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

“There’s been quite a bit of bad news about Obamacare in recent weeks:
•a SCOTUS smackdown on the contraception mandate overreach,
•the possibility of an even more momentous court decision being handed down next week,
•worrying signs of more rate shock to face Exchange plan buyers next fall, with many states seeing double-digit premium increases, and
•a bleak picture of Obamacare’s unfolding fiscal disaster.
In that context, it should be no surprise that progressives are cheering the purported good news that the number of uninsured appears to be declining since last summer:
•A Commonwealth Fund survey released in June shows 9.5 million fewer uninsured adults age 18 and older;
•A RAND survey released in April found a decline of 9.3 million uninsured non-elderly adults;
•An Urban Institute survey released in June shows a decline of 8 million uninsured non-elderly adults, and
•Gallup shows a decline in the percentage of adults (18 and older) who are uninsured of 3.7 percentage points since the fourth quarter of 2013 (equivalent to 8.8 million adults[1]).
As Jonathan Cohen snarkily concludes: “Obamacare Haters, Your Case Just Got Weaker.” I don’t view myself as an Obamacare hater, but I freely concede I am a great Obamacare skeptic. Let’s unpack the available evidence to see what we really know (and don’t) about Obamacare’s impact on the number of uninsured.
My conclusion is that anyone who says they are certain we have hit the CBO target of a 12 million reduction in the average daily number of uninsured in 2014 has cherry-picked the evidence.”

“After being without health insurance for two years, Miranda Childe of Hallandale Beach found a plan she could afford with financial aid from the government using the Affordable Care Act’s exchange.
Childe, 60, bought an HMO plan from Humana, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, and received a membership card in time for her coverage to kick in on May 1st.
But instead of being able to pick a primary care physician to coordinate her healthcare, Childe says she repeatedly ran into closed doors from South Florida doctors who are listed in her plan’s provider network but refused to see patients who bought their coverage on the ACA exchange.
“I just felt that I wasn’t being treated like a first-class citizen,’’ said Childe, who eventually found a doctor with the help of a Humana counselor. “Nobody, I don’t care what kind of degrees they have, should ever be treated that way.’’
Nearly one million Floridians enrolled in a private health plan through the ACA exchange but some, like Childe, are finding that some physicians refuse to honor their coverage — even when the doctors are included in the plan’s provider network.”

“The evidence is piling up now: Obamacare really does seem to be helping the uninsured.
Survey after survey is showing that the number of uninsured people has been going down since the start of enrollment last fall. The numbers don’t all match, and health care experts say they’re not precise enough to give more than a general idea of the trend.
But by now, the trend is unmistakable: Millions of people who didn’t have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act have gained it since last fall. The law is not just covering people who already had health coverage, but adding new people to the ranks of the insured — which was the point of the law all along.
There’s still a lot of variation in the numbers, too much for health care experts to pin down an exact number with any confidence. But even health care analysts who think the law is a bad idea acknowledge that the evidence suggests the uninsured are being helped. Given the predictions of doom that accompanied the law’s passage and launch, that’s a sweet bit of vindication for the president and ACA supporters.”

“WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner’s lawsuit against President Obama will focus on changes to the health care law that Mr. Boehner says should have been left to Congress, according to a statement issued Thursday by the speaker’s office.
By narrowly focusing the legal action on the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Boehner will sidestep the more politically problematic issue involving Mr. Obama’s executive action offering work permits for some illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
Last month, Mr. Boehner announced his intention to seek legislation allowing the House to sue the president over his use of executive actions, a reflection of charges by congressional Republicans that the president has overreached his authority. On Thursday, Mr. Boehner said the lawsuit would specifically challenge the president’s decision to delay imposing penalties on employers who do not offer health insurance to employees in compliance with the Affordable Care Act.”

