“BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — An old political standby — the future of Medicare — is emerging as the go-to issue in Louisiana’s bitter Senate race as the candidates woo seniors who typically wield strong influence in midterm elections.
The challenge for voters is to figure out which side, if either, is telling the whole truth about who would cut and who would protect the popular insurance program. Medicare serves more than 50 million people and accounts for about 15 percent of federal spending, with about 10,000 new beneficiaries added daily as baby boomers reach age 65. The issue is so powerful that it’s cropping up in North Carolina and Iowa, too, amid a national battle for control of the Senate.”
“Aiming to contain health care costs, a growing number of employers and insurers are adopting a strategy that limits how much they’ll pay for certain medical services such as knee replacements, lab tests and complex imaging. A recent study found that savings from such moves may be modest, however, and some experts question whether “reference pricing,” as it’s called, is good for consumers.
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), which administers the health insurance benefits for 1.4 million state workers, retirees and their families, has one of the more established reference pricing systems. More than three years ago, the agency began using reference pricing for elective knee and hip replacements, two common procedures for which hospital prices varied widely without discernible differences in quality, says Ann Boynton, CalPERS’ deputy executive officer for Benefit Programs Policy and Planning.”
“Last fall, millions of Americans breathed a sigh of relief when Obamacare didn’t cancel their health care plans. Now they’re holding their breath once again.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans will soon receive cancellation letters affecting their 2015 health care plans — and that number may quickly rise into the millions. This wave of cancellations will fall into two categories. The first group hit will be in the individual market, the same group that suffered through at least 6.3 million cancellation letters last year. They will almost certainly be joined by millions of people in the small-employer market, which has 40 million plans and will be under Obamacare’s control starting next year.”
“Why do Democrats and Republicans view this law so differently? Ideology plays a big role. Democrats are generally more willing than Republicans to look to government to help address people’s problems.
Demographics shape the debate, too.
If a community has a large concentration of people without health insurance, there is a good chance it is represented by a Democrat in Congress. Of the 50 congressional districts with the most uninsured people, all but nine are represented by Democrats.”
“The Obama administration and liberal activists hope that Gov. Gary Herbert (R-UT) will be the next governor lured into Obamacare expansion on the false promise of flexibility and free money. Herbert says he is nearing the end of negotiations with the federal government and wants to call a special session for the legislature to sign off on the Obamacare expansion plan. Unfortunately, most of the details of the plan remain a mystery. He’s given a few snippets of information here and there, but has thus far not released a detailed proposal.
Utah is often seen as a national leader for its values of helping individuals help themselves. Yet, Medicaid expansion undermines that very value system. Governor Herbert’s Obamacare expansion efforts are disappointing for the many unintended consequences that will follow in the state, and in light of his very strong position against Obamacare in the past. Obamacare Medicaid expansion will replace Utah’s compassionate ‘neighbors helping neighbors mentality,’ and weaken the family values that have been strong in the state for so long.”
“There are dozens of ways to escape Obamacare’s individual mandate tax — but good luck figuring that out come tax season.
Tens of millions of Americans can avoid the fee if they qualify for exemptions like hardship or living in poverty, but the convoluted process has some experts worried individuals will be tripped up by lost paperwork, the need to verify information with multiple sources and long delays that extend beyond tax season.
“It’s not going to be pretty,” said George Brandes, vice president of health care programs at Jackson Hewitt, a tax prep firm. “Just because you theoretically qualify for hardship, or another exemption, doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.””
“Health Reform: Wal-Mart says it’s cutting health benefits to part-timers and boosting worker premiums. If a retail empire built on low prices can’t find a way around ObamaCare’s added costs, we are all doomed.
The world’s biggest retailer announced this week that its health costs will be about 48% higher for the current fiscal year than it had expected in February. As a result, it’s cutting 30,000 part-timers from its health benefit plan, raising worker-paid premiums by 19% and trimming its co-payment for health costs above the deductible.
“We had to make some tough decisions,” benefits director Sally Wellborn told the Associated Press. But to hear President Obama tell it, Wal-Mart just didn’t shop around.”
“As Rich noted the other day, the Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that the uninsured haven’t been rushing to sign up for insurance under Obamacare. From the WSJ:
Early signals suggest the majority of the 2.2 million people who sought to enroll in private insurance through new marketplaces through Dec. 28 were previously covered elsewhere, raising questions about how swiftly this part of the health overhaul will be able to make a significant dent in the number of uninsured.
Insurers, brokers and consultants estimate at least two-thirds of those consumers previously bought their own coverage or were enrolled in employer-backed plans.
Note, this is after decades of liberals insisting that the uninsured were desperate to get insurance and years of Obama officials and defenders swearing that this law would make it happen. Indeed, in order to make it happen the Democrats blew up the entire health-care industry casting millions of people off their existing insurance plans. When those people went to exchanges to sign up for new ones, the Obama administration took credit for it, as if they were doing something for the uninsured. But barely 1 in 10 of new Obamacare enrollees were previously uninsured.”
“California’s health insurance exchange is canceling Obamacare coverage for 10,474 people who failed to prove their citizenship or legal residency in the U.S..
Covered California, the state-run insurance exchange, enrolled more than 1.2 million people during the rollout of the Affordable Care Act this year. For most consumers, the exchange said, it could verify citizenship or immigration status instantly with a federal data hub.
But more than 148,000 enrollees were lacking proof of eligibility and needed to submit documentation. People living in the U.S. illegally aren’t eligible for health law coverage.””
“Sandra Grooms recently got a call from her oncologist’s office. The chemotherapy drugs he wanted to use on her metastatic breast cancer were covered by her health plan, with one catch: Her share of the cost would be $976 for each 14-day supply of the two pills.
“I said, ‘I can’t afford it,’ ” said Grooms, 52, who is insured through her job as a general manager at a janitorial supply company in Augusta, Ga. “I was very upset.”
Even with insurance, some patients are struggling to pay for prescription drugs for conditions such as cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis or HIV/AIDS, as insurers and employers shift more of the cost of high-priced pharmaceuticals to the patients who take them.”