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

House GOP leaders announced Wednesday at a weekly closed-door conference meeting that they will present members with an update on the Republican Obamacare replacement plan on Thursday afternoon, according to a senior GOP aide.

The same day, Democrats and Republicans in a key committee had a civil conversation about health care policy, indicating where that debate may be heading.

The Obamacare replacement plan is part of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) promise to put together a conservative agenda ahead of the Republican convention this summer.

While the plan is not yet finalized, a hearing in Energy and Commerce Committee’s health subcommittee on Wednesday offered hints of what the replacement plan might contain. Committee members are mulling various ways to handle pre-existing conditions, quality of coverage, affordability and insurance regulation.

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For months during the Democratic presidential nominating contest, Hillary Clinton has resisted calls from Senator Bernie Sanders to back a single-payer health system, arguing that the fight for government-run health care was a wrenching legislative battle that had already been lost.

But as she tries to clinch the nomination, Mrs. Clinton is moving to the left on health care and this week took a significant step in her opponent’s direction, suggesting she would like to give people the option to buy into Medicare.

“I’m also in favor of what’s called the public option, so that people can buy into Medicare at a certain age,” Mrs. Clinton said on Monday at a campaign event in Virginia.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed paying for his policies that transform large sectors of the government and the economy mainly through increased taxes on wealthy Americans. A pair of new studies published Monday suggests Sanders would not come up with enough money using this approach, and that the poor and the middle class would have to pay more than Sanders has projected in order to fund his ideas.

The studies, published jointly by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and the Urban Institute in Washington, concludes that Sanders’s plans are short a total of more than $18 trillion over a decade. His programs would cost the federal government about $33 trillion over that period, almost all of which would go toward Sanders’s proposed system of national health insurance. Yet the Democratic presidential candidate has put forward just $15 trillion in new taxes, the authors concluded.

Using a combination of subsidized premiums for Marketplace coverage, an individual mandate, and expanded Medicaid eligibility, ObamaCare has increased insurance coverage rates. The authors of this study assess the relative contributions to insurance changes of these different provisions in the law’s first full year.

Their four key findings include:

  1. Insurance coverage was only moderately responsive to price subsidies, but the subsidies were still large enough to raise coverage by almost one percent of the population; the coverage gains were larger in states that operated their own health insurance exchanges (as opposed to using the federal exchange).
  2. The exemptions and tax penalty structure of the individual mandate had little impact on coverage decisions.
  3. The law increased Medicaid coverage both among newly eligible populations and those who were previously eligible for Medicaid (the “woodwork” effect), with the latter driven predominantly by states that expanded their programs prior to 2014.
  4. There was no “crowdout” effect of expanded Medicaid on private insurance. Overall, we conclude that exchange premium subsidies produced roughly 40% of the ACA’s 2014 coverage gains, and Medicaid the other 60%, of which 2/3 occurred among previously-eligible individuals.

More Democrats seem to be having doubts about the federal health care law, a contentious issue for most of President Barack Obama’s tenure and one of the defining elements of his legacy.

With the administration counting down its final year, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all” appears to have rekindled aspirations for more ambitious changes beyond “Obamacare.”

That poses a challenge for Hillary Clinton, who has argued that the health care law is working and the nation should build on it, not start over.

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Six years after the introduction of Obamacare, Americans are still divided over the controversial health reform law even though most tend to support many parts of the measure, a new HealthDay/Harris Poll found.

However, none of the current crop of presidential candidates appears to inspire much hope that they’ll properly handle health care policy if elected, the poll results show.

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Barred from restaurants, banned on airplanes and unwelcome in workplaces across America, smokers have become accustomed to hiding their habits. So it’s no surprise many may now also be denying their habit when they buy health coverage from the federal health law’s insurance exchanges.

Insurers — who can charge higher rates in most states to admitted smokers — are steamed.

They say the cheating that smokers do to escape tobacco surcharges on their monthly premiums means higher rates for everyone else.

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The desire for autonomy and work-life balance is driving more workers into freelance roles, but at the same time there are growing incentives for companies to employ workers via contracts rather than hire them full-time.

Chief among those incentives is the cost of providing (or not providing) health care to workers under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly three-quarters of companies said that they would contract with more freelancers this year because of Obamac\Care, according to a new survey by online work platform Field Nation and executive development firm Future Workplace.

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In the face of losses in the Affordable Care Act marketplace, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is looking for new ways to cut spending.

Starting June 1, the Chicago-based health insurer will no longer accept credit cards as a form of payment for members who buy their own health insurance on or off the Illinois marketplace. The company began notifying customers of the change last month. Blue Cross will still accept other forms of payment, including debit cards.

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Among the most hotly debated of the issues Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have taken on in the Democratic primary contest is how best to get to universal health insurance coverage. The former secretary of state favors incremental steps, and the senator calls for a single-payer system. That debate, and their focus on universal coverage as their goal, appears to have had a modest and perhaps surprising effect on attitudes toward the Affordable Care Act. The health-care law is an issue about which public attitudes seldom shift, yet the share of Democrats who want to expand the Affordable Care Act rose over the past year.

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