BY ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — The architects of the Affordable Care Act thought they had a blunt instrument to force people — even young and healthy ones — to buy insurance through the law’s online marketplaces: a tax penalty for those who remain uninsured.
It has not worked all that well, and that is at least partly to blame forsoaring premiums next year on some of the health law’s insurance exchanges.
The full weight of the penalty will not be felt until April, when those who have avoided buying insurance will face penalties of around $700 a person or more. But even then that might not be enough: For the young and healthy who are badly needed to make the exchanges work, it is sometimes cheaper to pay the Internal Revenue Service than an insurance company charging large premiums, with huge deductibles.
“In my experience, the penalty has not been large enough to motivate people to sign up for insurance,” said Christine Speidel, a tax lawyer at Vermont Legal Aid.
Some people do sign up, especially those with low incomes who receive the most generous subsidies, Ms. Speidel said. But others, she said, find that they cannot afford insurance, even with subsidies, so “they grudgingly take the penalty.”
The I.R.S. says that 8.1 million returns included penalty payments for people who went without insurance in 2014, the first year in which most people were required to have coverage. A preliminary report on the latest tax-filing season, tabulating data through April, said that 5.6 million returns included penalties averaging $442 a return for people uninsured in 2015.
With the health law’s fourth open-enrollment season beginning Tuesday, consumers are anxiously weighing their options.
William H. Weber, 51, a business consultant in Atlanta, said he paid $1,400 a month this year for a Humana health plan that covered him and his wife and two children. Premiums will increase 60 percent next year, Mr. Weber said, and he does not see alternative policies that would be less expensive. So he said he was seriously considering dropping insurance and paying the penalty.
“We may roll the dice next year, go without insurance and hope we have no major medical emergencies,” Mr. Weber said. “The penalty would be less than two months of premiums.” (He said that he did not qualify for a subsidy because his income was too high, but that his son, a 20-year-old barista in New York City, had a great plan with a subsidy.)
Iris I. Burnell, the manager of a Jackson Hewitt Tax Service office on Capitol Hill, said she met this week with a client in his late 50s who has several part-time jobs and wants to buy insurance on the exchanges. But, she said, “he’s finding that the costs are prohibitive on a monthly basis, so he has resigned himself to the fact that he will have to suffer the penalty.”
When Congress was writing the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010, lawmakers tried to balance carrots and sticks: subsidies to induce people to buy insurance and tax penalties “to ensure compliance,” in the words of the Senate Finance Committee.
But the requirement for people to carry insurance is one of the most unpopular provisions of the health law, and the Obama administration has been cautious in enforcing it. The I.R.S. portrays the decision to go without insurance as a permissible option, not as a violation of federal law.
The law “requires you and each member of your family to have qualifying health care coverage (called minimum essential coverage), qualify for a coverage exemption, or make an individual shared responsibility payment when you file your federal income tax return,”the tax agency says on its website.
Some consumers who buy insurance on the exchanges still feel vulnerable. Deductibles are so high, they say, that the insurance seems useless. So some think that whether they send hundreds of dollars to the I.R.S. or thousands to an insurance company, they are essentially paying something for nothing.
Obama administration officials say that perception is wrong. Even people with high deductibles have protection against catastrophic costs, they say, and many insurance plans cover common health care services before consumers meet their deductibles. In addition, even when consumers pay most or all of a hospital bill, they often get the benefit of discounts negotiated by their insurers.
The health law authorized certain exemptions from the coverage requirement, and the Obama administration has expanded that list through rules and policy directives. More than 12 million taxpayers claimed one or more coverage exemptions last year because, for instance, they were homeless, had received a shut-off notice from a utility company or were experiencing other hardships.
“The penalty for violating the individual mandate has not been very effective,” said Joseph J. Thorndike, the director of the tax history project at Tax Analysts, a nonprofit publisher of tax information. “If it were effective, we would have higher enrollment, and the population buying policies in the insurance exchange would be healthier and younger.”
Americans have decades of experience with tax deductions and other tax breaks aimed at encouraging various types of behavior, as well as “sin taxes” intended to discourage other kinds of behavior, Mr. Thorndike said. But, he said: “It is highly unusual for the federal government to use tax penalties to encourage affirmative behavior. That’s a hard sell.”
The maximum penalty has been increasing gradually since 2014. Federal officials and insurance counselors who advise consumers have been speaking more explicitly about the penalties, so they could still prove effective.
Many health policy experts say the penalties would be more effective if they were tougher. That argument alarms consumer advocates.
“If you make the penalties tougher, you need to make financial assistance broader and deeper,” said Michael Miller, the policy director of Community Catalyst, a consumer group seeking health care for all.
