ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

“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.”

“Despite the success of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, state Democrats are having a hard time winning over even those Republicans who admit they are benefiting from the law.
The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.
“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”
But Ms. Evans scowled at the mention of President Obama — “Nobody don’t care for nobody no more, and I think he’s got a lot to do with that,” she explained — and said she would vote this fall for Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and minority leader, who is fond of saying the health care law should be “pulled out root and branch.””

“This week exchangers could get data on enrollment in the small business exchanges operated by the federal government as Mayra Alvarez, director of CCIIO’s State Exchange Group, will testify at a House Small Business Committee hearing Thursday on SHOP exchange implementation. CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner will also return to the House to face the Oversight Committee on Thursday on healthcare.gov security concerns, one day after the Government Accountability Office’s planned Sept. 17 release of a report on that controversial subject.
Academics and researchers are also diving into new data out Tuesday (Sept. 16) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau on the number of uninsured. The CDC’s early release of data from the National Health Interview Survey found that the uninsured rate for adults ages 18 to 64 had dipped from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 18.4 percent in the first three months of 2014. The survey does not account for the late surge of enrollments toward the end of the first exchanges open enrollment period, however it is the first official government report to document the reduction in uninsured following the ACA’s coverage expansions.”

“House Ways & Means health subcommittee chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) questions HHS’ authority to settle hospitals’ appeals of denied inpatient claims and is urging HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to retract what he views as an “ill thought” settlement process. Brady wants Burwell to work with lawmakers to come up with a different “fair, transparent and conclusive settlement process.”
Brady wrote to Burwell Tuesday (Sept. 16) that he is dismayed by HHS’ reluctance to work with the committee on an equitable settlement process that is fully legal, adding that the “lack of engagement makes it challenging for the Congress to solve the current appeals problems and prevent similar problems in the future.”
CMS announced late last month (Aug. 29) that it will pay hospitals 68 percent of denied inpatient status claims in the appeals queue if hospitals take them out of the backlogged appeals process. The agency has been encouraging hospitals to take advantage of the settlement to “alleviate the burden of Medicare appeals on both the hospital and Medicare systems,” according to the CMS website.
Hospitals should decide whether to participate by the end of October, and CMS in a Frequently Asked Questions document released Sept. 9 says that four hospitals have already stepped forward to take the settlement offer. The document also states that this is a one-time offer from CMS.”

“Last year I wrote that Obamacare could leave doctors holding the bag for claims for patients who don’t pay their insurance premiums. That’s because the law includes a three-month grace period during which health insurers must continue to cover patients who sign up, but don’t pay the price of their insurance. If the patients eventually make good, there’s no problem. But if patients don’t pay the owed premiums, the insurance company has to cover the cost of claims filed during the first month. Providers are stuck with the tab for any claims filed during months two and three.
The piece I wrote last July was theoretical. The notification letter I’m holding in my hand, addressed to my wife’s pediatric practice, is reality. And reality costs, in this case, over $600. That’s the outstanding balance owed the practice by a patient insured by BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona. It’s a balance that my wife might have to eat, or else try to collect herself.”