• In absolute terms, the average worker in 2016 had to work 63 days a year just to cover his/her own health costs .
  • In relative terms, the average American worker in 2016 must work 9 times as long to cover average health spending costs as his or her counterpart in 1940 .
  • In comparative terms, the average American worker in 2016 must devote roughly twice as many work hours to cover health spending costs as to cover average food costs.

This year’s debate over trying to repeal, replace, or just rename Obamacare often recycled the well-worn nostrums concerning private health insurance arrangements. Among them:

■ A large majority of health care spending involves a much smaller, less healthy portion of the insured population, which means that the distribution of health care spending is highly concentrated.
■ Most individuals are healthy and need to spend very little on health care each year.
■ Sustainable health insurance markets require that healthy customers pay more than they want so that less healthy customers can pay less for the care they need.
■ Extensive government intervention, such as standardized benefits, generous subsidies, and limits on risk-based underwriting, is necessary in health care markets because those markets are prone to adverse selection and dangerous “death spirals.”

. . .

The seemingly imminent repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance requirement, which could happen next week as part of the final passage of Republicans’ broad tax overhaul, has focused attention on Congress’ potential next moves on health care, including a bipartisan plan to shore up the insurance markets.

But that plan, sponsored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), is losing support as more health analysts say it could raise costs for many consumers. The bill would restore payments to insurers, allowing them to cut premiums, but in doing so it would reduce the tax credits that are pegged in part to the premium costs of certain plans.

. . .

Pro-Obamacare lawmakers and activists are urging the Trump administration to allow a grace period for open enrollment so that people who have trouble using healthcare.gov are able to finish their applications.

The Trump administration has not said if it will allow a grace period, but an announcement about a final decision may not come until Friday.

During the 2015 and 2016 open enrollments, the Obama administration announced extensions on the same day as the deadline. The decision was made in 2015 to extend the deadline by two days because of “unprecedented demand,” and in 2016, the deadline was extended by four days as about 1 million people left their names at the call center to keep their place in line.

. . .

Last November, the American people sent a message to Washington: Get things done. With Republican control of both chambers of Congress and the Oval Office, the time to enact pro-growth, pro-innovation policies that benefit American workers and businesses is now.

This month, Congress and the Trump administration have the opportunity to significantly boost one of America’s most vibrant and growing industries by suspending the federal excise tax on medical devices. This misguided tax is set to go back into effect on Jan. 1, which is why Reps. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., and Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., recently introduced legislation that would suspend the medical device tax for five years.

. . .

American Democrats are following Bernie Sanders in embracing single-payer health care on the Canadian model. But when they get sick, our neighbors to the north increasingly find that the only way to get “free” medical care is to wait for weeks or months.

The Fraser Institute’s new report, “Waiting Your Turn: Wait Times for Health Care in Canada” in 2017, documents the problem. The Vancouver-based think tank surveyed physicians in 12 specialties across 10 provinces and found “a median waiting time of 21.2 weeks between referral from a general practitioner and receipt of treatment.” This is worse than 2016’s wait of 20 weeks, making it the longest in the history of Fraser’s annual survey and 128% longer than the first survey in 1993.

. . .

Republican lawmakers will overturn a key piece of the Affordable Care Act in their tax overhaul, a victory in a long GOP campaign against the health law.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the compromise tax bill from House and Senate negotiators will end the health law’s requirement that all individuals buy insurance or pay a fine.

The bill will “repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate tax, delivering relief to low- and middle-income Americans who have struggled under an unpopular and unworkable law,” the Kentucky Republican said in an emailed statement.

. . .

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government adjusts reimbursements to health-care providers up or down based on the quality and cost-effectiveness of their services, as measured by a set of standards established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The standards use metrics such as how long emergency-room patients must wait to be seen and how long it takes heart-attack victims to get stents placed in their blocked arteries. The intention is to encourage savings and sound practices and enhance patient satisfaction.

. . .

Meg and Robert Holub were surprised to receive a letter last week welcoming them to a new health insurance plan and telling them to pay $3,483 by Jan. 8.

“We have received your application for individual and family coverage effective 1/1/2018,” the letter said. The only problem: They never applied for the coverage, did not want it and could not afford it.

“I worried, did someone hack my account to sign me up for this?” Mr. Holub said. “And I wondered, what are the implications if I don’t pay for this plan? Will I be hounded by a credit agency?”

. . .

Consumer advocates reported some glitches Monday in the final days for “Obamacare” sign-ups, although the Trump administration largely seemed to be keeping its promise of a smooth enrollment experience.

In Illinois, some consumers who successfully completed an application for financial assistance through HealthCare.gov got a message saying they would likely be eligible to buy a health plan, “but none are available to you in your area.”

That information was incorrect because every county in the nation currently has at least one health insurer offering plans under the Affordable Care Act for next year.

. . .