This guy is a perfect example of the GLOBAL elite, everyone.
So incredibly far-removed from you and me.
They live and work in gilded cages and only mingle with their rich, smug friends.
So, when Obamacare begins its final descent into the bowels of FLOP HELL, they think it’s funny.
What does it matter to them?
They’re exempt from this mess.
This is a movement – we are the political OUTSIDERS fighting against the ESTABLISHMENT!
Join the resistance and help us fight to put America First!
BY PAUL JOSEPH WATSON
Another reason as to why Ryan tried to sabotage Trump’s campaign?
Hillary Clinton’s campaign circulated the name of one of Paul Ryan’s relatives as a potential Supreme Court pick, suggesting a conflict of interest that could feed in to the Republican Speaker of the House’s dislike for Donald Trump.
An email released in part 19 of the Wikileaks Podesta dump features an article sent by Hillary advisor Sara Solow to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and Hillary’s foreign policy advisor Jake Sullivan on February 29, 2016.
The piece draws attention to Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“She was confirmed by without any Republican opposition in the Senate not once, but *twice*. She was confirmed to her current position in 2013 by unanimous consent – that is, without any stated opposition. She was also previously confirmed unanimously to a seat on the U.S. Sentencing Commission (where she became vice chair),” reads the email.
“Her family is impressive. She is married to a surgeon and has two young daughters. Her father is a retired lawyer and her mother a retired school principal. Her brother was a police officer (in the unit that was the basis for the television show *The Wire*) and is now a law student, and she is related by marriage to Congressman (and Speaker of the House) Paul Ryan.”
Earlier this month, Ryan said that he would no longer defend or campaign for Donald Trump. A poll released this week found that nearly two thirds of Republicans trust Donald Trump more than Ryan to lead the GOP.
Many Trump supporters speculated that Ryan was involved in the leaking of the infamous Billy Bush tape, in which Trump made lewd comments about women, as part of a plot to sabotage the Republican nominee’s campaign.
Could the fact that one of his relatives is being touted as a likely Clinton Supreme Court pick be another reason as to why Ryan – who has been accused by many of being in bed with the Washington establishment – has abandoned his support for Donald Trump?
David Brock accused of “elitist racism”
Paul Joseph Watson – OCTOBER 27, 2016
A new email released as part of the Wikileaks Podesta dump features Clinton ally Brent Budowsky accusing Hillary operative David Brock of having a plan that relied upon black voters being “stupid”.
The email, sent to Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and another Clinton ally CEO Roy Spence, centers around a discussion of a Bernie Sanders campaign ad which featured “many black faces”.
Back in January, Clinton operative David Brock caused consternation within the campaign when he publicly claimed that Bernie Sanders didn’t care about black people.
Budowsky is not impressed with Brock’s outburst, writing in the email, “Brock makes the cardinal mistake of those who bring politics into disrepute with voters. He tells a lie that people will know is a lie, and insults the intelligence of black voters with a kind of elitist racism that Bill and Hillary Clinton should not be seen with.”
“I guess Brock’s plan is that black voters are stupid and will not watch the ad and believe his lie,” writes Budowsky.
“I cannot think of anything more desperate, more stupid and more self-destructive than David Brock lying about the Bernie ad and playing a seamy brand of the politics of race using the tactic of deceit on her behalf,” adds the The Hill and Huffington Post columnist, before offering to write a campaign ad for HIllary to counter the Bernie Sanders ad.
The email once again underscores the Clinton camp’s paranoia about not being able to authentically connect with African-American voters in a way that Bernie Sanders could.
Some black voters have been reluctant to support Clinton as a result of her support for a 1994 crime bill that resulted in the mass incarceration of young black Americans, whom Hilary referred to at the time as “super predators”.
Yes, such a thing really exists.
You see, the CIA’s man in Hollywood wants to help actors, authors, directors, producers and screenwriters “gain a better understanding” of the intelligence agency in order to ensure “accurate portrayals” of its activities. It even wants to help fire up the neurons and actually give you some good ideas if you’re coming up short in that department. Indeed, the CIA provides “inspiration for future storylines” and lists them on its website. Of course, it’s all in the interest of creating authentic and balanced portrayals of US intelligence agencies and the US military. And they’re quite busy, too. Between 2006 and 2011, the CIA public relations office had input into at least 22 film and movie projects.
In a column for the Washington Post in 2011, David Sirota noted that the Pentagon too enlists the help of Hollywood for PR purposes when things are going awry and Americans are becoming weary of war. Movies like Top Gun in the 1980s and Zero Dark Thirty more recently were made in consultation with the Pentagon and White House. The result of this “creative input for Pentagon assistance” bargain created an entertainment culture “rigged to produce relatively few anti-war movies and dozens of blockbusters that glorify the military” and which amounts to “government subsidized propaganda,” Sirota wrote.
