Articles on the implementation of ObamaCare.

“WASHINGTON — A two-page federal form has provoked a titanic clash between the government and many religious organizations.
The form allows some religious organizations to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage, which many insurers and group health plans are required to provide under the Affordable Care Act and related rules.
The opt-out sounds like a way to accommodate religious beliefs. But many religious employers like Wheaton College and the Little Sisters of the Poor are unwilling to sign the form. By signing it, they say, they would authorize their insurers or plan administrators to pay for contraceptives, including some that they believe may cause abortion.”

“The last round of oral argument in the most serious legal challenge to Obamacare’s insurance coverage subsidies ended over three months ago. Now the courthouse watch for a final ruling in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has neared a fever pitch.
Diehard defenders of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are worried that a three-judge panel is about to overturn an Internal Revenue Service rule issued in May 2012 that authorized distribution of insurance premium assistance tax credits in health exchanges administered by the federal government. By the end of a March 25 hearing on motions for summary judgment in Halbig v. Burwell, it appeared that two of the judges (a majority) were leaning toward agreeing with a group of private individuals and employers (who were appealing a federal district court ruling against them) that only an exchange “established by a state” is eligible for federal tax credits under the ACA.”

“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.”

“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.”