Never mind the cliff. Talk about much ado about nothing…
And for any of you out there who actually found themselves surprised by this short-sighted, one-sided solution, you simply haven’t been paying attention. And don’t be surprised again in a couple of months when we end up right back here. Or as one congressman put it, all they managed to do was break down a single fiscal cliff into a trio of smaller ones – never mind that despite the deal, all they managed to do is essentially tax all of us more (via the payroll tax holiday expiration) while adding another $4 trillion to the budget deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
It is an excellent case study in federal backsliding as an everyday way of doing business: yet another Medicare doc fix when the administration touted that reimbursement cut as a way of making PPACA budget-neutral.
It’s also a great example of political sleight of hand. While all the talking heads chatter about the cliff, taxes and budget cuts, other things are going on – and yeah some of it stems from the deal lawmakers struck to avoid the cliff, at least for now.
But that’s not today’s topic. You can find the actual text of the cliff bargain – dubbed innocuously (and deceptively) enough as the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 – here, along with a checklist of how your own representatives voted. Do with it what you want. I’m tired of the contrived drama (debt ceiling sniping again already?) and the utter void of actual solutions.
In fact, I went over the cliff weeks ago, but the moment of clarity struck New Year’s morning as my oldest daughter and I drove to get donuts. My about-to-be 14-year-old asked me about the cliff and whether she should be worried (after asking me what it was in the first place). I honestly didn’t know what to say. Of course she should be worried, I thought reflexively, I have no doubt this generation of leaders will continue to do just enough to just keep passing the problem along. I still have hope that her generation just might get it right. And that’s what I told her, “I’m screwed, but you guys will get it right.”
All that aside, what you might not have noticed was another one of those arbitrary rulings by the Obama administration regarding affordability. As if we needed another reminder how little of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was actually written down when Congress passed it almost four years ago now.
In short, once the mandate kicks in (one more year…) employers must offer health insurance to employees and their dependents, but penalties won’t be based on coverage affordability. In short, employers still have to offer coverage, but it only has to be affordable to the actual employee. Extended coverage could cost you. Of course, what’s affordable depends on who you ask.