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Margot Sanger-Katz and Amanda Cox, NY Times
Fri, 2014-09-19
"If you bought health insurance at an Affordable Care Act marketplace this year, it really pays to look around before renewing your coverage for next year. The system is set up to encourage people to renew the policies that they bought last year — and there are clear advantages to doing so, such as being able to keep your current doctors. But an Upshot analysis of data from the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform shows that in many places premiums are going up by double-digit percentages within many of the most popular plans. But other plans, hoping to attract customers, are increasing their prices substantially less. In some markets, plans are even cutting prices."
Wall Street Journal
Drew Altman
Fri, 2014-09-19
"We did not see big changes in employer-based coverage in the Kaiser-HRET annual Employer Health Benefit Survey released last week. Mostly this is good news, particularly on the cost side where premiums increased just 3%. But one long-term trend that is not so good is how this market works for firms with relatively large shares of lower-wage workers (which we define as firms where at least 35% of employees earn less than $23,000). These low-wage firms often do not offer health benefits at all. And, as the chart below shows, when they do offer coverage, it has lower premiums on average (likely meaning skimpier coverage) and requires workers to pay more for it. Workers in low-wage firms pay an average of $6,472 for family coverage, compared with $4,693 for workers in higher wage firms."
The Daily Signal
Sharyl Attkisson
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Government insiders who flagged security issues prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov were right to be concerned. That’s according to a new audit by the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that security weaknesses are putting “the sensitive personal information” contained by HealthCare.gov and its related systems at risk. As the Obama administration prepared to launch the website last fall, one of those insiders voiced concern about the vulnerabilities and complained about “cover-ups” masking the severity of the problems."
Financial Times
Briana Ehley
Fri, 2014-09-19
"BOSTON -- When it comes to the president’s health care law, there’s very little that Republicans and Democrats agree on—but one idea that seems to unite analysts, experts and lawmakers across the political spectrum is that Obamacare has done very little to actually improve health care. “The U.S. healthcare system was always dysfunctional. The Affordable Care Act has just provided more access to that dysfunctional system,” iVantage chief Donald Bialek said during an ACA debate at The Economist’s health care forum in Boston on Wednesday. Bialek, for his part, was on the side defending the health care law."
Meredith Cohn, Baltimore Sun
Fri, 2014-09-19
"A day after Maryland committed to a gradual launch of its health exchange, state officials are still working out some key details — including where the opening day sign-up will be held — but experts say it could be a way to avoid a repeat of last year's botched rollout. Several health experts said the approach that limits enrollment in the first few days could allow Maryland to "kick the tires" on its new website. "It's a controlled way to open enrollment," said Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "They can work with a controlled number of people for the first couple of days to see how this works in practice. I'm assuming there is some plan at the end of the day when people gather in a room and compare notes and say we need to fix this or that.""
Tue, 2014-08-26
"The Oregon Department of Justice jousted for nearly two months with Oracle America over the state's demand for documents from the California software giant relating to the health exchange debacle. In fact, Oracle flouted state law and stymied the demand, according to DOJ. The state filed papers in federal court Friday that provide a glimpse into high-stakes jockeying that for months took place largely out of public view. DOJ filed its federal papers shortly after the state's lawyers sued Oracle in Marion County Circuit Court on Aug. 22. In its federal filing, DOJ accuses Oracle of "stalling" and attempting to manipulate the legal system by filing its own federal lawsuit against Oregon on Aug. 8."
Kelsey Harkness, The Daily Signal
Wed, 2014-08-13
"Media coverage of the two Supreme Court cases challenging Obamacare’s HHS mandate for employers to provide workers with “free” coverage of abortion-inducing drugs largely focused on Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain founded by the Greens, an evangelical Christian family. The case of another family-owned business also was heard by the high court, though — that of Conestoga Wood Specialties and the Hahns, Mennonite Christians from East Earl, Pa. The Hahns established their business — the manufacture of custom wood kitchen cabinets and parts — on Christian values and say they’re committed to applying those values in the workplace. Why did they go to court, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom?
Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News
Wed, 2014-08-06
"CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The dominion of Tennessee’s largest health insurer is reflected in its headquarters’ lofty perch above the city, atop a hill that during the Civil War was lined with Union cannons to repel Confederate troops. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has used its position to establish a similarly firm foothold in the first year of the marketplaces created by the health law. The company sold 88 percent of the plans for Tennessee individuals and families. Only one other insurer, Cigna, bothered to offer policies in Chattanooga, and the premiums were substantially higher than those offered by BlueCross. Though insurers have been regularly vilified in debates over health care prices, BlueCross’ near monopoly here has been unusually good financially for consumers. Its cut-rate exclusive deal with one of three area health systems turned Chattanooga into one of the 10 least expensive insurance markets in the country, as judged by the lowest price mid-level, or silver, plan.
Stephanie Armour
Wed, 2014-08-06
"Some states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and set up all or part of their own insurance exchanges have seen a marked drop in the number of uninsured adults. The uninsured rates in states that opted to expand Medicaid, a health program primarily for low-income residents, and set up their own exchanges declined more in the first half of 2014 than in the states that didn’t take that approach, according to a study released Tuesday by Gallup. The survey was based on a random sample of adults through June 30. Arkansas saw the percentage of uninsured drop from 22.5% in 2013 to 12.4% through midyear 2014, according to the survey. Kentucky followed, with its percentage of uninsured dropping from 20.4% to 11.9% during the same time span. The other states with the largest drop in the percentage of uninsured were Delaware, Washington, Colorado, West Virginia, Oregon, California, New Mexico and Connecticut."
