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News Coverage on ObamaCare/Health Care
March 10: Reuters: Obamacare Repeal clears hurdles, fate uncertain
The Republican plan backed by President Donald Trump to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system cleared its first hurdles in Congress on Thursday, but its chances for passage looked uncertain and top Republicans scrambled to bring disgruntled conservatives aboard. In the face of opposition by Democrats, healthcare providers and many conservatives, two House of Representatives committees approved the legislation that would undo much of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, moving it closer to a vote before the full House. The Energy and Commerce Committee voted 31-23 along party lines, with Democrats unified against it, to back the plan after marathon proceedings lasting 27 straight hours. Hours earlier, the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee similarly voted 23-16 before dawn to approve it after working 17 straight hours. House Speaker Paul Ryan sought to bolster support among conservatives in his own party, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said fellow Republicans must get in a "governing mode" while Trump denied the bill was in trouble.
March 10: Politico: Congressional Budget Office may be the referee on Obamacare repeal and replace: Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall was handpicked two years ago by top Republicans in Congress— including now Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price — to lead a nonpartisan office that will soon release its estimate of how many Americans the Republican health care bill will cover and whether it shrinks or balloons the federal deficit. With the House repeal bill under attack by Republican moderates worrying about coverage and conservatives fuming about entitlements and spending, the CBO assessment will matter. It’s widely expected early next week.
March 6: Fox News: Obamacare repeal and replace bill introduced House Republicans on Monday evening released the text of their long-awaited ObamaCare replacement bill, proposing to eliminate the various taxes and penalties tied to the original legislation while still preserving certain patient protections. Aiming to deliver on their signature campaign promise after several election cycles trying to reclaim control of Washington, majority Republicans unveiled what they call the American Health Care Act [Go to the text of the bill]. The sweeping legislation would repeal ObamaCare’s taxes along with the so-called individual and employer mandates – which imposed fines for not buying and offering insurance, respectively. It also would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies, replacing them with tax credits for consumers.
February 23: Politico: Boehner: The GOP won’t repeal and replace Obamacare
Former House Speaker John Boehner predicted on Thursday that a full repeal and replace of Obamacare is “not what’s going to happen” and that Republicans bill instead just make some fixes to the health care law. Boehner, who retired in 2015 amid unrest among conservatives, said at an Orlando healthcare conference that GOP lawmakers were too optimistic in their talk of quickly repealing and then replacing Obamacare.
“They’ll fix Obamacare, and I shouldn’t have called it repeal and replace because that’s not what’s going to happen. They’re basically going to fix the flaws and put a more conservative box around it,” Boehner said. The former speaker’s frank comments capture the conundrum that many Republicans find themselves in as they try to deliver on pledges to axe Obamacare but struggle to coalesce around an alternative.
February 23: The New York Times: Obamacare repeal has problems in the House as well as the Senate
Ever since Republicans got down to the business of repealing the Affordable Care Act, the Senate has been singled out as the likely problem. Any plan that could zoom through the House would hit roadblocks among Senate Republicans, many of whom have resisted a wholesale repeal of the health law without a robust replacement plan. But after weeks of loud protests, boisterous town hall meetings and scores of quieter meetings between members of Congress and health care professionals, patients, caregivers and hospital managers in their districts, it is becoming increasingly likely that a consensus in the House will be just as hard to reach.
February 14: Reason.com:Blow to ObamaCare Individual Mandate:
The IRS has stopped requiring individual filers to indicate whether they maintained health coverage or paid the mandate penalty as required under the law.Following President Donald Trump's executive order instructing agencies to provide relief from the health law, the Internal Revenue Service appears to be taking a more lax approach to the coverage requirement. The health law's individual mandate requires everyone to either maintain qualifying health coverage or pay a tax penalty, known as a "shared responsibility payment." The IRS was set to require filers to indicate whether they had maintained coverage in 2016 or paid the penalty by filling out line 61 on their form 1040s. Instead, however, filling out that line will be optional. Earlier this month, the IRS quietly altered its rules to allow the submission of 1040s with nothing on line 61.
