk about “checking your privilege” Harvard Ideas On Health Care Hit Home, Hard – NYTimes.com.

“Harvard is a microcosm of what’s happening in health care in the country,” said David M. Cutler, a health economist at the university who was an adviser to President Obama’s 2008 campaign. But only up to a point: Professors at Harvard have until now generally avoided the higher expenses that other employers have been passing on to employees. That makes the outrage among the faculty remarkable, Mr. Cutler said, because “Harvard was and remains a very generous employer.” (emphasis added)

Cry me a river.

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A Tale of Special Enrollment Period Issues

How The Affordable Care Act Forced Me To Become Uninsured – Forbes.

The problem described is a Federal Marketplace Issue, I can absolutely assure you it is a Connect for Health Colorado issue as well. My clients and I have encountered numerous issues with Special Enrollment Periods, particularly those that allow the applicant to apply between the 16th and 31st of the month with coverage scheduled to start on the 1st of the next month.

As November 15 – the deadline for enrollment – approached, I had not received a bill from the insurance company. I called The Marketplace, and they said I had to wait until I got a bill from the insurance company. I called the insurance company, and they said they had not received my enrollment information from the Marketplace. I called The Marketplace, and they said that yes, the insurance company could not enroll me or bill me or accept a payment until they received the information, but they had sent it. They would send it again.

I have head this story so many times, most of the time with a strong implication that it is the insurance company that is at fault.

Read the whole thing…. it makes me wanna puke.

To continue, since we are presently in open enrollment this is not a huge issue. I expect this problem to rear it’s ugly head again simply because everyone has to work as a team to fix an issue like this. I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

They are NOT working as a team!

Let me ask a simple questions:

What is transmitting and receiving data so hard?

The whole computer industry operates on accurately transmitting and receiving data. Examples that quickly come to mind:

  • Read and Write to devices such as:
    • Hard drives
    • USB sticks
  • Data transmission
    • RS 232 serial ports (what the heck are those!)
    • USB interfaces (communication with all your USB devices)
    • Wireless internet (think 3G and 4G)
    • Wired internet

And these incompetent idiots can’t transmit enrollment information in an accurate and timely manner!?

You can’t make this stuff up.

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Victims of Obamacare

Michelle Malkin | » Obamacare’s Annus Horribilis.

Michelle reminds us of all the promised benefits of Obamacare…

Let’s start with premiums. President Candy Land promised that he’d “lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year.” But premiums for people in the individual market for health insurance have spiked over the last year. In fact, Forbes health policy journalist Avik Roy and the Manhattan Institute analyzed 3,137 counties and found that individual market premiums rose an average of 49 percent.

A legitimate question to ask is over what period of time did the 49% increase occur. I heard in one of the Fox news business block programs this morning that it was over 5 years. (See bottom of article for clarification) If that’s the case, as a stand alone issue it’s not that bad. There is no doubt there was a large spike in premiums due to Obamacare mandates. Summing up the meaning of “Affordable”…

“Affordable” doesn’t mean what White House truth-warpers says it means — just like everything else they’ve spewed about the doomed federal takeover of health policy in America.

…. and I am in full agreement.

Medicaid cuts…

Analysts on all sides of the debate agree that massive cuts in Medicaid payments to primary care doctors, which take effect on Jan. 1, will reduce patient access. Meanwhile, a Commonwealth Fund survey found that 26 percent of American adults waited six days or more to see a doctor — with only Canada and Norway performing worse. A separate physicians’ staffing company’s poll, reported by the left-wing New York Times, found that patients “waited an average of 29 days nationally to see a dermatologist [,] 66 days to have a physical in Boston and 32 days for a heart evaluation by a cardiologist in Washington.”

Translation: If you like your doctor, it doesn’t mean you’ll get to see your doctor. Tick, tick, tick.

I’m assuming these waiting times are for Medicaid patients?

She then addresses the insurance company bailouts ($1B) and the faltering Health Insurance Coops.

The silver lining?

One silver lining: A total of 16 Senators who voted for the federal health care takeover either failed to win re-election or declined to run for re-election.

Good riddance to them and farewell to Obamacare’s annus horribilis.

Regarding premium increases, I found Avik Roy’s analysis of Obamacare premiums. The linked article does not summarize the results nationwide, but he does mention increases from 2013-2014:

Last November, our team at the Manhattan Institute published a study indicating that Obamacare had increased the underlying cost of individually-purchased health insurance in the average state by 41 percent in 2014, relative to 2013. (emphasis added)

You can check out your own sitation with the interactive map: What Will Obamacare Cost You?

