ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

“Supporters of the Obama administration like to create the impression that there is no viable alternative to the Affordable Care Act — i.e., Obamacare. But that is demonstrably not true. Republican senators Richard Burr, Tom Coburn, and Orrin Hatch introduced a plan earlier this year that would cover just as many people with insurance as Obamacare at a fraction of the cost.
Now we have confirmation, in the form of a new cost estimate, that a similarly constructed but slightly different proposal would also cost less, while covering nearly the same number of people.”

“Everybody is for wellness, including corporate America. As the chart above shows, wellness programs–as varied as gym memberships, lifestyle coaching, flu shots and vaccinations, nutrition counseling and biometric screening, and other weight-loss efforts–are corporate America’s favorite strategy for health cost containment. That’s right, cost containment–despite the fact that evidence of wellness programs’ effectiveness is mixed when it comes to holding down costs and actually improving health.
The appeal of wellness programs has much to do with the popularity of wellness benefits among employees (and a belief that they can reduce absenteeism and improve productivity). The roughly $6 billion wellness industry aggressively sells products–and wellness programs are a far easier cost-containment strategy to sell to employees than higher cost sharing or narrower provider networks.”

” Who’s up for the latest batch of bad Obamacare-related news?
(1) Consumers brace for the second full year of Obamacare implementation, as the average individual market premium hike clocks in at eight percent — with some rates spiking by as much as 30 percent.
(2) “Wide swings in prices,” with some experiencing “double digit increases.”(Remember what we were promised):
Insurance executives and managers of the online marketplaces are already girding for the coming open enrollment period, saying they fear it could be even more difficult than the last. One challenge facing consumers will be wide swings in prices. Some insurers are seeking double-digit price increases…”

“The launch of the Affordable Care Act has focused attention on the idea of a health insurance exchange, or marketplace. Separate from the ACA, private exchanges have also started to emerge as an option for employers providing coverage to their workers. This report identifies the different types of private exchanges as well as projects the potential size of the private exchange market, which has the potential to reshape the employer-sponsored health insurance landscape, in the coming years.
Through interviews with representatives of more than fifteen private health insurance enrollment platforms as well as several employers and health plans moving in this direction, this report examines important implications in this quickly-growing landscape, including the potential for cost stability to employers and more choice among health plans for consumers.”

“Several unions want the Labor Department to broadly authorize employer-sponsored “wraparound” coverage for workers to supplement their exchange plan benefits and subsidies, according to comments on a rule that is currently being reviewed by the White House.
Under a little-noticed proposed rule the Labor Department issued on Dec. 24, the Obama administration proposed to treat as “excepted benefits” certain limited coverage provided by employers that would wrap around an individual market policy. If the wraparound coverage meets a number of requirements, it’s considered an excepted benefit and would not disqualify the employee from getting subsidized coverage on the exchanges. While unions generally supported the concept, many complained that the parameters the administration proposed would prevent lower wage employees from having access to the coverage and they are the ones that would benefit most.”

“States have developed various ways to avoid paying their fair share of Medicaid expenses over the years, in some cases costing the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding for the program.
The Department of Health and Human Services, which runs Medicaid through its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has known about the issue for more than a decade, but states still find ways to game the system. The agency’s inspector general this year listed the issue among 25 key problems the agency needs to address.”

“Employer groups are ramping up their efforts to revise the ACA’s 30-hour full-time employee definition in hopes of getting it changed before the employer mandate kicks in for some large employers next year. The initiative, titled “More Time for Full-Time,” was announced Friday (Sept. 19) and is the latest tactic by employers to change the standard so that it defines a full-time employee as one who works 40 hours per week.
Groups involved in the initiative include the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Grocers Association and the International Franchise Association.
“As all Americans have known for decades, 40 hours represents the widely-accepted definition of a full-time work week. Unless there is a statutory change to the definition of a full-time employee in the ACA, there will be fewer full-time jobs, more part-time workers and fewer overall hours available for Americans to work,” International Franchise Association President and CEO Steve Caldeira said in a statement.”

“Republicans have found a new opening against ObamaCare after struggling for months to craft a fresh strategy against a healthcare law that now covers millions of people.
Lifted by a pair of federal audits that found major flaws with the law’s implementation, Republicans see their first chance in months to launch a serious attack against the law.
“The news that we’ve seen over the last week and a half really emphasizes what conservatives and Republicans were trying to do last year, which was preventing a lot of this from happening,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for the conservative political group Heritage Action for America.
“What I hope happens is that the Republican Party as a whole says, ‘Yes, there is a reason besides politics that we’re fighting ObamaCare: It’s hurting people,’” Holler said.”

“Costs to buy coverage through Connecticut’s health insurance exchange won’t, on average, rise much next year. For some plans, the prices are dropping.
But some customers who get financial aid to buy their insurance could see price increases beyond the rise in sticker price if they stick with their current plans, according to an analysis by consultants for the exchange, Access Health CT.
As a result, some people might find lower prices by considering different plans, even if they bought the cheapest plan available this year, according to the analysis by Wakely Consulting Group.”

“Here’s a health law pop quiz: Which two states have the least successful Obamacare health insurance exchanges?
You may guess a state in the Deep South where political opposition to the law is fierce. Or maybe Missouri? It passed a state law saying consumer advisors funded by the Affordable Care Act aren’t allowed to advise consumers.
In fact, Iowa and South Dakota are the two states where the ACA insurance marketplaces struggled the most. In both, just 11.1 percent of residents eligible for subsidized insurance signed up for it – the lowest rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)”