Articles on the implementation of ObamaCare.

“Employer groups are ramping up their efforts to revise the ACA’s 30-hour full-time employee definition in hopes of getting it changed before the employer mandate kicks in for some large employers next year. The initiative, titled “More Time for Full-Time,” was announced Friday (Sept. 19) and is the latest tactic by employers to change the standard so that it defines a full-time employee as one who works 40 hours per week.
Groups involved in the initiative include the National Restaurant Association, the National Retail Federation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Grocers Association and the International Franchise Association.
“As all Americans have known for decades, 40 hours represents the widely-accepted definition of a full-time work week. Unless there is a statutory change to the definition of a full-time employee in the ACA, there will be fewer full-time jobs, more part-time workers and fewer overall hours available for Americans to work,” International Franchise Association President and CEO Steve Caldeira said in a statement.”

“A major innovation in health insurance plan design over the past several years has been the rapid growth of “narrow network” plans. Such plans either limit enrollee choices of providers, or place providers in differential cost tiers whereby individuals face higher cost in selecting some providers relative to others. This movement harkens back to the restrictions put in place during the U.S. initial infatuation with managed care in the mid-1990s. That episode ended badly for the limited choice model, as the “HMO backlash” induced regulatory restrictions on plans which handicapped choice limitations within the HMO model.
The latest growth of narrow network plans has been hastened by the introduction of health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). State exchanges have fostered strong insurer competition through both organizing the marketplace and through tying low income health insurance tax credits to the second-lowest cost plan in the silver tier. Insurers have responded to these competitive incentives in many ways, but perhaps the most notable is the expansion of narrow network insurance products. Such products are widespread on exchanges and appear to be growing rapidly.”

“Republicans have found a new opening against ObamaCare after struggling for months to craft a fresh strategy against a healthcare law that now covers millions of people.
Lifted by a pair of federal audits that found major flaws with the law’s implementation, Republicans see their first chance in months to launch a serious attack against the law.
“The news that we’ve seen over the last week and a half really emphasizes what conservatives and Republicans were trying to do last year, which was preventing a lot of this from happening,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for the conservative political group Heritage Action for America.
“What I hope happens is that the Republican Party as a whole says, ‘Yes, there is a reason besides politics that we’re fighting ObamaCare: It’s hurting people,’” Holler said.”

“Costs to buy coverage through Connecticut’s health insurance exchange won’t, on average, rise much next year. For some plans, the prices are dropping.
But some customers who get financial aid to buy their insurance could see price increases beyond the rise in sticker price if they stick with their current plans, according to an analysis by consultants for the exchange, Access Health CT.
As a result, some people might find lower prices by considering different plans, even if they bought the cheapest plan available this year, according to the analysis by Wakely Consulting Group.”

“The federal health insurance website is trying to resolve glitches and security questions raised by the Government Accountability Office, so people can safely and successfully sign up for insurance at open enrollment Nov. 15.
Much of the Obama administration’s success in enrolling 8.1 million people in health insurance over the past year was overshadowed by the momentous problems with HealthCare.gov and several state exchanges. As administration officials prepare to test the site with insurers Oct. 7, they’re trying to manage expectations while portraying some confidence.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner told a House panel Thursday that there will be “visible improvement, but not perfection” on HealthCare.gov.”:

“Here’s a health law pop quiz: Which two states have the least successful Obamacare health insurance exchanges?
You may guess a state in the Deep South where political opposition to the law is fierce. Or maybe Missouri? It passed a state law saying consumer advisors funded by the Affordable Care Act aren’t allowed to advise consumers.
In fact, Iowa and South Dakota are the two states where the ACA insurance marketplaces struggled the most. In both, just 11.1 percent of residents eligible for subsidized insurance signed up for it – the lowest rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)”

“A wave of hospital mergers and acquisitions spreading across the U.S. has the health insurance industry attempting to stand in the way with legalese, Congressional lobbying and in the court of public opinion.
America’s Health Insurance Plans, the powerful lobby and trade group representing the biggest names in commercial insurance appears to be leading the charge battling deals in New York, Chicago and beyond.
“Consolidation promises greater efficiency, but all that ever materializes is greater costs,” Brendan Buck, former press secretary to Speaker of the U.S. House John Boehner, who was tapped this spring to be vice president of communications at America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) told the Chicago Sun-Times following news two of the wealthiest hospital operators in the city would merge.”

“The Obama administration has found their line when it comes to setting expectations for the second roll-out of the federal exchange website: “Improvement but not perfection.”
It’s the semi-optimistic catch-phrase officials have used in congressional testimonies over the past few weeks to describe how well Healthcare.gov will work come November. Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator at CMS said it during his testimony with the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Marilyn Tavenner, CMS administrator used the line during her testimony Thursday morning for the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.
Voters also seem to be preparing for problems and not perfection as they head back to the site. Open enrollment begins November 15.
Morning Consult polling shows more than half of registered voters — 54 percent — are very concerned or somewhat concerned about security breaches on HealthCare.gov and the state exchange sites. Thirty-nine percent of registered voters were not too concerned at all.”

“If you bought health insurance at an Affordable Care Act marketplace this year, it really pays to look around before renewing your coverage for next year.
The system is set up to encourage people to renew the policies that they bought last year — and there are clear advantages to doing so, such as being able to keep your current doctors. But an Upshot analysis of data from the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform shows that in many places premiums are going up by double-digit percentages within many of the most popular plans. But other plans, hoping to attract customers, are increasing their prices substantially less. In some markets, plans are even cutting prices.”

“We did not see big changes in employer-based coverage in the Kaiser-HRET annual Employer Health Benefit Survey released last week. Mostly this is good news, particularly on the cost side where premiums increased just 3%.
But one long-term trend that is not so good is how this market works for firms with relatively large shares of lower-wage workers (which we define as firms where at least 35% of employees earn less than $23,000). These low-wage firms often do not offer health benefits at all. And, as the chart below shows, when they do offer coverage, it has lower premiums on average (likely meaning skimpier coverage) and requires workers to pay more for it. Workers in low-wage firms pay an average of $6,472 for family coverage, compared with $4,693 for workers in higher wage firms.”