Breaking with normal tradition, we’re going to open this week’s update with national trends before moving into updates at the federal and state levels. This week there was an interesting report from the Kaiser Family Foundation that estimated that 50 percent of households receiving financial assistance to purchase private health insurance on the Marketplaces will have to return a portion of that subsidy when they file their tax returns as part of the tax credit reconciliation process. Repayments will, in most cases, be deducted from an enrollee’s refund check and the Kaiser report estimates that the average repayment will be $794. Roughly seven percent of enrollees could owe a repayment of between $2,000 and $5,000 and two percent could have to repay more than $5,000. A slightly smaller percentage of households, 45 percent, are estimated to receive additional money with their tax refund because they received underpayments in tax credits, with the average refund estimated to be $773. Kaiser’s report comes the same week as an unrelated but equally insightful analysis from Avalere found that for Open Enrollment 2 (OE2), ACA Marketplaces were primarily successful in enrolling lower-income persons eligible for subsidized coverage. The report found that as a person’s income went up, they were less likely to enroll in ACA coverage through a Marketplace, with only two percent of persons eligible for Marketplace coverage, but earning more than the amount to receive a subsidy, enrolled in a plan through a Marketplace.

With many Marketplaces and the Federally-facilitated Marketplace currently offering a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for those currently uninsured who did not have health coverage in 2014 and are subject to the “shared responsibility payment” when they file their 2014 taxes, there have been few updates on how many eligible persons are taking advantage of this opportunity to gain coverage. However, over the weekend Mark Ciaramitaro, a vice president of health-care enrollment services at H&R Block, told the Wall Street Journal “that a significant percentage of taxpayers whose household members were not covered for at least a portion of 2014 are opting” to pay the penalty for not having coverage and not demonstrating an interest in signing up for 2015 coverage.

During a 2014 Valentine’s Day meet-up with House Democrats, President Obama thanked them for their unstinting support of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “I think,” he said, “10 years, five years from now, we’re going to look back and say this was a monumental achievement.”

Well, the president’s health care law marks its fifth anniversary this week. And most Americans are not, in fact, looking back and saying the law enacted in 2010 – with not one Republican vote in either the House or Senate – was a monumental achievement.

Indeed, in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this month, a 44-34 plurality of respondents thought Obamacare a “bad idea.” And a 62-22 percent majority said that what they had seen, read or heard in recent weeks about the Affordable Care Act had made them “less confident” about the law.

Some suggest the public’s misgivings about Obamacare are almost entirely attributable to GOP opposition to the law. In a statement Monday, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz noted that “Republicans have voted more than 50 times to repeal or undermine this critical law.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), like President Clinton’s health plan in the 1990s, made the mistake of trying to achieve coast-to-coast health care coverage with a system that essentially looks the same everywhere. That approach was always going to be a challenge. US health care is an enormous and complex economy in its own right. If the US health system were a separate national economy, for instance, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world – larger than the entire economy of France or of Britain. The idea that a single piece of legislation could successfully reorganize the world’s fifth largest economy was a fantasy, especially when the bill had to go through the congressional sausage-making machine.

It’s true that the ACA gave Americans a choice of plan on federal or state-run exchanges. But the ACA still sought a template for insurance rules, benefits and other structural features that would be the same from Vermont to Texas and Florida to Alaska. That was unwise. The continuous political warfare since the enactment of the legislation reflects the fact that different parts of the country have very different views of how health care should be organized.

ObamaCare is celebrating its fifth anniversary, but few Americas are cheering.

The Real Clear Politics average of the latest major opinion polls about the health law shows that 52.5% oppose it and only 42% approve. The 10.5% spread is identical to the average of polls taken when the law was signed five years ago. Approval numbers never have topped disapproval numbers since the law was enacted. It is not getting more popular and it is not settled law, as President Obama claims.

President Obama is touting the increased number of people who have health insurance as a result of the law. According to Gallup, the uninsured rate among U.S. adults averaged 12.9% in the fourth quarter of last year. The uninsured rate was 14.4% the year before the health law passed, also according to Gallup.

So our health sector has been thrown into turmoil, millions of people have lost their private health plans, $1 trillion in new and higher taxes have been imposed on individuals and businesses – and the uninsured rate has dropped a net of 1.5%.

