“Health Reform: Wal-Mart says it’s cutting health benefits to part-timers and boosting worker premiums. If a retail empire built on low prices can’t find a way around ObamaCare’s added costs, we are all doomed.
The world’s biggest retailer announced this week that its health costs will be about 48% higher for the current fiscal year than it had expected in February. As a result, it’s cutting 30,000 part-timers from its health benefit plan, raising worker-paid premiums by 19% and trimming its co-payment for health costs above the deductible.
“We had to make some tough decisions,” benefits director Sally Wellborn told the Associated Press. But to hear President Obama tell it, Wal-Mart just didn’t shop around.
That, at least, was what he said when the general manager of the Indiana-based Millennium Steel asked Obama last week about the company’s double-digit premium hikes.
Obama’s response: “The question is whether you guys are shopping effectively enough.””

“If the Congressional Budget Office is close to the mark, in the second open-enrollment season we will see about a doubling of the 7 million people enrolled in the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces. Open enrollment, which begins Nov. 15, is three months this year, or half as long as last year, and the remaining eligible uninsured are a more difficult-to-reach population. Here are the biggest challenges this time around:
First, the overwhelming reason the remaining uninsured cite as to why they have not already gotten coverage is that they believe they could not afford it. The message that most needs to reach the uninsured is that there are tax credits available to help make coverage more affordable. For a 30-year-old making $25,000 per year, the ACA tax credit would reduce the average cost of the most commonly selected “silver plan” from $2,877 per year to $1,729. Eighty-five percent of those who got coverage in the new insurance exchanges qualified for credits this year, but in our Kaiser Family Foundation survey of the uninsured in California, 73% of those eligible for assistance did not know they could get help.”

“Consumers keep price top of mind when they purchase prescription drugs and they’re unafraid to buy against the big labels, a new Morning Consult poll found.
Nearly three quarters of respondents said if given the choice between a brand name drug and a generic version, they’d be more willing to choose the generic version. What’s more, 65 percent of respondents disagreed that brand name drugs were more effective than generic drugs.”

“There are obvious benefits to getting health insurance at work. For one, employer-sponsored insurance is not taxed, meaning that every dollar of compensation provided as medical coverage stretches further. Individual market plans, meanwhile, are purchased with post-tax dollars. The only way to get in on the tax exemption is to buy coverage at work.
But for low-wage workers, Obamacare  has introduced a new and big drawback to the employer insurance. Namely, anybody who gets access to affordable coverage at work is barred from getting subsidies through the new exchanges. This is even true for people who don’t buy insurance at work; just the act of getting offered employer coverage blocks individuals from using getting financial help.”

“Some health insurers are having trouble finding doctors and hospitals to accept low rates under Gov. Tom Corbett’s Medicaid expansion plan, leading one company to quit the program and another to reduce participation.
Highmark Inc., the state’s largest health insurer, said it won’t participate in Corbett’s Healthy PA program because it couldn’t sign enough doctors to its network. Healthy PA is an alternative to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, proposed by Corbett and approved by the federal government in August, in which private insurers provide coverage to Medicaid recipients.”

“I’m sure glad that all the exposure of the activities of the IRS and Lois Lerner have put an end to using the IRS as a tool to attack administration critics. The crisis clearly is over, citizens.
The producer of a new movie that criticizes Obamacare has reportedly become the latest prominent conservative slapped with an IRS audit.”

“SEATTLE — As Washington’s health care exchange prepares for its second open enrollment period, officials were still trying to resolve billing and computer problems involving about 1,300 accounts from the previous round of sign-ups.
Exchange officials began with about 24,000 problem accounts that were detected as people started to use their insurance earlier this year.”

“Meal, drink, tip … insurance?
Some Los Angeles restaurants are adding a 3 percent surcharge to diners’ tabs in order to cover employees’ health insurance.
The owners of the restaurants deny that the additional charge is a “political statement” about the Affordable Care Act, saying it’s merely a way to provide for their employees.
“We want our staff to have health care,” Josh Loeb, a co-owner of the restaurant Milo & Olive told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not because we support Obama or don’t support Obama, or are Democrats or are not Democrats.””

“This time last year there seemed to be a new catastrophe or scandal every day related to the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare: many predicted the federal website would never be up and running by the looming deadline, the cost kept escalating, private contractors publically blamed bumbling bureaucrats and vice versa. Meanwhile, individuals who attempted to sign up ran into technical problems, and there were horror stories about people being told they would be dropped by their current insurance provider despite the fact the president had assured them this would not happen. Confusion was everywhere. Ultimately, key players got fired or resigned in disgrace.
So, where do we stand today, one year later?
That’s what the non-profit Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS) wanted to know.”

“Last week, Americans for the first time could look up their doctor to see what payments, if any, they received from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. And Morning Consult polling shows patients will make decisions based off that information: The majority of registered voters say they would be less likely to choose a certain physician if they took money from a drug or medical device company. It’s this mindset that has physicians, pharmaceutical and medical device companies worried.
The database, which was established in the Affordable Care Act, went public Tuesday afternoon. It allows users to see how much money doctors were paid by drug and medical device companies between August and December 2013. There were 4.4 million payments made totaling $3.5 billion, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Payments were made to 546,000 physicians and nearly 1,360 teaching hospitals. CMS directly acknowledges the database does not differentiate between payments that could be interpreted as a positive, like a physician doing clinical research, or negative, like money for a trip to promote a certain drug or device.”