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Administration’s Price Tag Obsession Could Still Politically Undermine Obamacare

During the health care debate I considered one of the stupidest political moves made by the Obama administration was to put so much importance on the official price tag. A huge amount of time was wasted trying to a get a pretty CBO score and implementation was delayed past two elections in a pathetic attempt to hide the price. Yet despite all this work, Democrats got basically no political benefit.

Apparently no one in the administration learned their lesson. Once again Obama is letting his obsession with penny pinching seriously undermine public support for his signature law.

The administration is in the process of making two big implementation decisions that would technically make the law cheaper, but would also leave millions of Americans worse off as a result. The first is to not allow multi-employer plans used by some unions to qualify for exchange subsidies. This could cause some people to lose their current coverage.

The second, and far more significant decision, is to define “affordability” only for individuals instead of for the family. The law says people with employer-provided insurance that exceeds 9.5 percent of income can get access to exchange subsidies. The problem is the IRS wants to apply this only to the cost of an individual policy even if the individual would need to buy a far more expensive family policy. People with families could end up in an affordability no man’s land.

Both of these decisions technically would reduce the amount of money the government is spending on exchange subsidies but at the high cost of leaving many people with inferior insurance, large bills or no insurance at all. With the law still unpopular this seems like a terribly misguided move.

Photo by Kaustubh Taware released under Creative Commons License

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at