A project of the Galen Institute

Commentary

John Castellani
PhRMA
Mon, 2014-08-18
"New information related to physician-industry interaction is scheduled to be released to the public for the first time on September 30. The public database from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which is part of the Sunshine Act implementation, will focus on payments that biopharmaceutical and medical technology companies have made to physicians. Although the release date is less than six weeks away, concerns about what the data will look like and its effect on medical innovation are already being brought to light by stakeholders across the board. One of the primary concerns that PhRMA shares with more than two dozen other patient and industry organizations is that the data needs to include context to explain what the payments represent – collaborations that benefit patient health and innovation. It’s critical to note that the new database will include information on many different types of interactions.
Avik Roy
Manhattan Institute
Sat, 2014-08-16
"In 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as the “Affordable Care Act,” the “ACA,” or “Obamacare.” The ACA will reduce the number of Americans without health insurance— an important goal—but it will do so by increasing the cost of U.S. health coverage. Increasing the cost of health coverage, in turn, will worsen two of the nation’s most important policy problems. The first of those problems is the increasing unaffordability of private health insurance, a problem that is straining the budgets of middle-income Americans, and hampering social mobility. The second problem is the nation’s grave long-term fiscal instability, a problem primarily driven by government spending on health insurance and health care. Indeed, the ACA will especially drive up the cost of private health insurance that individuals purchase directly.
Ed Haislmaier
The Daily Signal
Thu, 2014-08-14
"There has not exactly been an overabundance of good news on Obamacare. So it did come as some surprise two weeks ago when the Department of Health and Human Services issued a press release with the headline: “Consumers have saved a total of $9 billion on premiums,” and the subheading; “Health care law will return to families an average refund of $80 each this year.” There is nothing unusual or even untoward about the Obama administration doing what it can to put a positive spin on the law. But what makes this item interesting is it reveals how little the administration actually has to tout about Obamacare and how far it must reach to manufacture a success story. The purpose of the press release was to announce data on the effects of Obamacare’s “medical loss ratio” regulation, which “requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on patient care and quality improvement activities.
Darius Tahir
Modern Healthcare
Thu, 2014-08-14
"A mix-up of information about two physicians with the same name in different states has opened a window on wide-ranging technical problems the CMS is facing with its Open Payments website reporting industry payments to doctors and teaching hospitals. Registration for the system, which was scheduled..." NOTE: This article is behind a paywall.
Beth Pinsker
Reuters
Thu, 2014-08-14
"When benefits enrollment season arrives this fall, employees around the country can expect to see the impact of corporate cost-cutting on their finances. Benefits costs will rise only 5 percent for employers that take certain cost-reduction measures, instead of 6.5 percent for companies that do not, according to a June survey of employers representing 7.5 million workers by the National Business Group on Health. Although costs are not rising as quickly, employees are still being squeezed. The main way companies are keeping healthcare costs in line is by shifting workers into high-deductible health plans, defined by the Internal Revenue Service as having deductibles above $1,250 for an individual. (here) For 2015, 81 percent of employers will offer a high-deductible plan as an option, up from 72 percent last year; while 32 percent will offer such plans as the only option, up from 22 percent last year.
Dan Diamond
California Health Line
Thu, 2014-08-14
"When Covered California unveiled its initial slate of 13 carriers last year, their low rates got some attention -- but so did their mix. While Covered California couldn't boast Aetna or UnitedHealthcare, which instead elected to leave the state's individual market, four major insurers were on board: Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente. And the exchange also had drawn in several smaller health plans, like Ventura County Health Plan, which were going to compete for share on the individual market for the first time. "For me, the story is [these] new participants," Micah Weinberg of the Bay Area Council told California Healthline last summer. "Who exactly they are, and how they are being offered in these marketplaces, is worth watching." But Ventura County quietly pulled out. A second small carrier, Alameda Alliance, was kicked out.
Anna Gorman
Kaiser Health News
Thu, 2014-08-14
"California is coming face to face with the reality of one of its biggest Obamacare successes: the explosion in Medi-Cal enrollment. The numbers — 2.2 million enrollees since January — surprised health care experts and created unforeseen challenges for state officials. Altogether, there are now about 11 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries, constituting nearly 30 percent of the state's population. That has pushed the public insurance program into the spotlight, after nearly 50 years as a quiet mainstay of the state's health care system, and it has raised concerns about California's ability to meet the increased demand for health care. Even as sign-ups continue, state health officials are struggling to figure out how to serve a staggering number of Medi-Cal beneficiaries while also improving their health and keeping costs down. Many are chronically ill and have gone without insurance or regular care for years, and some new enrollees have higher expectations than in the past."
Drew Altman
Wall Street Journal
Wed, 2014-08-13
"The Affordable Care Act is like a patient who is feeling worse when key clinical indicators say he is doing better. Obamacare recovered from its Web site fiasco last October and went on to exceed enrollment projections in March. Despite predictions of “rate shock,” early indications are that premiums in the new insurance marketplaces are increasing modestly in most states that have made 2015 information public and more slowly than the non-group market has grown in the past. While critics said that the Affordable Care Act was having no impact on the uninsured, the share of the population that is uninsured is down significantly. Adding to the more upbeat news, health costs are rising at historically moderate rates, although the ACA has played only a supporting role in that so far.
Brian Hughes
The Examiner
Wed, 2014-08-13
"What happens in November will play a major role in shaping President Obama’s final two years in office. No, it’s not just the 2014 midterm elections that have the White House on edge, but also the return of open enrollment in Obamacare. After the disastrous rollout of the president’s signature domestic initiative in 2013, the administration needs to avoid the problems that diminished public confidence in the most significant overhaul to the health care system since the creation of Medicare. The White House believes the technical problems that crashed healthcare.gov will become a distant memory. However, team Obama must worry about much more than just a website. Here are the top five potential Obamacare headaches looming in November:"
Tom Miller
AEI
Wed, 2014-08-13
"The latest somersaults and contortions over Obamacare last month spread from courtrooms to the blogosphere, with another round of regulatory “adjustments” not far away. The common principle followed by the health law’s most energetic advocates appears to be the whatever-it-takes motto of the late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, “Just win, baby!” A pair of federal appellate court decisions on July 21 (Halbig v. Burwell and King v Burwell) sent Obamacare backers cycling through at least the first three stages of grief (anger, denial, and bargaining) over the potential loss of tax credit subsidies for states with federal-run health exchanges, along with the likelihood of further unraveling of the health law’s interrelated scheme of coverage mandates and tighter insurance regulation. A 2-1 majority ruling in Halbig delivered the latest blow to the Affordable Care Act, by deciding to vacate a 2012 Internal Revenue Service rule that attempted to authorize such subsidies.

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