“Congress is returning to Washington with just two months left before ObamaCare’s second enrollment period.
For most of the lawmakers’ August recess, news on the Affordable Care Act and other healthcare debates was fairly quiet.
But that ended for Republicans with the Sept. 4 announcement that a hacker had breached part of HealthCare.gov in July.
Though the exchange was not specifically targeted and no personal data was stolen, the GOP sees an opening to hammer the administration over the site’s security.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has already called Marilyn Tavenner, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, to testify on the matter later this month.
The topic is also likely to dominate Republican remarks at a hearing Wednesday on the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, hosted by the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health.
The House Republican Conference also plans to zing the healthcare law in at least one set of votes this week.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the chamber will consider a measure to allow insurers to continue offering certain small-group health plans that might not comply with ObamaCare’s rules.
The legislation is a Republican response to President Obama’s much-criticized remark that people could keep their plans under the reform.”
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the measure’s sponsor, is challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) in November; the issue will undoubtedly play a role in that campaign.”
“RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is set to unveil his plan to increase health care coverage for the state’s poor.
The Democratic governor will speak publicly Monday on his plans for health care expansion.
The governor unsuccessfully tried to persuade Republican lawmakers to expand Medicaid during this year’s legislative session. The impasse led to a protracted stalemate over the state budget that ended with a GOP victory.”
“When Congress returns this week, action in both chambers will mostly be a show for the voters back home ahead of the midterm election. In the House, that will include a vote on a bill to allow insurance companies to continue offering any plan that was sold in the group market in 2013.
Noticeably absent from congressional politicking in the next few weeks is the Affordable Care Act’s risk corridor program, which was, as recently as a few months ago, a major Republican criticism of the law. But that doesn’t mean the “insurer bailout” fight is dead. Republicans in both chambers are quietly working to challenge the legality and projected cost of the program. And that could tee up the issue to become a bargaining chip in the budget fights to come at the end of this year, regardless of who wins the Senate.
The Affordable Care Act’s risk corridor program runs from 2014 through 2016, and was established to encourage insurers to take a chance on covering an unknown population — the Americans who would be purchasing insurance on state and federal exchanges. The program collects funds from qualified health plans that bring in more money than they paid for medical claims, and then pays that money to plans with claims that cost more than they brought it from consumers.
But what happens if there isn’t enough money from well-performing insurers to pay all of the insurers that missed the mark? The federal government is on the hook, but where they find the money to pay those insurers is a question being debated throughout Washington. That’s because the law did not give the federal government a clear appropriation to spend money to make up for losses. And Republicans are, of course, very unlikely to give them one.”
“Consumers may soon find a surprise in their mailbox: a notice that their health plan is being canceled.
Last year, many consumers who thought their health plans would be canceled because they didn’t meet the standards of the health law got a reprieve. Following stinging criticism for appearing to renege on a promise that people who liked their existing plans could keep them, President Barack Obama backed off plans to require all individual and small group plans that had not been in place before the health law to meet new standards starting in 2014. The administration initially announced a transitional policy that, with state approval, would allow insurers to renew plans that didn’t comply with coverage or cost standards starting in December 2013 and continue doing so until October 2014. Then in March, the administration said it would extend the transitional policy for two more years, meaning that some people will be able to hang onto their non-compliant plans through 2017.”
“Well, who could have seen this coming? Thankfully, at this point, the reports say there has been no release of personal information. I can’t say I’m terribly heartened:”
“Voters are more skeptical than ever that Obamacare can be fixed any time soon but remain almost evenly divided on the impact the health care law will have on their voting decisions this November.
Thirty-five percent (35%) of Likely U.S. Voters say they are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports the law, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Slightly more (38%) say they are less likely to vote for an Obamacare supporter. Nineteen percent (19%) say a Congress member’s position on the law will have no impact on their voting decision. (To see survey question wording, click here.) ”
“Obamacare created a new entitlement through its exchange subsidies and vastly expanded another one, Medicaid. The Congressional Budget Office expects these two pieces of the law to cost over $1.8 trillion over the next decade.
To offset some of this new spending, the law includes 18 new or increased taxes and fees that are estimated to bring in nearly $800 billion in new revenue from 2013-2022. Many of Obamacare’s taxes fall directly on the middle class, breaking the president’s promise to the contrary, while others will affect taxpayers indirectly through increased costs for goods, higher insurance premiums or lost wages.”
“A research network funded with millions by the Affordable Care Act will begin conducting vast studies next year to compare standard medical treatments. But what about the 100 million patients in the network — do they have a choice in the matter?
Will researchers get permission from each of those patients? And if patients are told about the studies, what, exactly, will they be told? These questions have bioethicists, scientists and health care officials debating how to bring the question of patient informed consent into the 21st century.
Obamacare is best known for extending health coverage to more Americans. But the health care law has many provisions aimed at improving health care outcomes and safety while lowering costs. One element is “comparative effectiveness” research: not just finding out whether a drug or treatment is safe and effective but comparing drugs head to head to find out which is better, for everyone or certain populations.
And with electronic medical records and vast pools of data, some of these studies have the potential to make lightning-fast, dramatic discoveries. But informed consent issues have the potential to slow such studies and make them too expensive.”
“The District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington on Thursday said the full 11-member court will rehear (PDF) the controversial case that ruled Americans could not receive subsidies to help pay for plans on federally run health insurance exchanges. Oral arguments will begin Dec. 17.
The court’s decision to rehear the case en banc, which experts said is rare for the D.C. appellate court, vacates the judgment issued earlier this summer. On July 22, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in Halbig v. Burwell that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forbade people with lower incomes from receiving tax subsidies from insurance marketplaces run by the federal government, effectively making those subsidies illegal in 36 states.
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act greeted the D.C. court’s initial ruling with praise, saying the judges upheld the text of the law. The law’s supporters, however, argued the court read the text too narrowly and applied an unreasonable and inaccurate interpretation of exchange subsidies.
The July ruling dealt a fresh blow to President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, which relies on the insurance subsidies to make coverage more affordable for millions of people. However, the Obama administration vowed at the time to petition for a full court review of the decision.”
“Unhappy with the choices her insurance broker was offering, Denver publishing company owner Rebecca Askew went to Colorado’s small business health insurance exchange last fall. She found exactly what she’d been hoping for: affordable insurance options tailored to the diverse needs of her 12 employees.
But Askew is in a tiny minority. Only 2 percent of all eligible businesses have checked out so-called SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) exchanges in the 15 states where they have been available since last October under the Affordable Care Act. Even fewer purchased policies.
In November, three more state-run SHOP exchanges are slated to open, and the federal government will unveil exchanges for the 32 states that chose not to run their own.
SHOP exchanges were supposed to open nationwide on Oct. 1, the same day as exchanges offering health insurance for individuals. But the Obama administration postponed the SHOP launch, citing the need to fix serious technical problems with the exchanges for individuals, which it said were a higher priority.”