27 March 2010

What you don't know, and neither does your Congresscritter

Yes the vim, vigor and vituperation surrounding the Health Care Bill has been astounding!  Well, mostly on the against side of things, on the for side it has been the usual platitudes of 'how much this needs to be done' and 'how good it is' and 'you will find out what is in it after it is passed'.  Unfortunately that latter is paraphrased from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and if that had been spoken by, say, some Fifth Earl West San Francisco it would sound like an aristocrat explaining that the workings of government are just too complex for the 'little people' to understand.

Companies are pretty fast off the mark in 'understanding' things as their bottom line is something they care about, so they adjust the fastest to try and absorb the hits from changes in the tax code so as to properly structure their companies as to make a profit.  Any profit.  Thus the following are now taking charges to their bottom line this year to try and stay ahead of the curve:

1) Caterpillar Inc. - $100 million (Source: WSJ 25 MAR 2010)

2) Deere (of John Deere) - $150 million (Source: CNBC 25 MAR 2010)

3) AT&T - $1 billion (Source: Yahoo News 26 MAR 2010 article by Barbara Ortutay)

4) AK Steel (mentioned in the Yahoo News article above)

5) Valero Energy (ibid.)

6) 3M Co. - $85 - $90 million (ibid.)

That Yahoo News article is just full of fun stuff like this passage:

Under the 2003 Medicare prescription drug program, companies that provide prescription drug benefits for retirees have been able to receive subsidies covering 28 percent of eligible costs. But they could deduct the entire amount they spent on these drug benefits — including the subsidies — from their taxable income.

The new law allows companies to only deduct the 72 percent they spent.

AT&T also said Friday that it is looking into changing the health care benefits it offers because of the new law. Analysts say retirees could lose the prescription drug coverage provided by their former employers as a result of the overhaul.

Changes to benefits are unlikely to take effect immediately. Rather, the issue would most likely come up as part of contract negotiations between the company and unions representing its employees and retirees. AT&T is the largest private employer of union workers in the U.S.

Hey!  I thought the 2003 Medicare Bill was too big for a Nation at war, that we couldn't afford it, and that the shift to private plans, being something the government could allow also means the government could fool with it in the future.

Which it has done.

And if you like your health care plan and are getting it from an employer?  Its either changing, benefits are being reduced or just going away... so forget about keeping it.  That promise was a lie as anyone who looks at the system could tell you when you start doing wholesale changes to mandates and such.

Now a bit more for the above on folks losing benefits due to this bill from AP via Google 26 MAR 2010 in an article by John Funk:

The health care law signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday prohibits companies from writing off the subsidies starting in 2011, meaning they will no longer be able to deduct them from their taxable income.

For example, if a company spent $100 on benefits, including a $28 government subsidy, it could write off the full $100 on its taxes under the old rules. The new rules would allow the same company to write off only $72.

The follow-up health care bill to reshape parts of the overhaul would delay the changes until 2013.

As many as 1.5 million to 2 million retirees could lose the drug benefits provided by their former employer because of the tax changes, according to a study by the Moran Company, a health care consulting firm.

James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, said between 6 million and 7 million retirees currently get the benefits. But the number of companies offering them has been dwindling for years.

Generally, retirees would prefer to stay with prescription drug coverage provided by their companies as opposed to enrolling in a Medicare Part D plan, said Marilyn Moon, a health care economist with the nonpartisan American Institutes for Research.

She said most of the company-sponsored plans are more generous and almost none have the coverage gap that comes with Part D plans.

Private plans more generous than what the government can do?  And they keep the retired better cared for without having to spend US taxpayers money?  And the benefits are more generous than what the US government can do under Medicare?

Say, why is Medicare such a great system for retirees if it is stingy, can't fully reimburse medications, costly and, oh, going broke with the approaching retirement of the 'Baby Boom' generation? Because it is what people will be falling back to, once the bite of this stuff fully takes place.  Notice that most of that starts to disappear just before an election year and then fully in place after it?

But the kicker is what those companies that DON'T change their benefits will do, and its a real kicker:

Consumers Energy, a Michigan gas and electric company with 2.9 million customers, said it will not take a big first-quarter charge because, like most utility companies, it can try to recover the added costs from its customers through rate hikes.

