Archive | Health Care Bill – Washington

Survey shows California healthcare costs rising, benefits shrinking

By Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times

January 4, 2012.

Fewer California companies offered their workers health insurance last year, and the ones that did charged employees more for their coverage.

That’s among the findings of an annual California Employer Health Benefits Survey released Wednesday by the California HealthCare Foundation, a research and grant-making nonprofit organization.

According to the survey, premiums for employer health insurance plans have risen 153.5% since 2002, a rate that’s more than five times the increase in California’s inflation rate.

In the last two years alone, the proportion of state employers offering coverage to workers fell to 63% from 73%, the survey said.

“This is a departure from previous years and could be an early sign of future changes,” the foundation report noted in commentary on data collected between July and October 2011 in interviews with 770 private firm benefit managers.

The steady rise in costs during a prolonged economic downturn contributed to decisions by about a quarter of employers to either reduce benefits or increase cost sharing for employees in 2011. A slightly smaller percentage, 22%, opted to make workers pay more of the share of the higher premiums.

Health insurance is expected to take even more money out of workers’ pockets this year. The survey indicated that 36% of California firms said they were either “very” or somewhat” likely to raise the amount that their staff paid in premiums in 2012.

Rising costs and shrinking coverage are accelerating, said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a group that advocates for expanded health insurance coverage.

“They are frankly multi-decade trends,” he said. “What is notable is that this is more significant than usual.”

What’s been a “gradual erosion of employer-based coverage in good years” has evolved into “a steep one in bad years,” Wright said. “To be down to 63% [of California companies offering coverage] is huge. It used to be up over 80%.”

Patrick Johnston, president of the California Assn. of Health Plans, blamed the rising premiums on expensive technology, the spread of chronic disease and an aging population, among other factors. Johnston’s organization represents 40 California health plans that cover 21 million people.

What’s more, he noted that years of cutting reimbursements to doctors and hospitals by the government-run Medi-Cal program have created a “cost shift” that has to be “made up in negotiations for higher rates for commercial payers such as employers.”

Insurer profits, Johnston argued, are not a leading cost driver since publicly traded California insurers keep only 13 cents out of every premium dollar to pay for expenses and to secure earnings that average 3% to 5% of revenue.

Both Wright and Johnston predicted that full implementation of President Obama’s healthcare reform plan in 2014 could go a long way toward broadening coverage and to an eventual control of raging medical cost inflation.

“I hope that some of the reforms start to change the picture,” Wright said. “It’s clear that if we repeal [the law] or retreat back to the status quo, we will have some trends that simply are unsustainable.”

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Every Small Business Needs to Know About These Potential Regulatory Changes

Paychex Inc. released its list of the top 12 potential regulatory changes that small businesses need to know about in 2012. Paychex works closely with the IRS and other government agencies and is constantly monitoring regulatory and compliance-related matters.

• Health Coverage W2 – The IRS further delayed a requirement for smaller employers to report the cost of employer-sponsored health coverage on employee Forms W-2, indefinitely postponing it until further guidance is issued. However, employers that file 250 or more Forms W-2 in 2011 must include this cost on the W-2 starting in tax year 2012. The healthcare amounts reported on the W-2 will be strictly informational and not taxable to the employee.

• Healthcare Reform – The Supreme Court is expected to rule in 2012 on the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act.

• 401(k) – In 2012, 401(k) service providers will have to make additional fee disclosures to plan sponsors and plan sponsors will have to make additional fee disclosures to participants. Contribution limits will increase in 2012. Regulations will be enacted in 2012 or are under consideration to broaden the definition of a plan fiduciary, make investment advice more accessible to plan participants, and restrict the number of loans an employee can take from their 401(k).

• Job Creation – Congress passed legislation in 2011 to provide a tax credit for hiring veterans. The temporary reduction of employee payroll taxes was due to expire on December 31, 2011, but Congress extended the provision for two more months. A new recapture provision applies to employees who earn more than $18,350 during the two-month period.  The tax cut could extend through 2012, pending further negotiations. Congress is considering additional measures, such as earmarking funding for infrastructure projects and passing measures to help small businesses access capital.

• Worker Classification – IRS is allowing eligible employers to reclassify workers as employees in exchange for partial tax relief from past federal employment taxes. In late 2011, the Dept. of Labor agreed to work with the IRS and several states to coordinate enforcement. Legislation in several states to increase fines for worker misclassification may affect employers in 2012.

