“Though the law will be a year older, Republicans will push a vote to repeal Obamacare if they take back the Senate in November, a top GOP senator told reporters Thursday morning.
“I suspect we will vote to repeal early to put on record the fact that we Republicans think it was a bad policy and we think it is hurting our constituents,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), appearing at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “We think health care costs should be going down, not up. We think people should be able to keep the insurance that they had. They are worried about the fact that the next shoe to drop is going to be employer coverage.”
As Portman’s remarks indicated, a repeal vote by a Republican-controlled Senate would be a largely perfunctory exercise, designed to register GOP opposition with the health care law once again. The president would never sign such a measure, even if he were severely chastened by the 2014 election results.

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“Some of Obamacare’s big supporters say the new law has already contributed to decreases in the rate of growth of health spending.
But a new report from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary says the rate slowed because of a slow economic recovery, increased cost-sharing for those enrolled in private plans and sequestration.
Indeed, the report does not mention Obamacare when assessing the situation. “The recent period is marked by a four-year historically low rate of health spending growth, which is primarily attributable to the sluggish economic recovery and constrained state and local government budgets following the 2007-09 recession,” the report states.”

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“TOPEKA — The three private insurance companies that administer the Kansas Medicaid program under KanCare lost $72.6 million in the first half of 2014, after losing $110 million in 2013.
Rep. Jim Ward, a member of a KanCare oversight committee who requested the fiscal information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, questioned Tuesday how long the three companies can sustain such losses.
“These companies can’t keep subsidizing Medicaid to the tune of $100 or $150 million per year, and that’s what’s happening,” said Ward, D-Wichita.
KanCare is the initiative launched by Gov. Sam Brownback on Jan. 1, 2013.

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“On both ends of the Capitol, the parties controlling Congress are happily showcasing futility.
Less than two months before pivotal congressional elections, Republicans muscled legislation through the House Thursday letting insurers continue selling health coverage that falls short of standards required by President Barack Obama’s health care law. The measure passed on a 247-167 vote but is sure to die in the Democratic-run Senate, and the White House promised a veto in any event.
Even so, the vote let Republicans highlight their repeated efforts to debilitate the health care law.

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“Testifying before a House subcommittee, a key Obama administration official lays out the updates that HHS is making to the online marketplaces before enrollment begins in November. Mary Agnes Carey and Politico Pro’s Jennifer Haberkorn discuss.
MARY AGNES CAREY: Welcome to Health on the Hill, I’m Mary Agnes Carey. With the health law’s open enrollment season just months away, a key Obama administration official was on Capitol Hill today to discuss ongoing efforts to fix problems with healthcare.gov. Politico Pro’s Jennifer Haberkorn was at that hearing and joins us now. Thanks for being with us.
JENNIFER HABERKORN: Thanks for having me.”

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“Arkansas’ “Private Option” ObamaCare Medicaid expansion has been rough. Costs have run over budget every single month. The Medicaid director who spearheaded the program abruptly resigned to “pursue other opportunities.” The program’s chief legislative architect, a three-term Republican state representative, lost his primary for an open Senate seat to a political newcomer. And the Private Option is already prioritizing coverage for able-bodied adults over care for truly needy patients like Chloe Jones. News is so bad that Governor Beebe’s office is secretly trying to silence negative press about this failed ObamaCare experiment.
Understandably, the Governor is pretty desperate for some good news. Unable to find any, it seems he decided instead to make it up. Beebe’s office sent out a self-congratulatory press release about next year’s Private Option premiums, hoping to salvage the program’s deteriorating image.

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“The key findings from the survey, conducted from January through May 2014, include a modest increase in the average premiums for family coverage (3%). Single coverage premiums are 2% higher than in 2013, but the difference is not statistically significant. Covered workers generally face similar premium contributions and cost-sharing requirements in 2014 as they did in 2013. The percentage of firms (55%) which offer health benefits to at least some of their employees and the percentage of workers covered at those firms (62%) are statistically unchanged from 2013. The percentage of covered workers enrolled in grandfathered health plans – those plans exempt from many provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – declined to 26% of covered workers from 36% in 2013. Perhaps in response to new provisions of the ACA, the average length of the waiting period decreased for those with a waiting period and the percentage with an out-of-pocket limit increased.

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“Consumers may soon find a surprise in their mailbox: a notice that their health plan is being canceled.
Last year, many consumers who thought their health plans would be canceled because they didn’t meet the standards of the health law got a reprieve. Following stinging criticism for appearing to renege on a promise that people who liked their existing plans could keep them, President Barack Obama backed off plans to require all individual and small group plans that had not been in place before the health law to meet new standards starting in 2014. The administration initially announced a transitional policy that, with state approval, would allow insurers to renew plans that didn’t comply with coverage or cost standards starting in December 2013 and continue doing so until October 2014. Then in March, the administration said it would extend the transitional policy for two more years, meaning that some people will be able to hang onto their non-compliant plans through 2017.”

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“The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that public opinion on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains more negative than positive, with 47 percent viewing the law unfavorably (closer to levels measured earlier this year after rising to 53 percent in July) and 35 percent having a favorable view. Partisan divisions on the law are as deep as ever, not only when it comes to overall opinion but also in the public’s perception of how the law has impacted their own families and the next steps they want Congress to take.
This poll takes a special look at registered voters’ views of the ACA and what role, if any, the law might be playing in the upcoming midterm election. The survey finds that health care is named as an important voting issue by about one in eight voters, ranking behind the economy and jobs, and clustered with several other issues such as foreign policy and national defense, dissatisfaction with government, immigration, and education.

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“As the image above shows, reporters and pundits–including some of the most respected ones I know–have different takes on the importance of Obamacare as an election issue now that implementation of the law is moving forward and some of the controversy around it has cooled. Observers are split: Some emphasize the law’s decline as a hot political issue, others its staying power as a rallying cry for the right, and a few suggest that the ACA may emerge as an issue Democrats want to run on.
Each of these positions may be at least partly right. Obamacare has cooled as an issue now that there isn’t an obvious controversy, such as last fall’s website debacle, to occupy the front pages. But the law, now a more conventional Republican talking point than an outsize rallying cry, is still useful to some Republican candidates as a tool to motivate their anti-Obama base.

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