“Doctors and hospitals treated more patients and collected more payments in the spring as millions gained insurance coverage under the health law, new figures from the government show.
But analysts called the second-quarter increases modest and said there is little evidence to suggest that wider coverage and a recovering economy are pushing health spending growth to the painful levels of a decade ago.”

“A flaw in the federal calculator for certifying that insurance meets the health law’s toughest standard is leading dozens of large employers to offer plans that lack basic benefits such as hospitalization coverage, according to brokers and consultants.
The calculator appears to allow companies enrolling workers for 2015 to offer inexpensive, substandard medical insurance while avoiding the Affordable Care Act’s penalties, consumer advocates say.
Insurance pros are also surprised such plans are permitted.
Employer insurance without hospital coverage “flies in the face of Obamacare,” said Liz Smith, president of employee benefits for Assurance, an Illinois-based insurance brokerage.”

“Employers have complained for years about their rising health-care costs. But over the past decade, as the chart above shows, premium increases for employer health insurance have moderated sharply and stabilized. Premiums for family policies in the group market grew 72% between 1999 and 2004; 34% between 2004 and 2009; and 26% between 2009 and 2014. Even as premium growth moderated, health insurance costs still outpaced inflation and wage growth. But this year premiums grew 3%, about the same rate as wages and inflation. Despite fears that premiums would rise in the group market because of the Affordable Care Act, they have remained stable.
Policy experts do not fully understand why health-care costs have moderated or when and how rapidly they might begin to again rise more quickly. And coverage is still very expensive: The average family policy costs $16,834 a year, with employers paying, on average, 71% of the expense and employees 29%.
Corporate benefits managers will continue to do what they can to tamp down annual premium increases, and companies will continue to raise deductibles and other forms of cost sharing to help constrain premium increases. But as long as these more modest increases in their health insurance premiums continue, corporate CEOs will see their health costs more like a chronic illness to be managed than an acute problem or crisis, and they will no doubt focus their energies on other problems.”

“A report out today puts numbers behind what hit many workers when they signed up for health insurance during open enrollment last year: deductible shock.
Premiums for employer-paid insurance are up 3% this year, but deductibles are up nearly 50% since 2009, the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows.
The average deductible this year is $1,217, up from $826 five years ago. Nearly 20% of workers overall have to pay at least $2,000 before their insurance kicks in, while workers at firms with 199 or fewer employees are feeling the pain of out-of-pocket costs even more: A third of these employees at small companies pay at least $2,000 deductibles.”

“The key findings from the survey, conducted from January through May 2014, include a modest increase in the average premiums for family coverage (3%). Single coverage premiums are 2% higher than in 2013, but the difference is not statistically significant. Covered workers generally face similar premium contributions and cost-sharing requirements in 2014 as they did in 2013. The percentage of firms (55%) which offer health benefits to at least some of their employees and the percentage of workers covered at those firms (62%) are statistically unchanged from 2013. The percentage of covered workers enrolled in grandfathered health plans – those plans exempt from many provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – declined to 26% of covered workers from 36% in 2013. Perhaps in response to new provisions of the ACA, the average length of the waiting period decreased for those with a waiting period and the percentage with an out-of-pocket limit increased. Although employers continue to offer coverage to spouses, dependents and domestic partners, some employers are instituting incentives to influence workers’ enrollment decisions, including nine percent of employers who attach restrictions for spouses’ eligibility if they are offered coverage at another source, or nine percent of firms who provide additional compensation if employees do not enroll in health benefits.”

