Aetna’s pullback from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Insurance Exchanges is another bad omen in a growing list. Throughout the controversial history of Obamacare, Aetna has been a stalwart continuing to voice confidence in the future of the program.

Until we are willing to have a conversation about how to fundamentally change a failing program Obamacare is just going to continue to deteriorate. That won’t happen until supporters end their denial and Republicans admit they can’t turn back history.

 

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The Affordable Care Act has overwhelmed large swaths of the economy, and the Administration is poised to upend yet another, by overriding Congress’ directives on how Medicare pays for the medicines that physicians prescribe under that program. Patients, healthcare providers and drug manufacturers all stand to suffer from the Administration’s disregard of a statutory mandate that controls over $20 billion in payments a year.

In the Medicare statute, Congress laid out a formula for Part-B drugs (those you get at a doctor’s office): Providers receive 106% of the average sales price—that is, the going rate plus a little to cover overhead costs. Enter the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), a bureaucracy within a bureaucracy, created to test “innovative payment and service delivery models.” CMMI recently proposed to “test” an approach to paying for Medicare Part-B drugs that will change reimbursements for three-quarters of the country.

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The Affordable Care Act continues to provide an opportunity for religious zealots to complain that someone, somewhere, might be doing something of which they disapprove. Another such case advancing through the courts is that of Missouri State Rep. Paul Wieland and his wife, Teresa, who assert that Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate tramples on their family’s religious rights even if they don’t make use of it.

St. Louis Federal Judge Jean Constance Hamilton thinks they may have a point. On Thursday she denied the government’s motion to throw out the case on summary judgment. Merely requiring individuals to buy an insurance policy that provides contraception could infringe on their religious conscience, she ruled in clearing the case for trial.

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The Obama administration cannot force a Missouri lawmaker and his family to carry health insurance that includes contraception coverage despite the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurers cover birth control, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Jean C. Hamilton said Thursday that HHS may not compel Republican state lawmaker Paul Joseph Wieland, his wife Teresa Jane Wieland or their insurer to include contraception coverage in their health plan. The ACA’s contraception mandate otherwise requires group health plans and insurers to cover contraceptives and sterilization procedures.

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The Obama administration knowingly spent billions in health care dollars without proper congressional authority and went to “great lengths” to impede congressional scrutiny of the money, Republicans on two major House committees said in a report that will be made public on Thursday.

An extensive investigation by the Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce Committees concluded that the administration plowed ahead with funding for a consumer cost-reduction program that was central to the new health insurance law even though Congress did not provide money for it.

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Insurers helped cheerlead the creation of Obamacare, with plenty of encouragement – and pressure – from Democrats and the Obama administration. As long as the Affordable Care Act included an individual mandate that forced Americans to buy its product, insurers offered political cover for the government takeover of the individual-plan marketplaces. With the prospect of tens of millions of new customers forced into the market for comprehensive health-insurance plans, whether they needed that coverage or not, underwriters saw potential for a massive windfall of profits.

Six years later, those dreams have failed to materialize. Now some insurers want taxpayers to provide them the profits to which they feel entitled — not through superior products and services, but through lawsuits.

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For six years, it has been abundantly clear that Americans want Obamacare to be repealed—but only if a well-conceived conservative alternative is positioned to take its place. That’s why the recent release of the House GOP health care plan is a big deal. The new plan would of course repeal Obamacare. But it would also fix what the federal government had already broken even before the law was passed and made things so much worse.

The proposal pairs an Obamacare alternative with Medicaid reforms and the crucial Medicare reforms (amounting to a kind of “Medicare Advantage Plus”) that Speaker Paul Ryan and House Republicans have long championed. As Ryan put it after the proposal’s release, “The way I see it, if we don’t like the direction the country is going in—and we do not—then we have an obligation to offer an alternative….And that’s what this is.” He called the plan not merely “a difference is policy” but “a difference in philosophy.”

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Today, after years of hearings and speeches and debates, the Paul Ryan-led House of Representatives has done something it has not done before: it has released a comprehensive, 37-page proposal to reform nearly every federal health care program, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare. No proposal is perfect—and we’ll get to the Ryan plan’s imperfections—but, all in all, we would have a far better health care system with the Ryan plan than we do today.

The first thing to know about the Ryan-led plan — part of a group of proposals called “A Better Way” — is that it’s not a bill written in legislative language. Nor is it a plan that has been endorsed by every House Republican.

Instead, it’s a 37-page white paper which describes, in a fair amount of detail, a kind of “conversation starter” that House GOP leadership hopes to have with its rank-and-file members, and with the public, in order to consolidate support around a more market-based approach to health reform.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan’s policy plan for health care, as expected, leans heavily on market forces, more so than the current system created by Obamacare. The proposal contains a host of previously proposed Republican ideas on health care, many of which are designed to drive people to private insurance markets.

Importantly for conservatives, as part of a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the current law’s mandates for individuals and insurers would disappear under the GOP plan. It would overhaul Medicare by transitioning to a premium support system under which beneficiaries would receive a set amount to pay for coverage. The plan also would alter Medicaid by implementing either per capita caps or block grants, based on a state’s preference.

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A federal judge recently ruled that the Obama administration violated the Constitution by spending $7 billion on subsidies for insurance companies without Congress’s permission. Worse still, the administration knew all along that it was flouting the law.

If the ruling is upheld, Americans will face higher premiums and fewer choices in the health insurance market. If it comes to that, they’ll have President Obama to thank.

At issue are the Affordable Care Act’s “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies. Obamacare’s “essential benefits” mandates require all exchange policies to cover a long list of services, from maternity care to substance abuse treatment to speech pathology counseling. In a normal market, insurers would charge patients higher premiums, deductibles, and copayments to cover the costs of these extensive benefits.

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