“Businesses in five states received early access Monday to select features at ObamaCare’s online health insurance marketplace for small employers.
The soft launch for the SHOP system is an effort by federal health officials to troubleshoot any problems at the exchange before Nov. 15, when it will open to all states that did not elect to build their marketplaces.
Small businesses in New Jersey, Delaware, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri can establish accounts, complete an application, receive a determination of eligibility and upload an employee roster, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. In November, employers will also be able to browse plans and pricing.”
“New language in contracts between the CMS and insurers operating on HealthCare.gov is grabbing attention, with some calling it an admission by the government that it might lose upcoming court battles dealing with insurance subsidies on the health portal and others saying the new wording is just a practical precaution.
The new language appears to allow insurers to stop offering their plans should federal premium subsidies disappear. A number of cases regarding the legality of the subsidies in states without their own exchanges are now working their way through the courts.
The language says, “CMS acknowledges that (the insurer) has developed its products for the (federal exchange) based on the assumption that (advance payments of the premium tax credit) and (cost-sharing reductions) will be available to qualifying enrollees. In the event that this assumption ceases to be valid during the term of this agreement, CMS acknowledges that issuer could have cause to terminate this agreement subject to applicable state and federal law.””
“Some Democrats and their advocates in the press believe Obamacare, a year into implementation, is no longer much of a factor in the midterm elections. But no one has told Republican candidates, who are still pounding away at the Affordable Care Act on the stump. And no one has told voters, especially those in states with closely contested Senate races, who regularly place it among the top issues of the campaign.
In Arkansas, Republican challenger Tom Cotton is pulling ahead of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor partly on the strength of a relentless focus on Obamacare. Cotton’s newest ad attacks Pryor over the law, as did two of Cotton’s four previous ads.”
“As Georgia’s insurance commissioner, Republican Ralph Hudgens rarely hesitated to voice his criticism of the health care law known as Obamacare. The incumbent continued that mantra Sunday even while caught in a political crossfire from his two lesser-known opponents.
“I’ve said it’s going to limit choices, limit the number of doctors, and that premiums are going to increase,” Hudgens said Sunday at an Atlanta Press Club debate. “Those statements have been well legitimized by what has happened.”
But some of his other statements put a bulls-eye on Hudgens.”
“After the worst transition to Obamacare in the country, Massachusetts is still without a functional exchange website and just 769 people have enrolled in Obamacare-subsidized plans.
To avoid accountability and political repercussions, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is about to cut two special deals with the federal government: the “Commonwealth Kickback” which grants Massachusetts the most generous taxpayer-funded premium subsidies in the entire country, while the “Bay State Bailout” gives 300,000+ MA residents “temporary” Medicaid coverage in 2014, without any verification of their eligibility.
These deals are reminiscent of the controversial ACA-related “Cornhusker Kickback” and “Louisiana Purchase,” but they also can be added to the growing list of special deals cut for Massachusetts as the state struggles to transition to the ACA.”
“ObamaCare rate increases are coming to some key battleground states, fueling Republican attacks ahead of next month’s midterm elections.
“It looks like we’re going to have double-digit premium increases in places like Alaska, and Iowa and Louisiana,” said health economist John Goodman. “Where we’ve got very close races for Senate, and Republican candidates are making a big deal over this.””
“Almost immediately after the state’s insurance regulator earlier this month announced that rates for plans sold through MNsure would rise 4.5 percent on average, Republicans, health policy experts and other critics decried the figure as bogus and misleading.
The state Commerce Department has steadfastly defended the figure — a straight average of rate changes reported by the four returning carriers to MNsure — acknowledging that some consumers will see higher or lower rate changes. State agency officials said consumers can shop around once open enrollment begins Nov. 15 “to find the best option that fits their individual health and financial needs.”
But other states, like California, Colorado and Washington, report their increases in premiums for their respective exchange plans as weighted averages.
Calculated that way, Minnesota’s figure for next year is not 4.5 percent, but 11.8 percent.”
“It’s been a tough week for North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan, who’s clinging to a razor-thin lead in her re-election fight. She chose not to attend a ‘debate’ this week, ceding an hour of statewide airtime to her surging Republican opponent, Thom Tillis. Her chair sat empty throughout the forum. What didn’t she want to discuss? Perhaps it was her decision to skip a key classified briefing on ISIS in favor of a New York City fundraiser. Or maybe it was the explosion of reports that her immediate family benefited directly from the “stimulus” law she voted for. It could have been President Obama’s endorsement of candidates like Hagan as strong supporters of his agenda in Washington; the extent of Hagan’s fealty was underscored again in yesterday’s CQ analysis of 2014 voting records:”
“Gov. John Kasich of Ohio was the first potential 2016 candidate to get snared in the Obamacare/Medicaid media snafu. As one of several GOP governors who expanded Medicaid, he naturally defends that move, which in an Associated Press interview came out as a defense of Obamacare, to which the Medicaid extension was attached. Kasich clarified his view, but the liberal media, Democrats and potential 2016 opponents may think they have their gotcha quote.
Kasich, however, is correct that one can be for repealing Obamacare and still support states’ expansion of Medicaid. But other governors should be forewarned: You better be crystal clear about what you want to do.”
“Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the Republican governor and possible 2016 contender, had a dust-up this week when the Associated Press reported pro-Obamacare comments he made. In reality, he subsequently said, he was only praising the Medicaid expansion — which he’s trying to argue is totally separate.
I’ve already written about why this is a dishonest distinction, but his office has decided to dig in further. In a statement released on Twitter on Tuesday, his press department attempted to trick conservatives by using several cynical strategies often employed by Republicans trying to explain their big government policies.”