“Voters are more skeptical than ever that Obamacare can be fixed any time soon but remain almost evenly divided on the impact the health care law will have on their voting decisions this November.
Thirty-five percent (35%) of Likely U.S. Voters say they are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports the law, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Slightly more (38%) say they are less likely to vote for an Obamacare supporter. Nineteen percent (19%) say a Congress member’s position on the law will have no impact on their voting decision. (To see survey question wording, click here.) ”

“With the second open enrollment period of the health insurance marketplaces approaching, this analysis provides an initial look at premium changes for marketplace plans for individuals in 15 states and the District of Columbia that have publicly released comprehensive data on rates or rate filings for all insurers.
The analysis examines premium changes for the lowest-cost bronze plan and the two lowest-cost silver plans in 16 major cities. The second-lowest cost silver plan in each state is of particular interest as it acts as a benchmark that helps determine how much assistance eligible individuals can receive in the form of federal tax credits. The findings show that in general, individuals will pay slightly less to enroll in the second-lowest cost plan in 2015 than they did in 2014, prior to the application of tax credits.
Although premium changes vary substantially across and within states, premium changes for 2015 in general are modest when looking at the low-cost insurers in the marketplaces, where enrollment is concentrated. While the analysis provides an early look at how competitive dynamics may be influencing health insurance premiums, it is important to bear in mind that the overall picture may change as comprehensive data across all fifty states becomes available.”

“In 2002, in a modification of the primary healthcare information privacy rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HHS removed patient consent as a requirement for the release and disclosure of patient information for most common uses. In so doing, HHS gave a regulatory green light to electronic health data disclosures.
Twelve years later, it looks as if Apple is laying down a big bet in the opposite direction by placing consent-management restrictions on developers who plan to use its HealthKit mobile application platform, which is expected to be part of its new operating system to be released later this month, according to published reports.
According to the Guardian, which quotes as its primary source an article in the Financial Times, Apple has informed developers that they “’must not sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit APIs to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers.””

“Over the past few weeks, the American Medical Association has complained publicly and privately to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services over its so-called Open Payments database, which will display what drug and device makers pay physicians. The system was created in response to concerns that medical practice and research may be unduly influenced by industry. But the database has been plagued by delays and technical glitches. The AMA is concerned that physicians lack the needed time to ensure correct data is displayed and that the public will understood what they see. The database is expected to go live on Sept. 30, but the AMA wants a six-month postponement to compensate for the problems. So far, CMS says no. We spoke with AMA president Robert Wah about the frustrations. This is an edited version.”

“Unlike the financial services industry, health care companies lack measures to adequately prevent identity theft, even as they continue to digitize medical records and other sensitive information.
Twelve years ago, when Nikki Burton was 17, she tried to donate blood for the first time. She was denied without explanation. Perplexed, the Portland, Ore. resident called Red Cross headquarters to inquire, only to learn that her Social Security number had been used to receive treatment at a free AIDS clinic in California, rendering her ineligible to donate blood.
Years later, she wondered if, when asked whether she had any preexisting conditions, that instance of fraud might show up. So she called the Red Cross again. The organization told her that it no longer asked for Social Security numbers and she could donate blood without it. “I said, that’s fine for you guys to receive the donation, but that doesn’t solve the problem of that information existing in your system,” Burton says. “What if it got out?”
In 2013, the health care industry experienced more data breaches than it ever had before, accounting for 44% of all breaches, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. It was the first time that the medical industry surpassed all others, and stood in stark contrast to the financial services industry, which represented just 3.7% of the total.
Identity theft is so pervasive in health care that, according to a 2013 ID Experts data security survey of 91 healthcare organizations, 90% of respondents had experienced a data breach in the previous two years and 38% had had more than five incidents.”

