Incorrect tax information. Overly generous government subsidies that must be paid back. A special extension for certain taxpayers who are unaware of the rules. Surprise penalties. Sticker shock in premiums. And deductibles.
Obamacare already looks as inefficient and mistake-prone as the Department of Motor Vehicles, according to one leading physician who has served as the president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
“[Health care] is not something that government should be involved in to begin with,” said Dr. Lee Hieb, an orthopedic surgeon. “They’ve never done it before, it’s a huge experiment – it just doesn’t work. And, you know, this is just medicine run by the DMV. If you want efficiency, don’t look to the government.”
The Obama administration admitted Friday that the federal government sent the wrong tax information to roughly 800,000 people who bought health insurance last year on HealthCare.gov. Administration officials asked those people – who represent about 15 percent of all of last year’s HealthCare.gov enrollees – to delay filing their tax returns for two or three weeks.
As a result of the mistake, about 50,000 people who have already filed their 2014 returns will likely have to file again with updated numbers, according to the Washington Post.
Hieb, author of “Surviving the Medical Meltdown: Your Guide to Living Through the Disaster of Obamcare,” said the error provides evidence of the incompetence of bureaucracies.
“It just reinforces everything that we’ve always known about government getting involved in anything,” she said. “They make it complicated, they make it costly, and it ultimately doesn’t work better than a person could do on their own.”
Jane Orient, M.D., the current executive director of AAPS, agrees with Hieb.
“This is yet another example of the pervasive incompetence in the implementation of Obamacare, and by the very agency in charge of enforcement,” Orient said. “It is one more reason to shun everything connected with the program. Pay the penalty if you must (if the IRS can figure it out and you are not covered by an exemption).”
Orient runs a private consulting practice in which she neither contracts with third-party payers nor provides covered services to beneficiaries of government programs. She advises people to explore alternatives to traditional insurance.
“Best to ditch ‘insurance’ altogether – a guaranteed money sink with no guarantee of care – and sign up for a health-sharing ministry (exempt from penalty by statute) and possibly a direct-pay primary care practice,” she said.
As further evidence of government’s incompetence in the medical field, Hieb pointed to a 2002 GAO study of Medicare customer service representatives who answer phone calls from confused doctors and insurers about Medicare billing rules. The study found that the customer service representatives gave incorrect advice 85 percent of the time.
The government tried to solve the problem, but in a new study two years later, the Medicare representative gave wrong advice a whopping 96 percent of the time.
“Don’t expect the tax guys to do better,” Hieb warned of the IRS, which is charged with much of the work of enforcing Obamacare rules. “Now you’re mixing medical advice and insurance with the tax code. What could be worse?”
Tax preparation company H&R Block found that in the first six weeks of tax filings, 52 percent of Obamacare subsidy recipients were forced to pay back some of their subsidies this tax season.
That is because when these customers signed up for their subsidies, they had to forecast their 2014 income to determine the proper subsidy amount. Customers who underestimated their earnings will have to pay back part of their subsidy, either by receiving a smaller refund or actually sending the IRS money.
Big deal, says Dr. Hieb. To people who make estimated tax payments or deal with Medicare, like she does, the concept of handing back government money is nothing new.
“Welcome to the tax world,” Hieb said. “If these people have never paid taxes before, it’ll be a shocker, but to anybody who’s ever paid taxes, they know what this is like. I think it’s probably good that we’re distributing this information to people that have never been punched in the face by the government’s tax man before.”
It appears the government’s tax man is showing a bit more mercy in another area. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced last Friday that most of the 6 million people who owe a penalty for being uninsured will receive a “special enrollment period” in which to sign up for health insurance.
The original deadline was Feb. 15, but the government will now allow the uninsured to sign up from March 15 to April 30 as well. The special sign-up period is available to those who attest they first learned of the tax penalty after open enrollment ended, while they were preparing their taxes. These people will still owe a penalty for the months they were uninsured without an exemption in 2014, but the new period is meant to give them the chance to get covered for the rest of this year and avoid future penalties.
Hieb thinks it’s silly to even have a specified enrollment period at all.
“In the land of the free, why should you only be able to buy insurance between November and February?” she asked. “That’s insane to begin with. So why have an enrollment period?”
The surgeon sees it as more evidence the government is trying to micromanage its citizens’ lives.
“The system becomes more and more authoritarian, statist, ‘You must do this, now you’ve gotta do this, now you’ve gotta do this. We’ve gotta force people to do this because we want this outcome,'” Hieb said. “At some point, we just keep going down the road to more and more authoritarian control by the government.”