A project of the Galen Institute
"This week’s double-barreled release of government statistics on health insurance coverage leaves us with only one question: How many Americans are insured because of Obamacare? Remarkably, the two highly regarded government surveys released this week do not even agree whether the number of uninsured increased or decreased. The survey that received a great deal of attention said there were 3.8 million fewer uninsured. The other, which was hardly noticed, found that there were 1.3 million more uninsured.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported preliminary results on the expansion of health insurance coverage. Its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) interviewed 27,000 people in the first three months of this year. The survey estimates that the number of uninsured dropped by 3.8 million since 2013. That represents a 1.3 percentage point decline in the uninsured rate, from 14.4 percent last year to 13.1 percent early this year."
"Voters continue to give lackluster reviews to the U.S. health care system despite positive opinions of their own insurance coverage and care. Half still think the system will get worse under the new health care law.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only 32% of Likely U.S. Voters rate the nation’s health care system as good or excellent. Just as many (32%) give it poor marks, up from 29% in August but still below the 35% who felt that way in June."
"States have developed various ways to avoid paying their fair share of Medicaid expenses over the years, in some cases costing the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding for the program.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which runs Medicaid through its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has known about the issue for more than a decade, but states still find ways to game the system. The agency’s inspector general this year listed the issue among 25 key problems the agency needs to address."
"A major innovation in health insurance plan design over the past several years has been the rapid growth of “narrow network” plans. Such plans either limit enrollee choices of providers, or place providers in differential cost tiers whereby individuals face higher cost in selecting some providers relative to others. This movement harkens back to the restrictions put in place during the U.S. initial infatuation with managed care in the mid-1990s. That episode ended badly for the limited choice model, as the “HMO backlash” induced regulatory restrictions on plans which handicapped choice limitations within the HMO model.
The latest growth of narrow network plans has been hastened by the introduction of health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). State exchanges have fostered strong insurer competition through both organizing the marketplace and through tying low income health insurance tax credits to the second-lowest cost plan in the silver tier.
"Republicans have found a new opening against ObamaCare after struggling for months to craft a fresh strategy against a healthcare law that now covers millions of people.
Lifted by a pair of federal audits that found major flaws with the law’s implementation, Republicans see their first chance in months to launch a serious attack against the law.
“The news that we’ve seen over the last week and a half really emphasizes what conservatives and Republicans were trying to do last year, which was preventing a lot of this from happening,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for the conservative political group Heritage Action for America.
“What I hope happens is that the Republican Party as a whole says, ‘Yes, there is a reason besides politics that we’re fighting ObamaCare: It’s hurting people,’” Holler said."
Capital Public Radio
"Here’s a health law pop quiz: Which two states have the least successful Obamacare health insurance exchanges?
You may guess a state in the Deep South where political opposition to the law is fierce. Or maybe Missouri? It passed a state law saying consumer advisors funded by the Affordable Care Act aren’t allowed to advise consumers.
In fact, Iowa and South Dakota are the two states where the ACA insurance marketplaces struggled the most. In both, just 11.1 percent of residents eligible for subsidized insurance signed up for it – the lowest rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)"
"A wave of hospital mergers and acquisitions spreading across the U.S. has the health insurance industry attempting to stand in the way with legalese, Congressional lobbying and in the court of public opinion.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the powerful lobby and trade group representing the biggest names in commercial insurance appears to be leading the charge battling deals in New York, Chicago and beyond.
“Consolidation promises greater efficiency, but all that ever materializes is greater costs,” Brendan Buck, former press secretary to Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner, who was tapped this spring to be vice president of communications at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) told the Chicago Sun-Times following news two of the wealthiest hospital operators in the city would merge."
"The Obama administration has found their line when it comes to setting expectations for the second roll-out of the federal exchange website: “Improvement but not perfection.”
It’s the semi-optimistic catch-phrase officials have used in congressional testimonies over the past few weeks to describe how well Healthcare.gov will work come November. Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator at CMS said it during his testimony with the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Marilyn Tavenner, CMS administrator used the line during her testimony Thursday morning for the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.
Voters also seem to be preparing for problems and not perfection as they head back to the site. Open enrollment begins November 15.
Morning Consult polling shows more than half of registered voters — 54 percent — are very concerned or somewhat concerned about security breaches on HealthCare.gov and the state exchange sites.
"Who's up for the latest batch of bad Obamacare-related news?
(1) Consumers brace for the second full year of Obamacare implementation, as the average individual market premium hike clocks in at eight percent -- with some rates spiking by as much as 30 percent.
(2) "Wide swings in prices," with some experiencing "double digit increases."(Remember what we were promised):
Insurance executives and managers of the online marketplaces are already girding for the coming open enrollment period, saying they fear it could be even more difficult than the last. One challenge facing consumers will be wide swings in prices. Some insurers are seeking double-digit price increases."
Wall Street Journal
"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."