The Individual Health Care Mandate- What Does it Mean to You?

  If you aren’t sure of what to make of the Affordable Care Act, then you are in excellent company. Quite a few people still don’t understand how the healthcare plan is going to work and are even more unclear on how the individual healthcare mandate in particular will affect them and their loved ones.

 We are all aware of what happened on September 30, 2013 at midnight, when that small part of the Congress stepped aside and allowed some government operations to spiral into shutdown mode oblivious of the constant rebuttals from the Senate floor. Nothing was going to stop the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and other House Republicans who wanted a bill that include anti-Obamacare amendments whereas Senate Democrats wanted a spending bill with no amendments attached.

The United States federal government shutdown of 2013 is ongoing, having begun on October 1, 2013. The primary issue of dispute between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democrat-controlled Senate (the latter supported by President Obama) is the Republicans’ desire to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010.

So here’s a quick Q&A of what happened and what to expect in the coming days ahead.

As a result of the shutdown, more than 800,000 federal workers are expected to be furloughed starting Tuesday.

1. Why did the Government shut down?

Congress’ key duty to the Constitution is to pass spending bills that fund the government. If it doesn’t, most functions of government, from funding agencies to paying out small business loans and processing passport requests come to a halt. But some services, like Social Security, air traffic control and active military pay, will continue to be funded. By the way, members of Congress still get paid.

2. Why does it have to pass a spending bill in the middle of the year?

It doesn’t have to but, just to let you know, the government’s fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.

3. What was the holdup?

A few members of the House spearheaded this campaign and led House Republicans to insist that any new spending bill should include provisions that would defund, derail or otherwise chip away at Obamacare. Senate Democrats are just as insistent that it doesn’t.

4. How is Obamacare tied to the spending bill?

Don’t be confused, the health care law is not directly tied to funding the government, but it’s being used as a bargaining chip. A group of Republicans, led by freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, believe the president’s signature domestic policy achievement is so bad for the country that it is worth disrupting government funding to undercut it.

5. What are some of the objections to Obamacare?

The real name of this health law, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, requires all Americans (employed /unemployed) to have health insurance. Opponents of this law echoed the fact that the government has gone beyond its boundaries to instill health care for all Americans and that employers will be burdened by the extra costs to insure its workers. Some critics have also criticized the additional Medicare tax (3.8%), which is part of the law, saying that by imposing such a tax, it’s basically sending jobs overseas. This additional tax impacts household income that exceeds $200,000 ($250,00 for MFJ).

6. How can the Democrats defend themselves?

They are saying the law will expand access to health care and help lower the rising costs of health coverage. Obamacare prevents those with pre-existing medical conditions from being denied health insurance, and proponents say those who have health insurance will no longer have to indirectly pay for those who show up in emergency rooms uninsured.

7. What happened with the spending bill over the weekend?

The Republican-dominated House passed two spending bill amendments Sunday morning; one that would delay Obamacare individual health mandate for a year and one that would repeal the Obamacare’ s additional 3.8% Medicare tax. The bill went back to the Senate, where Democrats who control that chamber have consistently said any changes to Obamacare would be a deal-killer. Note: Republicans have already delayed the Employers’ health mandate until 2015.

8. What happened Monday?

The Senate rejected the latest House proposal, prompting the House to approve another spending plan that would remove the Obamacare individual mandate. The Senate rejected that, too, setting the stage for a shutdown.

9. What happened overnight?

House members voted to reaffirm the anti-Obamacare amendments that Senate Democrats have said would be a deal-breaker. They also requested a conference with the Senate to work out their differences. Conferences take up time.

10. What will happen Tuesday?

The Senate will reconvene and will likely make a decision on the House’s offer to talk. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said late Monday night that he wouldn’t agree to such a meeting until the House presents a clean spending bill stripped of the amendments. “We will not go to conference with a gun to our head,” he said.

11. Has this happened before?

Yes, this shutdown is the first since late 1995 during the Clinton administration, Congress approved retroactive pay. That one lasted 21 days, into 1996.

12. How many government workers could be furloughed?

Most of the 3.3 million government workers are deemed “essential” and will continue working, but more than 800,000 civilian and government employees will be furloughed or sent home. Many of the furloughed federal workers are supposed to be out of their offices within four hours of the start of business Tuesday. They will not be paid during the shutdown.

13. What will this do to the economy?

A lot depends on how long the shutdown lasts. If it’s just a few days, the economic impact might not be severe but builds with time. The tourist industry is the first to get hit because of closure of parks and inability of foreign tourists to get visas. A three to four-week shutdown would cost the economy around $55 billion.

14. How will this affect you?

You’d still receive your mails, the military will continue to fight and Social Security checks will continue to be paid.  But, if you need a federal loan to start a new business or money to buy a house, you’ll have to wait. If you want a gun permit or a passport, forget it – that won’t happen anytime soon.

15. Will a shutdown kill Obamacare?

No. Most of the money for Obamacare comes from new taxes and fees, as well as from cost cuts to other programs like Medicare and other types of funding that will continue despite the government shutdown.

16. Will the president get paid during a shutdown?

Yes. President Obama’s annual salary is $400,000, and this is considered mandatory spending as our Commander-in-Chief. This would not be affected.

17. What about House and Senate members?

Senate and House members will continue to be paid also. The 27th Amendment prevents any Congress from changing its own pay.

18. What does the average American think of all this?

Well, according to a CNN poll, 46% blame congressional Republicans if the government closes its doors, 36% are saying that the president would be more responsible and 13% are pointing fingers at both.

19. Isn’t there another matter — the debt ceiling?

Ah yes, that’s the next battle brewing. Remember that time when you maxed out your credit card? That’s what the debt limit is all about. The U.S. is on the verge of maxing out its $16.699 trillion credit card. And the president must ask Congress to raise the country’s credit limit. But the debt ceiling debacle won’t come to a head until October 17. Perhaps it’s best to deal with one showdown at a time.

20. Can Congress agree on anything?

The House and Senate did agree on one thing. They finalized legislation Monday to keep paying troops in the event of a shutdown. You know what that means, don’t you?

Sidebar:  Obamacare is not a new health plan or program. The health plan to insure all Americans was placed on the table but met with such venom that it was stifled and buried for several years. In 1994, when President Bill Clinton took an earlier stab at a health care overhaul, the conservative thinker Irving Kristol published a manifesto about why Republicans had to stop it.

“Passage of the Clinton health plan in any form would be disastrous,” Mr. Kristol, wrote, “It would guarantee an unprecedented federal intrusion into the American economy. Its success would signal the rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the moment that such policy is being perceived as a failure in other areas.”

Two decades after Mr. Clinton’s ultimately failed attempt, Obamacare poses the same sort of threat.

What do you think?


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