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The Future Of Your Health Policy

As we all know, when President Barack Obama sold his health care law to the American people, he sold it to them primarily on the basis of cost. He did this because the polling was so unanimous: People weren’t demanding massive increased regulation of the insurance marketplace to achieve any particular moral goal about coverage levels or anything of the sort – the vast majority of Americans just cared that their health insurance premiums were too high. So Obama made the case for his law based not on increasing coverage, but on decreasing costs – and along the way, he promised no one would lose their doctor or their plan, or see worse coverage because of his law. In each case, his argument was in line with the polling data on what the American people wanted. But what about making the case for health policy reforms in the post-Obamacare era? For most center-right health policy experts and opinion-makers, the assumption has taken hold that coverage levels must be sustained or even increased under any comparable reform. They believe the argument in favor of universal coverage has been lost, and that any plan that kicks people off of an entitlement program is doomed to …

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Lower Premiums May Be Expected for 2015!

Some health insurance analysts and industry statisticians are predicting that premium rates will increase by an average of just 7% in 2015, which is well below the double-digit increases that some observers have anticipated in recent months, USA Today reports. Dave Axene — a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, which has been working with insurers to analyze data trends about enrollees in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges — said, “The [double-digit rate] increases we’ve been hearing are probably exaggerated.” He acknowledged that there likely would be wide variations in premium rate increases across states but that the rates would increase by only between 6% and 8.5%, compared with increases of between 7% and 10% prior to the ACA’s implementation. In addition, Axene said that based off of analyses of early exchange enrollees, such individuals tend to be people with “higher morbidity.” Specifically, about 6% to 8% of early enrollees had higher-than-average health care needs, USA Today reports. However, this trend was expected and likely will not influence the 2015 premium costs, according to Axene. Axene noted that premiums still could increase in coming years, particularly in 2017, when “the risk corridors go away, which provide financial protection if [insurers] are bad at estimating …

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How Much Will Obamacare Cost You?

This past April 15, filers and accountants alike are finding a new array of taxes resulting from the president’s health care legislation. These include at least 20 ObamaCare-related tax increases totaling $409 billion over the next ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The new taxes are especially irksome to ObamaCare opponents, because they are imposed by a law that passed on a straight party-line vote and are being enforced by an agency that some accuse of party favoritism. “I think it’s rather unfortunate that the IRS has this huge role in the Affordable Care Act because it’s always controversial,” said Mark Everson, a former IRS Commissioner. “Then, to tie it up with this very controversial domestic law, it just makes the job tougher,” he said. Among the new taxes: – A Medicare Tax Increase of .9 percent for individuals earning over $200,000 or married couples earning $250,000 -A net investment income tax of 3.8 percent tax on individuals, estates, and trusts worth more $200,000 or $250,000 for joint filers. – And an increase in the threshold for itemized deductions for medical expenses from 7.5 percent  to 10 percent of gross income. There are also new taxes on …

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The BIG Summit

President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul is coming under renewed attack as some of the nation’s leading conservatives gather for a New Hampshire summit thick with presidential implications. Several potential Republican White House contenders — among them Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — headline a conference Saturday in Manchester, N.H., hosted by the conservative groups Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity. Scheduled speakers also include real estate mogul Donald Trump, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. The gathering highlights the role of Koch Industries, the giant conglomerate headed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. The Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity has already spent millions of dollars on health care-related attack ads aimed at Democratic senators in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and elsewhere. That’s made the Koch brothers a prime target for Democratic criticism. The summit comes as prospective presidential candidates begin to step up appearances in key states ahead of the 2016 presidential contest, even though New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation-presidential primary isn’t planned for another two years. The speakers are expected to bash the Democratic-backed health care overhaul, a …

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Are You Educated on Obamacare?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to explain the Obama administration’s latest decision to extend a key Obamacare deadline by saying people just “are not educated on how to use the Internet.”  The explanation, which glossed over the myriad technical problems HealthCare.gov had for weeks after its October launch, came as the administration faced Republican criticism for a late-breaking decision to extend a looming deadline for some. Open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act federal exchanges is set to end March 31, but the Department of Health and Human Services will let those who start the application process before that date have a bit more time to finish.  Reid, and the Obama administration, will not call the change a “delay.”  “We have hundreds of thousands of people who tried to sign up and they didn’t get through,” Reid said during a press conference, before describing the difficulties people have with the Internet in general.  “There are some people who are not like my grandchildren who can handle everything so easily on the Internet, and these people need a little extra time. … The example they gave us is a 63-year-old woman came into the store and said, ‘I almost got …

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Healthcare.gov Goes Down On Last Day