• Deficit Reduction – Proposed legislation focuses on reducing the deficit through spending reductions and tax increases. Many of the ideas involve reforming personal and business tax and closing of tax loopholes.

• Immigration – The federal government is conducting rigorous worksite enforcement and paperwork inspections of companies of all sizes to crack down on the employment of illegal immigrants. In 2012, state laws will require more private sector employers to use the federal E-verify system for employee verification. Also possible in 2012 are Congressional immigration reform proposals that may include additional federal employment verification obligations.

• Employment Law – Many states restrict employers from using an employee’s credit information in employment-related decisions or are considering these resrictions. The Dept. of Labor and many states have enacted or are considering regulations to provide greater transparency of pay checks. These regulations focus on how workers’ pay is calculated, especially as it relates to minimum wage and overtime requirements.

• Security and Privacy – Cybercrime and corporate bank account takeovers against small businesses are becoming more widespread. Employers should take security precautions, such as using stand-alone computers for online banking; not clicking on attachments or hyperlinks from unknown sources; and working with their bank to implement fraud detection tools on their accounts. Many states have enacted onerous privacy and security breach regulations.

• Dodd-Frank – The sweeping Dodd-Frank financial law is focused primarily on Wall Street reforms and consumer protection. However small businesses may face limited access to credit and higher costs of credit or other financial services because of the increased burden it places on some industries.

• Unemployment Insurance – Virtually all businesses will face higher unemployment insurance taxes if Congress reinstates the federal unemployment surtax. In many states, employers will see higher taxes because of the repayment of outstanding federal loans that were taken to continue paying benefits and replenish depleted state unemployment trust funds. Many states are cosidering additional employer reporting requirements to combat unemployment insurance fraud.

• Taxes – 2012 will bring a number of important tax changes including a higher Social Security wage base and changes to  assistance benefit limits. The accelerated depreciation benefits, which were in place in 2011, may expire or be scaled back in 2012. All employers will need to keep an eye on what are likely to be additional tax changes as the year progresses.

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Early Retiree Program to Employers: Bye

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were right back in April when they predicted they would probably use up Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) funding early.

CMS stopped taking ERRP applications in May because of concerns about lack of availability of funds, and now officials say in a new notice that ERRP probably will stop helping with claims incurred by the employers already using the program at the end of the year.

The drafters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act  of 2010 (PPACA) created ERRP and provided $5 billion in ERRP funding in an effort to help the dwindling number of employers that still provide health coverage for retirees ages 50 to 64.

ERRP, which began taking applications in June 2010, has been reimbursing participating employers for 80% of the amount of claims costing between $15,000 and $90,000 for early retirees and early retirees’ spouses, surviving spouses and dependents.

The ERRP creators supporters were hoping ERRP would help keep coverage in place for early retirees until 2014. Early retirees cannot get Medicare coverage unless they qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, and, in states that allow medical underwriting, early retirees with health problems may have trouble qualifying for conventional commercial health coverage.

If PPACA provisions take effect as written and work as backers hope, carriers will still be able to charge older consumers more than they charge younger consumers in 2014, but they will not be able to use an individual’s health status when deciding whether to issue coverage or when setting rates.

Unless Congress provides additional funding, ERRP likely will end 2 years earlier than hoped, because the program already has spent $4.5 billion of its funding, CMS officials say.

Plan sponsors must not mix claims incurred after Dec. 31, 2011, with 2011 claims in ERRP reimbursement requests, officials say.

If circumstances change, and more funding surfaces, CMS may announce that it can help with some 2012 claims, officials say.

“If a claim is incurred on or before December 31, 2011, but paid after December 31, 2011, the sponsor may submit the claim, but not until it has been paid,” officials say.

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Physicians Are Pessimistic About Health Reform

Only 27 of doctors expect the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) to reduce healthcare costs by increasing efficiency and only 33% expect it decrease disparities in healthcare access. In fact, half expect access to decrease because of hospital closures that result from the law, according to a study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. Seventy-three percent of doctors are not excited about the future of medicine. Sixty-nine percent say that many of the best and brightest who might have considered a career in medicine will think otherwise.