The CIA has had a hand in creating TV shows like 24, Homelandand Alias. The Americans — an FX show about two Russian spies living undercover in the US — was created by a former CIA agent, and the agency reportedly approves the scripts for each episode.
A piece in the Guardian in 2008 called the CIA’s involvement in Hollywood a “tale of deception and subversion that would seem improbable if it were put on screen”. Of course, it’s unlikely to be put on screen, given that the agency which provides guidance on CIA-related movies (…) is the CIA.
Enlisting Hollywood help with “anti-Russia messaging”
Remember the “inspiration for future storylines” list mentioned earlier? Well, guess what? The liaison’s “current pick” for a possible future movie project is about one Ryszard Kukliński — a Polish colonel and spy for NATO who spent years passing secret Soviet documents to the CIA. I wonder why they’d be interested in that sort of thing right now. It couldn’t be anything to do with deteriorating relations between Russia and the West, could it?
It may sound like conspiracy theory, but the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment revealed that the the US State Department has actively sought out the biggest players in Hollywood and tried to enlist their help with what they called “anti-Russia messaging” for the public’s consumption through innocent entertainment. In other words, the government asked Hollywood for help producing propaganda — although I’m sure the State Department would call it something nicer.
Richard Stengel, the US under secretary for public diplomacy, wrote to Sony CEO Mark Lynton explaining that the government needed help countering both ISIS and “Russian narratives” and said this wasn’t something the State Department could do “on its own”. He suggested convening a meeting of media executives to discuss ideas, content, production and “commercial possibilities”. Lynton responded with a list of media executives at other entertainment companies including Disney and Fox. It’s unclear from the emails whether that meeting Stengel requested ever happened, but judging by much of the recent entertainment industry output, one might be forgiven for assuming it did.
Negative depictions of Russia in American and British news and entertainment media are hardly new — but at least as far as I can tell, there’s certainly been an uptick over the past 12-18 months, and it coincides nicely with a major US government-led anti-Russia messaging campaign which has also spilled over into much of Western print and broadcast media. Gratuitous mentions of Russia and Vladimir Putin where they are not necessary are becoming tiresome. For me, the last straw was sitting down to watch Bridget Jones’s Baby last month and being subjected to an entirely unnecessary and irrelevant subplot about the anti-Putin punk band Pussy Riot and their struggle for free speech. It was the last straw because it was just one more in a long line of useless allusions to big bad Russia that seemed to come from nowhere.
In the Netflix political drama House of Cards, Pussy Riot — the real ones this time — got their own cameo alongside evil Putin (not the real one). But even when there isn’t a major storyline attached to Russia, somehow the country frequently gets thrown in anyway. Russia is still the go-to country when there needs to be a joke about scary or immoral foreigners. There are endless examples.
In NBC’s Scandal, one character suggests Putin might randomly invade Belarus. In CBS’s Madam Secretary, one character spews the line: “I can’t go back to Russia, it’s a pigsty.” In the recently released movie Bad Moms, one of the bad moms, protesting something or other which I can’t recall, shouts “What is this, Russia?” The short-running show Allegiance was entirely about a Russian sleeper cell in the US which was suddenly reactivated and whose members — now fully adapted to blissful life in America — no longer wanted anything to do with Russia. How original.
NBC’s Blacklist has given us multiple Russian baddies and the sitcom 2 Broke Girls has made its fair share of Putin jokes. The third installment of The Purge introduced us to a gang of menacing Russian “murder tourists” who take advantage of the annual 12-hour period during which any crime, including murder, becomes legal. I could go on, but you get the idea: Russians are bad.
Is it all CIA influence? Is it all the result of the State Department’s “anti-Russia messaging” campaign? Not necessarily. While the CIA does have huge influence in Hollywood on specific projects, many of the random negative references to Russia are probably the result of a media information war which naturally spills over into the creative output of writers and directors. Many of them probably shouldn’t be blamed too harshly. They’re fed a diet of anti-Russia messaging through the news media, so it’s no wonder these kinds of lines end up in their movies and TV shows.
Interestingly, in June, the Senate Intelligence Committee included an amendment to Congress’ annual intelligence spending bill which would require the Director of National Intelligence to submit reports detailing the relationship between the CIA and Hollywood. But the Senate committee is no doubt less worried about the propaganda effects and more worried about the CIA divulging sensitive and classified information to movie directors, as was the case, controversially, with Zero Dark Thirty.
Anyway, tip for aspiring filmmakers and TV producers: Leave the Russia jokes out. It’s getting boring.