January 23: The Daily Signal: Reasons why Obamacare Needs to be Repealed Costs, Choice and Competition, Exchange Enrollment, Collapsed Co-op Program, Dumping Millions into Medicaid, and Restricted Access to Providers.
January 18: The Daily Signal: Anti-Business Policies Are the Real Reason Companies Leave
President-elect Donald Trump’s threats against American companies looking to relocate in foreign countries have won favorable review from many quarters. Support comes from those alarmed about trade deficits, those who want a “level playing field,” and those who call for “free trade but fair trade,” whatever that means. Some American companies relocate in foreign lands because costs are lower and hence their profits are higher. Lower labor costs are not the only reason companies move to other countries.
Life Savers, a candy manufacturing company, was based in Holland, Michigan, for decades. In 2002, it moved to Montreal. It didn’t move because Canada had lower wages. Canadian wages are similar to ours. The mayor of Holland offered Kraft, the parent company of Life Savers, a 15-year tax break worth $25 million to stay. But Kraft’s CEO said it would save $90 million over the same period because sugar was less expensive in Canada.
January 20: The Daily Signal: Trump Signs Executive Order Curbing ObamaCare
Hours after taking the oath of office, President Donald Trump followed up on his campaign pledge to start chipping away at Obamacare and curb federal regulations. Trump signed an executive order Friday evening in the Oval Office “to ease the burden of Obamacare as we transition to repeal and replace,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters. “Potentially the biggest effect of this order could be widespread waivers from the individual mandate,” Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Washington Post.
To the maximum extent permitted by law [T]he heads of all other executive departments and agencies … with authorities and responsibilities under the act shall exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the act that would impose a fiscal burden on any state or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, health care providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of health care services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.
January 16: Fox News: Trump: Obamacare Replacement will offer insurance for everybody
President-elect Donald Trump revealed in an interview with The Washington Post that he’s almost finished with a plan to replace ObamaCare and vowed to have “insurance for everybody.” Trump declined to reveal the pertinent details of the new health care plan, but told The Post in the interview published Sunday night that drug companies will be forced to negotiate on Medicare and Medicaid prices. He also plans to fight pharmaceutical companies over drug prices.
The president-elect insisted that his plan for replacing the Affordable Healthcare Act is all but finished, and added that care would have “lower numbers, much lower deductibles.” He went as far to say that he’s ready to reveal it alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.
January 13: Fox News: Congress passes budget in preparation for repealing Obamacare
The House voted 227-198 for the measure, following a vote in the Senate earlier this week. The framework does not directly deal with repealing the Affordable Care Act. Rather, it would prevent Democrats from using a Senate filibuster to derail a future bill nixing and replacing the health law. That's critical because it takes 60 votes to end filibusters, and Republicans have only a 52-48 Senate majority.
The budget, which does not need the president's signature, was considered a critical step for majority Republicans in their bid to work with the incoming Donald Trump administration in fulfilling vows to replace the health care law. "The `Unaffordable' Care Act will soon be history!" Trump tweeted Friday, a week away from taking office.
November 30: Fox News: Pence: Obamacare is first thing out of the gate
Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Tuesday that repealing and replacing ObamaCare would be the first item on President-elect Donald Trump's agenda after Trump takes office early next year. "It’ll be the first thing out of the gate," Pence said. "The President-elect’s made it very clear. He wants the Congress when they convene in early January to take up the task of repealing and replacing ObamaCare first." Pence called the nomination of Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to be secretary of health and human services, "very exciting and [it] should be a source of great encouragement to millions of Americans who know we’ve got to repeal ObamaCare, but we’ve [also] got to replace it with real solutions."
