A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Social Impact"

Trainwreck, Continued: Eight New Pieces of Bad Obamacare News

Guy Benson
Townhall
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Who's up for the latest batch of bad Obamacare-related news? (1) Consumers brace for the second full year of Obamacare implementation, as the average individual market premium hike clocks in at eight percent -- with some rates spiking by as much as 30 percent. (2) "Wide swings in prices," with some experiencing "double digit increases."(Remember what we were promised): Insurance executives and managers of the online marketplaces are already girding for the coming open enrollment period, saying they fear it could be even more difficult than the last. One challenge facing consumers will be wide swings in prices. Some insurers are seeking double-digit price increases."

With New Health Law, Shopping Around Can Be Crucial

Margot Sanger-Katz and Amanda Cox, NY Times
Fri, 2014-09-19
"If you bought health insurance at an Affordable Care Act marketplace this year, it really pays to look around before renewing your coverage for next year. The system is set up to encourage people to renew the policies that they bought last year — and there are clear advantages to doing so, such as being able to keep your current doctors. But an Upshot analysis of data from the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform shows that in many places premiums are going up by double-digit percentages within many of the most popular plans. But other plans, hoping to attract customers, are increasing their prices substantially less. In some markets, plans are even cutting prices."

Low-Wage Workers Feel the Pinch on Health Insurance

Drew Altman
Wall Street Journal
Fri, 2014-09-19
"We did not see big changes in employer-based coverage in the Kaiser-HRET annual Employer Health Benefit Survey released last week. Mostly this is good news, particularly on the cost side where premiums increased just 3%. But one long-term trend that is not so good is how this market works for firms with relatively large shares of lower-wage workers (which we define as firms where at least 35% of employees earn less than $23,000). These low-wage firms often do not offer health benefits at all. And, as the chart below shows, when they do offer coverage, it has lower premiums on average (likely meaning skimpier coverage) and requires workers to pay more for it. Workers in low-wage firms pay an average of $6,472 for family coverage, compared with $4,693 for workers in higher wage firms."

Government Insider Warned of HealthCare.gov Security Risks: ‘I Am Tired of the Cover-Ups’

Sharyl Attkisson
The Daily Signal
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Government insiders who flagged security issues prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov were right to be concerned. That’s according to a new audit by the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that security weaknesses are putting “the sensitive personal information” contained by HealthCare.gov and its related systems at risk. As the Obama administration prepared to launch the website last fall, one of those insiders voiced concern about the vulnerabilities and complained about “cover-ups” masking the severity of the problems."

Obamacare Has a Long Way to Go, ACA Experts Say

Briana Ehley
Financial Times
Fri, 2014-09-19
"BOSTON -- When it comes to the president’s health care law, there’s very little that Republicans and Democrats agree on—but one idea that seems to unite analysts, experts and lawmakers across the political spectrum is that Obamacare has done very little to actually improve health care. “The U.S. healthcare system was always dysfunctional. The Affordable Care Act has just provided more access to that dysfunctional system,” iVantage chief Donald Bialek said during an ACA debate at The Economist’s health care forum in Boston on Wednesday. Bialek, for his part, was on the side defending the health care law."

Staggered launch could help Md. 'kick the tires' of its new health exchange website

Meredith Cohn, Baltimore Sun
Fri, 2014-09-19
"A day after Maryland committed to a gradual launch of its health exchange, state officials are still working out some key details — including where the opening day sign-up will be held — but experts say it could be a way to avoid a repeat of last year's botched rollout. Several health experts said the approach that limits enrollment in the first few days could allow Maryland to "kick the tires" on its new website. "It's a controlled way to open enrollment," said Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "They can work with a controlled number of people for the first couple of days to see how this works in practice. I'm assuming there is some plan at the end of the day when people gather in a room and compare notes and say we need to fix this or that.""

Lawmakers call for more complete information on Medicaid privatization program going forward

Cole Avery, NOLA.com
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Lawmakers told officials with the Department of Health and Hospitals on Wednesday they needed to provide more complete information going forward about Bayou Health, Gov. Bobby Jindal's Medicaid privatization program. The Legislative Audit Advisory Council heard testimony from DHH and the Legislative Auditor's Office about an audit that raised a number of questions about the program. Auditors testified 74 percent of the transparency report was based on self-reported data with no corroborating documentation."

Va. House of Delegates plans to vote on Medicaid expansion

Laura Vozzella, Washington Post
Fri, 2014-09-19
"RICHMOND — Republican leaders of Virginia’s House of Delegates, who have staunchly opposed Medicaid expansion all year, plan to put the question to a floor vote as early as Thursday in a special legislative session. The GOP-dominated chamber is widely expected to shoot down the proposed $2 billion-a-year expansion, although a few conservative legislators have expressed fears that the measure might defy expectations and pass — just as a then-record tax hike did when Democrat Mark R. Warner was governor a decade ago."

Missouri's Medicaid Applicants Get Put On Hold

Samantha Liss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Enrolling in Missouri’s Medicaid program has not been easy. Many applicants have experienced a barrage of problems when trying to sign up for the program, including long delays until coverage kicks in, lost paperwork and a lack of one-on-one interaction with caseworkers. State officials have blamed a new computer system used to process Medicaid applications. But there is another reason why some Missourians struggle to get help. When Deborah Weaver, 28, had issues enrolling in the state’s Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, a switch from her Medicaid disability coverage, she was directed to use a toll-free number, 1-855-373-4636. When she called, Weaver endured long waits and received no guidance."

Big Health Insurance: Obamacare's Worst Bad Guys

Ryan Ellis
Forbes magazine
Wed, 2014-09-17
"Very few industries in bed with Obamacare come off smelling like a rose. But if one had to pick a bad actor above all others, it would probably be Big Health Insurance. America’s largest and most influential health insurance companies actively supported passage of Obamacare in Congress, and continue to do so today. That’s not surprising, since the heart of Obamacare is a mandate on Americans to purchase the product the health insurance companies are selling (the individual mandate). The “essential minimum coverage” on “qualified health insurance plans” as dictated by the Department of Health and Human Services tend to emphasize first dollar insurance coverage whenever possible, which increases insurance company profits. Worst of all, insurance companies are the beneficiaries of a giant taxpayer bailout that makes their Obamacare participation a “heads they win, tails taxpayers lose” kind of scenario."

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