Audits and investigations into the effects of ObamaCare from congressional committees, government auditors, advocacy groups, and others.

“CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner on Thursday (Sept. 18) pledged the agency would conduct full “end-to-end” testing of healthcare.gov prior to the launch of open enrollment in November, likely either by the end of this month or early October. Tavenner also told members of Congress that the site will see continued improvement but will not be perfect in year two.
The comments came during a sometimes fiery House oversight committee hearing that focused on the security of the exchange website, which took place shortly after the Government Accountability Office released a report finding that healthcare.gov continues to be vulnerable to breaches. On Wednesday, Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) released a scathing report on the run-up to the launch of the site that highlighted staff concerns about security, attempts to cover-up the reasons behind the failed launch, and a disconnect between HHS and CMS staff.”

“This week’s double-barreled release of government statistics on health insurance coverage leaves us with only one question: How many Americans are insured because of Obamacare? Remarkably, the two highly regarded government surveys released this week do not even agree whether the number of uninsured increased or decreased. The survey that received a great deal of attention said there were 3.8 million fewer uninsured. The other, which was hardly noticed, found that there were 1.3 million more uninsured.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported preliminary results on the expansion of health insurance coverage. Its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) interviewed 27,000 people in the first three months of this year. The survey estimates that the number of uninsured dropped by 3.8 million since 2013. That represents a 1.3 percentage point decline in the uninsured rate, from 14.4 percent last year to 13.1 percent early this year.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“A day after Maryland committed to a gradual launch of its health exchange, state officials are still working out some key details — including where the opening day sign-up will be held — but experts say it could be a way to avoid a repeat of last year’s botched rollout.
Several health experts said the approach that limits enrollment in the first few days could allow Maryland to “kick the tires” on its new website.
“It’s a controlled way to open enrollment,” said Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. “They can work with a controlled number of people for the first couple of days to see how this works in practice. I’m assuming there is some plan at the end of the day when people gather in a room and compare notes and say we need to fix this or that.””

“Lawmakers told officials with the Department of Health and Hospitals on Wednesday they needed to provide more complete information going forward about Bayou Health, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Medicaid privatization program.
The Legislative Audit Advisory Council heard testimony from DHH and the Legislative Auditor’s Office about an audit that raised a number of questions about the program. Auditors testified 74 percent of the transparency report was based on self-reported data with no corroborating documentation.”

“Enrolling in Missouri’s Medicaid program has not been easy.
Many applicants have experienced a barrage of problems when trying to sign up for the program, including long delays until coverage kicks in, lost paperwork and a lack of one-on-one interaction with caseworkers. State officials have blamed a new computer system used to process Medicaid applications.
But there is another reason why some Missourians struggle to get help.
When Deborah Weaver, 28, had issues enrolling in the state’s Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, a switch from her Medicaid disability coverage, she was directed to use a toll-free number, 1-855-373-4636. When she called, Weaver endured long waits and received no guidance.”

“If you are looking for information on how Americans are engaging with the Affordable Care Act, the Census Bureau’s recently released latest annual estimates of health insurance coverage is probably not the place to look—at least for now.
The Census Bureau, which derives its information on healthcare from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement—the same survey where it asks how many toilets, computers, microwaves, etc., people have in their homes—does provide some useful insights.
It catalogues the demographic characteristics of the population based on participation in different types of health insurance coverage—government health care programs, private employer and individual plans, and the uninsured. It tells us young adults make up a disproportionate share of the uninsured and provides useful information on the relative availability of employer-sponsored coverage by industry and firm size.
But its hard numbers on enrollment and enrollment trends are not reliable for drawing “big picture” conclusions, especially regarding the ACA. Indeed, that unreliability is why this year the Census Bureau started using a new set of health coverage questions in the ASEC.”