ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

“Insurers can no longer reject customers with expensive medical conditions thanks to the health care overhaul. But consumer advocates warn that companies are still using wiggle room to discourage the sickest — and costliest — patients from enrolling.
Some insurers are excluding well-known cancer centers from the list of providers they cover under a plan; requiring patients to make large, initial payments for HIV medications; or delaying participation in public insurance exchanges created by the overhaul.
Advocates and industry insiders say these practices may dissuade the neediest from signing up and make it likelier that the customers these insurers do serve will be healthier — and less expensive.
“It’s the same insurance companies that are up to the same strategies: Take in as much premium as possible and pay out as little as possible,” said Jerry Flanagan, an attorney with the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog.”

“Ascension Health, one of the nation’s largest hospital owners, is expanding rapidly with a string of announced deals that its CEO says will grow its reach beyond hospitals to keep pace with rapid Obamacare-induced changes in the marketplace.
But notably, Ascension is not on an acquisition spree. Its latest deals—in Illinois, Michigan, Arizona and Wisconsin—are not outright purchases, but rather agreements with regional rivals and other national players to jointly own, operate or contract for hospitals and insurance companies.
The deals pair Ascension with well-established players in each market and allow the system to avoid costly competition or wasteful duplication by capitalizing on partners’ resources that Ascension lacks, said Robert Henkel, Ascension Health’s chief executive. The strategy also will allow Ascension to jointly develop broader services to care for patients at home, in nursing homes and other locations outside of hospitals. “There are times we don’t have all the pieces,” he said.
The shift by healthcare systems away from providing care in hospitals has accelerated since the 2010 health reform law, as Medicare and Medicaid introduced new financial incentives for lower-cost care under reform and commercial health plans followed. An explosion of dealmaking across healthcare has followed as hospitals, medical groups, insurance companies and drug and devicemakers consolidated or diversified, depending on strategy.”

“Bill Jacobs spent four nights in a hospital in Florida battling pneumonia. His kids visited each day, fluffed his pillows, brought his favorite Sudoku puzzles and got regular updates from his nurses and doctors. Imagine their surprise when they found out that their 86-year-old father was never actually admitted; instead, he was treated as an outpatient under what Medicare refers to as “observation status.”
What difference does that make? Actually, more than you might think. If your parents are on Medicare, the difference between being considered an inpatient or an observation patient could be thousands of dollars out of their pocket, if not more.
First, Medicare Part A will cover all hospital services, less the deductible, but only if you’re admitted to the hospital as an inpatient. The one-time deductible covers all hospital services for the first 60 days in the hospital. Doctors’ charges are covered under Medicare Part B. After you meet the deductible for Part B, you’ll then owe 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for doctor services, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Are You A Hospital Inpatient Or Outpatient?”

“File this under ‘how ironic.’
Drug makers are asking for more transparency from the government agency that is requiring them to be more transparent about how much they pay doctors.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, is calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to further explain why the agency has removed one-third of the payment information from an online database that is due to be made public by Sept. 30.
Earlier this month, CMS said it would withhold about one-third of the payment data from the so-called “Open Payments” system. The agency also said it would return the records to drug makers because they were “intermingled,” including the erroneous linking of payment information for some doctors to still other doctors with similar names. CMS cited incorrect state medical-license numbers as one reason for the mix-up, among others.
CMS had collected partial-year 2013 payment data from the companies and began allowing doctors to go online for a preview this summer, before the database goes public by Sept. 30, in order to dispute any inaccuracies. But CMS closed the preview function for about 11 days to investigate the data intermingling and re-opened the site nearly two weeks ago. The missing one-third will be put back in the database at a later date, likely next year.”

“Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is restricting student work because of compliance issues associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare.
In an email last week, MTSU President Sidney McPhee explained that “due to our interpretation of the reporting requirements of ACA,” graduate assistants, adjunct faculty members, and resident assistants are barred from working on-campus jobs that exceed 29 hours of work per week.
“[E]ffective beginning with the fall semester, we will no longer allow part-time employees, or those receiving monthly stipends from the university, to accept multiple work assignments on campus.” Tweet This
Now, they cannot take on multiple campus jobs.
“[E]ffective beginning with the fall semester, we will no longer allow part-time employees, or those receiving monthly stipends from the university, to accept multiple work assignments on campus,” the email stated.
McPhee noted that violations of the law “could add up as high as $6 million” in penalties.”