Paul Keckley, Ph.D. of Deloitte said, “Physicians are resistant to reform and are frustrated with the direction of the profession. Understanding the view of the physician is fundamental to any attempt to change the health care model; this is the person prescribing the medicine, ordering the test and performing the surgery.” The negativity is driven in part by concern over the pressure primary doctors will face from millions of newly insured consumers seeking care and how it could affect the larger system. Doctors also fear that reform will mean a loss of autonomy and more costs and administrative burdens.

The study also reveals the following about doctors’ opinions:

  • Nearly three-quarters say that emergency rooms could get overwhelmed if primary care physician appointments are full as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
  • More than 80% say that wait times for primary care appointments are likely to increase because of a lack of providers.  More than half say that other medical professionals (physician assistants, nurse practitioners) will deliver primary care both independently and in addition to physician services.
  • 57% of surgical specialists support repealing the health reform law compared to 38% of primary-care providers and 34% of non-surgical specialists.
  • 59% of physicians 50 to 59 years old say that PPACA is a step in the wrong direction compared to only 36% of those ages 25 to 39 share this sentiment. Younger physicians (ages 25 to 39) are also more likely than older doctors (ages 40 to 59) to think the transition to evidence-based medicine will improve care.
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GAO: States Were Quick to Implement PCIP

This article should be read by anyone applying for individual health insurance coverage, with a pre-existing condition sever enough to cause a decline or high rating by an insurance company.In California anyone can obtain health insurance coverage, the only question is the premium. – John Barrett

By Allison Bell – December 13, 2011

The painful birth of the federal Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) program — a health insurance program for people with health problems — may be due more to restrictions imposed by Congress than major problems with implementation.

John Dicken, a director at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), gives that assessment in a PCIP review requested by Senate Democrats. The senators asked the GAO to compare the early progress of the PCIP program to the early progress of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) program.

Dicken notes that Congress tried to keep PCIP risk pool coverage from crowding out existing public and private sources of coverage for people with health problems by requiring that PCIP applicants be uninsured for at least 6 months.

The 1997 law creating CHIP does not include any specific methods for excluding children who already have other health coverage, Dicken writes.

The 6-month no-coverage requirement for PCIP applicants is “the most common factor explaining lower than expected enrollment cited by the state PCIP officials we interviewed,” Dicken says.

Because of the requirements spelled out in the law that created the PCIP program, PCIP coverage costs an average of about $400 per month for a 50-year-old applicant, and the cost of the coverage is another reason for slow early enrollment growth, Dicken says.

“In contrast, many states did not charge any CHIP premiums, and among those states that did, premiums were significantly lower compared to PCIP,” Dicken says.

Congress added the law that created the PCIP program to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) in an effort to provide immediate relief for people who have a hard time buying health coverage because they have conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, cancer or hemophilia.

If PPACA takes effect on schedule and works as drafters expect, it will require insurers to start selling subsidized coverage on a guaranteed issue, mostly community-rated basis in 2014.

PPACA calls for PCIP to provide comprehensive health coverage for people with health problems for a price similar to the price healthy individuals pay for ordinary commercial health coverage.

Eligibility is not based on income, and the risk pools cannot charge higher rates for people with more severe health problems.

Congress let states choose between running PCIP risk pools themselves or letting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide PCIP risk pool services for their residents.

Program critics originally predicted that millions of uninsured Americans with health problems would rush to enroll in the program and quickly use up federal PCIP funding.

Analysts at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted the $5 billion in funding allocated for the program could accommodate about 200,000 people.

At the end of August, only about 34,000 people were enrolled in the program.

When the CHIP law was passed, CBO analysts estimated that the program would provide coverage for about 2.3 million children after 1999. After CHIP was in effect for about a year, the program had 705,000 enrollees.

States took about 3 years to implement CHIP and just 7 months to implement PCIP, Dicken says.

States with their own high-risk pool programs started their PCIPs faster than states without existing risk pool programs, but PCIP enrollment in the states with state risk pools was just 3.7 enrollees per 10,000 uninsured lives, compared with 5.5 enrollees per 10,000 uninsured lives in states that started with no state risk pools, Dicken says.

 

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Choking on Obamacare

By George F. Will, Published: December 2

In 1941, Carl Karcher was a 24-year-old truck driver for a bakery. Impressed by the large numbers of buns he was delivering, he scrounged up $326 to buy a hot dog cart across from a Goodyear plant. And the war came.

so did millions of defense industry workers and their cars. And, soon, Southern California’s contribution to American cuisine — fast food. Including, eventually, hundreds of Carl’s Jr. restaurants. Karcher died in 2008, but his legacy, CKE Restaurants, survives. It would thrive, says CEO Andy Puzder, but for government’s comprehensive campaign against job creation.

