ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

“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.””

“The Obama administration has already debuted its new, improved version of HealthCare.gov, but still won’t release premium rates on the website until after the Nov. 4 elections.
The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled the updated federal Obamacare exchange on Wednesday. The website is, by all accounts, in much better condition than last year.
HHS secretary Sylvia Burwell has said that the administration has put the new version of HealthCare.gov through its paces. And the administration has allowed insurers to test the site out themselves — although they made clear that insurance companies are not allowed to share their results with the media.”

“CMS says that states should reimburse Medicaid managed care plans for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance provider fee, and says that the fee itself should be incorporated into plans’ capitation rates, however, as the firm JP Morgan notes, the agency leaves some “wiggle room” on whether states should also factor in other potential effects of the fee, such as its non-deductibility status. Medicaid Health Plans of America President Jeff Myers said CMS’ recently released frequently asked questions document provides certainty for plans, particularly in states that hadn’t yet agreed to cover those fees.
Myers said the plans are gratified CMS decided to move forward with the FAQ, and the release of the FAQ and the 2015 Managed Care Rate Setting Consultation guide suggest that CMS would like to play a more involved role in rate setting for managed care. Since plans have been asking for more transparency around rate setting, CMS’ involvement could be a net positive, Myers said. The Government Accountability Office has also said that CMS’ oversight of the rate-setting process needs improvement.”

“Faced with the rising costs of generic prescription drugs, health insurers increasingly are turning to tiers and preferred lists on their formularies to keep costs down. Those strategies previously were used only for brand-name and specialty drugs. Experts say those approaches will increase out-of-pocket costs for patients and could make them less likely to adhere to drug regimens.
For years, insurers have encouraged patients to choose generic drugs because they were less expensive than their brand-name counterparts, and most prescription drugs currently used are generics.
But over the past year the cost of generic drugs has skyrocketed, including for products that have been on the market for many years. A study by Pembroke Consulting comparing CMS data for average generic drug acquisition costs between July 2013 and July 2014 found that half of the generic drugs listed rose in cost, with the median increase nearly 12%. Some drug prices saw extreme increases. For instance, the per-unit price for a 500 mg capsule of tetracycline, a common antibiotic, increased from $0.05 cents to $8.59, a more than 17,000 % increase.”

“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.
That, at least, was what he said when the general manager of the Indiana-based Millennium Steel asked Obama last week about the company’s double-digit premium hikes.
Obama’s response: “The question is whether you guys are shopping effectively enough.””

“Consumers keep price top of mind when they purchase prescription drugs and they’re unafraid to buy against the big labels, a new Morning Consult poll found.
Nearly three quarters of respondents said if given the choice between a brand name drug and a generic version, they’d be more willing to choose the generic version. What’s more, 65 percent of respondents disagreed that brand name drugs were more effective than generic drugs.”

“There are obvious benefits to getting health insurance at work. For one, employer-sponsored insurance is not taxed, meaning that every dollar of compensation provided as medical coverage stretches further. Individual market plans, meanwhile, are purchased with post-tax dollars. The only way to get in on the tax exemption is to buy coverage at work.
But for low-wage workers, Obamacare  has introduced a new and big drawback to the employer insurance. Namely, anybody who gets access to affordable coverage at work is barred from getting subsidies through the new exchanges. This is even true for people who don’t buy insurance at work; just the act of getting offered employer coverage blocks individuals from using getting financial help.”

“Some health insurers are having trouble finding doctors and hospitals to accept low rates under Gov. Tom Corbett’s Medicaid expansion plan, leading one company to quit the program and another to reduce participation.
Highmark Inc., the state’s largest health insurer, said it won’t participate in Corbett’s Healthy PA program because it couldn’t sign enough doctors to its network. Healthy PA is an alternative to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, proposed by Corbett and approved by the federal government in August, in which private insurers provide coverage to Medicaid recipients.”

“JACKSON, Miss. Groups supporting low-income Mississippi residents said Tuesday that elected officials are ignoring 300,000 people and refusing billions of federal dollars by choosing not to expand Medicaid in one of the poorest states in the nation.
If the state were to extend Medicaid, as allowed under the health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law, many low-wage workers could receive coverage that would enable them to afford doctors’ visits, prescriptions and medical supplies, said Roy Mitchell of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program. He said bus drivers, cashiers, day care workers and many others are in jobs that provide modest paychecks but no health insurance coverage.”

“President Obama and some of his most ardent media acolytes are insistent. No matter what you may have heard, Obamacare ‘is working’ in the ‘real world.’ That’s the new mantra. Learn it, love it, etc. The Lean Forward network, unsurprisingly, has served as the vanguard of this propaganda push. Their working theory seems to be that if you repeat an assertion often enough to the same tiny audience, you can wish-cast your dreams into reality:”