A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Uninsured"

Consumers asked to verify income, other information — or risk losing government subsidies for health insurance

Daniel Chang and Nick Madigan, Miami Herald
Tue, 2014-07-29
"Luis Martinez of Hialeah survived two heart attacks during the more than 10 years that he went without health insurance. So he was relieved to finally find coverage on the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange in March, two weeks before the enrollment deadline. But four months after he and his wife signed up for a subsidized, bronze-level health plan with Coventry, Martinez, 51, said he feels as though he has fallen into a black hole of government bureaucracy while trying to prove his income and his wife’s citizenship in order to keep their coverage, part of a national effort to verify policyholders’ eligibility.

U.S. attorneys turn up heat on healthcare fraud

The Associated Press
Mon, 2014-07-28
"The top federal prosecutors from South Dakota and North Dakota say they have increased their efforts to fight healthcare fraud. U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson of South Dakota said he has restructured his office to allow lawyers in the criminal and civil divisions to devote "significant time" to investigating medical fraud. He predicted it will be among the fastest-growing area of criminal investigation and wants his office to be in position to pursue increasing "complex and egregious" cases. "My advice to the medical community is to stay away from gray areas or outright fraud that wastes tax dollars, because we will be watching," Johnson told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. "The end result in many of these cases will be that the taxpayers get their money back with interest and penalties, and the medical professional loses their license." Johnson's office recently settled an alleged fraud case involving two doctors at Dakotas-based Sanford Health.

New Mexico to continue with federally operated health insurance exchange

The Associated Press
Mon, 2014-07-28
"New Mexico decided Friday to stick with a federal online system for another year to enroll individuals in health insurance plans. The state's health insurance exchange governing board voted 11-1 to continue using the federal computer system for determining eligibility and to enroll individuals starting in November when the next open enrollment begins. A majority of board members worried that New Mexico wasn't ready to switch to a state-run online system for individuals. Any technical failures could delay enrollment and discourage consumers from trying to obtain health coverage, they said. Continuing with the federal system for another year is the "safest, most risk-free" way of enrolling New Mexicans, New Mexico Health Connections CEO Martin Hickey said."

States want more time on ACA funds

Kyle Cheney and Sarah Wheaton, Politico
Mon, 2014-07-28
"States running their own Obamacare exchanges were supposed to wean themselves off federal funding by the end of this year, but some of them want that Obama administration spigot open a bit longer. The states aren’t asking for the feds to dole out more money on top of the $4.6 billion already dedicated to exchange planning and construction. But they do want to be able to spend their federal exchange grants into 2015 as they grapple with core components of the insurance portals that are balky, unfinished or in disrepair. The viability of state exchanges became more urgent this week after conflicting court rulings created uncertainty about whether Affordable Care Act subsidies would be available through the federal exchange — or whether the state market would be the only legal route. A POLITICO survey of the 15 state-run exchanges (including Washington, D.C.) found that 11 are thinking about using federal dollars in 2015 — and four of those states have already applied."

Barone: Dems lose health exchanges bet

Michael Barone
Mon, 2014-07-28
Words mean what they say. That’s the basis for the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Halbig v. Burwell invalidating the Internal Revenue Service regulation approving subsidies for Obamacare consumers in states with federal health insurance exchanges. The law passed by Congress, Judge Thomas Griffith explained, provided for subsidies in states with state-created exchanges, but not in states with federal exchanges. That’s factually correct, and under the Constitution, the government can’t spend money not authorized by Congress. This has not prevented Democrats from calling the decision “judicial activism,” which makes as much sense as the claims that the Supreme Court decision overturning the Obamacare contraception mandate cuts off all access to contraception. “We reach this conclusion,” wrote Judge Griffith, “with reluctance.” Judge Roger Ferguson, writing for the Fourth Circuit whose King v.

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.

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."

Obamacare Help Was In High Demand, Survey Shows

Kaiser Health News
Wed, 2014-07-23
"Most working people in the U.S. sign up for health insurance in a very straightforward way: a few forms, a few questions for human resources, a few choices of plans. Signing up for Affordable Care Act insurance was nothing like that. It involved questions about income, taxes, family size and immigration status. And in most places in the country, there were myriad choices of plans with subtle differences between them. Guess what? People looked for help on the decision. During the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period, about 10.6 million people received personal help from navigators and other enrollment assisters, according to an online survey of the programs released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) And the assistance was time consuming: 64 percent of the programs reported that they spent an hour to two hours with each consumer on average.

Here’s What Obamacare’s Authors said They Actually Meant

Emily Badger, Washington Post
Tue, 2014-07-22
"The two contradictory appeals court decisions that cast the future of Obamacare into uncertainty Tuesday morning largely center on a question of intent: When the Affordable Care Act was conceived and drafted, did its creators mean to withhold health care subsidies from people living in states that refused to set up their own exchanges?. This latest legal challenge focuses on four words in the mammoth law authorizing tax credits for individuals who buy insurance through exchanges "established by the States." Thiry-six states declined to set up their own exchanges — far more than the law's backers anticipated — and in those states, consumers have been shopping for health care on exchanges run instead by the federal government. Now the D.C.

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