“Before dawn on a Wednesday in January, Cesar Flores, a 40-year-old employed by a large retail chain, woke up at his home in Chula Vista, California. He got in his car and crossed the border into Tijuana. From there, he headed for a local hospital, where he got lab tests—part of routine follow-up to a kidney stone procedure. He had his blood drawn and left the hospital at 7:30. He arrived home before 10.
Uninsured Americans have long known that seeking medical care abroad is often more cost-effective than seeking it at home. Even after you factor in travel expense and time off work, you still often come out ahead. A hip replacement that would cost $75,000 for an uninsured patient in the U.S. is $9,000 in India. A heart bypass in the U.S. runs about $210,000; in Thailand it’s $12,000. According to Patients Beyond Borders, a company that facilitates medical tourism, those savings drove about 900,000 Americans to leave the country for medical procedures last year—a number they estimate is growing by 15 percent per year.
But Flores’s situation isn’t medical tourism as we know it. Flores has insurance through his wife’s employer. But his insurer, a small, three-year-old startup H.M.O. called MediExcel, requires Flores to obtain certain medical treatment at a hospital across the border. In part due to cost-pressures generated by the Affordable Care Act, other sorts of plans that require travel have the potential to expand.”

“When the District launched its federally mandated health insurance exchange last fall, officials went to great lengths to woo professional insurance brokers — launching a special broker web portal, establishing a “concierge” hotline just for brokers and holding broker-only training classes.
Despite those efforts, many brokers have yet to be paid for the policies they’ve sold through the exchange, known as D.C. Health Link — generating frustration among professionals who say their patience in navigating the changes wrought by the Affordable Care Act has not been rewarded.
“I’ve been very supportive, I put a lot of work into it, and I’ve gotten nothing,” said Steve Nearman, a Virginia-based broker who says he has helped nearly 100 city residents find and buy insurance through the exchange and is owed thousands of dollars in commissions.”

“ObamaCare hurts businesses. That’s the result of an exhaustive study polling small to medium-sized businesses.
The controversial government health-care reform increases company and employee costs and sometimes stops companies from hiring as well, participants told the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in its new study.
“More than half of single employers believe the Affordable Care Act has had a negative effect on their company,” according to the report.
The survey, which polled some employers and their health-care pros, found that the majority of respondents, 54 percent, thought the effect of the ACA on their firms had been “negative” or “very negative.”
The same respondents also expected that the negative effects from ACA would increase to 66 percent in the near future as the program unfolds.”

“Supporters of ObamaCare are nervously awaiting a decision by the D.C. Court of Appeals that could have even more dramatic consequences for the law’s ability to function than the Supreme Court’s religious liberty decisions issued last week.
Judge Thomas B. Griffith presided in March over arguments in one of the four cases – Halbig v. Burwell – challenging the Obama administration’s decision that subsidies for health insurance can flow through federal as well as state exchanges.
The Affordable Care Act says that health insurance subsidies are available only “through an exchange Established by the State.” The IRS, however, interpreted the statute to mean that the subsidies also could be distributed in the now 36 states where the federal government is operating exchanges.
During oral arguments, Judge A. Raymond Randolph indicated he felt the statute was quite clear in repeating “seven times” in that section that the subsidies are available only if the state sets up its own exchange.”

“President Obama’s healthcare law could be dealt a severe blow this week if a U.S. appeals court rules that some low- and middle-income residents no longer qualify to receive promised government subsidies to pay for their health insurance.
The case revolves around a legal glitch in the wording of the Affordable Care Act, which as written says that such subsidies may be paid only if the insurance is purchased through an “exchange established by the state.”
That would seem to leave out the 36 states in which the exchanges are operated by the federal government.
A ruling could come as early as Tuesday.
The administration has argued that Congress intended to offer the subsidies nationwide to low-and middle-income people who bought insurance through an exchange, without making a distinction.”

“Planned Parenthood unveiled a text helpline Monday for women who have lost or will lose contraception coverage in their healthcare plans after last week’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby ruling.
The pro-abortion rights group says women who have lost birth control coverage or have questions about their healthcare can text the helpline to learn about their options.
The Supreme Court ruled last week some employers could deny workers access to free contraception coverage under their health insurance plans if it would infringe on the employer’s religious beliefs.
The group says women can text “birth control” to 69866 to report an employer’s refusal to pay for coverage. Those who use the text service get an email or phone follow-up from Planned Parenthood explaining what options the worker has and help on how to get free birth control.”