By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER
WASHINGTON (AP) — Filing a federal tax return is about to get more complicated for millions of families because of President Barack Obama’s health law. But they shouldn’t expect much help from the Internal Revenue Service.
Got a question for the IRS? Good luck reaching someone by phone. The tax agency says only half of the 100 million people expected to call this year will be able to reach a person.
Callers who do get through may have to wait on hold for 30 minutes or more to talk to someone who will answer only the simplest questions.
“Taxpayers who need help are not getting it, and tax compliance is likely to suffer over the longer term if these problems are not quickly and decisively addressed,” said a report Wednesday by agency watchdog Nina E. Olson.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says budget cuts are forcing the agency to reduce taxpayer services and other functions. The number of audits will decline, technology upgrades will be delayed and the agency might be forced to shut down and furlough workers for two days later this year, Koskinen said.
The IRS will no longer help low-income taxpayers fill out their returns, and tax refunds could be delayed for people who file paper returns.
“It couldn’t be worse timing,” Koskinen said of the budget cuts.
Congress cut the IRS by $346 million for the budget year that ends Sept. 30. Koskinen says the agency’s $10.9 billion budget is its lowest since 2008. When adjusted for inflation, the budget hasn’t been this low since 1998, he said.
(CNN)Despite the conventional wisdom that Washington is a frozen island of partisanship, a hopeful thaw is underway. For the past year, we have been spearheading a bipartisan effort to update the process of discovering, developing and delivering medical therapies to help people live longer and better lives.
After months of listening to experts and stakeholders, the path to faster cures is clearer than ever. We call it the 21st Century Cures initiative, and Congress is about to take a major leap down this road of hope.
There are over 7,000 diseases yet we only have cures and treatments for 500 of them. This unacceptable fact led to one simple question: What policies can we enact to help get more cures and treatments to patients?
Our review revealed several areas of reform that will close the gap between the science of medicine and the regulations that impact the volume and fate of new therapies. Our legislation will modernize all of these categories, removing outdated hurdles that can prevent innovation from flourishing or from fleeing the United States.
First, we must modernize clinical trials to streamline the approval of drugs and devices. Safety has and always will be a top priority. But the old approach of automatically applying a therapy to a broad group of patients is no longer the best path forward, particularly for those diseases for which we do not have a treatment or cure.
New York Times correspondent Abby Goodnough asks if the latest legal challenges to ObamaCare are signaling a divide within the party or are Republicans still recovering from getting burned when the ACA went to the Supreme Court last time?
About 5 million middle-income people in 36 states currently are receiving subsidies for health insurance through the federal exchanges. Since 87 percent of them are receiving subsidies to purchase coverage, many likely would no longer be able to afford coverage.
Ms. Goodenough reports that after the health overhaul law was passed in 2010, Republicans on both the state and federal level spoke with one voice flatly rejecting ObamaCare. However, in the years following ObamaCare’s passage while the majority of governors still remain critical of the law, nine governors have expanded their Medicaid programs and four more governors are considering Medicaid expansion this year at the urging of hospitals and business groups.
In the past months, a number of conservative groups and political leaders have filed Amicus briefs in the King vs. Burwell challenge that will be heard by the Supreme Court on March 4. As a result, Ms. Goodenough reports that new attention is being drawn to the divisions within the Republican Party over the law. Almost two dozen briefs were filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in the King case, but she says “shockingly few state officials” signed on.
One of the few exceptions was the Amicus brief filed by the Galen Institute which had 19 Republican state legislators in Tennessee and two in Ohio join. Other notable briefs include one filed by six Republican state attorneys general- in Alabama, Georgia, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia. Divides in the party can be seen within states like Florida where Senator Marco Rubio who signed a brief with 14 members of Congress, but Florida’s Republican Attorney General, Pam Bondi, did not join in the States brief.
To read the full article by Abby Goodnough please go to LINK
By Scott Rasmussen
As we enter 2015, the politics of the president’s health care law are little changed from last year or the year before, or any year since it was passed. The details change with the calendar, but year after year, the law remains a major drag on President Obama’s popularity and legacy.
Defenders of the law commonly known as Obamacare continue to believe the law will eventually become popular and point to a growing number of people with insurance as proof the law is working. Sooner or later, they reason, those who receive insurance through the healthcare exchanges will express their gratitude in the voting booth.
But that’s not going to happen. Why? Partly because the irritation factor has been and will continue to be far more significant than most advocates of the law want to admit.
The next round of irritation is almost here and will directly impact the people that the president’s team is hoping to win over.
The law provides health insurance subsidies to more than 6 million taxpayers. In general, they are lower-income Americans who file the simplest tax returns — a 1040 EZ.
Now, however, that will not be an option. Instead, all who received subsidies must file a Form 8962, which requires five pages of IRS rules to explain. Among other things, it requires a full accounting including the cost of their premium, subsidy and tax credit. Not only that, the form is to be filled out for each and every month of the year.
This may not seem like a big deal to those who write the rules and are affluent enough to hire someone else to prepare their taxes. But it is unlikely that those receiving health care subsidies have accountants to handle such things.
By Jason D. Fodeman, MD
President Obama recently checked in to Walter Reed hospital with a sore throat. During his visit, it appears he received a suite of treatments to aid in diagnosing his illness, including a CT scan, a fiber optic exam, and ENT consultation. Ultimately, the doctors concluded that he has acid reflux.
As the leader of the free world, Obama certainly deserves top notch medical care. Yet the breadth and quality of medical care that he received starkly contrasts with the diminished care that too many Americans could soon receive thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
As a physician, I strive to give the best medical care to every patient who walks through the door. The ACA has the potential to undermine my ability to do this in a number of ways.
One example is the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), one of the many bureaucratic agencies created under the law. The institute’s mandate is to conduct government-sponsored research comparing the efficacy of medical and surgical interventions. It draws its conclusions not from individual patient outcomes but on the average outcomes of a pre-set population. Many observers fear that federal regulators might use this research to limit or refuse to cover treatments that it deems “ineffective.” Medicare, for example, could consider PCORI’s findings when determining what procedures it will or won’t cover and how it will reimburse those interventions. This would limit patients from getting the care that they need and want.