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

The House on Monday passed legislation to nix an upcoming Obamacare mandate requiring employers with 51 to 100 employees to shift the health coverage they offer to plans on the small-group market.

Mergers are sweeping health care, as insurers, hospitals and doctors seek economic shelter from Washington by linking up and getting big.

These merger trends were underway prior to Obamacare. But there’s little question that the law purposely hastened these developments.

It suffices to say that Donald Trump has been all over the place on health care reform. Last month, at the first Republican presidential debate, Trump argued that socialized medicine in Scotland “works incredibly well.” At the same time, Trump has said that Obamacare has “gotta go” and that he would “repeal and replace [it] something terrific.” But Trump has been light on details. Last night, on 60 Minutes, Trump elaborated on what his plan would look like.

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton issued her defense of the Affordable Care Act and proposals to change the landmark health law, signaling the next battle in a war with all the signs of a political stalemate. Americans are basically evenly split in their assessments of the law and sharply divided along partisan lines; Republican presidential candidates want to scrap the law, while Democrats support keeping it (Clinton) or expanding it (Bernie Sanders). None of this is new to anybody, nor expected to change anytime soon.

More than two years away from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s “Cadillac” tax, 16 percent of large employers offering health benefits have changed their benefit plans or moved to less expensive plans to avoid going over the limits set by the law, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report released Tuesday.

The key findings from the survey, conducted from January through June 2015, include a modest increase (4%) in the average premiums for both single and family coverage in the past year. The average annual single coverage premium is $6,251 and the average family coverage premium is $17,545.

On Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee is set to hear testimony from the chief executives of Aetna Inc., which plans to acquire Humana Inc., and Anthem Inc., which is seeking to buy Cigna Corp., as well as the head of the American Hospital Association.

The other big insurer, which isn’t testifying, is UnitedHealth Group Inc.

Forget “repeal and replace.” An obscure Obamacare provision that takes effect in 2017 could empower a Republican president to unravel Obamacare — without a single vote from Congress.
The provision allows the executive branch to waive big chunks of the law for a state that chooses a different approach to expanding health coverage. It was designed to allow progressive states to go further than Obamacare.

Obamacare is back in court.

This month, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has standing to sue the Obama administration over how it spent federal money implementing the Affordable Care Act. The lawsuit, brought by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), challenges billions of dollars the administration gave to insurers to reduce out-of-pocket costs for almost 6 million low-income Americans.

Health insurance premiums are rising because of Obamacare. And there is still one year left of the assorted reinsurance programs designed to mask premium increases, suggesting next year’s jumps will be even more eye-popping. That’s a political and logistical disaster for the Democrats who wrote the law and tied their political fortunes to its success. But rather than admit their law is too restrictive and come to the table to negotiate bipartisan reforms, Democrats and their insurance industry allies have decided on a cynical strategy: scapegoating drug companies.