CKE, with more than 3,200 restaurants (Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s), has created 70,000 jobs, 21,000 directly and 49,000 with franchisees. The growth of those numbers will be inhibited by — among many government measures — Obama­care.

When CKE’s health-care advisers, citing Obamacare’s complexities, opacities and uncertainties, said that it would add between $7.3 million and $35.1 million to the company’s $12 million health-care costs in 2010, Puzder said: I need a number I can plan with. They guessed $18 million — twice what CKE spent last year building new restaurants. Obamacare must mean fewer restaurants.

And therefore fewer jobs. Each restaurant creates, on average, 25 jobs — and as much as 3.5 times that number of jobs in the community. (CKE spends about $1 billion a year on food and paper products, $175 million on advertising, $33 million on maintenance, etc.)

Puzder laughs about the liberal theory that businesses are not investing because they want to “punish Obama.” Rising health-care costs are, he says, just one uncertainty inhibiting expansion. Others are government policies raising fuel costs, which infect everything from air conditioning to the cost (including deliveries) of supplies, and the threat that the National Labor Relations Board will use regulations to impose something like “card check” in place of secret-ballot unionization elections.

CKE has about 720 California restaurants, in which 84 percent of the managers are minorities and 67 percent are women. CKE has, however, all but stopped building restaurants in this state because approvals and permits for establishing them can take up to two years, compared to as little as six weeks in Texas, and the cost to build one is $100,000 more than in Texas, where CKE is planning to open 300 new restaurants this decade.

CKE restaurants have 95 percent employee turnover in a year — not bad in this industry — and the health-care benefits under CKE’s current “mini-med” plans are capped in a way that makes them illegal under Obamacare. So CKE will have to convert many full-time employees to part-timers to limit the growth of its burdens under Obamacare.

In an economic climate of increasing uncertainties, Puzder says, one certainty is that many businesses now marginally profitable will disappear when Obamacare causes that margin to disappear. A second certainty is that “employers everywhere will be looking to reduce labor content in their business models as Obamacare makes employees unambiguously more expensive.”

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, by 2008 the cost of federal regulations had reached $1.75 trillion. That was 14 percent of national income unavailable for job-creating investments. And that was more than 11,000 regulations ago.

Seventy years ago, the local health department complained that Karcher’s hot dog cart had no restroom facilities. He got help from a nearby gas station. A state agency made him pay $15 for workers’ compensation insurance. Another agency said that he owed more than the $326 cost of the cart in back sales taxes. For $100, a lawyer successfully argued that Karcher did not because his customers ate their hot dogs off the premises.

Time was, American businesses could surmount such regulatory officiousness. But government’s metabolic urge to boss people around has grown exponentially and today CKE’s California restaurants are governed by 57 categories of regulations. One compels employees and even managers to take breaks during the busiest hours, lest one of California’s 200,000 lawyers comes trolling for business at the expense of business.

Barack Obama has written that during his very brief sojourn in the private sector he felt like “a spy behind enemy lines.” Puzder knows what it feels like when gargantuan government is composed of multitudes of regulators who regard business as the enemy. And 22.9 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or too discouraged to look for employment know what it feels like to be collateral damage in the regulatory state’s war on business.

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California Officials Measure PCIP Progress

The California Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) is growing rapidly, but the number of enrollees is still much lower than expected, and the average amount of claims per enrollee is much higher than expected.

The state’s Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board has reported on PCIP program performance in documents posted in connection with a recent board meeting.

If the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) takes effect on schedule and works as drafters expect, it will require insurers to start selling subsidized coverage on a guaranteed issue, mostly community-rated basis in 2014.

Congress added the PCIP program to PPACA in an effort to provide immediate relief for uninsured people with health problems.

PCIP is supposed to provide comprehensive health coverage for people with health problems for a price similar to the price of ordinary individual commercial health coverage.

Eligibility is not based on income, and the risk pools cannot charge higher rates for people with more severe health problems.

Congress let states choose between running PCIP risk pools themselves or letting HHS provide PCIP risk pool services for their residents.

To avoid crowding out existing commercial health coverage and government-provided coverage, including existing state-funded risk pools, PPACA drafters required that PCIP enrollees have gone without any form of health coverage, including state risk pool coverage, for at least 6 months.