November 11: The Hill: Trump says he would be open to keeping an amended version of ObamaCare:
President-elect Donald Trump says he may not pursue a full repeal of ObamaCare upon taking office. “Either Obamacare will be amended, or repealed and replaced,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal on Friday in his first interview since his stunning victory Tuesday. Trump seemed more set on repealing and replacing the law in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" set to air in full Sunday, and he said there wouldn't be a lull period between the two.
"We're going to do it simultaneously. It'll be just fine," he said. "We're going to repeal it and replace it. And we're not going to have, like, a two-day period and we're not going to have a two-year period where there's nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. I mean, you'll know. And it'll be great health care for much less money."
October 25: CBS News: Arizona Obamacare Plan to Jump 116% when premiums go up next year
The Department of Health and Human Services revealed Monday that premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, and that about 1 in 5 consumers will have plans only from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles. However, in Arizona, unsubsidized premiums for a hypothetical 27-year-old buying a benchmark “second-lowest cost silver plan” will jump by 116 percent, from $196 to $422, according to the administration report.
October 4: Fox News: California petitions to become first state to offer Obamacare to illegal aliens:
California’s health care exchange is requesting that it be allowed a waiver from ObamaCare regulations in order to allow illegal immigrants to buy insurance on the exchange – which would make California the first state to extend ObamaCare to illegal immigrants. The Affordable Care Act technically bars illegal immigrants from insurance exchanges, but in June Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that allowed the state to apply for a federal waiver to open Covered California to illegal immigrants living in California. The bill’s sponsor said such a waiver would allow 390,000 illegal immigrants to receive health insurance.
September 14: The Daily Signal: Grand Theft – Health Insurance
Recently, health insurance agencies have been aggressively lobbying Congress to ignore the Obama administration’s illegal diversion of tax dollars into the pockets of—you guessed it—health insurers.
August 24: The Weekly Standard: Obamacare Website No Longer Addresses You Can Keep Your Doctor!
"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor" was President Barack Obama's signature catchphrase he used to sell the Affordable Care Act to the American people. Now Obamacare's flagship website, healthcare.gov, no longer even addresses the issue.
Ironically, the section in question was the first public (if indirect) admission by the Obama administration that the president's promise was less than a "guarantee." As was first reported in July 2013, the website told consumers that they "may be able to keep your current doctor," in contrast to the president's unequivocal statement: "Here is a guarantee that I've made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance. If you've got a doctor that you like, you will be able to keep your doctor."
August 19: Foundation for Economic Education: An Insurance Giant
May Have Just Dealt ObamaCare a Death Knell:
American consumers figured out from the beginning that Obamacare wasn’t worth buying. Now insurance companies are wising up. Aetna is withdrawing from Obamacare exchanges in 11 states, following United Healthcare Group’s decision last April to leave 34 states. Which will be the next domino to fall?
In a well-functioning insurance market, such as for automobile accidents, insurance carriers craft countless plans to meet exactly the needs of millions of different individuals. Typically, only catastrophic unexpected events are covered, not the predictable oil changes. Automobile insurance is real insurance, and automobile owners as well as insurance companies eagerly participate. Not so for Obamacare, which is not insurance at all. Under Obamacare annual physicals, which are predictable and routine, are covered without charge, but major surgery requires payment of a $6,000 to $12,000 deductible. If we go to a single payer system it will only get worse!
July 26: The Daily Signal: 16 ObamaCare co-ops collapse, how about those that remain?
Since Obamacare’s rollout in the fall of 2013, 16 co-ops that launched with money from the federal government have collapsed. The co-ops, or consumer operated and oriented plans, were started under the Affordable Care Act as a way to boost competition among insurers and expand the number of health insurance companies available to consumers living in rural areas. Now, just seven co-ops remain [in Wisconsin, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts Montana, New Mexico and New Jersey]. Despite the grim financial footing from previous years, health care experts agree that it’s likely some—though not all—co-ops may remain standing for at least a few more years.
