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

“A report out today puts numbers behind what hit many workers when they signed up for health insurance during open enrollment last year: deductible shock.
Premiums for employer-paid insurance are up 3% this year, but deductibles are up nearly 50% since 2009, the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows.
The average deductible this year is $1,217, up from $826 five years ago. Nearly 20% of workers overall have to pay at least $2,000 before their insurance kicks in, while workers at firms with 199 or fewer employees are feeling the pain of out-of-pocket costs even more: A third of these employees at small companies pay at least $2,000 deductibles.”

“An NBC affiliate in Virginia reports that nearly 250,000 people in that state will lose their health care plans due to Obamacare:
“Nearly a quarter million Virginians will have their current insurance plans cut this fall,” said the local anchor. “That is because many of them did not–are not following new Affordable Care Act rules, so a chunk of the companies that offer those individuals their policies will make the individuals choose new policies.”
Says the reporter, “This goes back to that now heavily-criticized line we heared before Obamacare was put in place: ‘If you like your plan, you can keep it.’ Ultimately, that turned out not to be true for thousands of Virginians and companies in the commonwealth. … Wednesday Virginia lawmakers on the health insurance reform commission met for the first time this year. Turns out, a staggering number of Virginians will need new plans this fall.””

“Though the law will be a year older, Republicans will push a vote to repeal Obamacare if they take back the Senate in November, a top GOP senator told reporters Thursday morning.
“I suspect we will vote to repeal early to put on record the fact that we Republicans think it was a bad policy and we think it is hurting our constituents,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), appearing at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “We think health care costs should be going down, not up. We think people should be able to keep the insurance that they had. They are worried about the fact that the next shoe to drop is going to be employer coverage.”
As Portman’s remarks indicated, a repeal vote by a Republican-controlled Senate would be a largely perfunctory exercise, designed to register GOP opposition with the health care law once again. The president would never sign such a measure, even if he were severely chastened by the 2014 election results. Even top conservative donors concede as much.”

“Some of Obamacare’s big supporters say the new law has already contributed to decreases in the rate of growth of health spending.
But a new report from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary says the rate slowed because of a slow economic recovery, increased cost-sharing for those enrolled in private plans and sequestration.
Indeed, the report does not mention Obamacare when assessing the situation. “The recent period is marked by a four-year historically low rate of health spending growth, which is primarily attributable to the sluggish economic recovery and constrained state and local government budgets following the 2007-09 recession,” the report states.”

“TOPEKA — The three private insurance companies that administer the Kansas Medicaid program under KanCare lost $72.6 million in the first half of 2014, after losing $110 million in 2013.
Rep. Jim Ward, a member of a KanCare oversight committee who requested the fiscal information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, questioned Tuesday how long the three companies can sustain such losses.
“These companies can’t keep subsidizing Medicaid to the tune of $100 or $150 million per year, and that’s what’s happening,” said Ward, D-Wichita.
KanCare is the initiative launched by Gov. Sam Brownback on Jan. 1, 2013. It moved virtually all the state’s Medicaid enrollees into health plans run by Amerigroup, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan and Sunflower Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene.
The three managed care organizations, in information to be filed with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, reported a total of about $96 million in underwriting losses in the first half of this year. The claims they paid outstripped the $394 million to $483 million each received from the state based on how many Medicaid clients they have.”

“Testifying before a House subcommittee, a key Obama administration official lays out the updates that HHS is making to the online marketplaces before enrollment begins in November. Mary Agnes Carey and Politico Pro’s Jennifer Haberkorn discuss.
MARY AGNES CAREY: Welcome to Health on the Hill, I’m Mary Agnes Carey. With the health law’s open enrollment season just months away, a key Obama administration official was on Capitol Hill today to discuss ongoing efforts to fix problems with healthcare.gov. Politico Pro’s Jennifer Haberkorn was at that hearing and joins us now. Thanks for being with us.
JENNIFER HABERKORN: Thanks for having me.”

