The impact of ObamaCare on doctors and patients, companies inside and outside the health sector, and American workers and taxpayers
“The widely accepted view among policymakers in Washington, D.C. is that even if President Obama’s health care law is currently more unpopular than ever, by the time 2016 rolls around, it will be an immovable object, impossible to wholly repeal.
In past columns for The Morning Consult, I have argued this is an incomplete picture of the politics of the issue, one which underestimates the Republican base’s dedication to repeal, and the necessity of Republican candidates to respond to that desire.
You could assume that the continued unpopularity of Obamacare would play to Republicans’ advantage within the battle over health care policy, and that’s certainly correct at the moment. The fact that a Democratic Senator touting his support for Obamacare (albeit without naming which law he voted for) is national news is an indication of that. Had the politics of the Affordable Care Act played out as most Democrats anticipated, every candidate up for re-election would be loudly trumpeting their support for it.
So in the short-term, the law plays into the hands of Republican critics, who have plenty of easy targets and little need to propose a comprehensive reform. But what about what comes after 2016, assuming a Republican presidency but lacking 60 votes in the Senate? At that point, Obamacare’s political toxicity may actually hamper efforts to achieve pro-market reforms.
Consider Avik Roy’s recent proposal, Transcending Obamacare, which is possibly the most comprehensive proposal for health reform offered by a conservative. Not content to merely focus on replacing Obamacare, Roy’s plan relies heavily on the expansion of the existing private insurance marketplace as a replacement for the Great Society, shifting individuals away from Medicare and Medicaid and the VA, and toward private insurers.”
“The Republican fight against Medicaid expansion is far from over, but there are fewer opponents than there used to be.
The expansion of the government health insurance program was originally supposed to be mandatory under the Affordable Care Act, but the Supreme Court made it optional as part of a landmark decision on the law in June of 2012.
In the wake of the decision, Republican governors flocked to announce they were declining to expand coverage.
As of 2014, 19 states — 18 of which are led by Republican governors — have declined outright to expand coverage, but some former holdouts are beginning to come to terms with expansion.
This week, Pennsylvania formally agreed to terms with federal regulators, raising the number of states that have expanded coverage for low-income residents under Obamacare to 27. Pennsylvania is the ninth state led by a Republican governor to expand Medicaid.:”
“The Assembly this week approved a bill to limit narrow networks in California’s health plans.
The legislation already passed a Senate vote and is expected to get concurrence today on the Senate floor and move to the governor’s desk for final approval.
SB 964 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) directs the Department of Managed Health Care to develop standardized methodologies for health insurers to file required annual reports on timeliness compliance, and requires DMHC to review and post findings on those reports. It also eliminates an exemption on Medi-Cal managed care plan audits and requires DMHC to coordinate those plans’ surveys, as well.
“I introduced the bill in response to complaints we’ve heard about inadequate networks in the Medi-Cal program, as well as at Covered California,” Hernandez said. “By increasing oversight and network adequacy enforcement, SB 964 will help consumers select the right plan for themselves and access the care they need.”
Assembly member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced the measure Tuesday on the Assembly floor, and said the bill came in response to numerous public complaints.
“Since 2012 there have been hundreds of complaints about access and inadequate networks,” Bonta said.”
“The price tag of the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange fiasco continues to grow.
As Clyde Hamstreet, the corporate turnaround expert hired to lead Cover Oregon in April, wraps up his work he leaves behind a stabilized agency – and a hefty bill.
Initially signed to a $100,000 contract, Hamstreet ended up staying longer than expected, with two associates joining him at Cover Oregon after Gov. John Kitzhaber essentially forced out three top officials there in a public display of house-cleaning.
Through July, Hamstreet has billed $598,699 on an amended $750,00 contract. He hasn’t submitted his August invoice. He says the price tag was driven by the exchange’s increasing needs, as his firm stayed longer and did more than initially planned.
“We didn’t do this job to make a lot of money off the state,” he said Thursday. “Our philosophy was to try and help get the boat righted and try to help clean things up and basically help the state. … It turned out to be a bigger engagement than I expected.””
“A lack of transparency in describing and fixing technical problems became an issue in Thursday’s Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board meeting.
Board member Bill Hinkle grew testy at what he said was mutual staff back-patting and excuses for the problems still plaguing thousands of accounts.