“Dan wrote up yesterday’s Washington Post/ABC News poll, which was jammed with crooked numbers for President Obama. Most striking was the (30/55) majority deeming Obama’s presidency “a failure,” along with the prevailing opinion that he’s divided the country, and his unsightly leadership score. The survey also included a dreadful (38/56) presidential approval rating on the implementation of Obamacare; support for the law itself was also underwater, with an outright majority opposed, despite this polling series’ silly question wording that omits any mention of ‘Obamacare’ or the ‘Affordable Care Act.’ A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll produces similar findings, with support for the president’s signature domestic accomplishment swamped by opposition. It’s been this way for years, across hundreds of national surveys.
One major reason for the enduring opposition is that the law has violated virtually every major promise erected in dishonest ideologues’ sales pitch. Another is that an ongoing parade of unpleasant developments continues to make headlines, including the recent revelation that Healthcare.gov was hacked last month. Apologists can cherry-pick useful data points to try to convince the public that Obamacare is reducing premium costs and driving down costs, but that’s simply not the case. Individual market premiums exploded in 2014, and are expected to grow by roughly eight percent in 2015 (with many consumers confronting double-digit spikes) — to say nothing of high out-of-pocket costs and narrow coverage networks. Overall health spending continues an upward climb. The law was billed as a dramatic premium reducer that would also bend down the so-called “cost curve.””

Dan wrote up yesterday’s Washington Post/ABC News poll, which was jammed with crooked numbers for President Obama. Most striking was the (30/55) majority deeming Obama’s presidency “a failure,” along with the prevailing opinion that he’s divided the country, and his unsightly leadership score. The survey also included a dreadful (38/56) presidential approval rating on the implementation of Obamacare; support for the law itself was also underwater, with an outright majority opposed, despite this polling series’ silly question wording that omits any mention of ‘Obamacare’ or the ‘Affordable Care Act.’ A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll produces similar findings, with support for the president’s signature domestic accomplishment swamped by opposition. It’s been this way for years, across hundreds of national surveys.
One major reason for the enduring opposition is that the law has violated virtually every major promise erected in dishonest ideologues’ sales pitch. Another is that an ongoing parade of unpleasant developments continues to make headlines, including the recent revelation that Healthcare.gov was hacked last month. Apologists can cherry-pick useful data points to try to convince the public that Obamacare is reducing premium costs and driving down costs, but that’s simply not the case. Individual market premiums exploded in 2014, and are expected to grow by roughly eight percent in 2015 (with many consumers confronting double-digit spikes) — to say nothing of high out-of-pocket costs and narrow coverage networks. Overall health spending continues an upward climb. The law was billed as a dramatic premium reducer that would also bend down the so-called “cost curve.”

“The ACA imposes several burdensome regulations that could potentially harm job and wage growth, including the employer mandate and requirements on the generosity of coverage. Under the ACA, employers with 50 or more full-time employees are required to provide health insurance for their workers or pay a fine. In addition, the ACA enforces rules that govern the type of insurance plans they can provide and restricts their options in choosing low-cost coverage. When employers are required to provide health insurance and their low-cost options are limited, costs will naturally rise and companies will be more responsive to changes in insurance premiums. As a result, employees are less insulated from insurance premium growth, and if premiums rise considerably under the ACA, then employers could be more likely to offset those costs by cutting jobs or wages.
Today, the central difficulty in analyzing the labor market implications of ACA regulations is that most significant rules have only been recently implemented. For instance, the employer mandate was scheduled for January 1, 2014, but the White House delayed the mandate to January 1, 2015, and then delayed it again to January 1, 2016 for businesses with 50 to 99 employees.”

“Obamacare is taking a toll on small businesses, according to a new analysis of the effects of the health-care reform law, which found billions of dollars in reduced pay and hundreds of thousands fewer jobs.
Take-home pay at small businesses was trimmed by some $22.6 billion annually because of the Affordable Care Act and related insurance premium hikes, researchers at the American Action Forum, a center-right think tank headed by former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, found in a report released Tuesday.
Individual year-round employees at businesses with 50 to 99 workers lost $935 annually, while those at firms with 20 to 49 workers are out an average of $827.50 per person in take-home pay, the report found.”

“The federal government will wait until January to roll out its five-star rating system meant to help consumers compare quality at dialysis centers across the country.
Use of the system on the CMS’ dialysis centers compare website had been scheduled for October, but was met with angst by dialysis providers who questioned the methodology and said the program was likely to be more confusing than helpful.
In response, the federal agency announced Wednesday that it has moved the date by about three months.
The CMS began using the rating program on nursing homes in December 2008 and earlier this year applied a similar rubric to physician groups. In July, the agency announced plans to extend the program to dialysis facilities starting Oct. 9.”