October 21, 2013

A View to a Kill

The Rochester Post-Bulletin ran an "Our View" piece on Saturday that would have been amusing if it weren't so downright gleeful about a government capable of putting a severed horse head in everybody's bed. We'll get to that analogy at the end.

Our View: Individual mandate's tax penalty is small — for now

Naysayers regarding Minnesota's state-run health insurance exchange are having a field day with the news that since MNsure's launch nearly three weeks ago, only 5,569 applications for insurance have been completed, covering 11,684 people, and only 3,769 applicants have actually enrolled in a health plan.

I wouldn't say I'm having a field day, necessarily, but I have been considering the irony that what's playing out with MNsure is eerily similar to the e-gaming implosion that was supposed to fund the Vikings new Jawa sandcrawler stadium.

Given that Minnesota has 490,000 uninsured residents, it would be generous to say that enrollment so far is a drop in the bucket.

Yes. Yes, that would be generous.

But some context is in order.

Oh, good, I always enjoy when the P-B attempts some "context."

People still have more than two months to shop before the Jan. 1 deadline. Furthermore, we can't blame would-be customers from staying out of the fray for a while, giving state officials a chance to work the bugs out of an online purchasing system that, although better than the federal exchange, has been far from perfect.

In, other words, just give it time. Let it work out the kinks. It's odd, but I seem to remember reading something similar once. . . Oh, right:

Our View: Give e-gaming a chance to finds its footing

That was an "Our View" that was penned after the P-B sat down with the executive director and chief PR lackey for the Allied Charities of Minnesota. And the P-B fawningly wrote "He opened our eyes." Way to be objective, guys. Anyway, they wrote that back in April, and stated: "By January 2014, the projected e-gaming shortfall could be far less than is anticipated right now, and given that the state has yet to spend a dime on the stadium, there's no reason to rush."

Fast-forward to September, and the P-B lifted a MPR story:

A year later, why electronic pulltab gambling flopped

So, there's reason to wonder if the P-B has the necessary prognostic credibility to wax optimistic about MNsure.

We believe there might be another cause for people's reluctance to push the "buy" button.

The penalty for failing to do so isn't very severe.

Leaving aside the fact there shouldn't be a penalty AT ALL, I find it curious that the P-B would use the term "severe," an adjective I usually associate with "burns" or "beating."

One of the less-talked-about aspects of the Affordable Care Act is the tax penalty that could be imposed on those who fail to purchase health insurance.

Less talked about? Really? Maybe if you happen to have been living in a cave, on Mars, with your fingers in your ears, yelling "LALALALALALALALALA!" Then, maybe, MAYBE you have reason to believe the penalty has been "less talked about."

For an individual in 2014, the penalty is $95 or 1 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater.

Sounds like a cakewalk, provided you're an individual, and not, say, a family of four, or something crazy like that. But, let's let the P-B take us down the path of "Hypothetical World," which is apparently populated by single, middle-aged office grunts in a dead-end job, like a newspaper or something.

Let's say an unmarried, self-employed 45-year-old Rochester resident who has $40,000 in taxable income per year is weighing her options. She discovers that she'll pay nearly $400 per month for "Silver" coverage purchased through MNsure, and that's with a $3,000 annual deductible. Furthermore, because of her income, she'll get no federal subsidy.

Plus, her biological clock is ticking in overdrive, and she and the chick from "Life of Julia" are totally going clubbing after work because sometimes they just "have to dance."

So, should she risk a $400 penalty and roll the dice that she doesn't get sick, or should she play it safe — and pay thousands of dollars in health-care premiums?

Well, that depends. Considering she totally needs to get pregnant, pronto, lest she die a withered old spinster. So, she might want to pony up for the silver coverage in the off chance she can score some solid sperm-y swimmers from an unsuspecting bar dude, provided he doesn't decide to go home with "Life of Julia" instead.

We'd prefer that everyone purchase health insurance, but it simply stands to reason that a lot of people will do the math and say, "Maybe next year."

Well, you know, unless you're 20 years old, in which case you can do the math and say "Well, crap, I don't have to buy insurance until I'm 26, so long as my parents are ponying up the dough."

Maybe next year indeed. In 2015, people will have a greater incentive to buy health insurance, as the potential penalties will increase dramatically — up to 2 percent of taxable income, or $975 for a family. By 2016, the total tax penalty for a family that still hasn't purchased health insurance will top $2,000.

This word the P-B uses. . . "incentive." I do not think it means what they think it means. I believe the term they intended to use was "coercion," or "overreach," or "bending over and grabbing the ankles."

That's why we believe it could be at least a year, perhaps more, before we'll have a clear picture of how MNsure and Obamacare as a whole are functioning.

Perhaps, but THAT'S NOT HOW THIS TRAIN WRECK WAS SOLD TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE! They've had over three years to ponder, architect and implement this lugubrious legislative face plant, with the belief people would flock to purchase insurance, the clouds would part, and angels would descend singing "Hallelujah." Instead, not only has enrollment been initially dismal, in a lot of instances people who want to enroll simply can't. And now we're being told "Well, give it at least a year." Talk about lowered expectations.

Right now, people are being asked to purchase health insurance, and some will say "No." But the day will come when that invitation will be more like an offer they can't afford to refuse.

Yeah, they actually wrote that last line. The P-B seems pretty gosh darn okay with the government playing the role of "Vito Corleone."

That should tell you something right there.

Posted by Ryan at October 21, 2013 12:36 PM | TrackBack
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