“Revenue at not-for-profit hospitals grew at an all-time low of 3.9% last year with sluggish gains in both inpatient and outpatient activity, according to a report on 2013 medians from Moody’s Investors Service.
In comparison, hospital revenue increased 5.1% in 2012 and historically has grown about 7% per year.
Moody’s pegged the increased popularity of high-deductible health plans for leading people to postpone care or seek out lower cost retail clinics. “Patients have more skin in the game,” said Jennifer Ewing, an analyst at Moody’s.
The volume decline also is coming amid a number of Medicare reimbursement cuts, including the ones known as sequestration triggered by the 2012 Budget Control Act and reductions in disproportionate-share hospital payments under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In addition, Medicare’s two-midnight rule has made it harder for hospitals to bill short stays as inpatient care, and commercial payers have offered lower payment rate increases.”

“As federal officials wrestle over whether HealthCare.gov will withstand the weight of millions of new customers and re-enrollees this fall, state brass with Your Health Idaho are looking to detach from the federal health insurance portal.
But they’re going to need help from Idahoans.
The state-run insurance marketplace has begun setting up state-based accounts through its own technology for the 76,000 residents who signed up for health care last year, said spokeswoman Jody Olson.
Idaho used HealthCare.gov’s Web system in its inaugural year, as officials believed accounts could easily be transferred. The federal government, however, continues to “drag its feet, and we still don’t have the data we were told we’d get,” Olson wrote in a release.”

“Devin Payne had gone years without health insurance – having little need and not much money to pay for it.
Then Payne, who had a wife and four children, realized she could no longer live as a man.
In her early 40s, she changed her name, began wearing long skirts and grew out her sandy blond hair. And she started taking female hormones, which caused her breasts to develop and the muscle mass on her 6-foot one-inch frame to shrink.
The next step was gender reassignment surgery. For that, Payne, who is now 44, said she needed health coverage. “It is not a simple, easy, magical surgery,” said Payne, a photographer who lives in Palm Springs. “Trying to do this without insurance is a big risk. Things can go wrong … not having the money to pay for it would be awful.”
Payne learned in the fall that she might qualify for subsidies through the state’s new insurance marketplace, Covered California, because her income fell under the limit of $46,000 a year. She eagerly signed up in March for a Blue Shield plan for about $230 a month, and began making preparations for the surgery that would change her life.”

“Listing to a panel discussion sponsored by the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning, I heard reference to a metaphor for the Affordable Care Act that I’ve heard a number of time before — the three-legged stool.
Describing the different core components of the health care reform law, three primary tenets offer their support to the law, with, each complementing and reliant upon the others, and the stool falling over if one of the legs falters.
They are: guaranteed issue and community rating (meaning an insurer can’t deny coverage or charge astronomical rates coverage because of pre-existing conditions), the individual mandate (everyone must have coverage or face a fine) and subsidies (financial assistance from the federal government to help low-income consumers can pay for coverage).
I’ve sat in on numerous, similar discussions, and had heard the metaphor before. But it wasn’t until comments from panelist Mark Hall, a professor at Wake Forest University School of Law and a leading health care policy scholar specializing in health care reform, that I realized I was missing a key part of that image.
Those are the three legs — what’s the seat represent?
As Hall noted, if you go by what the law is called, the “Affordable Care” Act, you’d be mistaken.
“One thing it doesn’t do is it doesn’t make care more affordable,” Hall said said during the discussion, which was organized by Pilot Benefits. “Mistake number one was to call it that. It doesn’t change in any significant way how doctors and hospitals are paid.”
As Hall noted, while many opponents might criticize the bill for not reducing health care spending, “the main point is it does not affect how health care is delivered or paid for. … That point is lost on about half of the population.'”

“From Halbig to Sovaldi, this summer was a busy one for health policy and politics. We’ve made it easy to catch up, collecting all of the top stories you clicked on over the past few months. Together, they tell a story about the state of healthcare in the U.S., and offer clues as to where things may be headed when Congress returns in the fall.
Among them: The political battle over Obmacare has become more complicated for Republicans since the government cleaned up the Healthcare.gov mess, and with midterm elections around the corner, the focus will be on how much either party continues to attack or ignore the law. There are policy, legal and business matters to be settled as well – the employer mandate is under attack from the left and the right, the courts have been a wildcard for the health law to this point and could continue to be so, and employers and employees are finding themselves wading through the on-the-ground impacts of the law. That doesn’t even get to our top three storylines of the summer, so be sure to click through to find out what tops the list.”