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Carol Ostrom, Seattle Times
Fri, 2014-08-29
"A lack of transparency in describing and fixing technical problems became an issue in Thursday’s Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board meeting. Board member Bill Hinkle grew testy at what he said was mutual staff back-patting and excuses for the problems still plaguing thousands of accounts. “C’mon you guys, let’s quit blowing smoke here,” Hinkle said. “I’m tired of patting people on the back….We’re not doing great yet.” Board member Teresa Mosqueda pressed staff for numbers of enrollees affected by technical problems. “We really need to have the data in front of us to manage some of these issues,” she said.
Nick Budnick,The Oregonian
Fri, 2014-08-29
"The price tag of the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange fiasco continues to grow. As Clyde Hamstreet, the corporate turnaround expert hired to lead Cover Oregon in April, wraps up his work he leaves behind a stabilized agency – and a hefty bill. Initially signed to a $100,000 contract, Hamstreet ended up staying longer than expected, with two associates joining him at Cover Oregon after Gov. John Kitzhaber essentially forced out three top officials there in a public display of house-cleaning. Through July, Hamstreet has billed $598,699 on an amended $750,00 contract. He hasn't submitted his August invoice. He says the price tag was driven by the exchange's increasing needs, as his firm stayed longer and did more than initially planned. "We didn't do this job to make a lot of money off the state," he said Thursday. "Our philosophy was to try and help get the boat righted and try to help clean things up and basically help the state. ...
David Gorn, California Healthline
Fri, 2014-08-29
"The Assembly this week approved a bill to limit narrow networks in California's health plans. The legislation already passed a Senate vote and is expected to get concurrence today on the Senate floor and move to the governor's desk for final approval. SB 964 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) directs the Department of Managed Health Care to develop standardized methodologies for health insurers to file required annual reports on timeliness compliance, and requires DMHC to review and post findings on those reports. It also eliminates an exemption on Medi-Cal managed care plan audits and requires DMHC to coordinate those plans' surveys, as well. "I introduced the bill in response to complaints we’ve heard about inadequate networks in the Medi-Cal program, as well as at Covered California," Hernandez said.
The Associated Press
Thu, 2014-08-28
"Insurers can no longer reject customers with expensive medical conditions thanks to the health care overhaul. But consumer advocates warn that companies are still using wiggle room to discourage the sickest — and costliest — patients from enrolling. Some insurers are excluding well-known cancer centers from the list of providers they cover under a plan; requiring patients to make large, initial payments for HIV medications; or delaying participation in public insurance exchanges created by the overhaul. Advocates and industry insiders say these practices may dissuade the neediest from signing up and make it likelier that the customers these insurers do serve will be healthier -- and less expensive. “It’s the same insurance companies that are up to the same strategies: Take in as much premium as possible and pay out as little as possible,” said Jerry Flanagan, an attorney with the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog."
Jayne O'Donnell, USA Today
Thu, 2014-08-28
"Hundreds of thousands of people risk losing their new health insurance policies if they don't resubmit citizenship or immigration information to the government by the end of next week -- but the federal Healthcare.gov site remains so glitchy that they are having a tough time complying. Consumers are being forced to send their information multiple times, and many can't access their accounts at all, immigration law experts and insurance agents say. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent letters to about 310,000 consumers two weeks ago, telling them they need to submit proof of their citizenship or immigration status by Sept. 5 or their insurance will be canceled at the end of the month. CMS spokesman Aaron Albright says letters were sent only to people for whom the government has no citizenship or immigration documentation.
The Associated Press
Thu, 2014-08-28
"An announcement could be made soon on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to use billions of federal Medicaid expansion dollars under the 2010 healthcare law to subsidize private health insurance policies, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Kait Gillis, a state Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman, said negotiations with the federal government are in the final stages, but details remain under wraps. HHS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, and the federal agency consistently has declined to publicly discuss details of Corbett's plan. The 124-page plan was formally submitted in February, and closed-door negotiations began in April after a public comment period."
Mary Jo Pitzl, Arizona Republic
Thu, 2014-08-28
"PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court has agreed to hear Gov. Jan Brewer's appeal of an appeals-court decision that could unravel the Medicaid expansion she fought for last year. The high court has not yet set a date, but indicated it will hear Brewer's argument that about three dozen Republican lawmakers don't have the legal standing to challenge the controversial vote. The court's decision, reached in a scheduling conference, comes on the heels of Tuesday's primary election in which every Republican lawmaker who voted to expand the state's Medicaid program won re-election. That means it would be highly unlikely the next Legislature would vote to reverse the 2013 decision, which was a consistent fault line in numerous GOP legislative primaries. The case revolves around whether the Legislature's 2013 vote to impose an assessment on hospitals to help cover the cost of expanding the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment program was a tax.
Beth Kutscher, Modern Healthcare
Wed, 2014-08-27
"Revenue at not-for-profit hospitals grew at an all-time low of 3.9% last year with sluggish gains in both inpatient and outpatient activity, according to a report on 2013 medians from Moody's Investors Service. In comparison, hospital revenue increased 5.1% in 2012 and historically has grown about 7% per year. Moody's pegged the increased popularity of high-deductible health plans for leading people to postpone care or seek out lower cost retail clinics. “Patients have more skin in the game,” said Jennifer Ewing, an analyst at Moody's. The volume decline also is coming amid a number of Medicare reimbursement cuts, including the ones known as sequestration triggered by the 2012 Budget Control Act and reductions in disproportionate-share hospital payments under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Caleb Bonham, Campus Reform
Wed, 2014-08-27
"Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) is restricting student work because of compliance issues associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as Obamacare. In an email last week, MTSU President Sidney McPhee explained that “due to our interpretation of the reporting requirements of ACA,” graduate assistants, adjunct faculty members, and resident assistants are barred from working on-campus jobs that exceed 29 hours of work per week. "[E]ffective beginning with the fall semester, we will no longer allow part-time employees, or those receiving monthly stipends from the university, to accept multiple work assignments on campus." Tweet This Now, they cannot take on multiple campus jobs. “[E]ffective beginning with the fall semester, we will no longer allow part-time employees, or those receiving monthly stipends from the university, to accept multiple work assignments on campus," the email stated. McPhee noted that violations of the law “could add up as high as
Jenna Johnson and Mary Pat Flaherty, The Washington Post
Wed, 2014-08-27
"Noridian Healthcare Solutions, the company fired by Maryland officials after the disastrous launch of the state’s health insurance exchange, received a request from federal auditors last month to turn over documents related to the troubled project, chief executive Tom McGraw said Tuesday. McGraw said in a statement that Noridian was “cooperating fully” with the July 30 request by the inspector general’s office for the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been auditing the use of federal funds in creating the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. McGraw’s statement came after Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), a fierce critic of the exchange and the federal health-care law that led to it, said that federal auditors had issued subpoenas as part of their review. “The Office of Inspector General has moved this from an audit into a full-blown investigation,” he said in a statement. “Now we know that fraud may have occurred.”"

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