Articles on the implementation of ObamaCare.

Rushing to enact the giant Obamacare bill in March 2010, Congress voted itself out of its own employer-sponsored health insurance coverage—the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Section 1312(d)(3)(D) required members of Congress and staff to enroll in the new health insurance exchange system. But in pulling out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, they also cut themselves off from their employer-based insurance contributions.

Obamacare’s insurance subsidies for ordinary Americans are generous, but capped by income. No one with an annual income over $47,080 gets a subsidy. That’s well below typical Capitol Hill salaries. Members of Congress make $174,000 annually, and many on their staff have impressive, upper-middle-class paychecks.

Maybe the lawmakers didn’t understand what they were doing, but The New York Times’ perspicacious Robert Pear certainly did. On April 12, 2010, Pear wryly wrote, “If they did not know exactly what they were doing to themselves, did lawmakers who wrote and passed the bill fully grasp the details of how it would influence the lives of other Americans?”

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Health insurers have not had much to cheer about lately, when it comes to Obamacare. They have been losing money on exchanges, and there is little hope that will change. So, a large health plan in Pittsburgh has asked judges to give it Obamacare money the Administration promised, but Congress declined to appropriate.

As reported by Wes Venteicher and Brian Bowling of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Highmark lost $260 million on Obamacare exchanges in 2014, and claims it is owed $223 million by taxpayers. Unfortunately, it received only about $27 million. And things are getting worse. To date, Highmark has lost $773 million on Obamacare exchanges.

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Enrollment in individual health care plans, now dominated by the Affordable Care Act exchanges, fell 15.4 percent in the first quarter for the parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.

At the end of March, Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp. had 1.39 million individual members, compared with 1.64 million as of Dec. 31.

The decline in individual members is even greater when compared with the first quarter of 2015. A year ago, HCSC had nearly 1.9 million individual market members.

Despite the decline in individual enrollment, the insurer set aside $431.5 million in reserves during in the first quarter to account for losses expected in its 2016 ACA business, according to first-quarter financial statements filed this week with the Illinois Department of Insurance.

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Though it was more a TKO than a straight-up ruling, the Little Sisters of the Poor prevailed at the Supreme Court on Monday in their fight against the ObamaCare contraceptive mandate.

True, the justices made clear that they were not ruling on the merits, which is why so many headlines speak of the court’s having “punted” on the case. Even so, in a unanimous decision they made the path forward much easier for the sisters and much more difficult for the Obama administration.

To begin with, the justices vacated the lower-court rulings the sisters were fighting. The parties, the court said, should have another opportunity to work out a way to deliver contraceptives that doesn’t violate the religious objections of the Little Sisters and their co-plaintiffs.

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The third open enrollment period (OEP) for the public exchanges concluded in January. Many carriers—both early-OEP entrants and “wait-and-see” latecomers—believed this new market would achieve stability and sustainable margins in its third year. However, recent events— including carrier turnover (both entrances and exits), plan terminations, and pricing volatility—suggest the market is still in flux.

One reason for the flux is the variability of individual market financial performance many carriers have disclosed publicly. For some carriers, significant losses are causing marked changes in enterprise-level capital, cost structures, and strategy. Early indications of 2015 performance suggest aggregate negative margins may have doubled; to date, however, only 86% of carriers have released preliminary data publicly. We anticipate that our estimates will evolve as more information is released, such as final 3R results and rebates, as well as 2015 claim run-out and adjustments. Whether carriers’ performance in the individual market will improve in 2016 remains unclear.

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District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer has ruled for Congress in House v. Burwell, a case challenging the authority of the executive branch to pay Obamacare subsidies for which no money has been appropriated.

These are not the highest-profile subsidies; they’re something called the cost-sharing reduction, which lowers the deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for families buying silver plans who make less than 250 percent of the poverty line. The federal government has paid the insurers a lot of money that wasn’t appropriated, and the House has sued to stop that.

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Health insurance customers in a growing number of mostly rural regions will have just one insurer’s plans to choose from on the ObamaCare exchanges next year as some companies pull out of unprofitable markets. The entire states of Alaska and Alabama are expected to have only one insurer on the health law’s signature online marketplaces next year, according to state regulators. The same is expected to be true in parts of several other states, including Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arizona and Oklahoma, state regulators said.

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Insurers and hospitals can’t discriminate against patients because of their gender identity under the Affordable Care Act, federal officials said Friday, but patient groups complained the rule doesn’t go far enough.

The Department of Health and Human Servicesfinalized a rule that prohibited discrimination in health care based on a long list of characteristics ranging from race to pregnancy, gender identity and “sex stereotyping.”

It doesn’t mean insurers have to cover all treatments associated with gender transitioning but they just can’t outright deny them either. But the rule doesn’t go far enough in clarifying what is discrimination, some say.

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Research shows an array of questions shared by in-person assisters, local navigators and certified application counselors to the Assister Help Resource Center (AHRC) from November 2015–January 2016. AHRC fielded nearly 1,400 calls during this period pertaining to complex health insurance application filings; eligibility determinations; and enrollment scenarios.The topics of the calls AHRC fielded were:

  • 40% eligibility for financial assistance,
  • 15% how to project income,
  • 11% account creation issues, and
  • 6% changes in circumstances.

The researchers say that the questions paint a picture of complex eligibility and enrollment processes, and could lend valuable insight in preparation for the fall open enrollment period, beginning November 1.

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The Obama administration’s continuing efforts to rewrite and re-interpret the legal requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) hit a new roadblock in federal district court yesterday. Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled that advance payments to insurers of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies for certain lower-income enrollees in Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges were never appropriated by Congress. Oops. She therefore enjoined any further reimbursements until a valid appropriation is in place, but the judge also issued a stay of that injunction pending any appeal by the parties.

The decision in United States House of Representatives v. Sylvia Matthews Burwell, et al. is a big win for House Republicans, other Obamacare opponents, and the rule of law. It also signals at least the outer limits of the Obama administration’s repeated efforts to stretch implementation of the 2010 law far beyond legal norms and the plain meaning of the ACA’s statutory text.

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