As Republicans and the Trump administration continue trying to chip away at the Affordable Care Act, the Internal Revenue Service has begun, for the first time, to enforce one of the law’s most polarizing provisions: the employer mandate.

Thousands of businesses — many of them small or midsize — will soon receive a letter saying that they owe the government money because they failed to offer their workers qualifying health insurance. The first round of notices, which the I.R.S. began sending late last month, are being mailed to companies that have at least 100 full-time employees and ran afoul of the law in 2015, the year that the mandate took effect.

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The Trump administration is moving ahead with Obama-era requirements to post calorie counts in restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores and pizza delivery chains nationwide next year.

Despite years of opposition by some food sellers, the Food and Drug Administration is offering only minor compromises to industry complaints about the difficulties of displaying calories at takeout chains, self-service buffets and other non-restaurant food locations.

The FDA posted a preliminary guidance online Tuesday to help businesses comply with the law.

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Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, recently described in the Chicago Tribune as “a trusted ally of former President Barack Obama and chief architect of the Affordable Care Act” has proposed in this week’s Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) a new “Affordability Index” to measure trends in the affordability of employer-provided health coverage.  Tracking the affordability of employer-sponsored insurance (which I will shorthand as ESI) is certainly worthwhile and important given that over half of the nation’s population relies on such coverage.

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Anthem’s membership in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces will decline by 70% in 2018, executives told investors Wednesday on the insurer’s third-quarter earnings call. About 1.4 million people had ACA-compliant plans with Anthem as of Sept. 30, 900,000 of whom bought coverage on the exchanges.

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Although the GOP’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act industry taxes died with the party’s health care bill, it’s conventional wisdom that some of the taxes will still be delayed. But there’s no plan to do so yet.
Lobbying campaigns to repeal or delay the health insurance tax and the medical device tax are ramping up, yet there’s no clear vehicle for Congress to take action. Well-wired lobbyists and Hill aides say the appetite for doing anything major on health care isn’t really there.

“It is a have-to-get-done that’s really hard to get done,” said one lobbyist.

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Democrats loudly complain that people will lose health insurance if the Affordable Care Act is repealed. They never mention those who lose jobs because the ACA remains.

The ACA includes a penalty on employers that fail to provide “adequate” insurance for full-time workers. Thanks to the ACA, hiring the 50th full-time employee effectively costs another $70,000 a year on top of the normal salary and benefits.

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The new Senate bill  1) Reduces the number of people eligible for subsidies, reduces the values of the premium subsidies, and lowers the cap on total subsidy expenditure;  2) Eliminates the individual and employer mandates;  3) Restricts coverage for abortion;  3) Ends the cost-sharing reductions — but not before paying insurers back for the money they’ve already laid out;  4) Gives states a great deal more flexibility in the waiver program;  5) Gets rid of a lot of Obamacare taxes;  6) Provides market stabilization funds;  7) Winds down the Medicaid expansion funding, but not as fast as the House bill; and  8) Converts Medicaid to a per-capita allotment rather than an open-ended entitlement.

The health care industry killed Hillarycare in the 1990s and cut deals to shape Obamacare more to its liking in 2009. But now, as Republicans push a sweeping and widely reviled health bill through Congress, the industry has often appeared declawed in the biggest health care fight of the decade.

It’s a deliberate strategy, interviews with nearly 20 lobbyists and other experts suggest. Health industry groups generally don’t love Obamacare enough to jeopardize their ability to shape the rest of the Republican agenda — including big corporate tax cuts. They also fear incurring White House retaliation.

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According to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation data that looks at state markets where all insurers must sell plans that meet Obamacare standards, regardless of how they’re purchased, more than half of the 22 million people who buy their own insurance use Obamacare marketplaces, where most of them get a federal tax credit to help pay for coverage. The rest buy directly from an insurer or broker, and they do not get a tax credit. Supporters of the Affordable Care Act hoped the law would spur more competition among insurers across the country. But so far, the law has not delivered on that promise, especially in states that never had much competition. Even before Obamacare, there have always been two distinct markets: states that still have plenty of competition and states that rely heavily on one or two insurers. In 15 states, eight or more insurers offer Obamacare plans. They are mostly the same ones where no single insurer had a dominant share of the market in 2013, before the law was enacted. But the 19 states that currently have fewer than five carriers statewide are all ones where a single insurer had more than half of the overall market before Obamacare.

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A new Lancet study adds to the growing mountain of evidence that market-oriented health care systems outperform the single-payer systems that have captivated the imagination of progressives for more than a century. Yet despite their claims of believing in evidence-based policy, far too many progressives persist in disparage efforts by Republicans to move the U.S. health system in a more market-oriented direction even while working feverishly on a misguided quest to put California on the path to single-payer health care.

The Lancet study focuses on the extent to which countries are able to avert “amenable mortality.” “Amenable mortality” refers to “unnecessary, untimely deaths,” i.e., deaths that hypothetically would not occur with timely and effective medical care. The idea is that it makes no sense to fault a country’s health system for deaths that never could have been averted even if the system was organized to be as efficient and effective as possible. Market-driven systems have shown to be superior at averting avoidable deaths.

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