Republicans are getting battered at town halls on ObamaCare, with constituents—or least protestors—yelling about the benefits they’ll lose if the entitlement is repealed. But maybe the better measure of public sentiment is the choices that the people who are subject to ObamaCare have made in practice. Consider the remarkable persistence of health insurance plans that aren’t in compliance with the ACA’s rules and mandates. These “grandfathered” and “grandmothered” plans aren’t obligated to meet ObamaCare’s very high “essential benefits” floor, nor are they required to obey price controls that limit how much premiums can differ based on pre-existing medical conditions. These regulatory differences have thus set up an instructive market test about the need for ObamaCare’s mandates. 8.1 million people chose to remain in their existing plans instead of purchase ACA coverage.
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Vice President Pence forcefully defended on Thursday night the Trump administration’s plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, saying the law known as Obamacare is a “nightmare” and that the administration is committed to “an orderly transition” to a new health care system. Pence said he and President Trump are committed to giving every American “access to quality, affordable health insurance. . . . We’ll have an orderly transition to a better health-care system that finally puts the American people first,” Pence said.

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The United States Court of Federal Claims just ruled that the federal government failed explicitly to appropriate money for an ACA program known as “Risk Corridors” to stabilize the ACA exchanges, and therefore sent the United States an $8 billion bill to make these payments to insurers. It is unlikely that this decision will result in much money actually being sent to insurers or in many insurers returning to the ACA markets. Many of the insurers owed money have already gone out of business. Others have, quite literally, written off any chance of recovering any of this money. Insurers are instead likely to see the money as a bit of a windfall that will not affect business decisions one way or the other as to whether and how to remain in the ACA marketplace.

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As policymakers debate repealing and replacing the ACA, they grapple with how to address the ACA’s “Cadillac Tax.” Rather than repealing the 40% tax on high-cost insurance plans outright, many advocates of “repeal and replace” have proposed replacing it with a limit on the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance. Doing so would be a wise choice, and limiting the ESI exclusion would both generate significant revenue to pay for an ACA replacement and help to limit the overall growth of health care spending. Other options include capping the income tax exclusion, capping the payroll tax exclusion, and replacing the income tax exclusion with a fixed-dollar credit/deduction.

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As Republicans in Congress look to repeal and replace the ACA, they’re considering a return to high-risk pools like one in Wisconsin, which some considered a national model. The “Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan” — which ran from 1979 to 2014, when the federal health law’s exchanges started — was funded through premiums, insurance company assessments and reduced payments to providers. “Pooling the high-risk individuals together and managing their needs separately was a huge factor in the state’s success in offering a competitive insurance market,” J.P. Wieske, the state’s deputy insurance commissioner, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee this month.

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Let the states derive their own health care solutions, particularly when it comes to cost containment. That’s why we may need to look to six states that are aggressively working to contain costs. The Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee legislatures are considering a proposal to eliminate defensive medicine by abolishing each state’s medical malpractice system and replace it with a no-blame model similar to workers’ compensation. Two other states are also examining the concept. When doctors are no longer the target of litigation, they would be less likely to order unnecessary tests, medications and procedures.

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The Trump administration and the House of Representatives are asking for a hold on a case over Affordable Care Act payments that has the potential to test the boundaries between the branches of government.

At issue is not just whether the executive branch had unconstitutionally funded certain ACA payments to insurers, but the limits on government power when it comes to appropriations.

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey heads to Washington this week to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference. The Washington Examiner asked him to preview his main priorities regarding Obamacare replacement and what they should know about Arizona’s healthcare challenges.

He said, “The damage from Obamacare is clear: Insurance markets have been wrecked; premiums have soared; and promises, such as “you can keep your doctor,” have been broken. That’s what happens when one party imposes a one-size-fits-all solution on one-sixth of the country’s economy without even bothering to read the bill. Congress should do the opposite of what occurred in 2010: It should seek to expand choices for consumers, not limit them; it should encourage innovation in the states, not stifle it; and it should read the bill and understand the implications of what it’s passing instead of simply hoping for the best despite ample evidence to the contrary.”

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Every day brings a new story about Republicans in disarray, the “mirage” of the GOP’s reform and the impossibility of change. The reality is that Congress is on schedule, progress is underway, and the many potential problems are avoidable.

Behind the scenes, members and staff are being briefed on options and the House will release a consensus proposal after the Presidents Day recess. The details matter and are under discussion, but the outlines are emerging. Congress will use the reconciliation budget maneuver to bypass the Senate filibuster and pass a version of the 2015 repeal bill that President Obama vetoed. This time they’ll incorporate as many replacement components as the rules allow to bring more predictability to insurance markets.

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The combination of high-deductible insurance with Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) is central to a market-driven reform of U.S. health care. There is, however, a problem with existing HSA policy that must be fixed if HSAs are to reach their full potential in improving the efficiency of health care arrangements: As currently structured, HSAs are not built to provide easy access to care from well-organized systems of health care. Rather, HSA enrollees buy services on a fee-for-service basis, which is, in most cases, a much less efficient way of getting needed care. The rules governing HSAs should be modified to allow account holders to buy access to care from integrated care systems on a fixed-fee basis.

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