Articles on the implementation of ObamaCare.
As Medicare and Medicaid reach their 50th anniversary on Thursday, the two vast government programs that insure more than one-third of Americans are undergoing a transformation that none of their original architects foresaw: Private health insurance companies are playing a rapidly growing role in both.
This Viewpoint discusses 4 key changes that could improve the Affordable Care Act and create broad support across the states.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is best seen as transitional legislation on the road to long-term structural reform of the US health care system. This is not so much because the ACA is politically controversial and there is bound to be pressure for changes, despite the US Supreme Court’s King v Burwell decision,1 but rather it is because the ACA’s design still lacks the consistent, strategic building blocks needed for a stable, long-term system redesign.
Neither Republicans nor Democrats have spent much time, at least not in public, discussing changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that could refine or improve the legislation. Republicans have mostly focused on strategies to repeal the ACA, which, even with their control of the House and Senate, appears highly unlikely because they could not muster the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto. Democrats, while privately acknowledging there are changes that could improve the legislation, have publicly devoted most of their energies to defending the ACA.
Welfare: During the debates on ObamaCare, Medicaid got little attention. That was a mistake, since enrollment and the cost of treating all those jumping onto the program is surging beyond expectations.
At first, ObamaCare tried to force states to expand eligibility for Medicaid by including childless adults and people with incomes 38% above the poverty line. In 2012, the Supreme Court blocked this attempt, making expansion optional for states.
Last week, Alaska became the 30th state to expand Medicaid with federal funding from the Affordable Care Act. “Alaska and Alaskans cannot wait any longer,” said Gov. Bill Walker. “We‘re not going to step away from this opportunity to help fellow Alaskans, period.”
Across the country, governors and state lawmakers have circled “2017” on their calendars. This is the first year that the enhanced federal funding for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion starts to fade away and states will have to scramble to find new funds to pick up their share of the expense. As it turns out, “free money” comes at a cost.
One of the key questions surrounding Obamacare is just how many people have been newly insured under the law. The answer is clouded by the fact that the White House and others have changed some rules of math for making these assessments.
For example, several years ago, the Obama Administration fiddled with Census Bureau’s definition of what it means to be “uninsured.” The new parameters, which were looser than the old factors, make it hard to construct comparisons between today’s figures for the total number of uninsured and the historical trends.
The Obama team also abruptly started to exclude uninsured illegal immigrants from the national tally on total number of uninsured Americans. Before Obamacare, these individuals were counted in that reporting, inflating the numbers. After Obamacare, these individuals didn’t get insurance, but suddenly didn’t get counted any more.
Now, a new analysis from the highly regarded managed care analyst at Goldman Sachs, Matthew Borsch, and his team, cast uncertainty on some of the recent data releases from the White House, and its network of academicians. In particular, the Goldman breakdown conflicts in some key ways with a recent analysis from RAND that was published in the journal Health Affairs and widely cited by the media.
Has the effort peaked to sign up uninsured Americans for coverage? The announcement that the nonprofit organization Enroll America is laying off staff and redirecting its focus in the face of funding cuts comes amid inconsistent sign-ups during the second Affordable Care Act open-enrollment period and concerns about affordability.
A recent New York Times analysis compared Kaiser Family Foundation estimates of potential enrollees with sign-up data from the Department of Health and Human Services. While some states that signed up few people in 2014 recovered during the 2015 open enrollment, other states lagged: “California, the state with the most enrollments in 2014, increased them by only one percentage point this year, despite a big investment in outreach. New York improved by only two percentage points. Washington’s rates are unchanged.”
Most states could not post consistent gains in both open-enrollment periods. An official from Avalere Health, a consulting firm, told the Times that she was “starting to wonder if we’ve overestimated the whole thing.”