A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Social Impact"

Republicans Will Run On An Obamacare Replacement in 2016 – Will Democrats?

Ben Domenech for Morning Consult
Sat, 2014-07-26
"The decision in the Halbig v. Burwell case this week was an unexpected legal boon to opponents of Obamacare. Spearheaded by the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon and law professor Jonathan Adler, the case will almost certainly lead this debate about the text of the Affordable Care Act back to the Supreme Court. My colleague Sean Davis has written a comprehensive piece on the case, particularly on the nature of the supposed “drafting error” at its core. But whatever the ultimate outcome for Halbig, the case serves as a reminder of the uneven ground on which Obama’s health care law is likely to be standing over the next two years.

Varying health premium subsidies worry consumers

Kelli Kennedy, The Associated Press
Sat, 2014-07-26
"MIAMI (AP) -- Linda Close was grateful to learn she qualified for a sizable subsidy to help pay for her health insurance under the new federal law. But in the process of signing up for a plan, Close said her HealthCare.gov account showed several different subsidy amounts, varying as much as $180 per month. Close, a South Florida retail worker in her 60's, said she got different amounts even though the personal information she entered remained the same. The Associated Press has reviewed Close's various subsidy amounts and dates to verify the information, but she asked that her financial information and medical history not be published for privacy reasons. "I am the kind of person the Affordable Care Act was written for: older, with a pre-existing (condition) and my previous plan was being cancelled. I need it and I'm low income," said Close, who has spent more than six months appealing her case. "The government pledged to me that original tax credit amount. It's crazy."

Federal officials cap fines for not buying health insurance

The Associated Press
Sat, 2014-07-26
"Federal officials have capped the amount of money scofflaws will be forced to pay if they don't buy insurance this year at $2,448 per person and $12,240 for a family of five. The amount is equal to the national average annual premium for a bronze level health plan. But only those with an income above about a quarter of a million dollars would benefit from the cap. Those making less would still have to pay as much as 1 percent of their annual income. The penalty for the first year starts at $95 per adult or $47.50 per child under 18. The penalty for not buying insurance increases to 2 percent of income or $325, whichever is higher, for 2015. The fines are due when people file their 2014 taxes. The figures, released late Thursday, are important because the White House has only provided theoretical caps in the past.

IRS prepping for Obamacare employer mandate in 2015

Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico
Sat, 2014-07-26
"The Obama administration signaled Thursday it’s not backing down from the controversial health law employer mandate that has been delayed twice and is the centerpiece of the House’s lawsuit against the president. The IRS posted drafts of the forms that employers will have to fill out to comply with the Obamacare requirement that employers provide health insurance to workers. Some business groups said the information was still too tentative and too incomplete to let them prepare for new obligations under the health law. “Our immense frustrations with the IRS continue,” Christine Pollack, vice president of Government Affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said in a statement. An administration official said the White House is sticking to the timeline announced earlier this year. Companies with 50 to 99 employees will have another year — until 2016 — to start the coverage.

The Stakes Beyond the Halbig Lawsuit

Drew Altman for Wall Street Journal
Fri, 2014-07-25
"A lot of attention is being paid to the dueling decisions in two U.S. appeals courts about whether the U.S. government can provide tax credits to people in federal- as well as state-run insurance exchanges. In human terms, the stakes are high: Millions of moderate-income people will not be able to afford health coverage without a subsidy, and a court ruling could gut coverage expansion in the 36 states with federally run insurance exchanges, unless states decide to set up their own exchanges. One of the cases, Halbig v. Burwell, also adds uncertainty to the enrollment process set to begin this fall, when millions more people are expecting to get tax credits–and wondering if they may be taken away. Amid the reaction, little attention has been paid to whether Americans will perceive Halbig as a legitimate legal question or as more inside-Washington politics. The plaintiffs paint this as a case about statutory language and intent.

Oregon feels the strain after health care overhaul floods the system with Medicaid enrollees

The Associated Press
Thu, 2014-07-24
"PORTLAND — Low-income Oregon residents were supposed to be big winners after the state expanded Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul and created a new system to improve the care they received. However, an Associated Press review shows that an unexpected rush of enrollees has strained the capacity of the revamped network that was endorsed as a potential national model, locking out some patients, forcing others to wait months for medical appointments and prompting a spike in emergency room visits, which state officials had been actively seeking to avoid. The problems come amid nationwide growing pains associated with the unprecedented restructuring of the U.S. health care system, and they show the effects of a widespread physician shortage on a state that has embraced Medicaid expansion."

Burwell appoints new counselor from Wal-Mart

Elise Viebeck, The Hill
Thu, 2014-07-24
"Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell continued her management shake-up Wednesday by naming a former vice president at Wal-Mart as senior adviser. The move to bring Leslie Dach to HHS reveals Burwell's interest in heading off problems during ObamaCare's second enrollment period, due to start in November. The new HHS secretary also wants to add professionals with significant private sector experience to her inner circle. "Leslie’s experience, which spans the business, government, and civil society sectors, will further enhance our ability to deliver impact for the American people," Burwell said in a statement. "We want to not only retain, but also recruit, talented individuals to our mission of ensuring every American has access to the building blocks of a healthy, productive life." Dach will focus on ObamaCare's second enrollment period as well as projects across the department, according to a press memo."

Two Americas on Health Care, and Danger of Further Division

Margot Sanger-Katz, NY Times
Thu, 2014-07-24
"For decades, the United States has had a fragmented health policy. States called the shots on major elements of how health care and health insurance were financed and regulated. The result: a hodgepodge of coverage and a wide variance in health. The Affordable Care Act was intended to help standardize important parts of that system, by imposing some common rules across the entire country and by providing federal financing to help residents in all states afford insurance coverage. But a series of court rulings on the law could make the differences among the states bigger than ever. The law was devised to pump federal dollars into poorer states, where lots of residents were uninsured. Many tended to be Republican-leaning. But the court rulings, if upheld, could leave only the richer, Democratic states with the federal dollars and broad insurance coverage.

Bolstered by Ruling, Republicans Attack Health Law

Robert Pear, NY Times
Thu, 2014-07-24
"WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress resumed their campaign against the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday with new zeal, fired up by a ruling of a federal appeals court panel that said premium subsidies paid to millions of Americans in 36 states were illegal. Republicans pointed to the ruling as evidence of problems in the law that could not easily be solved. “Time and time again,” said Representative Charles Boustany Jr., Republican of Louisiana, “the administration has chosen to ignore the law, and when it does implement the law, it does so incompetently.” Mr. Boustany presided over a hearing of a House Ways and Means subcommittee on Wednesday. An official from the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, testified at the hearing that undercover agents had obtained insurance coverage and subsidies using fake documents and fictitious identities."

Halbig Decision Puts Obamacare Back on the Front Burner and Will Give Republicans a Huge Political Headache

Bob Laszewski, Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review
Thu, 2014-07-24
"Today's 2-1 decision by the DC Court of Appeals striking down federal premium subsidies, in at least the 27 states that opted for the feds to run their Obamacare insurance exchanges, has the potential to strike a devastating blow to the new health law. The law says that individuals can get subsidies to buy health insurance in the states that set up insurance exchanges. That appears to exclude the states that do not set up exchanges––at least the 27 states that completely opted out of Obamacare.

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