Robert Pear, NY Times
"WASHINGTON — A two-page federal form has provoked a titanic clash between the government and many religious organizations.
The form allows some religious organizations to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage, which many insurers and group health plans are required to provide under the Affordable Care Act and related rules.
The opt-out sounds like a way to accommodate religious beliefs. But many religious employers like Wheaton College and the Little Sisters of the Poor are unwilling to sign the form. By signing it, they say, they would authorize their insurers or plan administrators to pay for contraceptives, including some that they believe may cause abortion."
Chris Kardish, Governing magazine
"While enrollment in private health insurance through online marketplaces may be closed until Nov. 15, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program added almost a million new patients in May, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Between April and May 928,628 people signed up for Medicaid or CHIP across the 48 states that reported data, up from 805,038 who joined in April but down from the 1.4 million who joined in March. The May figures, released Friday, bring total enrollment to nearly 66 million.
Medicaid is jointly funded by states and the federal government to serve low-income children, parents, the elderly and disabled people. The program was expanded through the Affordable Care Act to childless adults earning up to about $15,856 for a single household, though states can choose whether to expand. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have done so.
Jonathan Weisman, NY Times
"WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama will focus on changes to the health care law that Mr. Boehner says should have been left to Congress, according to a statement issued Thursday by the speaker’s office.
By narrowly focusing the legal action on the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Boehner will sidestep the more politically problematic issue involving Mr. Obama’s executive action offering work permits for some illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Last month, Mr. Boehner announced his intention to seek legislation allowing the House to sue the president over his use of executive actions, a reflection of charges by congressional Republicans that the president has overreached his authority. On Thursday, Mr. Boehner said the lawsuit would specifically challenge the president’s decision to delay imposing penalties on employers who do not offer health insurance to employees in compliance with the Affordable Care Act."
Felice J. Freyer, Boston Globe
"A new software system for the state’s health insurance website passed its first key test this week, and a final decision on whether Massachusetts will run its own site or join the federal exchange will be made in early August, a top state official said.
Maydad Cohen, special adviser to the governor, told the Massachusetts Health Connector board Thursday morning that the new software from hCentive performed every task required by federal officials, and then some, in a Washington, D.C., demonstration Monday.
This success, he said in an interview afterward, leaves him increasingly but cautiously optimistic that the state will be able to employ the hCentive software when open enrollment starts Nov. 15.
In the spring, the Health Connector abandoned its original, dysfunctional software, made by CGI, and adopted a “dual track” approach: working on a new system while simultaneously preparing to join the federal exchange, healthcare.gov."
David Nather, Politico
"The evidence is piling up now: Obamacare really does seem to be helping the uninsured.
Survey after survey is showing that the number of uninsured people has been going down since the start of enrollment last fall. The numbers don’t all match, and health care experts say they’re not precise enough to give more than a general idea of the trend.
But by now, the trend is unmistakable: Millions of people who didn’t have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act have gained it since last fall. The law is not just covering people who already had health coverage, but adding new people to the ranks of the insured — which was the point of the law all along.
There’s still a lot of variation in the numbers, too much for health care experts to pin down an exact number with any confidence. But even health care analysts who think the law is a bad idea acknowledge that the evidence suggests the uninsured are being helped.
Gregory Bresiger, NY Post
"ObamaCare hurts businesses. That’s the result of an exhaustive study polling small to medium-sized businesses.
The controversial government health-care reform increases company and employee costs and sometimes stops companies from hiring as well, participants told the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in its new study.
“More than half of single employers believe the Affordable Care Act has had a negative effect on their company,” according to the report.
The survey, which polled some employers and their health-care pros, found that the majority of respondents, 54 percent, thought the effect of the ACA on their firms had been “negative” or “very negative.”
The same respondents also expected that the negative effects from ACA would increase to 66 percent in the near future as the program unfolds."
Mike DeBonis, The Washington Post
"When the District launched its federally mandated health insurance exchange last fall, officials went to great lengths to woo professional insurance brokers — launching a special broker web portal, establishing a “concierge” hotline just for brokers and holding broker-only training classes.
Despite those efforts, many brokers have yet to be paid for the policies they’ve sold through the exchange, known as D.C. Health Link — generating frustration among professionals who say their patience in navigating the changes wrought by the Affordable Care Act has not been rewarded.
“I’ve been very supportive, I put a lot of work into it, and I’ve gotten nothing,” said Steve Nearman, a Virginia-based broker who says he has helped nearly 100 city residents find and buy insurance through the exchange and is owed thousands of dollars in commissions."
Adam Teicholz and Glenn Cohen, The New Republic
"Before dawn on a Wednesday in January, Cesar Flores, a 40-year-old employed by a large retail chain, woke up at his home in Chula Vista, California. He got in his car and crossed the border into Tijuana. From there, he headed for a local hospital, where he got lab tests—part of routine follow-up to a kidney stone procedure. He had his blood drawn and left the hospital at 7:30. He arrived home before 10.
Uninsured Americans have long known that seeking medical care abroad is often more cost-effective than seeking it at home. Even after you factor in travel expense and time off work, you still often come out ahead. A hip replacement that would cost $75,000 for an uninsured patient in the U.S. is $9,000 in India. A heart bypass in the U.S. runs about $210,000; in Thailand it’s $12,000.
Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News
"Tired of waiting for states to reduce their backlogs of Medicaid applications, the Obama administration has given six states until Monday to submit plans to resolve issues that have prevented more than 1 million low-income or disabled people from getting health coverage.
The targeted states are Alaska, California, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee.
“CMS is asking several state Medicaid agencies to provide updated mitigation plans to address gaps that exist in their eligibility and enrollment systems to ensure timely processing of applications and access to coverage for eligible people,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. He said the agency will monitor states’ progress in solving the problems getting people enrolled in the state-federal insurance program for the poor."
Alex Wayne, Bloomberg
"The government hasn’t reported how many people have signed up for health plans since the last enrollment period ended and it won’t estimate how many may enroll because of changes in their insurance.
Americans who get married, seek citizenship or lose jobs may find themselves invited to sign up for Obamacare by supporters trying to sustain momentum for the program as political attacks mount in its off-season.
By mid-April, the end of the first year’s official enrollment period, more than 8 million Americans gained coverage under the health law, beating the government’s own estimates. While standard enrollment won’t start again until Nov. 15, as many as 3 million people whose jobs or lives change in ways that affect their insurance may sign up immediately.
Supporters are seeking to dip into that group before the next enrollment begins.