The impact of ObamaCare on doctors and patients, companies inside and outside the health sector, and American workers and taxpayers

President Obama has an opportunity to win a positive legacy in health care. Although his attempt at payment reform, Obamacare, has failed in public opinion, he is also encouraging important initiatives in medical innovation. The Cancer Moonshot and Precision Medicine Initiative represent investments in innovation that can bring big payoffs. However, they will not succeed fully unless the Food and Drug Administration allows patients access to new therapies. Legislation modernizing the FDA, the 21st Century Cures Act, is being fumbled inches away from the Congressional end zone. Presidential leadership is needed.

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The Affordable Care Act has expanded Medicaid and has added to its unsustainable spending trajectory, according to a report from the Mercatus Center.

“Before the Affordable Care Act, the federal government provided states with an open-ended reimbursement of at least half of each state’s Medicaid expenditures,” the report states. “Because of the federal reimbursement, both state Medicaid spending and federal spending (through the reimbursement) have increased significantly since the program’s inception.”

According to the report, experts did not account for how states would respond to the reimbursement rate and underestimated the number of enrollees and their related costs.

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Yahoo Finance’s Ethan Wolff-Mann, who may have the best name in journalism, writes it’s not true that ObamaCare has caused employers to reduce workers’ hours because the new Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research Educational Trustsurvey found “a whopping 7% of employers with more than 50 employees actually gave part-timers full-time jobs since Obamacare was officially launched in 2013. Only 2% of employers cut full-timers to part-time.” Leaving aside the question of whether 7 percent is a whopping figure, the figures Wolff-Mann cites don’t necessarily support his claim.

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In the event of a victory by Donald Trump in November, political analysis will take on a forensic cast. How did establishment politics — first in the GOP primaries, then in a national electorate — come to die?

Privately, Democrats would regret their selection of one of the most joyless, least visionary presidential candidates in recent memory. Publicly, they would blame trends that incubated within the Republican coalition, particularly a nativism incited by conservative media and carried by a candidate — alternately cynical and frightening — who is unbound by truth, consistency or decency.

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New York has revolted against a critical component of the Affordable Care Act: RiskAdjustment.  If its revolt survives an almost certain legal challenge, a number of states are likely to double down on New York’s actions and remove one of the few remaining fingers holding Obamacare on to a cliff.

Acting under direction of its new Superintendant of Financial Services, Maria Vullo, New York has joined the chorus of those familiar with the program in contending that the federal Risk Adjustment program is backfiring. Critics say the program transfers too much money amongst insurers and is actually destabilizing the market.  New York is the first state, however, to put money behind the critique.

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In new research published by the Mercatus Center, I analyze the causes and impact of the much higher-than-expected enrollment and spending associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansion. Though unpredicted by Washington experts, the results were predictable. The federal government’s 100% financing of state spending on expansion enrollees has led states to boost enrollment and create high payment rates. (See this 2-minute Mercatus video for additional information on this significant development.)

In states that have expanded, enrollment and per enrollee spending are nearly 50% higher than predicted. While interest groups within the states—particularly hospitals and insurers—benefit from the higher spending being charged to federal taxpayers, substantial evidence suggests much of this new spending is wasted or provides little value for its intended recipients.

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said that as president he would use Medicaid to cover poor people who can’t afford private health insurance, and make birth control available without a prescription.

The comments appeared to differ both with what some Republicans have proposed in the past, and — in the case of Medicaid — aspects of Trump’s own policy proposals on his website. Republicans generally opposed the expansion of Medicaid to higher income levels under Obamacare, for example.

Speaking on “The Dr. Oz Show,” Trump said Medicaid, the joint federal-state program for the poor, should be used to help provide health coverage for those who can’t afford to buy plans from private health insurers. The show was taped Wednesday and aired Thursday.

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Some of the nation’s largest companies are already taking steps to avoid ObamaCare’s “Cadillac tax,” according to a business survey released Wednesday.

About 12 percent of companies said they have taken steps to avoid being hit by the much-maligned tax on high-priced health insurance plans, which goes into effect in 2020.

Employers say they have either shifted more costs to workers, dropped their pricier options or picked plans with fewer providers, according to the annual employer benefits survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.

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A grace period in President Barack Obama’s health care law is allowing exchange customers to dodge the penalty while also helping them get more out of their medical coverage.

Insurers told the administration Monday in an annual meeting that making changes to the grace period is one way to make it easier for them to continue to participate in Obamacare’s exchanges. As is, the grace period leads to higher costs for health insurance policies, forcing some insurers to leave the exchanges due to massive financial losses.

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A top Obama administration health official indicated Wednesday that there are discussions underway about a settlement with insurance companies over Obamacare payments. This possibility has drawn alarm from Republican lawmakers, who warn that the administration is seeking to get around limitations set by Congress. Several insurers have sued the administration for funds they are owed under an Obamacare program called risk corridors, which is meant to protect insurers from heavy losses in the early years of the health law. A shortfall in funds has limited payouts. Congress enacted a provision preventing the administration from shifting funds into the program in 2014 but warn that judicial settlements now could be a way around that prohibition, for what they term to be a “bailout” of insurers.

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