A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Public Opposition"

As many as 1 in 5 exchange enrollees affected by technical problems, staff concedes

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.

Report: Health Law Ups Taxes On Insurers With Big Pay Packages

Julie Appleby
Kaiser Health News
Wed, 2014-08-27
"While average compensation for top health insurance executives hit $5.4 million each last year, a little-noticed provision in the federal health law sharply reduced insurers’ ability to shield much of that pay from corporate taxes, says a report out today. As a result, insurers owed at least $72 million more to the U.S. Treasury last year, said the Institute for Policy Studies, a liberal think tank in Washington D.C. Researchers analyzed the compensation of 57 executives at the 10 largest publicly traded health plans, finding they earned a combined $300 million in 2013. Insurers were able to deduct 27 percent of that from their taxes as a business expense, estimates the report. Before the health law, 96 percent would have been deductible."

This Movie Star’s Planned Parenthood T-Shirt Proves She Doesn’t Understand Hobby Lobby Decision

Katrina Trinko
The Daily Signal
Wed, 2014-08-27
"Planned Parenthood Action Fund released today a t-shirt designed by actress Scarlett Johansson that targets the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. The front of the pink t-shirt reads “Hey Politicians! The 1950s called…” and the back reads, “They want their sexism back!” “When I heard that some politicians were cheering the Supreme Court’s decision to give bosses the right to interfere in our access to birth control, I thought I had woken up in another decade,” explained Johansson in a statement. “Like many of my friends, I was appalled by the thought of men taking away women’s ability to make our own personal health care decisions,” she added. Um … what? Let’s look at some facts, beginning with that the Hobby Lobby decision was fairly narrow.

Loving and Hating Obamacare With One Muddled Mind

Jonathan Bernstein
Bloomberg View
Tue, 2014-08-26
"E.J. Dionne has a nice column pointing out that while “Obamacare” remains unpopular, most of the provisions are well-liked, and thus Democrats should run on the issue. As regular readers know, I certainly agree that the individual components of reform are far more popular than reform overall. However, the column's headline -- “Obamacare has growing support, even if its name does not” -- isn't really buttressed by the article. Actually, support for key provisions of the law, including coverage of pre-existing conditions, health-insurance exchanges offering subsidies to middle-income policy holders and Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, have always polled well. Moreover caution is always in order with issue polling. When these kinds of polls show public opinion fractured, it’s tempting to believe that one side or the other represents voters' “true” support. That’s the wrong way to interpret such polls. Yes, the ACA polls badly while most of its components poll well.

Affordable Care Act exemptions mean millions don’t have to sign up

Nick Madigan, Miami Herald
Tue, 2014-08-26
"When she was eight weeks old, Ashlyn Whitney suffered a severe respiratory-tract infection that put her in an intensive care unit for 12 days. “Because she was so young, she couldn’t handle it,” Ashlyn’s mother, Nicole Whitney, recalled. “They had to give her oxygen.” The baby, now a year old, recovered from her illness, known as respiratory syncytial virus.The bill for her treatment at the West Boca Medical Center in Palm Beach County came to about $100,000 — a sum that included almost $4,000 in fees for her birth and pre- and post-natal care — but every dime of the tab was picked up by a medical bill-sharing organization set up for its Christian membership. Such religious groups are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most Americans obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.

New Birth Control Rules Appear To Track Supreme Court Suggestion

Julie Rovner
Kaiser Health News
Tue, 2014-08-26
"Those who favor women being guaranteed no-cost birth control coverage under their health insurance say the new rules for nonprofit religious organizations issued by the Obama administration simply put into force what the Supreme Court suggested last month. A demonstrator holding up a sign outside the Supreme Court in Washington in June 2014. The Obama administration announced new measures last week to allow religious nonprofits and some companies to opt out of paying for birth control for female employees while still ensuring those employees have access to contraception. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Mosivais/AP) “We interpret what [the administration] did to be putting into effect that order,” said Judy Waxman, vice president for health and reproductive rights at the National Women’s Law Center.

Top Health Stories of the Summer

Jonathan Easley
Morning Consult
Mon, 2014-08-25
"From Halbig to Sovaldi, this summer was a busy one for health policy and politics. We’ve made it easy to catch up, collecting all of the top stories you clicked on over the past few months. Together, they tell a story about the state of healthcare in the U.S., and offer clues as to where things may be headed when Congress returns in the fall. Among them: The political battle over Obmacare has become more complicated for Republicans since the government cleaned up the Healthcare.gov mess, and with midterm elections around the corner, the focus will be on how much either party continues to attack or ignore the law. There are policy, legal and business matters to be settled as well – the employer mandate is under attack from the left and the right, the courts have been a wildcard for the health law to this point and could continue to be so, and employers and employees are finding themselves wading through the on-the-ground impacts of the law.

California: Insurers must cover elective abortions

The Associated Press
Mon, 2014-08-25
"Health insurance companies in California may not refuse to cover the cost of abortions, state insurance officials have ruled in a reversal of policy stemming from the decision by two Catholic universities to drop elective abortions from their employee health plans. Although the federal Affordable Care Act does not compel employers to provide workers with health insurance that includes abortion coverage, the director of California's Department of Managed Health Care said in a letter to seven insurance companies on Friday that the state Constitution and a 1975 state law prohibits them from selling group plans that exclude the procedure. The law in question requires such plans to encompass all "medically necessary" care. "Abortion is a basic health care service," department director Michelle Rouillard wrote in the letter.

Obamacare Still 'Red Meat' For GOP Candidates But Focus Of Attacks Shift

Phil Galewitz
Kaiser Health News
Mon, 2014-08-25
"JUPITER, Fla. – Beverly Hires, a former nurse running for Congress here in one of the nation’s rare competitive House races, ticks off her problems with the federal health care law: higher premiums, cancelled policies and employers cutting full-time jobs. “The Affordable Care Act is not making insurance more affordable,” she said in an interview, citing many of the same criticisms as her five GOP opponents in the Aug. 26 primary, who are vying for the chance to oust first-term Democrat Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Obamacare rates are rising once again

Philip Klein
The Examiner
Sat, 2014-08-23
"Supporters of President Obama’s health care law have been touting proposed insurance rates for 2015 — arguing that they aren’t as high as some of the dire warnings of the law’s critics. But it’s worth considering some additional context. Data compiled by the Health Research Institute of PricewaterhouseCoopers from about 29 states plus the District of Columbia show that the average premium increase for insurance starting next year is currently 8.2 percent. But within that average, there’s a wide range. In Arizona, for instance, the average premium increase submitted was 11.2 percent, but rates ranged from a decrease of 23 percent to a spike of 27 percent.

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