July 14: The Daily Signal: What’s behind Obama’s obsession with the public option? President Barack Obama is calling for the resurrection of his failed “public option” (a “Medicare-like” plan) to compete directly against private health plans in his government-run health insurance exchanges. “The public plan did not make it into the final legislation,” the president writes in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Now, based on the experience with the ACA [Affordable Care Act], I think Congress should revisit a public plan to compete alongside private insurers in areas of the country where competition is limited. Adding a public plan in such areas would strengthen the Marketplace approach, giving consumers more affordable options while also creating savings for the federal government.”
July 12: The Daily Signal: 16th ObamaCare Co-Op Closes its doors
Update: Illinois’ Land of Lincoln Health announced Tuesday it will be closing its doors. The co-op became the 16th of 23 co-ops launched under Obamacare to collapse, following Oregon’s Health Co-Op. Land of Lincoln Health received $160.1 million in loans from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. More than 54,000 enrolled in coverage from the co-op through March 31. Another co-op is shutting down, becoming the 15th to do so and bringing the total number of federal loans given to the failed nonprofit insurers to more than $1.5 billion.
Oregon’s Health Co-Op announced last week it will no longer be able to continue operating and will be shutting down. The insurance company is the third in the state to struggle financially and Oregon’s second co-op, following Health Republic Insurance of Oregon, to close its doors.
June 1: Newsmax.com:Largest Texas Insurer Asks for Big ObamaCare Ratte Hike
Fresh problems for "Obamacare": The largest health insurer in Texas wants to raise its rates on individual policies by an average of nearly 60 percent, a new sign that President Barack Obama's overhaul hasn't solved the problem of price spikes. Texas isn't alone. Citing financial losses under the health care law, many insurers around the country are requesting bigger premium increases for 2017. That's to account for lower-than-hoped enrollment, sicker-than-expected customers and problems with the government's financial backstop for insurance markets.
The national picture will take weeks to fill in. With data available for about half the states, premium increases appear to be sharper, but there are also huge differences between states and among insurers. Health insurance is priced locally. Millions of customers will be shielded from price hikes by government subsidies, which typically cover more than 70 percent of the premiums. People who don't have access to a workplace plan can buy a policy directly on the health law's marketplaces. But many consumers aren't eligible for the income-based subsidies and get no such protection. That demographic includes business owners, self-employed people and early retirees. Under the law, most Americans are required to have health insurance or risk being fined.
April 20: The Daily Caller:Feds Blow Off House subpoena for Obamacare documents:
Federal health officials refuse to give Congress hundreds of subpoenaed documents on Obamacare’s failed co-ops so that people will continue enrolling in the deeply troubled program, a congressional leader said Tuesday. Twelve of the 23 co-ops created in 2011 under Obamacare at a cost of $2.4 billion have failed, and another eight of the remaining eleven are likely to go under this year. But the HHS won’t hand over documents subpoenaed months ago by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Congressman Chaffetz, who chairs the House oversight committee, thinks HHS officials are purposely keeping potential co-op customers in the dark as long as possible. “Health and Human Services has not provided any valid legal reason for withholding information from this committee,” Chaffetz said during a hearing on the federal agencies’ failures to comply with congressional document requests. “Rather, they assert that if certain information was released publicly, it could cause consumers to think twice before enrolling in CO-OP insurance plans.”
April 14: The Daily Signal:Beyond ObamaCare: Colorado Considers Single Payer Model
As Republican policymakers nationwide continue debating ways to replace Obamacare with patient-centered solutions, a Colorado group has landed a plan implementing a single-payer model of health care on November’s ballot. Coloradans are already bracing for its impact. The plan, formally known as ColoradoCare, is the first in the country that would replace Obamacare, action made possible by Section 1332 of the Affordable Care Act, which allows states to receive a waiver from the health care law if their own plan provides residents with “access to high quality, affordable health insurance while retaining the basic protections of” the health care law.
