“A federal judge in Florida on Tuesday jumped into the latest round in the legal wrangling over a Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision involving birth-control coverage and how it applies to religious institutions.
U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. temporarily blocked the federal government from enforcing on a Roman Catholic college a new workaround HHS had developed on the thorny issue.”

“U.S. small businesses are dropping health insurance for their workers, as Obamacare lets them send employees to new marketplaces where they can often get subsidies from the government to buy coverage.
WellPoint Inc. (WLP)’s small business insurance products lost 300,000 people this year, the company said today. Business owners are dropping coverage they previously bought through WellPoint and other insurers, and instead sending employees to shop for it on the government exchanges created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.”

“Do you suppose any of the 2014 candidates will find time in the closing week to talk about Obamacare again, in the midst of all the other slow rolling disasters? (Aside from the occasional Root and Branch repeal call, that is.) If they do, they might want to mention a new study from the Medical Group Management Association which has some rather depressing figures in terms of medical services availability next year for participants. Barbara Boland has the story.
Over 214,000 doctors won’t participate in the new plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA,) analysis of a new survey by Medical Group Management Association shows. That number of 214,524, estimated by American Action Forum, is through May 2014, but appears to be growing due to plans that force doctors to take on burdensome costs. It’s also about a quarter of the total number of 893,851 active professional physicians reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In January, an estimated 70% of California’s physicians were not participating in Covered California plans.”

“A caucus of seven nervous Democratic senators, led by Mark Begich of Alaska, has been pushing a plan to “reform” the Affordable Care Act by allowing insurers to offer an even skimpier insurance plan than the skimpiest permitted now. .
The idea of their “Expanded Consumer Choice Act” is to create a new “copper” tier of health plan permitted in the individual and small-business markets under the ACA. The copper tier would undercut the current tiers of health plans by covering only 50% of expected health costs. Under the current law, the stingiest “bronze” tier covers 60% of costs.”

“A key provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the requirement that private insurance plans cover recommended preventive services without any patient cost-sharing.1 Research has shown that evidence-based preventive services can save lives and improve health by identifying illnesses earlier, managing them more effectively, and treating them before they develop into more complicated, debilitating conditions, and that some services are also cost-effective.2 However, costs do prevent some individuals from obtaining preventive services (Figure 1). The coverage requirement aims to remove cost barriers.”

“A confession: I am a health economist, and I cannot rationally select a health plan.
I buy health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, or F.E.H.B.P., which is very similar to the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. Like the exchanges, the federal employee program runs an online marketplace with a choice of plans, which vary by region.”

“Now that many people finally have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, some are running into a new problem: They can’t find a doctor who will take them as patients.
Because these exchange plans often have lower reimbursement rates, some doctors are limiting how many new patients they take with these policies, physician groups and other experts say.”

“Businesses in five states received early access Monday to select features at ObamaCare’s online health insurance marketplace for small employers.
The soft launch for the SHOP system is an effort by federal health officials to troubleshoot any problems at the exchange before Nov. 15, when it will open to all states that did not elect to build their marketplaces.
Small businesses in New Jersey, Delaware, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri can establish accounts, complete an application, receive a determination of eligibility and upload an employee roster, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. In November, employers will also be able to browse plans and pricing.”

“Remember the excitement surrounding Castlight Health’s initial public offering? Last March, the San Francisco startup’s stock price soared when investors bought into the idea that online price transparency would transform the healthcare marketplace.
Castlight’s business plan calls for offering software through insurers and employers that allows people to comparison shop for healthcare services. With employers rapidly moving their workers into high-deductible plans, patients looking to lower their out-of-pocket expenses could use Castlight to find low-cost providers.”

“New language in contracts between the CMS and insurers operating on HealthCare.gov is grabbing attention, with some calling it an admission by the government that it might lose upcoming court battles dealing with insurance subsidies on the health portal and others saying the new wording is just a practical precaution.
The new language appears to allow insurers to stop offering their plans should federal premium subsidies disappear. A number of cases regarding the legality of the subsidies in states without their own exchanges are now working their way through the courts.
The language says, “CMS acknowledges that (the insurer) has developed its products for the (federal exchange) based on the assumption that (advance payments of the premium tax credit) and (cost-sharing reductions) will be available to qualifying enrollees. In the event that this assumption ceases to be valid during the term of this agreement, CMS acknowledges that issuer could have cause to terminate this agreement subject to applicable state and federal law.””