“C’mon you guys, let’s quit blowing smoke here,” Hinkle said. “I’m tired of patting people on the back….We’re not doing great yet.”
Board member Teresa Mosqueda pressed staff for numbers of enrollees affected by technical problems.
“We really need to have the data in front of us to manage some of these issues,” she said. “I’m going to ask this question again – what is the total number of individuals affected by this, so we have a sense of how well we’re doing?”
The answer appeared to stun some board members: Glitches and technical problems have affected as many as 28,000 people trying to buy health insurance through the Washington Healthplanfinder online marketplace, said associate operations director Brad Finnegan.
In answer to a question, Finnegan conceded that that means one out of every five people has had a problem.”
“Health insurance companies, now required to spend the lion’s share of premium revenue on patient care, are looking for higher investment returns elsewhere. As a result, they’re increasingly putting money into technology ventures where they expect to realize higher returns.
The medical-loss ratio standard under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires insurers to spend at least 80% of what they earn from premiums on patient care and related quality improvements. No more than 20% can be used for administrative, marketing and business expenses. The requirement is as high as 85% for large group plans.
Tied to that, insurers are trying to maximize their investment returns while also investing in businesses that are exempt from the 80/20 rule. Technology operations check off both those boxes for them.
“That’s been a catalyst for a substantial amount of investment,” said Joshua Kaye, a Miami-based partner at law firm DLA Piper. “We’re really seeing it on a national scale. Many insurers view health IT as being on the cutting edge.””
“When you need emergency care, chances are you aren’t going to pause to figure out whether the nearest hospital is in your health insurer’s network. Nor should you. That’s why the health law prohibits insurers from charging higher copayments or coinsurance for out-of-network emergency care. The law also prohibits plans from requiring pre-approval to visit an emergency department that is out of your provider network. (Plans that are grandfathered under the law don’t have to abide by these provisions.)
That’s all well and good. But there are some potential trouble spots that could leave you on the hook for substantially higher charges than you might expect.
Although the law protects patients from higher out-of-network cost sharing in the emergency room, if they’re admitted to the hospital, patients may owe out-of-network rates for the hospital stay, says Angela Gardner, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas who is the former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.”
“A new problem has emerged with the federal government’s Open Payments system, which is supposed to go live Sept. 30 and disclose payments to physicians by pharmaceutical and medical device companies.
A couple weeks ago, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it would be withholding information on one-third of the payments, citing data inconsistencies in company submissions.
Now, a source familiar with the matter tells ProPublica that CMS won’t disclose another batch of payments: research grants made by pharmaceutical companies to doctors through intermediaries, such as contract research organizations. In these cases, doctors apparently have not been given a chance to verify and dispute payments attributed to them, as required by law.
Officials at CMS have not publicly disclosed anything about this latest batch of withheld data and did not answer questions from ProPublica about how many records are involved.
The data is required to be disclosed under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the main proponents of the law, expressed frustration with the reporting system’s troubles.
“CMS has had more than four years to figure everything out,” Grassley said in a statement Thursday. “It’s disappointing and irresponsible that so many basic questions are unresolved at this late stage.””
“An announcement could be made soon on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to use billions of federal Medicaid expansion dollars under the 2010 healthcare law to subsidize private health insurance policies, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Kait Gillis, a state Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman, said negotiations with the federal government are in the final stages, but details remain under wraps.
HHS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, and the federal agency consistently has declined to publicly discuss details of Corbett’s plan. The 124-page plan was formally submitted in February, and closed-door negotiations began in April after a public comment period.”
“When Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas went up with a television ad last week alluding to some benefits of Obamacare, partisans on both the left and the right saw the spot as a sign that vulnerable Democrats might finally be embracing the polarizing health-care overhaul in their campaigns.
But in the days since, it’s become clear: there’s little evidence that the hotly debated law is on its way to becoming a central Democratic talking point heading into the fall campaign.
“It’s basically the first pro-Obamacare ad we’ve seen by a vulnerable Democrat for months,” said Elizabeth Wilner, senior vice president of Kantar Media Ad Intelligence, whose Campaign Media Analysis Group tracks political advertising. “It’s like seeing a unicorn – it just doesn’t happen very often.””