“Arkansas’ “Private Option” ObamaCare Medicaid expansion has been rough. Costs have run over budget every single month. The Medicaid director who spearheaded the program abruptly resigned to “pursue other opportunities.” The program’s chief legislative architect, a three-term Republican state representative, lost his primary for an open Senate seat to a political newcomer. And the Private Option is already prioritizing coverage for able-bodied adults over care for truly needy patients like Chloe Jones. News is so bad that Governor Beebe’s office is secretly trying to silence negative press about this failed ObamaCare experiment.
Understandably, the Governor is pretty desperate for some good news. Unable to find any, it seems he decided instead to make it up. Beebe’s office sent out a self-congratulatory press release about next year’s Private Option premiums, hoping to salvage the program’s deteriorating image. But a careful review of the facts makes one thing clear: any promise of Arkansas’ ObamaCare expansion costing taxpayers less money next year is just as empty as the empty promises Beebe and other ObamaCare cheerleaders made to get the program passed in the first place.”

“The key findings from the survey, conducted from January through May 2014, include a modest increase in the average premiums for family coverage (3%). Single coverage premiums are 2% higher than in 2013, but the difference is not statistically significant. Covered workers generally face similar premium contributions and cost-sharing requirements in 2014 as they did in 2013. The percentage of firms (55%) which offer health benefits to at least some of their employees and the percentage of workers covered at those firms (62%) are statistically unchanged from 2013. The percentage of covered workers enrolled in grandfathered health plans – those plans exempt from many provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – declined to 26% of covered workers from 36% in 2013. Perhaps in response to new provisions of the ACA, the average length of the waiting period decreased for those with a waiting period and the percentage with an out-of-pocket limit increased. Although employers continue to offer coverage to spouses, dependents and domestic partners, some employers are instituting incentives to influence workers’ enrollment decisions, including nine percent of employers who attach restrictions for spouses’ eligibility if they are offered coverage at another source, or nine percent of firms who provide additional compensation if employees do not enroll in health benefits.”

“Consumers may soon find a surprise in their mailbox: a notice that their health plan is being canceled.
Last year, many consumers who thought their health plans would be canceled because they didn’t meet the standards of the health law got a reprieve. Following stinging criticism for appearing to renege on a promise that people who liked their existing plans could keep them, President Barack Obama backed off plans to require all individual and small group plans that had not been in place before the health law to meet new standards starting in 2014. The administration initially announced a transitional policy that, with state approval, would allow insurers to renew plans that didn’t comply with coverage or cost standards starting in December 2013 and continue doing so until October 2014. Then in March, the administration said it would extend the transitional policy for two more years, meaning that some people will be able to hang onto their non-compliant plans through 2017.”

“The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that public opinion on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains more negative than positive, with 47 percent viewing the law unfavorably (closer to levels measured earlier this year after rising to 53 percent in July) and 35 percent having a favorable view. Partisan divisions on the law are as deep as ever, not only when it comes to overall opinion but also in the public’s perception of how the law has impacted their own families and the next steps they want Congress to take.
This poll takes a special look at registered voters’ views of the ACA and what role, if any, the law might be playing in the upcoming midterm election. The survey finds that health care is named as an important voting issue by about one in eight voters, ranking behind the economy and jobs, and clustered with several other issues such as foreign policy and national defense, dissatisfaction with government, immigration, and education. At the same time, the ACA is prominent among the issues voters report hearing about from candidates in their campaigns and advertising. And the messages they are hearing in political advertising are decidedly more anti-ACA than pro-ACA, particularly in states with competitive Senate races. This messaging in advertising may be a reflection of Republican candidates playing to their base, as the survey finds that most Republican voters want candidates to continue talking about the ACA, while most Democrats want them to focus on other issues. Two months out from Election Day, Republicans have a modest edge among the most enthusiastic voters. However, it does not appear that opposition to the ACA is a big driver of that enthusiasm, as these voters are no more likely than others to mention health care as an important factor in their vote.”