April 5: Time:Obamacare Just Made Filing Your Taxes Worse:
Some 150 million American businesses and individuals are expected to file taxes by this month, covering thousands of arcane provisions that determine how much you and your family will pay Uncle Sam and state governments this year. But this filing season is the second in which Americans may have yet another—and bigger— tax bill to worry about: the one forced on us by the Affordable Care Act. It serves as a stark reminder of all the ways this law continues to harm American families and businesses, six years after it was signed.
While the Affordable Care Act’s tax increases are many, two are front and center this month: the individual and employer mandates. Both were supposed to increase coverage, but in reality they’re limiting career opportunities and taking more out of families’ and individuals’ wallets.
February 12: The Federalist:Surprise! Health Insurance Costs to Spike 60% Thanks to ObamaCare:
A new Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report estimates that private health insurance premiums will continue to balloon over the next decade thanks in large part to Obamacare. The report states that, over the next 10 years, private health insurance premiums will increase by about 5 percent annually — a rate that outpaces the gross domestic product by 2 percentage points.
By 2025, employment-based coverage (health-care insurance an employer offers) will cost 60 percent more than it does today. For a family, that increase costs to an average of $24,500 per year. For those with an individual plan, health-care costs will increase to cost an average $10,000 per year. Wow!
January 4: The Hill:Bill gutting Obamacare would save half-trillion CBO says
A GOP-led effort to repeal the biggest parts of ObamaCare would save more than a half-trillion dollars over a decade, the congressional budget scorekeeper said Monday. Legislation to gut most of ObamaCare's mandates and taxes, known as Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act, would reduce the deficit by $516 billion over 10 years, according to the bipartisan CBO. The bill is expected to get a vote in the House this week, and it has already been approved by the Senate. President Obama has said he would veto the bill. Republicans are looking to pass their latest bill targeting ObamaCare through a budget process known as reconciliation. Under the Senate’s rules, a party that controls both chambers can pass legislation with a simple majority, sending a bill gutting ObamaCare to the president’s desk for the first time.
December 8: The Daily Signal:CBO Report:Workforce could shrink by 2 million because of ObamaCare:
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting that over the next decade, 2 million workers could decide to leave the full time workforce because of Obamacare. According to the report the workforce is projected to shrink because of the ObamaCare incentives for workers to do so. “Some people would choose to work fewer hours; others would leave the labor force entirely or remain unemployed for longer than they otherwise would,” the CBO said in its report. Under the law, workers do not need to rely on employers for insurance any longer. They can purchase ObamaCare coverage on the federal and state-run exchanges. Additionally, because of the subsidies available to seekers of healthcare coverage is based upon their income those who are making slightly over the limit may opt to work part time or retire entirely, thereby reducing the number of full time employees in the work force.
November 30: The Hill:The Senate May Move Forward with an ObamaCare Repeal:
Senate Republican leaders are moving ahead with an ObamaCare repeal package, cautiously optimistic they have the 51 votes needed to pass it. Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) appeared to take a major stride toward winning over conservatives Monday evening by floating a proposal to strengthen a House-passed repeal bill by phasing out the expansion of Medicaid over two years. Senate conservatives have been told the bill will repeal as much of ObamaCare as possible under the special budgetary rules known as reconciliation, implying that leaders want to repeal all of the law’s tax increases as well as subsidies for people who buy insurance through government-run heath exchanges. Members of the GOP leadership team expressed confidence Monday that they would send the package to President Obama’s desk.
November 18: The Daily Signal: House Repeal of Obamacare Keeps 82% of the burden, Report Shows
A House bill that some lawmakers insist would repeal Obamacare doesn’t touch the lion’s share of the tax burden imposed by the Affordable Care Act, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report. The report, dated Nov. 17, shows that 82 percent of the economic burden caused by Obamacare taxes would remain in effect even if what critics call the “partial repeal” bill became law.