Program critics originally predicted that millions of uninsured Americans with health problems would rush to enroll in the program and quickly use up federal PCIP funding. At the end of August, only about 34,000 people were enrolled in the program.

California was expecting to have about 23,000 residents in its PCIP program by February 2011, and it was expecting those enrollees’ claim costs to average about $1,100 per member per month.

As of the end of October 2011, the program had received about 8,500 applications and enrolled about 6,000 people. The program ended the month with 5,300 enrollees, up from 513 enrollees a year earlier. The enrollees have been averaging claim costs of $3,100 per member per month, officials say.

The high cost means that, unless more funding surfaces, the program can afford to serve only about 6,800 enrollees at a time, not 23,000, officials say.

The state has found that 19% of the enrollees are ages 29 or under; 41% are ages 30 to 49, and 39% are ages 50 to 64. Only 25% of the applicants have had help with filing their applications, and 96% of the subscribers speak English.

About 50 insurance agents and brokers have earned PCIP continuing education credits, and 120 people with the Certified Application Assistant designation have become PCIP certified.

Officials found that program vendors seem to be doing a good job of running the program. The plan administrator is processing 91.5% of clean claims within 10 business days, compared with a goal of 90%, and the administrator has resolved all disputed claims within 30 days, compared with a goal of 95%, officials say.

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IRS warned healthcare law could leave millions without insurance

By Julian Pecquet – 11/17/11 03:38 PM ET

President Obama’s healthcare law will leave millions of families without affordable coverage unless tax officials rewrite the rules on who gets subsidies, advocates warned Thursday.

A dozen consumer advocacy groups urged the Internal Revenue Service to allow workers’ spouses and dependents to qualify for tax credits if employer-sponsored family plans are unaffordable. The Treasury Department in August released proposed regulations that grant subsidies to workers and their families in cases when employer coverage costs too much for the employee only, but not when family coverage is out of reach.

The issue risks blowing up in Democrats’ face in 2014, when the subsidies for coverage in state-based insurance exchanges become available. House Republicans have already used the glitch, which The Hill first reported in July, as ammunition to hammer the law for allegedly discriminating against marriage.

Advocates shared their concerns in person with the IRS during a hearing on the tax credits after deluging the agency with comments about its proposed regulation last month. The proposed rule would not penalize families that can’t afford insurance, but advocates say that’s not enough.

“It’s not sufficient not to penalize families — what we want to do is make insurance affordable and get them into coverage,” said Lynn Quincy, senior policy analyst with Consumers Union.

IRS officials listened silently for two and a half hours and asked no questions. The Treasury Department has said its hands are tied because of the way the law was written.

Advocates weren’t having it.

Criticism of the proposed rule, said SEIU healthcare policy coordinator Dania Palanker, “occurred because (it) is in contradiction with the intent of the law.”

Advocates said repeatedly that the Treasury Department has the authority to change the law, as outlined in comments from the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

And they downplayed the cost of fixing the problem, citing a new UC-Berkeley micro-simulation study that concludes it would cost much less than the $50 billion a year suggested in an earlier, less thorough study.

“The legal analysis should be enough to make the case,” CBPP Vice President for Health Policy Judith Solomon told The Hill, “but there’s that looming cost issue.”

Advocates also urged the IRS to strengthen the definition of the minimum value requirement for employer-sponsored healthcare plans. The law requires employers to offer plans that cover at least 60 percent of the cost of the benefit or face a penalty.

The SEIU’s Palanker said the law however doesn’t define what those benefits should be, creating a “huge backdoor” for employers to continue offering sub-par coverage that the law seeks to eliminate. She called for employer benefits to be indexed to the government-regulated plans that will be offered on the state insurance exchanges.

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Since Obamacare’s Passage, Millions Have Lost Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance

Nov 11, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON

Throughout the Obamacare debate, President Obama repeatedly promised, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.” Now, Gallup reports that from the first quarter of 2010 (when Obama signed Obamacare into law) to the third quarter of this year, 2 percent of American adults lost their employer sponsored health insurance. In other words, about 4.5 million Americans lost their employer-sponsored insurance over a span of just 18 months.

This is not what the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had predicted would happen. Rather, the CBO had predicted that Obamacare would increase the number of people with employer-sponsored insurance by now.  It had predicted that, under Obamacare, 6 million more Americans would have employer-sponsored insurance in 2011 than in 2010. The CBO’s projected increase of 3 million under (pre-Obamacare) current law and an additional 3 million under Obamacare). So the CBO’s rosy projections for Obamacare (and even these paint a frightening picture) are already proving false.

