A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Uninsured"

U.S. officials reach deal with Pennsylvania on Medicaid

Hilary Russ and David Morgan, Reuters
Fri, 2014-08-29
"Federal officials have reached an agreement with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett over his plan to use federal funds to pay for private health insurance coverage for up to 600,000 residents, the governor said on Thursday. The deal highlights a growing number of Republican governors who are finding ways to accept money under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, despite political opposition that has so far prevented nearly half of U.S. states from moving forward with the Medicaid expansion plan. Corbett sought a waiver in February to use those expansion funds to instead subsidize private health insurance for low-income residents."

Affordable Care Act exemptions mean millions don’t have to sign up

Nick Madigan, Miami Herald
Tue, 2014-08-26
"When she was eight weeks old, Ashlyn Whitney suffered a severe respiratory-tract infection that put her in an intensive care unit for 12 days. “Because she was so young, she couldn’t handle it,” Ashlyn’s mother, Nicole Whitney, recalled. “They had to give her oxygen.” The baby, now a year old, recovered from her illness, known as respiratory syncytial virus.The bill for her treatment at the West Boca Medical Center in Palm Beach County came to about $100,000 — a sum that included almost $4,000 in fees for her birth and pre- and post-natal care — but every dime of the tab was picked up by a medical bill-sharing organization set up for its Christian membership. Such religious groups are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most Americans obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.

Hospitals reassess charitable programs with Affordable Care Act in mind

Julie Appleby
Kaiser Health News
Mon, 2014-08-25
"As more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t. The move is prompted by concerns that offering free or discounted care to low-income, uninsured patients might dissuade them from getting government-subsidized coverage. It also reflects hospitals’ strong financial interest in having more patients covered by insurance as the federal government makes big cuts in funding for uncompensated care. If a patient is eligible to purchase subsidized coverage through the law’s online marketplaces but doesn’t sign up, should hospitals “provide charity care on the same level of generosity as they were previously?” asks Peter Cunningham, a health policy expert at Virginia Commonwealth University. Most hospitals are still wrestling with that question, but a few have changed their programs, Cunningham says."

Reform Update: People keeping noncompliant plans; rate impact varies by state

Darius Tahir
Modern Healthcare
Sat, 2014-08-23
"When the Obama administration in November 2013 decided to allow states to decide if individuals could keep noncompliant insurance plans, speculation began about what effect that decision would have on premiums and enrollment for plans that did comply with provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Subsequently, the administration this March gave states the option of a maximum two-year extension into 2016. Early indications of how many individuals opted to keep those plans have begun to emerge as have signs of the effect on premiums. As with so much else related to the ACA, the results depend on what state is being discussed. Twenty-five states are allowing noncompliant plans to continue through 2015, which creates a continuing impact for insurers attempting to formulate premium levels in 2014, according to data compiled by America's Health Insurance Plans, an insurer trade group.

Unemployed by ObamaCare

Fri, 2014-08-22
NOTE: This story is behind a pay wall. "Most of the political class seems to have decided that ObamaCare is working well enough, the opposition is fading, and the subsidies and regulation are settling in as the latest wing of the entitlement state. This flight from reality can't last forever, especially as the evidence continues to pile up that the law is harming the labor market. On Thursday the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia reported the results of a special business survey on the Affordable Care Act and its influence on employment, compensation and benefits. Liberals claim ObamaCare is of little consequence to jobs, but the Philly Fed went to the source and asked employers qualitative questions about how they are responding in practice. The bank reports that 78.8% of businesses in the district have made no change to the number of workers they employ as the specific result of ObamaCare and 3% are hiring more. More troubling, 18.2% are cutting jobs and employees.

The ACA: Some Unpleasant Welfare Arithmetic

Casey B. Mulligan, Cato Institute
Thu, 2014-08-21
"The Affordable Care Act (ACA) presents employers and potential employees with a variety of new rewards and penalties. These are, in part, exactly what the law intended: by penalizing potential employees for not purchasing health insurance, and employers for not providing it, the law aims to increase the fraction of the population with health insurance.

Anthem Blue Cross sued again over narrow-network health plans

Chad Terhune, Los Angeles Times
Wed, 2014-08-20
"Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross faces another lawsuit over switching consumers to narrow-network health plans — with limited selections of doctors — during the rollout of Obamacare.. These types of complaints have already sparked an ongoing investigation by California regulators and other lawsuits seeking class-action status against Anthem and rival Blue Shield of California. A group of 33 Anthem customers filed suit Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the health insurer, which is a unit of WellPoint Inc. Anthem is California's largest for-profit health insurer and had the biggest enrollment this year in individual policies in the Covered California exchange. In the latest suit, Anthem members accuse the company of misrepresenting the size of its physician networks and the insurance benefits provided in new plans offered under the Affordable Care Act."

Most Insurance Exchanges Just Got Bigger. Covered California Is Getting Smaller.

Dan Diamond
California Health Line
Thu, 2014-08-14
"When Covered California unveiled its initial slate of 13 carriers last year, their low rates got some attention -- but so did their mix. While Covered California couldn't boast Aetna or UnitedHealthcare, which instead elected to leave the state's individual market, four major insurers were on board: Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente. And the exchange also had drawn in several smaller health plans, like Ventura County Health Plan, which were going to compete for share on the individual market for the first time. "For me, the story is [these] new participants," Micah Weinberg of the Bay Area Council told California Healthline last summer. "Who exactly they are, and how they are being offered in these marketplaces, is worth watching." But Ventura County quietly pulled out. A second small carrier, Alameda Alliance, was kicked out.

Accuracy of survey showing spike in Kansas uninsured rate questioned

Jim McLean, Kansas Health Institute News Service
Wed, 2014-08-13
"TOPEKA — Remember that headline-grabbing report last week that said Kansas was the only state in the nation to see a significant increase in its uninsured rate? Well, it’s looking more and more suspect. Some officials were immediately skeptical when the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey results were released, showing that the adult uninsured rate in Kansas had increased by 5.1 percentage points, jumping from 12.5 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent by mid-year 2014. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger was among the doubters. She said the number appeared to be “an anomaly” because a spike of that magnitude from one year to the next “would be unprecedented.” But others seized on the numbers to score political points. Some said Kansas’ decision to join 23 other states in not expanding Medicaid contributed to the increase.

Millions of uninsured Americans exempt from ObamaCare penalties in 2016, report finds

Fox News
Thu, 2014-08-07
"A new congressional report has estimated that more than 25 million Americans without health insurance will not be made to pay a penalty in 2016 due to an exploding number of ObamaCare exemptions. The Wall Street Journal, citing an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, reported that the number of people expected to pay the fine in 2016 has dwindled to four million people from the report's previous projection of six million. Approximately 30 million Americans are believed to be without health insurance. The latest report is likely to spark fresh concerns among insurers, who have maintained that the number of exemptions to the law's individual mandate are resulting in fewer young, healthy people signing up for health insurance. An insurance pool skewed toward older, comparatively unhealthy people is likely to result in premiums rising.

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