“Legal challenges to various aspects of Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act) keep traveling on a rollercoaster. Today’s episode of the law’s continuing courtroom soap opera involves a ruling by a federal district court in Oklahoma, which overturned a 2012 IRS rule authorizing premium assistance tax credits in federal exchanges (since rebranded as “federally facilitated marketplaces”). The decision improves the likelihood that the Supreme Court ultimately will consider this issue on appeal; either in the spring of 2015 or during its next 2015-2016 term.
Judge Ronald White ruled in State of Oklahoma v. Burwell that the IRS rule is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion not in accordance with law, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. section 706(2)(A), in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory right, pursuant to 5 U.S.C. section 706(2)(C), or otherwise is an invalid implementation of the ACA, and is hereby vacated.”
In other words, it was not just a “bad idea,” but an illegal one, too.”
“In a legal setback for the Obama administration, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled Tuesday that people in states that rely on the federal insurance exchange are not eligible for Obamacare premium subsidies to help them pay for coverage.
Judge Ronald White, a George W. Bush appointee, invalidated an Internal Revenue Service rule interpreting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to allow the premium tax credits in states that have not established their own exchange. “The court holds that the IRS Rule is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law,” White wrote.
In his ruling, White rejected the argument that striking down the subsidies would cripple the entire healthcare reform law. “Congress is free to amend the ACA to provide for tax credits in both state and federal exchanges, if that is the legislative will,” he wrote.”
“The second Obamacare enrollment season could go negative — but not because of the health care law’s critics.
Obama administration allies are weighing a focus on the loathsome individual mandate and the penalties that millions of Americans could face if they don’t get covered. It would be a calculated approach to prompt sign-ups, a task that the law’s supporters expect to be more difficult, or at least more complex, than in its coverage’s inaugural year.
There are several challenges: The 2015 enrollment period is shorter, the most motivated Americans are probably already enrolled and the law is still politically unpopular. That means that even if HealthCare.gov works well — and it couldn’t be worse than last October’s meltdown — proponents are confronting a tough messaging landscape.”
“Consumers searching this fall for the best doctor covered by their new public or private insurance plan won’t get very far on a federal database designed to rate physician quality.
The Affordable Care Act requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide physician quality data, but that database offers only the most basic information. It’s so limited, health care experts say, as to be useless to many consumers.
This comes as people shopping for insurance on the state or federal exchanges will find increasingly narrow networks of doctors and may be forced to find a new one. Many with employer-provided plans will face the same predicament.”
“CMS decided not to include some payments disputed by doctors and teaching hospitals in the Open Payments database published Tuesday (Sept. 30) in order to give physicians and hospitals more time to review the information, but the highly anticipated database includes de-identified data in cases where it was unclear exactly to which physician the payments should have been linked.
The Open Payments site will include 4.4 million payments valued at almost $3.5 billion, according to CMS. Payments from drug and device makers, as well as group purchasing organizations, which were disputed by physicians or hospitals and not corrected before the end of the review and dispute period (Sept. 11) were not included in the most recent batch of Open Payments data because of timing issues, CMS officials said on a call.”
“The federal exchange is set to cut thousands of individuals from its coverage rolls this week because of unresolved inconsistencies related to immigration status, with HHS saying 115,000 will lose coverage as of Tuesday (Sept. 30). Tuesday is also the deadline for about 279,000 households to submit current income information to the exchange or risk seeing changes in their tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies that could result in higher costs for enrollees.
Furthering the saga on coverage data matching issues, the National Immigration Law Center has filed an administrative complaint under the ACA’s anti-discrimination section due to HHS’ failure to communicate with consumers in languages other than English and Spanish. The center also filed a Freedom of Information Act request in order to glean more insight into why that decision was made.”
“Finding a doctor who takes Obamacare coverage could be just as frustrating for Californians in 2015 as the health-law expansion enters its second year..
The state’s largest health insurers are sticking with their often-criticized narrow networks of doctors, and in some cases they are cutting the number of physicians even more, according to a Times analysis of company data. And the state’s insurance exchange, Covered California, still has no comprehensive directory to help consumers match doctors with health plans.”
“When it comes to health insurance exchanges, there’s nothing like the first time to grab voters’ attention and enthusiasm.
Morning Consult polling found 47 percent of voters say they are not at all likely to purchase health insurance through an online exchange this year. In the weeks before the start of open enrollment in 2013, that figure was 19 percentage points lower, with only 28 percent saying they were not at all likely to purchase insurance on the exchange. Voters’ stated likelihood of buying insurance decreased across all categories from 2013 to 2014.”
“After the rocky rollout last fall of the ObamaCare website, the administration wants to re-enroll those already in the system in hopes of avoiding another technological embarrassment.
But analysts warn that just blindly re-enrolling could mean trouble for consumers.
“This notion of just sit back and re-enroll is really misleading and I think could cause a lot of harm to people,” said Bob Laszewski of Health Policy and Strategy Associates.
“The automatic renewal, it’s easy, it will keep people getting ObamaCare,” added Rosemary Gibson of the Hastings Center. “But you have to trust but verify. You have to go look. You just can’t be on automatic pilot for health insurance.””
“When Fabrizio Mancinelli applied for health insurance through California’s online marketplace nine months ago, he ran into a frustrating snag.
An Italian composer and self-described computer geek, Mancinelli said he was surprised to find there wasn’t a clear way to upload a copy of his O-1 visa. The document, which grants temporary residency status to people with extraordinary talents in the sciences and arts, was part of his proof to the government to that he was eligible for coverage.
So, the 35 year-old Sherman Oaks resident wrote in his application that he’d be happy to send along any further documentation.
Months went by without word from the state. Then last week he came home from vacation to find a notice telling him he was at risk of losing the Anthem Blue Cross plan he’d purchased.”