Articles on the implementation of ObamaCare.

“A new software system for the state’s health insurance website passed its first key test this week, and a final decision on whether Massachusetts will run its own site or join the federal exchange will be made in early August, a top state official said.
Maydad Cohen, special adviser to the governor, told the Massachusetts Health Connector board Thursday morning that the new software from hCentive performed every task required by federal officials, and then some, in a Washington, D.C., demonstration Monday.
This success, he said in an interview afterward, leaves him increasingly but cautiously optimistic that the state will be able to employ the hCentive software when open enrollment starts Nov. 15.
In the spring, the Health Connector abandoned its original, dysfunctional software, made by CGI, and adopted a “dual track” approach: working on a new system while simultaneously preparing to join the federal exchange, healthcare.gov.”

“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.”

“HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell announced today the availability of $100 million from the Affordable Care Act to support an estimated 150 new health center sites across the country in 2015. New health center sites will increase access to comprehensive, affordable, high quality primary health care services in the communities that need it most.
Later today, Secretary Burwell will also visit a Community Health Center in Decatur, Georgia to talk with its health care professionals about the important work they are doing to connect the community with high quality primary care.
“In communities across the country, Americans turn to their local Community Health Center for vital health care services that help them lead healthy, productive lives,” said Secretary Burwell. “That’s why it’s so important that the Affordable Care Act is supporting the expansion of health centers.”
The investment announced today will add to the more than 550 new health center sites that have opened in the last three years as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Today, nearly 1,300 health centers operate more than 9,200 service delivery sites that provide care to more than 21 million patients …”

“The Commonwealth Fund has a new study out on Obamacare enrollment, estimating that about 9.5 million people gained coverage through Medicaid and the exchanges; this is roughly in line with some previous estimates but perhaps slightly more encouraging for the law’s supporters. Jonathan Cohn uses the estimate to declare that the law is meeting expectations in covering the uninsured:
… The Congressional Budget Office predicted that, one year into full implementation, Obamacare would reduce the the number of Americans without insurance by 12 million. That included the young adults who got insurance before 2014, by signing onto their parents’ plans. There’s been some controversy over exactly how many more young people are insured because of that new option, but the best estimates I’ve seen place the number somewhere between 1 and 2.5 million. Add that number to the 9.5 million from the Commonwealth survey, and you’re close or equal to the CBO projections.
Of course, the Commonwealth survey has a hefty margin of error and the CBO projections, revised to take account of the early technological problems on Obamacare websites, were never that scientific. But the figures seem to be in the same ballpark. That’s what matters.

In broad strokes, this is plausible: Obamacare has stabilized, it’s insuring substantial numbers of people, the disaster scenarios have been averted and most people getting coverage seem reasonably happy with it. I would only offer the caveat that when Cohn says “in the same ballpark,” he means “in the same ballpark, but probably lower than what was hoped for, which in turn was lower than what was originally projected.””

“The government hasn’t reported how many people have signed up for health plans since the last enrollment period ended and it won’t estimate how many may enroll because of changes in their insurance.
Americans who get married, seek citizenship or lose jobs may find themselves invited to sign up for Obamacare by supporters trying to sustain momentum for the program as political attacks mount in its off-season.
By mid-April, the end of the first year’s official enrollment period, more than 8 million Americans gained coverage under the health law, beating the government’s own estimates. While standard enrollment won’t start again until Nov. 15, as many as 3 million people whose jobs or lives change in ways that affect their insurance may sign up immediately.
Supporters are seeking to dip into that group before the next enrollment begins. The goal: Keep their positive message alive at the grassroots, while offsetting any potential losses to enrollment totals from those who find alternative coverage, or simply drop out.”

“Tired of waiting for states to reduce their backlogs of Medicaid applications, the Obama administration has given six states until Monday to submit plans to resolve issues that have prevented more than 1 million low-income or disabled people from getting health coverage.
The targeted states are Alaska, California, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee.
“CMS is asking several state Medicaid agencies to provide updated mitigation plans to address gaps that exist in their eligibility and enrollment systems to ensure timely processing of applications and access to coverage for eligible people,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. He said the agency will monitor states’ progress in solving the problems getting people enrolled in the state-federal insurance program for the poor.”

“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.”

“Chattanooga’s success in achieving bargain-priced policies offers valuable lessons for other parts of the country as they seek to satisfy consumers with insurance networks that limit their choices of doctors and hospitals. Nationwide, about 70 percent of the lowest-priced plans included narrow networks, according to the consultants McKinsey & Company.
But few places have put them into place as successfully as here in Eastern Tennessee, where BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, the area’s dominant insurer, cut a low price deal with one of the three big hospital systems to be the sole provider in their cheapest network. If all areas of the country had such low premiums, the federal government’s tab for subsidizing part of the cost of policies—totaling an estimated $29 billion for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1—would be dramatically lower.”

“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.”