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration’s health care website stumbled on deadline day for new sign-ups. Visitors to HealthCare.gov on Monday morning saw messages that the site was down for maintenance. At times the visitors were also directed to a virtual waiting room — a feature designed to ease the strain on the site during periods of heavy use. The site was working again at 8 a.m., according to CNBC. Administration spokesman Aaron Albright said the website undergoes “regular nightly maintenance” during off-peak hours and that period was extended because of a “technical problem.” He did not say what the problem was, but a statement from the Department of Health and Human Services called it “a software bug” unrelated to application volume. Albright said consumers seeking to sign up will be able to leave their email and “will be invited back when the system is available.” Consumers can also call 1-800-318-2596 to complete the application process. Albright said the website is typically down for maintenance during the period from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. EDT, and that as a result of the technical problems the site was down for close to four additional hours on Monday morning. The sign-up website had been …

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FOUR NEW MYSTERIES IN THE OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT NUMBERS

The White House is heralding the news that 2.2 million people have signed up through state and federal health care marketplaces as evidence that Obamacare, which started as a disaster, is finally working. On Monday, Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that December alone accounted for 1.8 million new enrollees. In December, seven times more people enrolled through the federal exchange, and adults aged 18 to 34 signed up at eight times the rate they did in the first two months of the law. “Americans are finding quality affordable coverage in the Marketplace, and best of all, because coverage began on New Year’s Day, the promise and hope of the Affordable Care Act is now a reality,” Sebelius said in a statement announcing the enrollment figures. “Our outreach efforts have ramped up, so whether it’s through public service announcements, events, our champions or other means, we are doing all we can to find, inform and enroll those who can benefit from the Marketplace.” But the numbers HHS released are misleading, and only tell part of the story. The White House is still lagging to meet self-imposed enrollment targets. And young people are not signing up at the pace …

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OBAMACARE AFTERMATH: FEWER DOCTERS, HIGHER COSTS

Beleaguered defenders of President Obama’s healthcare law are frantic to assure Americans that at the end of the day – in spite of all the glitches and disappointments – Obamacare is good for the country. They argue that our nation’s existing healthcare system is “broken” and needs to be fixed. In a recent op-ed published in The New York Times, Charles Blow offers up several places where the U.S. falls short. He notes that the U.S. has fewer doctors per person than most OECD countries, fewer hospital beds per person and that our increase in life expectancy – nine years between 1960 and 2010 – does not equal that of several other developed nations. He neglects to mention how Obamacare will fix these failings – probably because it will not. How does cramming down fees paid to doctors and hospitals result in more people deciding to go into medicine or hard-hit medical centers being able to expand?  Granted, there will be a larger population seeking care, but increased demand does not necessarily lead to increased supply. For that to happen prices have to rise – and we have been promised that, to the contrary, Obamacare will “bend the cost curve.”  …

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WHY PREMIUMS ARE JUST THE BEGINNING OF OBAMACARE COSTS

Anyone shopping for insurance on the new Obamacare marketplaces knows – or needs to know – that the premiums there don’t tell the full story on costs. Some 80 percent of applicants for policies on the federal and state marketplaces are eligible for subsidies. Under the current federal subsidy structure, the annual income cut-off for premium subsidies is $45, 960 for a single person and $94,200 for a family of four. That means that those making under $100,000 (and with larger families) are far more likely to obtain help with out-of-pocket costs in the form of lower premiums. Even so, those premiums, which vary by state and type of plan, reflect only a portion of the total expenses a policyholder could pay for out-of-pocket charges. In buying any insurance plan, it’s the combination of the premium with likely out-of-pocket expenses — copays and deductibles — that comprise your total cost. Top-tier “platinum” plans pay 90 percent of expenses, but you’ll pay high premiums to obtain that kind of coverage. Calculating the real out-of-pocket expenses you might face with lower-tier plans can be more complicated. You have to weigh the plan’s deductible and examine a range of other factors, including co-pays …

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4 Things You Didn’t Know About The Obamacare Penalty

March is the close to open enrollment. If you didn’t choose to get covered then you will have a penalty to pay. That penalty has been the subject of much debate and some confusion. At its simplest, the law mandates that individuals who go without insurance in 2014 must pay the government either $95 or 1 percent of their household income, whichever is higher. 1. The formula is not as simple as it seems. The penalty for not having insurance begins with a flat fee of $95 per person for the year (plus $47.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family is $285. The other potentially more painful penalty is 1 percent of annual household income, up to a maximum equal to the national average annual premium for a “bronze” health insurance plan. The CBO estimates this to be approximately $5,000 for an individual in 2016 and $12,000 for a family. The fee increases every year. In 2015 it will be 2 percent of income or a flat-rate penalty of $325 per adult and $162.50 per child. In 2016, it’s 2.5 percent of income or $695 per person and $347.50. After that, the penalty will be adjusted for …

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