Update on budget and ObamaCare "repeal"

Congress is out of session this week for Memorial Day recess. When they get back, they will need to get to work on passing a budget and begin working on appropriations.

Usually the House would have already started working on appropriation bills, but they have not yet passed an appropriations bill out of subcommittee.

Why does this matter? Because by law, if Congress does not pass legislation funding the government by September 30, the government shuts down. That may be more than acceptable to you and me, but most politicians live in fear of being blamed for the pictures of disappointed tourists walking away from closed Washington monuments, which is really all a shutdown amounts to. So, unless the individual appropriations bills are passed through the House, the Senate, and signed into law by September 30, Congress will pass a continuing resolution in September, and then pass an Omnibus spending bill sometime between Halloween and Christmas -- if not later.

Since the House is only in session 11 weeks between now and September 30, it is impossible to pass all of the appropriations bills. So as I write this in late May, it is clear the fix is already in for another big spending Omnibus bill this fall or winter.

Things do not look much better on the ObamaCare front. Several reports and a tweet from the president point to where Congress may be headed. First, GOP senators have turned "gloomy" over the prospects of passing an ObamaCare replacement. Second, GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is "tempering" expectation that the Senate will pass any ObamaCare replacement bill this year, although he still intends to bring one to the floor. Third, over the weekend, President Trump tweeted that Congress should "add more dollars to health care." Finally, yesterday Senate Democrat leader Dick Durban said he wanted  to "sit down" with Senate GOP leadership on ObamaCare overhaul.  

What does all this mean? It means the Senate GOP leadership is preparing for whatever ObamaCare replacement or retention bill they put on the floor to fail, while President Trump is preparing to use your money to buy a "victory" on health care. Meanwhile the Democrats, having seen increased evidence of ObamaCare failures, are desperate to make national health care a bipartisan affair by cutting a deal to "reform" ObamaCare. Of course, these reforms will not fix the flaws in ObamaCare.  They may create more problems, which will be used to renew the push for a health care system completely run by the government.

Speaking of ObamaCare problems. . .

Last week, the Trump Administration announced they where extending payments to insurance companies participating in the Obamacare exchanges, even though House Republicans are involved in an ongoing lawsuit over those payments because they were never authorized by Congress.

Chris Jacobs, writing in The Federalist, explains how some insurance companies handling of the issue may have violated federal law by not being fully forthcoming about the odds of continuing the payments:

Insurers claim they need certainty regarding the payments before committing to the exchanges for 2018. But insurers never had a guarantee about the payments continuing in 2017. I noted in a blog post last May that the new president could easily cut off the subsidy payments unilaterally. The week after I published my post, Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled in favor of the House of Representatives in its lawsuit. Although Collyer stayed her order pending an appeal, she ruled that the Obama administration needed an explicit appropriation from Congress to continue paying cost-sharing reductions to insurers.

Either the Companies Are Mismanaged Or Playing Politics

For insurers to assume that the cost-sharing reduction payments would continue through 2017, let alone 2018, required them to ignore 1) public warnings in articles like mine; 2) Collyer’s ruling; 3) the fact that President Obama would leave office on January 20, 2017; and 4) the apparent silence from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during last year’s campaign on whether they would continue the cost-sharing reduction payments once in office. Given those four factors, competent insurance executives would have built in an appropriate contingency margin into their 2017 exchange bids, recognizing the uncertainty that the cost-sharing reduction payments would continue during the new administration. Instead, some insurers largely ignored the issue. In its most recent 10-K annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission, filed February 22, Anthem made not a single reference in the 520-page document to the cost-sharing reduction payments or the House lawsuit. Therein lies the reason for insurers’ threats. All last year, several insurers assumed Clinton would win and continue the (unconstitutional) payments. Worse yet, some may have willfully ignored their fiduciary responsibility to create a contingency margin for their 2017 plan bids because they wanted to help Clinton by keeping premiums artificially low.

Insurance executives therefore do not just face exposure through their companies; they face potential personal risk arising from charges of derelict behavior. That level of desperation certainly explains why Anthem CEO Joe Swedish is threatening 20 percent premium increases if Congress does not appropriate payments for the cost-sharing reductions, mere weeks after he signed an SEC filing that failed to identify loss of the payments as a risk to his company.

Read the entire piece here.

Now, if the payments are truly temporary, some might falsely believe it's not worth getting too upset about. However, extending the payments essentially condones illegal actions taken by the Obama Administration. Furthermore, "temporary" payments have a way of becoming permanent in Washington, D.C. It looks like you and I have our work cut out for us in the coming months.

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