Melissa Quinn, The Daily Signal
Wed, 2014-08-06
"It’s one thing for President Obama to win an award for “Lie of the Year” for promising Americans “if you like your [health insurance] plan, you can keep it.” It must sting a bit more when a political ally like Barney Frank, the former congressman, flat out says the president “just lied to people.” In an interview with Huffington Post, the veteran Massachusetts Democrat said he was “appalled” at the “bad” rollout of Obamacare last October. “I don’t understand how the president could have sat there and not been checking on that on a weekly basis,” Frank said, then added: But, frankly, he should never have said as much as he did, that if you like your current health care plan, you can keep it. That wasn’t true. And you shouldn’t lie to people. And they just lied to people.""
Caroline F. Pearson, Avalere Health
Wed, 2014-06-04
"A new analysis from Avalere Health finds that consumers in exchanges receiving federal assistance to reduce their out-of-pocket costs may experience inconsistent reductions in spending depending on the plan they choose."
Caroline F. Pearson, Avalere
Thu, 2014-05-22
"A new analysis from Avalere Health finds that individuals choosing an exchange plan based on premiums are most likely to consider plans from Coventry (acquired by Aetna in 2013), Humana, and WellPoint in regions where they participate."
Matthew Eyles, Avalere
Wed, 2014-05-14
"According to a new Avalere Health analysis, 17 of the 26 states that did not expand Medicaid in the first three months of 2014 still reported growth in Medicaid enrollment, ranging from 0.1 percent in Texas to 10.1 percent in Montana. Since these states had decided not to expand Medicaid eligibility levels under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), these numbers show the impact of the “woodwork effect,” which is when individuals who were previously eligible, but not enrolled in Medicaid, newly sign up as a result of increased outreach and awareness. These enrollees may place a strain on state budgets, since states are required to contribute to the cost of their coverage based on traditional Medicaid matching rates."
Caroline F. Pearson, Avalere
Thu, 2014-05-08
The federal government will bear a disproportionate burden of premium increases in states with high rates of subsidized enrollees. Double digit premium increases are likely in many markets in 2014. Age distribution among enrollees varies by state, which may influence plans’ interest in each market.
Caroline F. Pearson, Avalere
Wed, 2014-05-07
"A new analysis from Avalere Health finds that exchange enrollment meets or exceeds expectations in 22 states (44%), even after accounting for any attrition due to nonpayment of premiums. Assuming 15 percent of enrollees do not take the final enrollment step and pay their premiums, over 6.8 million people who enrolled through April 19 will have coverage effective as of May 1."
Drew Altman
Wall Street Journal
Fri, 2014-09-19
"We did not see big changes in employer-based coverage in the Kaiser-HRET annual Employer Health Benefit Survey released last week. Mostly this is good news, particularly on the cost side where premiums increased just 3%. But one long-term trend that is not so good is how this market works for firms with relatively large shares of lower-wage workers (which we define as firms where at least 35% of employees earn less than $23,000). These low-wage firms often do not offer health benefits at all. And, as the chart below shows, when they do offer coverage, it has lower premiums on average (likely meaning skimpier coverage) and requires workers to pay more for it. Workers in low-wage firms pay an average of $6,472 for family coverage, compared with $4,693 for workers in higher wage firms."
Sharyl Attkisson
The Daily Signal
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Government insiders who flagged security issues prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov were right to be concerned. That’s according to a new audit by the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that security weaknesses are putting “the sensitive personal information” contained by HealthCare.gov and its related systems at risk. As the Obama administration prepared to launch the website last fall, one of those insiders voiced concern about the vulnerabilities and complained about “cover-ups” masking the severity of the problems."
Briana Ehley
Financial Times
Fri, 2014-09-19
"BOSTON -- When it comes to the president’s health care law, there’s very little that Republicans and Democrats agree on—but one idea that seems to unite analysts, experts and lawmakers across the political spectrum is that Obamacare has done very little to actually improve health care. “The U.S. healthcare system was always dysfunctional. The Affordable Care Act has just provided more access to that dysfunctional system,” iVantage chief Donald Bialek said during an ACA debate at The Economist’s health care forum in Boston on Wednesday. Bialek, for his part, was on the side defending the health care law."
Ryan Ellis
Forbes magazine
Wed, 2014-09-17
"Very few industries in bed with Obamacare come off smelling like a rose. But if one had to pick a bad actor above all others, it would probably be Big Health Insurance. America’s largest and most influential health insurance companies actively supported passage of Obamacare in Congress, and continue to do so today. That’s not surprising, since the heart of Obamacare is a mandate on Americans to purchase the product the health insurance companies are selling (the individual mandate). The “essential minimum coverage” on “qualified health insurance plans” as dictated by the Department of Health and Human Services tend to emphasize first dollar insurance coverage whenever possible, which increases insurance company profits. Worst of all, insurance companies are the beneficiaries of a giant taxpayer bailout that makes their Obamacare participation a “heads they win, tails taxpayers lose” kind of scenario."
Melissa Quinn
The Daily Signal
Wed, 2014-09-17
"Just days before the security of the Obamacare website is the subject of a new report by an independent government agency, a watchdog group today released documents showing federal health officials knew about security vulnerabilities in the run-up to the site’s shaky launch last fall. Judicial Watch said it obtained 94 pages of government documents detailing HealthCare.gov’s “massive” security risks. The documents, the watchdog said, show that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and a subordinate agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, decided to roll out the online insurance exchange despite knowledge of the security flaws."

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