Whether the decline in employer-sponsored insurance over the past 18 months is a product of Obamacare or of the Obama economy — and whether Obamacare is the principal cause of the anemic performance of the Obama economy — can be debated. But what’s clear is that, more than 25 months before Obamacare would really go into effect — if it’s not repealed first — employers are already dropping employees from their insurance rolls.

Take Walmart, for example — a prominent Obamacare supporter. Gallup writes,

“The nation’s largest private employer, Wal-Mart, announced in October that new part-time employees who work less than an average of 24 hours a week would no longer be able to get their health insurance from the company. Wal-Mart laid out several other cuts to its health insurance offerings, including some workers’ ability get coverage for their spouses. Other companies have already made and will likely continue to make similar changes to their health insurance benefits….

“If Wal-Mart’s decision is a precursor of how employers intend to manage their healthcare costs, the downward trend in employer-based healthcare will likely continue.”

So in addition to costing about $2.5 trillion over its real first decade (2014 to 2023), looting nearly $1 trillion from Medicare over that time (according to the CBO), forcing Americans to buy government-approved health insurance under penalty of law, and amassing unprecedented power and money in Washington at the expense of Americans’ liberty — if Obamacare stays on the books, you may like your health care plan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can keep your health care plan.

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ObamaCare Is A Flop With Small Businesses

From Investors Business Daily 11/10/2011

Health Reform: To the long and growing list of failed ObamaCare promises, you can now add this one: The tax credit that was supposed to cut insurance costs for millions of small businesses has proved to be a complete bust.

Shortly after President Obama signed his signature health reform law, he boasted that it would help the economy, pointing specifically to the small-business tax credit. Under the law, businesses that employ fewer than 25 full-time workers can get a credit of up to 35% of the premiums, climbing to 50% in 2014.

“This health care tax credit is pro-jobs, it’s pro-business, and it starts this year,” Obama said. The administration has since repeated this refrain many times.

Deputy chief of staff Nancy-Ann DeParle claimed that the tax credit is “one of the largest tax cuts for health care in history.” Small Business Administration head Karen Mills said it “will provide about $40 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years,” adding that it is “one of the most significant aspects of health care reform for small businesses.”

And to make sure everyone knew about this great new benefit, the IRS sent postcards to roughly 4 million eligible businesses, did extensive press outreach, organized more than 1,000 events and created a new Web page.

Yet despite it all, a mere 228,000 small businesses — just 5% of those eligible — have signed up for the credit, according to a Treasury Department Inspector General report released this week.

Why were the administration’s forecasts so wildly off the mark?

According to the IG report, one big reason is that the rules were way too complicated for most small businesses, noting that many complained the credit “is not worth the time and effort to claim it.” Among other things, applicants have to wade through seven worksheets.

This is, by the way, precisely what the National Federation of Independent Business — a stalwart ObamaCare critic — said would happen. “Far fewer than 4 million are eligible for the credit as a practical matter and still fewer will be able to avail themselves of the full credit,” it said. “Others who are eligible will find the credit so small and complex that it is not worth the cost of calculation.”

If this were the only way ObamaCare failed to lived up to its promises, it would be bad enough. But this is just the latest in a string of troubling flops. Among them:

• The $2,500 cut in insurance costs Obama promised his reforms would produce has instead turned into a premium hike of $2,400 since he took office.

• ObamaCare was supposed to provide affordable access to hundreds of thousands denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. But instead, the “high risk” pools have attracted a meager 30,000.

• The initial insurance market reforms, which raised annual payment caps, unexpectedly threatened to push more than 3.4 million into the ranks of the uninsured, forcing the administration to quickly issue more than 1,500 waivers.

• Obama was also forced to abandon the long-term care insurance part of the reform after realizing it was hopelessly flawed.

• And the advertised price tag has already been busted, with the Congressional Budget Office upping the cost by more than 10% to cover unanticipated administrative costs.

Remember: These are all the quick and easy reforms contained in ObamaCare. Given that none of them has worked as promised, imagine the nightmares ahead when ObamaCare’s massive changes kick in after 2013.

We can only hope that a Republican president kills the entire misbegotten law before then, so we’ll never have to find out.

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