“Information in this memorandum is largely from CBO [Congressional Budget Office] and JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] cost estimates,” the memo from health care finance analyst Annie Mach says. “This memorandum reports the information CBO and JCT provide … it does not provide analysis of or additional details for the cost estimates.” The House’s partial repeal of ObamaCare would reduce federal spending by $289.6 billion over the next 10 years while a full repeal would cut more than twice that—$821 billion—over the same period.
The House bill takes aim at specific provisions of Obamacare, such as the individual and employer mandates to purchase health insurance. The legislation also would defund Planned Parenthood for a year but the vast majority of healthcare “taxes” would remain intact. This means that taxpayers will still be left with shouldering a tax burden of almost a trillion dollars over the next ten years
October 23: The Daily Signal:How Congress Stopped a Massive ObamaCare Bailout
Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced that insurers who lost money selling Obamacare would not get a $2.5-billion bailout. It was great news for taxpayers, but it didn’t happen by chance. Both chambers of Congress worked very hard to make those savings possible. And lawmakers will have to continue working hard to keep bailouts like this from happening in the future. This article tells you how Congress succeeded in shutting down this bailout.
October 22: The Hill: Three GOP Senators threaten to vote against ObamaCare Repeal Bill:
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) are vowing to oppose any fast-track bill repealing only parts of ObamaCare, narrowing the path for the legislation to pass the Senate. They don’t think the bill goes far enough. The House is set to vote on Friday on a bill under a fast-track process known as reconciliation that would repeal several parts of ObamaCare. The reconciliation process allows a measure to pass the Senate with 51 votes, instead of the usual 60, and get through to President Obama’s desk, where it would face a veto. “If this bill cannot be amended so that it fully repeals Obamacare pursuant to Senate rules, we cannot support this bill,” the senators continue. “With millions of Americans now getting health premium increase notices in the mail, we owe our constituents nothing less.”
Their opposition puts the bill’s future in doubt. There are 54 Republican senators, so if Cruz, Rubio, and Lee vote no, Republicans could only afford to lose one more vote and still have a simple majority.
October 21: The Daily Signal:Several States Launch New Laws Against ObamaCare
Thought the litigation battle over Obamacare was over? Think again. Texas, Kansas, and Louisiana are about to file a new lawsuit against Obamacare, claiming that a fee being imposed by the IRS as a condition of states continuing to receive Medicaid funds is both unconstitutional and a violation of federal law. And they are in discussions with more than a dozen other states about joining this new lawsuit. October 19: The Washington Times: Federal Judge: ObamaCare Lawsuit Must go Forward:
A federal judge Monday denied the administration’s request to hit pause on a House lawsuit over Obamacare so that it could appeal an earlier, and notable, ruling that allowed the case proceed in the first place. U.S. District Court Judge Collyer enthused conservatives and shocked Democrats last month by granting House legal standing to sue President Obama, after lawmakers said his administration continued to dole out cost-sharing payments under the Affordable Care Act even though lawmakers had not approved them.
On Monday, a judge prevented the Justice Department from appealing that decision before she can move on to the merits of the case. Judge Collyer said “The relevant question is whether immediate appeal would materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation. In this case, it would not.” She set the briefing schedule that brings the parties into January, at which point she will schedule oral arguments. October 15: The Daily Signal:Six Government-Funded Insurance Companies
Created under ObamaCare Collapse:
A government watchdog overseeing the HHS delivered the grim financial state of nearly all of the co-ops—that collectively received $2.4 billion—created under Obamacare several months ago. Now, following the collapse of six of the 23 that launched in 2013, the co-ops, or consumer oriented and operated plans, face an uphill battle to solidify themselves as competitors in the health insurance market. To assist the co-ops in getting off the ground, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services disbursed $2.4 billion in start-up and solvency loans to the 23 co-ops created under Obamacare. However, over the last 10 months, six co-ops, which collectively received nearly $762 million from the federal government, announced they’re closing their doors and pulling out of the insurance market for 2016.
