ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

“The Obama administration has found their line when it comes to setting expectations for the second roll-out of the federal exchange website: “Improvement but not perfection.”
It’s the semi-optimistic catch-phrase officials have used in congressional testimonies over the past few weeks to describe how well Healthcare.gov will work come November. Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator at CMS said it during his testimony with the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Marilyn Tavenner, CMS administrator used the line during her testimony Thursday morning for the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.
Voters also seem to be preparing for problems and not perfection as they head back to the site. Open enrollment begins November 15.
Morning Consult polling shows more than half of registered voters — 54 percent — are very concerned or somewhat concerned about security breaches on HealthCare.gov and the state exchange sites. Thirty-nine percent of registered voters were not too concerned at all.”

“If you bought health insurance at an Affordable Care Act marketplace this year, it really pays to look around before renewing your coverage for next year.
The system is set up to encourage people to renew the policies that they bought last year — and there are clear advantages to doing so, such as being able to keep your current doctors. But an Upshot analysis of data from the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform shows that in many places premiums are going up by double-digit percentages within many of the most popular plans. But other plans, hoping to attract customers, are increasing their prices substantially less. In some markets, plans are even cutting prices.”

“We did not see big changes in employer-based coverage in the Kaiser-HRET annual Employer Health Benefit Survey released last week. Mostly this is good news, particularly on the cost side where premiums increased just 3%.
But one long-term trend that is not so good is how this market works for firms with relatively large shares of lower-wage workers (which we define as firms where at least 35% of employees earn less than $23,000). These low-wage firms often do not offer health benefits at all. And, as the chart below shows, when they do offer coverage, it has lower premiums on average (likely meaning skimpier coverage) and requires workers to pay more for it. Workers in low-wage firms pay an average of $6,472 for family coverage, compared with $4,693 for workers in higher wage firms.”

“BOSTON — When it comes to the president’s health care law, there’s very little that Republicans and Democrats agree on—but one idea that seems to unite analysts, experts and lawmakers across the political spectrum is that Obamacare has done very little to actually improve health care.
“The U.S. healthcare system was always dysfunctional. The Affordable Care Act has just provided more access to that dysfunctional system,” iVantage chief Donald Bialek said during an ACA debate at The Economist’s health care forum in Boston on Wednesday. Bialek, for his part, was on the side defending the health care law.”

“RICHMOND — Republican leaders of Virginia’s House of Delegates, who have staunchly opposed Medicaid expansion all year, plan to put the question to a floor vote as early as Thursday in a special legislative session.
The GOP-dominated chamber is widely expected to shoot down the proposed $2 billion-a-year expansion, although a few conservative legislators have expressed fears that the measure might defy expectations and pass — just as a then-record tax hike did when Democrat Mark R. Warner was governor a decade ago.”

“Very few industries in bed with Obamacare come off smelling like a rose. But if one had to pick a bad actor above all others, it would probably be Big Health Insurance.
America’s largest and most influential health insurance companies actively supported passage of Obamacare in Congress, and continue to do so today. That’s not surprising, since the heart of Obamacare is a mandate on Americans to purchase the product the health insurance companies are selling (the individual mandate). The “essential minimum coverage” on “qualified health insurance plans” as dictated by the Department of Health and Human Services tend to emphasize first dollar insurance coverage whenever possible, which increases insurance company profits. Worst of all, insurance companies are the beneficiaries of a giant taxpayer bailout that makes their Obamacare participation a “heads they win, tails taxpayers lose” kind of scenario.”

“Obamacare—or at least the version of it that the president and his advisers currently think they can get away with putting into place—has been upending arrangements and reshuffling the deck in the health system since the beginning of the year. That’s when the new insurance rules, subsidies, and optional state Medicaid expansions went into effect. The law’s defenders say the changes that have been set in motion are irreversible, in large part because several million people are now covered by insurance plans sold through the exchanges, and a few million more are enrolled in Medicaid as a result of Obamacare. President Obama has stated repeatedly that these developments should effectively shut the door on further debate over the matter.
Of course, the president does not get to decide when public debates begin or end, and the public seems to be in no mood to declare the Obamacare case closed. Polling has consistently shown that more Americans oppose the law than support it, and that the opposition is far more intense than the support. The law is built on a foundation of dramatically expanded government power over the nation’s health system, which strikes many voters as a dangerous step toward more bureaucracy, less choice, higher costs, and lower quality care. The beginning of the law’s implementation does not appear to have eased these fears, and in some cases has exacerbated them.”

“The uninsured rate for kids under age 18 hasn’t budged under the health law, according to a new study, even though they’re subject to the law’s requirement to have insurance just as their parents and older siblings are. Many of those children are likely eligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The Urban Institute’s health reform monitoring survey analyzed data on approximately 2,500 children, comparing the uninsured rate in June 2014 with the previous year, before the health insurance marketplaces opened and the individual mandate took effect. It found that rates remained statistically unchanged at just over 7 percent for both time periods.”

“At a hearing to discuss the rising costs of healthcare benefits for Miami-Dade County, Fla., employees this year, a labor union consultant raised his hand to ask what seemed like a basic question.
Could the committee charged with reducing Miami-Dade labor’s healthcare expenses look at the spreadsheet showing the rates that the county pays local hospitals and doctors for medical services to employees?
“We really need to understand where the money is being spent in order to be insightful about benefit design changes,’’ said Duane Fitch, a healthcare consultant for SEIU Local 1991, which represents physicians and nurses at the county-owned Jackson Health System.”

“Large businesses expect to pay between 4 and 5 percent more for health-care benefits for their employees in 2015 after making adjustments to their plans, according to employer surveys conducted this summer.
Few employers plan to stop providing benefits with the advent of federal health insurance mandates, as some once feared, but a third say they are considering cutting or reducing subsidies for employee family members, and the data suggest that employees are paying more each year in out-of-pocket health care expenses.”