“House Republicans on Thursday returned to the Obamacare well for another vote against the law, this time to allow consumers to stay on once-canceled plans until 2019.
The House approved the bill, 247-167, with the support of all Republicans and 25 Democrats. It was the first vote on the health care law since April.
The bill, targeted at President Barack Obama’s promise that consumers would be able to keep their health plans under his signature health law, was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is in a tight race to unseat Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.”

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“Doctors and hospitals treated more patients and collected more payments in the spring as millions gained insurance coverage under the health law, new figures from the government show.
But analysts called the second-quarter increases modest and said there is little evidence to suggest that wider coverage and a recovering economy are pushing health spending growth to the painful levels of a decade ago.”

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“A flaw in the federal calculator for certifying that insurance meets the health law’s toughest standard is leading dozens of large employers to offer plans that lack basic benefits such as hospitalization coverage, according to brokers and consultants.
The calculator appears to allow companies enrolling workers for 2015 to offer inexpensive, substandard medical insurance while avoiding the Affordable Care Act’s penalties, consumer advocates say.
Insurance pros are also surprised such plans are permitted.
Employer insurance without hospital coverage “flies in the face of Obamacare,” said Liz Smith, president of employee benefits for Assurance, an Illinois-based insurance brokerage.”

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“Obamacare—or at least the version of it that the president and his advisers currently think they can get away with putting into place—has been upending arrangements and reshuffling the deck in the health system since the beginning of the year. That’s when the new insurance rules, subsidies, and optional state Medicaid expansions went into effect. The law’s defenders say the changes that have been set in motion are irreversible, in large part because several million people are now covered by insurance plans sold through the exchanges, and a few million more are enrolled in Medicaid as a result of Obamacare. President Obama has stated repeatedly that these developments should effectively shut the door on further debate over the matter.
Of course, the president does not get to decide when public debates begin or end, and the public seems to be in no mood to declare the Obamacare case closed.

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“The uninsured rate for kids under age 18 hasn’t budged under the health law, according to a new study, even though they’re subject to the law’s requirement to have insurance just as their parents and older siblings are. Many of those children are likely eligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The Urban Institute’s health reform monitoring survey analyzed data on approximately 2,500 children, comparing the uninsured rate in June 2014 with the previous year, before the health insurance marketplaces opened and the individual mandate took effect. It found that rates remained statistically unchanged at just over 7 percent for both time periods.”

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“Employers have complained for years about their rising health-care costs. But over the past decade, as the chart above shows, premium increases for employer health insurance have moderated sharply and stabilized. Premiums for family policies in the group market grew 72% between 1999 and 2004; 34% between 2004 and 2009; and 26% between 2009 and 2014. Even as premium growth moderated, health insurance costs still outpaced inflation and wage growth. But this year premiums grew 3%, about the same rate as wages and inflation. Despite fears that premiums would rise in the group market because of the Affordable Care Act, they have remained stable.
Policy experts do not fully understand why health-care costs have moderated or when and how rapidly they might begin to again rise more quickly.

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“The politically divisive legacy of ObamaCare has vulnerable Democrats trying to downplay their past support of the legislation ahead of Election Day – by criticizing the president’s execution of the law or by sidestepping the issue altogether.
Lately, Democrats in tough Senate races have been slamming President Obama for breaking his pledge that everyone could keep their health plans and doctors “no matter what.”
Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, locked in a race with Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, says of Obama in a recent ad: “This is a promise you made. This is a promise you should keep.”
Landrieu previously offered legislation requiring people be allowed to keep their plans and doctors and not be forced into ObamaCare, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has yet to schedule a vote on it.”

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“A report out today puts numbers behind what hit many workers when they signed up for health insurance during open enrollment last year: deductible shock.
Premiums for employer-paid insurance are up 3% this year, but deductibles are up nearly 50% since 2009, the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows.
The average deductible this year is $1,217, up from $826 five years ago. Nearly 20% of workers overall have to pay at least $2,000 before their insurance kicks in, while workers at firms with 199 or fewer employees are feeling the pain of out-of-pocket costs even more: A third of these employees at small companies pay at least $2,000 deductibles.”

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“An NBC affiliate in Virginia reports that nearly 250,000 people in that state will lose their health care plans due to Obamacare:
“Nearly a quarter million Virginians will have their current insurance plans cut this fall,” said the local anchor. “That is because many of them did not–are not following new Affordable Care Act rules, so a chunk of the companies that offer those individuals their policies will make the individuals choose new policies.”
Says the reporter, “This goes back to that now heavily-criticized line we heared before Obamacare was put in place: ‘If you like your plan, you can keep it.’ Ultimately, that turned out not to be true for thousands of Virginians and companies in the commonwealth. … Wednesday Virginia lawmakers on the health insurance reform commission met for the first time this year. Turns out, a staggering number of Virginians will need new plans this fall.””

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“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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