DENVER – About 190,000 Coloradans will lose access next year to health insurance plans which don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act, the Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI) decided.

In March of 2014, President Barack Obama decided to give states the option of allowing people on noncompliant health plans to be grandfathered in by renewing their old plans early, while problems with insurance exchanges were ironed out.

Colorado insurance commissioner Marguerite Salazar opted to do that for 2015, but told 9NEWS on Friday that the exception is no longer needed for plans in 2016, even though Colorado could have continued them an additional year.

“By delaying it, it doesn’t give us a good pathway into full implementation of the ACA,” Salazar told 9NEWS. “I feel like we gave people that year, we have a great robust market in terms of health insurance in Colorado.”

If the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell strikes down subsidies to the buyers of health insurance on the federal exchange, President Obama will call on Congress to change the law to allow the subsidies. There also will be enormous pressure on elected officials to establish state exchanges in the 34 states that don’t have them. Instead, congressional Republicans should be laying the groundwork for market-friendly health reforms and devolving power to the states, meanwhile helping Americans who have difficulty purchasing coverage…

Last week’s Supreme Court arguments on ObamaCare struck me as a bit irrelevant, and not just because the case won’t impact New York.

The case is about whether federal subsidies are actually legal in states that didn’t set up their own insurance exchanges — but the truth is, ObamaCare is a bad deal even with the subsidies.

Down here in the medical trenches, the harsh reality of the Affordable Care Act continues to play out.

One of the most anticipated cases of the Supreme Court’s 2014-2015 term is King v. Burwell. In it, the Supreme Court is confronted with what should be a straightforward question of statutory interpretation about the scope of subsidies available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1311 of the ACA states that “each state shall, not later than January 1, 2014, establish an American Health Benefit Exchange.” Another part of the law, section 1321, then qualifies that apparently absolute duty by providing that if the state does not “elect” to establish that exchange by January 1, 2014, or if it otherwise fails to meet the federal requirements for an exchange, “the Secretary [of HHS] shall . . . establish and operate such exchange within the state.”

The question of whether a state establishes this exchange determines far more than where individuals can buy their health care coverage. It also determines whether any purchaser of health insurance is entitled to a tax credit against his or her cost of coverage, as that subsidy is limited to taxpayers who are enrolled in a qualifying plan “through an Exchange established by the state” under Section 1311. Internal Revenue Service regulations interpreted the ACA requirement so that its tax subsidies were available to all individuals whether they enrolled in an exchange established by the state or by HHS when the state elected or failed to do so. The plaintiffs’ challenge to the regulation was in essence that the plain language of the ACA precluded the IRS from expanding the scope of the subsidy by this sleight of hand. King would have been an open-and-shut victory for the plaintiffs if the disputed interpretation had been some run-of-the-mill tax provision. But 36 states did not establish these exchanges because they wanted to guarantee their citizens the statutory tax breaks.

I haven’t commented much on the issues at play in the latest Obamacare case to reach the Supreme Court, mostly because there are so many lawyer-bloggers and health care pundits on the internet offering more informed takes than mine. But now duty calls, so here is my pundit’s view of things:

1) Having gone back and forth over the evidence presented, I’m not convinced by the plaintiffs’ argument that the people responsible for drafting for Obamacare consciously intended to limit subsidies in order to induce states to set up their own exchanges. The famous comments suggesting that they did, from Jonathan Gruber and others, make me suspect that this possibility floated somewhere in the Obamacare hive mind, and the much-discussed path that different versions of the bill took through the Senate allows room for the possibility that somebody involved with the process had that idea in mind, and that this person’s sense of how the law ought to work played some role in why the language that we have ended up in there. But the extent that we’re talking about the intent of the drafters as a collaborative group, my sense is that they’re telling the truth about having no such plan in mind, and thus that the text as we have it is the result of accident and oversight and blundering rather than design.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has given Republicans new ammunition in the fight over ObamaCare by endorsing the idea that Congress is certain to act if the court deals a blow to the law.

The conservative justice contended Wednesday that lawmakers would move quickly if the court, in the case of King v. Burwell, were to strike down subsidies that are helping millions of people purchase insurance through the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov.