“Last Saturday, August 16, marked the 60th anniversary of the enactment of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, which permanently established in federal law generous tax advantages for employer-paid health-insurance premiums. Those group health benefits are excluded from employees’ taxable wages and thereby are not subject to income and payroll taxes. This tax break has been praised as a pillar of our employer-based private health-insurance system, but its age is showing. A growing list of critics agrees that the tax exclusion needs to be changed. The key questions are when and how. We should expect a significant overhaul, but not a full retirement party, within the next five to ten years.
The simplified history of the tax exclusion for health care usually begins with a 1942 ruling by the War Labor Board that allowed employers to bypass wartime wage controls by providing fringe benefits to workers. In 1943, the Internal Revenue Service issued a special ruling that confirmed employees were not required to pay tax on the dollar value of group health-insurance premiums paid on their behalf by their corporate employers. Over the next decade, a number of IRS rulings and court decisions created additional uncertainty over the full scope of the tax exclusion. When Congress codified this area of tax policy in 1954, it provided many employers and unions with even stronger incentives to sponsor group health-insurance plans.”

“Almost 7 million people can sign up for health plans under ObamaCare even before the new enrollment period begins in November, according to an advocacy group.
Enroll America, an ObamaCare enrollment group with close ties to the White House, said Wednesday that millions of adults are eligible to sign up for insurance before Nov. 15 because they have moved, gotten married, had children, lost insurance or become American citizens.”

“In April 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published detailed information on the $77 billion that 880 000 health care practitioners billed for some 6000 Medicare Part B services in 2012. This commentary by a former CMS administrator discusses how these data can be helpful, what is missing that might lead to misinterpretation, and why such transparency is here to stay.”

“A majority of people are worried about employers moving them on to insurance exchanges, with Republicans reporting the highest level of concern at 72 percent. But once they actually get insurance on the exchange, most Democrats and Independents, 43 percent and 39 percent respectively, think the shift would have “no impact” on their coverage. In contrast, most Republicans, 41 percent, think it would have a “very negative” impact. The majority of Republicans and Independents say they would consider looking for another job if they were shifted onto an exchange, at 62 percent and 52 percent respectively. Democrats reported that they would look for another job at a rate ten percentage points below Independents, at 42 percent.
Republicans are the most worried that their employer will shift health coverage to the insurance exchanges, with 72 percent reporting some level of concern. Independents and Democrats are less worried, with 60 and 53 percent respectively reporting some degree of concern.”

“Instead of shutting down Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, the government should expand them so that they also include patients who now are covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and veterans health programs.
That’s the gist of a big new health care policy proposal that’s getting a lot of attention.
It’s newsworthy in part because it’s so counter-intuitive. It comes from a think tank, the Manhattan Institute, that’s generally known for conservative, free-market, center-right policy ideas. You’d expect them to be in favor of repealing Obamacare entirely, not expanding it.
The proposal is attracting respectful praise from other conservative voices. Steve Forbes, the former Republican presidential candidate, tweeted a link about the proposal with the words “what true patient-centered, consumer-driven healthcare reform would look like.” (The plan’s author, Avik Roy, is the opinion editor of Forbes in addition to being a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.)
At the conservative web site Townhall.com, Conn Carroll wrote, “Some conservatives will oppose Roy’s plan since it does not begin by repealing Obamacare.” But he insists, “fetishizing full repeal at the expense of smaller, more popular reforms would be a huge mistake… Progressives did not create the modern welfare state in one fell swoop. They did it by incrementally building it up over time. Conservatives should steal a page from their playbook and begin to cut the size and scope of the federal government whenever they can. If we wait to do at all at once, we may be waiting forever.””

“Arkansas, the first state to establish the conservative private-plan model for expanding Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, now is looking to join several other conservative-leaning states in requiring low-income beneficiaries to make monthly contributions to their health coverage in the form of a health savings account.
The state has proposed to the CMS that, beginning in 2015, its Medicaid beneficiaries would have to contribute to Health Independence Accounts (PDF). Beneficiaries with annual incomes between 50% and 99% of the federal poverty level would contribute $5 a month to their accounts, while those earning between 100% and 138% of poverty would pay between $10 and $25. The state would provide a matching contribution of $15 into their accounts. Money would be drawn from the accounts for copayments on medical services. Any unused funds in the accounts would be rolled over annually with a cap of $200, which the beneficiary could use for paying private insurance costs.”

“Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross faces another lawsuit over switching consumers to narrow-network health plans — with limited selections of doctors — during the rollout of Obamacare..
These types of complaints have already sparked an ongoing investigation by California regulators and other lawsuits seeking class-action status against Anthem and rival Blue Shield of California.
A group of 33 Anthem customers filed suit Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the health insurer, which is a unit of WellPoint Inc. Anthem is California’s largest for-profit health insurer and had the biggest enrollment this year in individual policies in the Covered California exchange.
In the latest suit, Anthem members accuse the company of misrepresenting the size of its physician networks and the insurance benefits provided in new plans offered under the Affordable Care Act.”

“Last Monday, Jed Graham of Investor’s Business Daily reported that insurers say Affordable Care Act enrollment is shrinking, and it is expected to shrink further. Some of those who signed up for insurance on the exchanges never paid; others paid, then stopped paying. Insurers are undoubtedly picking up some new customers who lost jobs or had another “qualifying life event” since open enrollment closed. But on net, they expect enrollment to shrink from their March numbers by a substantial amount — as much as 30 percent at Aetna Inc., for example.
How much does this matter? As Charles Gaba notes, this was not unexpected: Back in January, industry expert Bob Laszewski predicted an attrition rate of 10 to 20 percent, which seems roughly in line with what IBD is reporting. However, Gaba seems to imply that this makes the IBD report old news, barely worth talking about, and I think that’s wrong, for multiple reasons.”

“The American Hospital Association’s expenditures increased by 7% in 2013, to $117 million, spurred in part by efforts to convince states to expand Medicaid, according to the organization’s most recent tax return.
The group spent $3.3 million on grants to state hospital associations last year to assist with efforts to convince states that they should expand Medicaid to households with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal government will pick up 100% of the tab for the first three years of Medicaid expansion and 90% of the cost thereafter.”

“Republicans seeking to unseat the U.S. Senate incumbent in North Carolina have cut in half the portion of their top issue ads citing Obamacare, a sign that the party’s favorite attack against Democrats is losing its punch.
The shift — also taking place in competitive states such as Arkansas and Louisiana — shows Republicans are easing off their strategy of criticizing Democrats over the Affordable Care Act now that many Americans are benefiting from the law and the measure is unlikely to be repealed.
“The Republican Party is realizing you can’t really hang your hat on it,” said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at North Carolina State University. “It just isn’t the kind of issue it was.”
The party had been counting on anti-Obamacare sentiment to spur Republican turnout in its quest for a U.S. Senate majority, just as the issue did when the party took the House in 2010. This election is the first since the law was fully implemented.