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Drew Altman, Wall Street Journal
Fri, 2014-08-01
"The annual report from the Social Security and Medicare trustees predicted that Medicare will be solvent until 2030, four years later than the trustees predicted last year. That’s thanks to the recent slowdown in Medicare spending and a stronger economy that yields higher revenue through payroll tax contributions to the Medicare trust fund. The administration and congressional Democrats are taking credit for elements of the Affordable Care Act that have helped to slow the growth in Medicare spending, and they warn against changes to Medicare that they fear would shift costs to seniors and undermine the program. Republicans, however, see little good in the trustees’ report. “Don’t be fooled by the news that Medicare has a few more years of solvency,” Rep. Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health, said in a statement.
Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News
Fri, 2014-08-01
"Florida Blue, the state’s largest health insurer, is increasing premiums by an average of 17.6 percent for its Affordable Care Act exchange plans next year, company officials say. The nonprofit Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliate blames higher health costs as a result of attracting older adults this year who previously lacked coverage and are using more services than expected. Florida insurance regulators plan to release rate information for all companies next week. The exchange plans cover individuals who aren’t covered by employer-based policies. Florida Blue offers many plans. The 40 percent of its individual policyholders who chose “narrow network” plans called BlueSelect that limit coverage to fewer doctors and hospitals will see rates rise by an average of 13 percent. Critics of the health law have predicted big rate hikes in the second year of the online marketplaces.
Kaiser Health News
Fri, 2014-08-01
"The health law’s unpopularity among the public rose sharply in July with a surge of disapproval from people who had been agnostic about it in recent months, a poll released Friday shows. The law is as unpopular as it has been since it was enacted four years ago. The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 53 percent of the public had an unfavorable view of the law in July, the highest level since the law was passed in 2010. It was up from 45 percent in June. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) The law’s unpopularity hit similar levels several times since passing, most recently in January when 50 percent of people disliked it. Support for the law in July remained about the same as in June, with 37 percent supporting it.
Bob Moffit, The Heritage Foundation
Thu, 2014-07-31
"Medicare’s true cost is the biggest problem in Washington and the one most ignored. The long-awaited 2014 Medicare Trustees report is out, and the “spinning “ is well underway. But the media is not yet reporting another big finding – this one by the Medicare Actuary and revealed on the same day: Taxpayers face a Medicare unfunded liability ranging from $28 trillion to $35 trillion, depending on the most realistic assumptions about the future. In other words, Washington politicians have promised seniors that over the next 75 years (the so-called long-term “actuarial window”) they will receive tens of trillions of dollars of Medicare benefits that are not paid for. It is Washington’s biggest, most expensive and most difficult federal entitlement problem. And it is one most politicians—with a few noble exceptions—continue to ignore."
Elizabeth Slattery, The Heritage Foundation
Thu, 2014-07-31
"A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled against a challenge to Obamacare’s individual mandate based on the origination clause of the Constitution. The Supreme Court held in NFIB v. Sebelius (2012) that Obamacare’s individual mandate was constitutional because it was a tax. The Constitution also says tax legislation must originate in the House. But the Obamacare individual mandate tax did not originate in the House. Senate Democrats took a House bill that provided tax credits to veterans purchasing new homes, gutted its language and “amended” it with the language that would become Obamacare. Todd Gaziano, one of the lawyers for Matt Sissel, likened this amendment to “the complete destruction of a house and the erection of a massive skyscraper on the same street address.” In a unanimous ruling in Tuesday’s case, Sissel v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the D.C.
Larry Levitt and Gary Claxton
Thu, 2014-07-31
"The recent decision of a three-judge panel in the Halbig case, if it prevails, would have a direct effect on the availability of subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). People buying coverage on their own in insurance exchanges run by the federal government would be ineligible for income-based subsidies. Depending on how you count, that would take premium subsidies away from 4.6 million people in 34 states, or 4.7 million people in 36 states if you count New Mexico and Idaho (which have signaled their intention to operate their own exchanges but are still using the federal marketplace). Many more people are eligible for subsidies but haven’t yet signed up.
Julie Rovner, Kaiser Health News
Thu, 2014-07-31
"A high-level report recommending sweeping changes in how the government distributes $15 billion annually to subsidize the training of doctors has brought out the sharp scalpels of those who would be most immediately affected. The reaction also raises questions about the sensitive politics involved in redistributing a large pot of money that now goes disproportionately to teaching hospitals in the Northeast U.S. All of the changes recommended would have to be made by Congress. Released Tuesday, the report for the Institute of Medicine called for more accountability for the funds, two-thirds of which are provided by Medicare. It also called for an end to providing the money directly to the teaching hospitals and to dramatically alter the way the funds are paid. The funding in question is for graduate medical education (GME), the post-medical school training of interns and residents required before doctors can be licensed to practice in any state."
Alex Wayne, Bloomberg
Thu, 2014-07-31
"The price tag for healthcare.gov, the Obamacare website, is approaching $1 billion even as key features remain incomplete, congressional auditors said. The budget to get the site ready for the next round of enrollments, starting in November, jumped to $840 million as of March, according to the Government Accountability Office. That’s a $163 million increase since December. Accenture Plc (ACN), the company that took over building the site that failed at its introduction this past October, is expected to be paid $175 million as of June, an $84 million increase from the estimate in January when it signed a contract. The data are part of testimony for a congressional hearing today in the Republican-led House. The GAO places blame for the site’s rising price on poor planning and supervision of contractors who built the federal health exchange.
By Jason Fodeman, M.D.
Thu, 2014-07-31
"The Affordable Care Act may be the law of the land, but some states are still doing their best to avoid it. Nearly half the states have refused to participate in the law’s expansion of Medicaid. Some describe this reluctance as tantamount to a moral crime—see Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s recent statement that expansion’s opponents are “prevent[ing] their own constituents from getting access to health care.” As a doctor, I know this isn’t true. Medicaid is sold to the public as a magic pill that will solve the poor’s inadequate access to medical care. But reality isn’t so simple. Simply put, Medicaid gives patients terrible access to medical care. A recent study found that nearly a third of doctors no longer accept new Medicaid patients. In some states, as many as 60 percent don’t. Why not? Because Medicaid operates in a world without economic logic. Bureaucrats in Washington dictate how much money doctors receive for the treatments and services they provide.
Bob Laszewski
Thu, 2014-07-31
"The weighted average increase for plans being sold on the Obamacare California public exchange in 2015 will be 4%. So, that means Obamacare is working really well, right? Well, wait a minute. Let's consider a few things: 1.This week the California insurance commissioner reported that the average unsubsidized 2014 rate increase carriers charged going into Obamacare was between 22% and 82%. That was a pretty healthy bump to get everyone into Obamacare in the first place. 2.California voters will go to the polls this fall to vote on Proposition 45. That ballot initiative would regulate health insurance rates in California for the first time. Big rate increases on part of the carriers would do a lot to get that proposition passed and very low increases would do a lot toward defeating it. 3.The health plans competing in the Obamacare exchanges are limited to tiny losses this year because of the Obamacare reinsurance program that runs through 2016.

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