“Federal officials are floating the idea of expanding Medicare’s Pioneer model for accountable care organizations, but they might struggle to recruit any new participants.
Some prominent ACO leaders shared their skepticism in letters to the CMS that the agency released this month. The program, designed and administered by the CMS Innovation Center, is the government’s earliest and most aggressive test under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of new financial incentives for hospitals and doctors to hold down medical costs and meet quality targets.
The Pioneer initiative’s rules put doctors and hospitals at too much risk of losing money with too little control, officials with Universal American, CHE Trinity Health, St. Vincent’s Health Partners, the Franciscan Alliance and others said in the comment letters to federal officials.
Pioneers must agree to accept potential losses with the promise of bonuses after the first year. ACOs participating in the Medicare shared-savings program, in contrast, can go three years without the risk of owing Medicare money if they fall short.
“Organizations are not gravitating toward the Pioneer ACO model because the downside risk is not outweighed by the opportunity for economic gain—the business case is not compelling,” wrote officials with CHE Trinity Health, a Michigan-based system. The system’s CEO is Dr. Richard Gilfillan, who oversaw the launch of Pioneer ACOs as the Innovation Center’s director before his departure last June.”

“Unhappy with the choices her insurance broker was offering, Denver publishing company owner Rebecca Askew went to Colorado’s small business health insurance exchange last fall. She found exactly what she’d been hoping for: affordable insurance options tailored to the diverse needs of her 12 employees.
But Askew is in a tiny minority. Only 2 percent of all eligible businesses have checked out so-called SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) exchanges in the 15 states where they have been available since last October under the Affordable Care Act. Even fewer purchased policies.
In November, three more state-run SHOP exchanges are slated to open, and the federal government will unveil exchanges for the 32 states that chose not to run their own.
SHOP exchanges were supposed to open nationwide on Oct. 1, the same day as exchanges offering health insurance for individuals. But the Obama administration postponed the SHOP launch, citing the need to fix serious technical problems with the exchanges for individuals, which it said were a higher priority.”

“Medicaid expansion is expanding profits for a bunch of hospitals.
A new analysis of major for-profit health systems found that hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid eligibility under Obamacare are seeing far fewer uninsured patients, a large rise in paying patients and more revenue as a consequence—which stands in stark contrast to hospitals in nonexpansion states.
For example, there was about a 47 percent decrease in the rate of admissions of uninsured or self-paying patients at the hospitals in expansion states in the first half of 2014. Yet, hospitals in nonexpansion states either saw a slight reduction in such admissions or no decreases at all, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute. ”

“Two years ago, Massachusetts set what was considered an ambitious goal: The state would not let that persistent monster, rising health care costs, increase faster than the economy as a whole. Today, the results of the first full year are out and there’s reason to for many to celebrate.
The number that will go down in the history books is 2.3 percent. It’s well below a state-imposed benchmark for health care cost growth of 3.6 percent, and well below the increases seen for at least a decade.
“So all of that’s really good news,” says Aron Boros, executive director at the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), which is releasing the first calculation of state health care expenditures. “It really seems like…the growth in health care spending is slowing.”
Why? It could be the pressure to comply with of the federal health law in its first year.
“We have to believe that’s the [first] year,” Boros says, “that insurers and providers are trying their hardest to keep cost increases down.”
But then, health care spending growth slowed across the U.S., not just in Massachusetts, last year.
“There’s not strong evidence that it’s different in Massachusetts; we really seem to be in line with those national trends,” Boros adds. “People are either going to doctors and hospitals a little less frequently, or they’re going to lower-cost settings a little more frequently.”
The result: Health insurance premiums were basically flat overall in the state in 2013.
“2013 was a year in which we were able to exhale,” says Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. But he’s worried the break on rates was short-lived. This year, Hurst’s members are reporting premium increases that average 12 percent.”

“When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it required health insurers, hospitals, device makers and pharmaceutical companies to share in the cost because they would get a windfall of new, paying customers.
But with an $8 billion tax on insurers due Sept. 30 — the first time the new tax is being collected — the industry is getting help from an unlikely source: taxpayers.
States and the federal government will spend at least $700 million this year to pay the tax for their Medicaid health plans. The three dozen states that use Medicaid managed care plans will give those insurers more money to cover the new expense. Many of those states – such as Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee – did not expand Medicaid as the law allows, and in the process turned down billions in new federal dollars.
Other insurers are getting some help paying the tax as well. Private insurers are passing the tax onto policyholders in the form of higher premiums. Medicare health plans are getting the tax covered by the federal government via higher reimbursement.”