It has got to suck to be in MI with such bad tax codes and businesses fleeing Detroit that the city wants to turn some of the abandoned lots back into farmland (Source: AP via Washington Times 09 MAR 2010) .  Costs too much to turn the Motor City into the Farm City, however, so get used to vacant lots and abandoned buildings in Detroit for the foreseeable future.  Just watch RoboCop and you will get the idea, there.  So if you live in Detroit you will pay for the unsubsidized health benefits of Consumers Energy via rate hikes in gas and electric bills.  And through increased federal taxes, too.

Ed Morrisey at Hot Air (25 MAR 2010) hosted a video clip of Bill O'Reilly trying to get a straight answer on who collects the penalties if you don't enroll in Obamacare and he also put up the bill so you could search it yourself.  He came up with the IRS on p. 345 of the bill under its Section 5000A powers given to it by Congress in 1986.  Dutifully I looked that up:

From Title 26 (26 USC 5000) which is under Subtitle D – Miscellaneous Excise Taxes – Chapter 47 Certain group health plans, which has this as its taxing provision:

Sec. 5000. Certain group health plans

(a) Imposition of tax

There is hereby imposed on any employer (including a self-employed person) or employee organization that contributes to a nonconforming group health plan a tax equal to 25 percent of the employer’s or employee organization’s expenses incurred during the calendar year for each group health plan to which the employer or employee organization contributes.

There you go, Section 5000A of Title 26!  So if you get income that isn't employment income, say you get unemployment benefits or are rich and live on the earnings of off-shore accounts, you don't have to comply.  You have just gotta love how the very poor and very rich are BOTH able to get away from this junk, but the middle class gets screwed.  But don't worry, we Daniel Foster on 26 MAR 2010 at NRO (h/t: Morgen Richmond at BigGovernment)has found out that whatever the bill may say in one place, it might just contradict in another as found in the Joint Committee on Taxation on 21 MAR 2010 on p. 33 :

The penalty applies to any period the individual does not maintain minimum essential coverage and is determined monthly. The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the Code.68 The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.

Yes, that's right, there is no penalty for not getting a health care plan that can be assessed against you.  Basically its 'pretty please sign up or if you want to pay a fine you can but if you don't that is a-ok, too'.  Thus we will get 16,500 brandy-new IRS agents to... send you imploring letters to please, please, pretty please get health care and, if you could, send some cash to the IRS for your trouble, would ya?

Oh, joy!

Oh, rapture!

Then at the CampaignSpot at NRO on 24 MAR 2010 Jim Geraghty found the tampon tax:

b) TAXABLE MEDICAL DEVICE.—For purposes of this section— (1) IN GENERAL.—The term "taxable medical device" means any device (as defined in section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act) intended for humans. (2) EXEMPTIONS.—Such term shall not include— (A) eyeglasses, (B) contact lenses, (C) hearing aids, and (D) any other medical device determined by the Secretary to be of a type which is generally purchased by the general public at retail for individual use.

Yes and in that latter category is: tampons.  That sort of thing was brought up months ago... last year around this time if memory serves, but Harry Reid decided to keep such language in the bill.  Say, you can get a pacemaker, but if you need special lenses to see your way around the house, you gotta shell out for those through the nose. PLUS 2.3%  Good job!

From AP via Hot Air on 24 MAR 2010:

Hours after President Barack Obama signed historic health care legislation, a potential problem emerged. Administration officials are now scrambling to fix a gap in highly touted benefits for children.

Obama made better coverage for children a centerpiece of his health care remake, but it turns out the letter of the law provided a less-than-complete guarantee that kids with health problems would not be shut out of coverage.

Under the new law, insurance companies still would be able to refuse new coverage to children because of a pre-existing medical problem, said Karen Lightfoot, spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one of the main congressional panels that wrote the bill Obama signed into law Tuesday.

Yes the 'For The Children' folks who pushed this from Congress were lying.  Young adults are under that too, so sorry.

It was such an important thing to do, they forgot to do it.

I am sure, very, very sure, that the Harry Reid Bill to bring us Obamacare will be chock-a-block with goodies like this because this landmark legislation was so important, so damned necessary, and had to do so very much that no one in Congress could bother to read it.

Just like the 'stimulus' which hasn't stimulated a damn thing save the pocketbooks of Congressional cronies.

I really do think that such behemoth bills should be read out on both floors of the Chambers of Congress.

So that it goes completely on record as having been read out so there are no excuses, no blathering, NOTHING that can be used to defend the passage of such bills.

It is one thing to have a bleeding heart.

It is quite another to slit one's wrists to prove just how much you care.

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