ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

“The second Obamacare enrollment season could go negative — but not because of the health care law’s critics.
Obama administration allies are weighing a focus on the loathsome individual mandate and the penalties that millions of Americans could face if they don’t get covered. It would be a calculated approach to prompt sign-ups, a task that the law’s supporters expect to be more difficult, or at least more complex, than in its coverage’s inaugural year.
There are several challenges: The 2015 enrollment period is shorter, the most motivated Americans are probably already enrolled and the law is still politically unpopular. That means that even if HealthCare.gov works well — and it couldn’t be worse than last October’s meltdown — proponents are confronting a tough messaging landscape.”

“As we start the final stretch before the midterm elections, many analysts are convinced that Obamacare isn’t the hot political issue it once was. While the flood of negative publicity about the law has subsided of late, a majority of people still oppose it, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls taken from Sept. 2-15. And I’ve always believed the voters’ negative impressions of the law were “baked” into their assessments of Democratic incumbents.
That’s partly why Democratic Senators such as Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska find themselves barely breaking 40 percent in recent public polls.
But a new study out this week from Bloomberg Government threatens to bring the Affordable Care Act back to center stage — and in a way that will likely hurt the electoral chances of incumbent Democrats, all of whom voted for the law.”

“When it comes to health insurance exchanges, there’s nothing like the first time to grab voters’ attention and enthusiasm.
Morning Consult polling found 47 percent of voters say they are not at all likely to purchase health insurance through an online exchange this year. In the weeks before the start of open enrollment in 2013, that figure was 19 percentage points lower, with only 28 percent saying they were not at all likely to purchase insurance on the exchange. Voters’ stated likelihood of buying insurance decreased across all categories from 2013 to 2014.”

“You wake up feeling gross – stuffy and full of aches. A quick Google search of your symptoms confirms that yes, you probably have a cold and not the plague. But what if you were directed to a site that had a legitimate sounding name but wasn’t really accurate at all?
It sounds like a problem from the ancient days of the Internet. Since then people have learned that .gov leads to bona fide government sites, but .com could be anyone selling you anything.
How do you feel about .health? A new slew of web domains is coming down the pike, like “.health,” “.doctor,” and “.clinic.” They’re not required to have any medical credentials. That’s deeply worrying to some public health advocates.”

“After the rocky rollout last fall of the ObamaCare website, the administration wants to re-enroll those already in the system in hopes of avoiding another technological embarrassment.
But analysts warn that just blindly re-enrolling could mean trouble for consumers.
“This notion of just sit back and re-enroll is really misleading and I think could cause a lot of harm to people,” said Bob Laszewski of Health Policy and Strategy Associates.
“The automatic renewal, it’s easy, it will keep people getting ObamaCare,” added Rosemary Gibson of the Hastings Center. “But you have to trust but verify. You have to go look. You just can’t be on automatic pilot for health insurance.””

“Three Blue Cross Blue Shield plans operated by Health Care Service Corporation have decided to discontinue their “transitional” non-ACA compliant plans at the end of this year and cancellation notices will be sent to affected policyholders “shortly,” a company spokesperson tells Inside Health Policy. HCSC says the decision was made to help keep premiums for ACA plans affordable, because moving those enrollees into compliant plans will result in a more balanced mix of individuals.
Transitional plans that were on the market this year from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma will be discontinued effective Jan. 1. One source tracking state developments said the Blues appear to be discontinuing the plans on its own volition. The Blues participated aggressively in the exchanges in the first year while many other carriers remained cautious about entering the new markets, though that is beginning to change for 2015. All of the aforementioned states are using the federal exchange for 2015 open enrollment for individual plans.”

“CMS on Tuesday goes live with a website that discloses what drug and device companies pay physicians, and the doctor lobby already is warning reporters not to misuse the data. Also this week, America’s Health Insurance Plans holds three conferences covering key health care issues, and drug-pricing policies are a hot topic with events on protected drug classes; insurance designs that encourage patients to use specialty medicines; and a briefing on the cost and value of new drugs.
The American Medical Association sent reporters a guide for appropriately handling data from the Open Payments website, which Congress created under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. The law requires makers of drugs, devices and medical supplies to report financial relationships with physicians and teaching hospitals, and AMA worries that the public will misconstrue those relationships.
“Publicly reporting industry payments to individual physicians can imply, wrongly, that such payments are always inappropriate,” AMA warned reporters on Monday.”

“The Affordable Care Act changed the rules on how health insurance plans dealt with pre-existing conditions, outlawing the practice of turning away patients with expensive conditions or charging them a drastically higher cost for coverage. But an editorial alleges some health insurance companies operating on the new marketplaces created by Obamacare may have found a loophole that allows them to discourage sick patients from enrolling in a specific plan.
The change has to do with how drugs are categorized in health systems. From the editorial published online at the American Journal of Managed Care:
“For many years, most insurers had formularies that consisted of only three tiers: Tier 1 was for generic drugs (lowest copay), Tier 2 was for branded drugs that were designated “preferred” (higher co- pay), and Tier 3 was for “nonpreferred” branded drugs (highest copay). Generic drugs were automatically placed in Tier 1, thereby ensuring that patients had access to medically appropriate therapies at the lowest possible cost. In these three-tier plans, all generic drugs were de facto “preferred.” Now, however, a number of insurers have split their all-generics tier into a bottom tier consisting of “preferred” generics, and a second tier consisting of “non-preferred” generics, paralleling the similar split that one typically finds with branded products. Copays for generic drugs in the “non-preferred” tier are characteristically much higher than those for drugs in the first tier.””

“After a long list of Obamacare failures in Alaska, one physician is shutting down his decades-old practice, charging that the health-care law and other federal programs are “unsustainable” for practicing doctors.
Dr. William Wennen, a plastic surgeon, is closing his Fairbanks practice after 38 years of working in the state. Dr. Wennen blames federal health insurance programs, citing Obamacare, Medicaid and Medicare, for shutting down his practice.”

“A survey of American physicians released this week paints a restless picture of the nation’s doctors—especially when it comes to Obamacare.
“The system is broken and I am out of here as soon as I can,” one doctor wrote. “I am tired of being used, abused, and lied to. Has anyone here woken up to the fact that we are always the last ones to be considered in the equation of change?”
Roughly 20,000 of 650,000 doctors responded to the Physicians Foundation’s survey, and voluntary surveys are prone to finding those with strong opinions. But of those strong opinions, 46 percent of doctors gave the Affordable Care Act (ACA) a “D” or “F,” while only 25 percent gave it an “A” or “B.””