Category: Healthcare Reform

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Can Obamacare Succeed Without Subsidies?

President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, faces new scrutiny in the courts, raising additional questions about the future of Obamacare. In late July, two federal appeals court panels issued contradictory rulings within hours of each other on the legality of one of the law’s key components: subsidies to help people pay for health insurance. At issue in both lawsuits was whether the wording of the law authorizes the government to make tax credits available to subsidize the cost of health insurance premiums for millions of qualifying middle- and low-income Americans who purchase insurance using healthcare.gov, the federal exchange, or only for those who use state-run marketplaces. The reasoning behind the opposing rulings boiled down to whether the judges strictly interpreted the letter of the health care law or its spirit. In a major blow to Obamacare, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2 to 1 that the health care law, as written, restricts tax credit subsidies to people who purchase health insurance through marketplaces that are “established by the State.” In his decision, Judge Thomas Griffith, appointed to the court by President George W. …

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Supreme Court Poised To Rule on Obamacare Birth Control Mandate

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is poised to deliver its verdict in a case that weighs the religious rights of employers and the right of women to the birth control of their choice. The court meets for a final time Monday to release decisions in its two remaining cases before the justices take off for the summer. The cases involve birth control coverage under President Barack Obama’s health law and fees paid to labor unions representing government employees by workers who object to being affiliated with a union. Two years after Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that saved the health care law in the midst of Obama’s campaign for re-election, the justices are considering a sliver of the law. Employers must cover contraception for women at no extra charge among a range of preventive benefits in employee health plans. Dozens of companies, including the Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby, claim religious objections to covering some or all contraceptives. The methods and devices at issue before the Supreme Court are those that Hobby Lobby and furniture maker Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pennsylvania, say can work after conception. They are the emergency …

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Once Again U.S. Has Most Expensive, Least Effective Healthcare System!

A report released Monday by a respected think tank ranks the United States dead last in the quality of its health-care system when compared with 10 other western, industrialized nations, the same spot it occupied in four previous studies by the same organization. Not only did the U.S. fail to move up between 2004 and 2014 — as other nations did with concerted effort and significant reforms — it also has maintained this dubious distinction while spending far more per capita ($8,508) on health care than Norway ($5,669), which has the second most expensive system. “Although the U.S. spends more on health care than any other country and has the highest proportion of specialist physicians, survey findings indicate that from the patients’ perspective, and based on outcome indicators, the performance of American health care is severely lacking,” the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that promotes improved health care, concluded in its extensive analysis. The charts in this post are from the report. The data for the 2014 report was collected before the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) went into full effect, so that reform may eventually boost the U.S. out of last place by providing health insurance to some of the …

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Right Now…

Right now, 36 states rely on HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange, to enroll people in health coverage. At least two more states are opting in next year, with a few others likely to follow. Only two states are trying to get out. That’s precisely the opposite of the Affordable Care Act’s original intent: 50 exchanges run by 50 states. The federal option was supposed to be a limited and temporary fallback. But a shift to a bigger, more permanent Washington-controlled system is instead underway — without preparation, funding or even public discussion about what a national exchange covering millions of Americans means for the future of U.S. health care. It’s coming about because intransigent Republicans shunned state exchanges, and ambitious Democrats bungled them. Republicans had warned all along that President Barack Obama’s health law would lead to greater Washington control. “This was all predictable,” said Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a physician who sees growing federal control of the health system hurting patients. “Our friends on the other side didn’t listen.” Tevi Troy, a health expert who served in the George W. Bush administration and advised Mitt Romney in 2012, says the country needs to stop and discuss the consolidation. “We’re kind …

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Obamacare Ups Health Insurance Costs

Labor unions have, of course, been among President Obama’s most reliable supporters. Unions’ support was critical to the passage of Obamacare in 2010. But unions are continuing to learn, to their apparent surprise, that their members will bear many of the costs of the new health law. Now we learn that some laborers are preparing to strike, if they are forced to absorb the higher health-insurance costs that the Affordable Care Act requires. “When we first supported the calls for health-care reform, we thought it was going to bring costs down,” a lawyer for the Laborers International Union of North America, or LIUNA, told Kris Maher and Melanie Trottman of the Wall Street Journal. But that’s not what’s happening. Maher and Trottman today discuss several cases where unionized workers and their employers are being forced to absorb higher costs as a result of the law. Large employers frustrated that Obamacare doesn’t decrease health costs Last year, I noted the case of Delta Air Lines, which told the Obama Administration that it would be spending $100 million more on health insurance in 2014 relative to 2013, mostly driven by Obamacare. Obamacare’s “slacker mandate” requiring plans to cover adult children under 26 means higher net costs …

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The Good The Bad and The Ugly

Republicans have not unified behind a single bill to replace Obamacare because conservatives have been debating among themselves exactly what the components of that bill should be. The ongoing collapse of Obamacare, economically and politically, is heightening the stakes in that debate, delaying matters. But the replacement plan now emerging will broaden health coverage at least as much as Obamacare, which teased universal coverage but never delivered. Moreover, the replacement plan would actually reduce health costs (through tried and true market incentives, proven to work in the real world), again which Obamacare promised, but instead produced exactly the opposite. Indeed, the plan would do this while cutting government spending, taxes and regulation as compared to Obamacare. Just think of the historic political significance of the Democrat Left finally enacting socialized medicine, after fighting for it for over a century, and the country rising up in political rebellion to reject it, and replace it with free market medicine instead. Jim Capretta, a Senior Fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, recently wrote about this emerging plan in the book, Room to Grow, published by the YG Network, a conservative organization that grew out of the work of the Republican House …

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Yay or Nay on Obamacare!

One day very, very soon the focus that is on Obamacare will turn from signing up new enrollees to qualifying the laws as a success or failure. The six-month open enrollment period ended as of April1st. But it is obvious that the Department of Health and Human Services as well as many states running their own marketplaces, are giving some extra time to consumers who’ve had trouble signing up. We can’t answer the questions if it is a success or not yet because we do not know whether those signing up for coverage were previously uninsured. In fact, some enrollees, perhaps many, had their insurance plans canceled at the end of 2013 because the plans did not meet the requirements set out by the ACA. What will happen to insurance premiums in 2015? Some experts are looking beyond this year’s enrollment numbers and are focusing on what the insurance rates will be for those renewing their plans this fall or selecting plans for the very first time! The questions at the top of our list are: what happens with the premiums in 2015? Plus: do the insurance companies leave the market or enter it? And finally: has the number of …

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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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