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Affordable Care Act Creates a Trickier Tax Season

Affordable Care Act Creates a Trickier Tax Season – WSJ.

The law’s requirement that most Americans carry health insurance means all filers must indicate on federal tax forms whether they had coverage last year and got tax credits to help pay for it. Those who didn’t have coverage could face a fine, although reduced staffing at the Internal Revenue Service and certain changes to the law mean the so-called individual mandate is expected to be lightly enforced this year, tax preparers say.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans who got subsidies under the law may find they are getting smaller-than-expected refunds or owe the IRS because credits they received to offset their insurance premiums were too large. As many as half of the roughly 6.8 million Americans who got subsidies may have to refund money to the government, based on one estimate by tax firm H&R Block Inc.

“The ACA is going to result in more confusion for existing clients and many taxpayers may well be very disappointed by getting less money and possibly even owing money,” said Charles McCabe, president of Peoples Income Tax and the Income Tax School, a Richmond, Va., provider of tax preparation and education. “The whole implementation of Obamacare will be frustrating for tax preparers.”

But where there’s pain, there’s opportunity…

But the season could be a lucrative one for tax firms. Liberty Tax Service, a tax-preparation franchise, began calling hundreds of thousands of customers in November to invite them to a store to get help applying for an exemption to the insurance-coverage requirement. About half of the company’s 4,000 stores opened weeks ahead of their usual start date to provide health-law tax advice.

If you’re going to owe the penalty, my recommendation is to take profits from investing in the tax preparation services. NOTE: I am NOT qualified to give investment advice!

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Dilemma over deductibles: The flip/flop in health care..

Dilemma over deductibles: Costs crippling middle class.

Physician Praveen Arla is witnessing a reversal of health care fortunes: Poor, long-uninsured patients are getting Medicaid through Obamacare and finally coming to his office for care. But middle-class workers are increasingly staying away.

“It’s flip-flopped,” says Arla, who helps his father run a family practice in Hillview, Ky. Patients with job-based plans, he says, will say: ” ‘My deductible is so high. I’m trying to come to the doctor as little as possible. … What is the minimum I can get done?’ They’re really worried about cost.” (emphasis added)

The issues is deductibles…

A recent Commonwealth Fund survey found that four in 10 working-age adults skipped some kind of care because of the cost, and other surveys have found much the same. The portion of workers with annual deductibles — what consumers must pay before insurance kicks in — rose from 55% eight years ago to 80% today, according to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And a Mercer study showed that 2014 saw the largest one-year increase in enrollment in “high-deductible plans” — from 18% to 23% of all covered employees.

Meanwhile the size of the average deductible more than doubled in eight years, from $584 to $1,217 for individual coverage. Add to this co-pays, co-insurance and the price of drugs or procedures not covered by plans — and it’s all too much for many Americans.

I have to say, I would LOVE to have a plan with deductibles this low. Perhaps the issue is the expectation of the typical American that someone else is supposed to pay for all of their health care.

All that said, I can confidently state that a large portion of my clients have substantially larger deductibles than the averages mentioned above and I can see them delaying medical care.

Moving on the article asks the important question, albeit a bit to generally: “Why is this happening?”

Why is this happening? Many patients and doctors blame corporate greed — a view insurers and business leaders reject. Some employers in turn blame the Affordable Care Act, saying it has forced them to pare down generous plans so they don’t have to pay a “Cadillac tax” on high-cost coverage in 2018. But health care researchers point to a convergence of trends building for years: the steep rise in deductibles even as premiums stabilize, corporate belt-tightening since the economic downturn and stagnant middle-class wages.

“It’s a case of companies trying to offer workers health insurance and still generate profit,” said Eric Wright, a professor of sociology and public health at Georgia State University. “But whenever costs go up for the consumers across the board … it promotes a delay in care.”

Others disagree, saying that when people pay for their care, they shop more intelligently. Chris Riedl, Aetna’s head of product strategy for its national accounts, says her company’s research does not indicate that insured patients are showing up sick in emergency rooms with long-neglected illnesses — which to her means, “intuitively, they’re not avoiding care.”

But many doctors contend it’s only a matter of time before the middle class begins crowding ERs. They say putting off care can be dangerous, exponentially more costly and, if it continues and spreads, can threaten the health of the nation.

Read the whole thing. This is a fairly well rounded article that takes a look from all sides.

 

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