As a result, more than 420,000 Americans who enrolled in health insurance coverage through these nonprofit insurers will lose their insurance and have been instructed to select new plans next year. Additionally, an analysis conducted by The Daily Signal in February, along with a July report from HHS’s Office of the Inspector General, found that 22 of the 23 co-ops lost money in 2014. Thirteen of the 23, meanwhile, enrolled far fewer consumers than projected. Industry experts predicted that some of the co-ops would struggle to survive, as the nonprofit insurers lacked the financial flexibility and deep pockets of their larger, more established competitors. The collapse of the two biggest co-ops, Kentucky and New York, as well as the most recent closure‚ Tennessee, has brought into the question the viability of the remaining 17.
September 25: The Daily Signal: Obamacare: This Law Suit Has “Legs!”
For those who thought that the lawsuits challenging Obamacare were at an end, think again. On September 9, a federal district court for the District of Columbia refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the entire U.S. House of Representatives against the Obama administration over its funding of certain aspects of Obamacare. This is a historic lawsuit and decision. In the past, individual members of Congress have filed a number of (unsuccessful) lawsuits, but this is one of the few occasions when such a suit has been pursued by the entire House of Representatives as an institution.
On July 30, 2014, House adopted (and on January 6, 2015 the 114th Congress reapproved) a resolution authorizing the speaker to file suit. The challenge by the House makes two claims against the Obama administration and specifically Sylvia Burwell, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, and Jacob Lew, the secretary of the Treasury. First, that the administration has spent “billions of unappropriated dollars to support” Obamacare. Second, that the administration “effectively amended Obamacare’s employer mandate by delaying its effect and narrowing its scope.” The House claims it has never appropriated the funds for this action by the Administration and yet they the Administration spent public funds on this program starting in January 2014. This violates Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
The administration filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that the House lacked standing to assert either claim and that “only the Executive has authority to implement the laws.” The judge, however, said the suit remains a clear dispute over constitutional commands for which the judiciary has long been the ultimate interpreter and that because this is a case brought “as an institutional plaintiff, to preserve its power of the purse and to maintain constitutional equilibrium” the House of Representatives has standing to bring the suit.
September 17: The Hill:Court Rules Against ObamaCare Birth Control Mandate
The 8th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that four Christian nonprofits should not have to comply with the ObamaCare rule that all employer healthcare plans include contraception options or face a fee. While employers can seek exemptions to the law, the court argued that doing so poses a “substantial burden” on that organization’s religious rights. The decision is particularly important because it directly contradicts another federal court’s ruling. “With today's decisions, the [Supreme] Court will have great reason to decide this issue in the next term,” one religious rights group, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, wrote. The Supreme Court already has several cases involving the birth control mandate it could take up in its fall term.
Conservatives were quick to praise the decision, which reignites a years-long battle against the ObamaCare rule. "This court ruling is a victory for the rights of freedom and liberty that were critical to our Founding Fathers and American exceptionalism to this day," Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) wrote in a statement on Thursday.
September 9: Fox News:Judge clears the way for House challenge to Obamacare:
A federal judge cleared the way Wednesday for a legal challenge by congressional Republicans to President Obama's health care law to proceed. U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary M. Collyer ruled the House can pursue its claim that the administration violated the Constitution when it spent public money that was not appropriated by Congress. At issue is the more than $175 billion the government is paying health insurance companies over a decade to reimburse them for offering reduced health care co-payments for lower-income people. The House argues that Congress never specifically approved spending that money, and in fact denied the administration's request for it. The Obama administration insists it is instead relying on previously allocated money that it is allowed to use.
"The House of Representatives as an institution would suffer a concrete, particularized injury if the Executive were able to draw funds from the Treasury without a valid appropriation," wrote Collyer, who was appointed to the federal bench in 2003 by President George W. Bush. Department of Justice spokesman Patrick Rodenbush said the administration will seek to appeal the court's decision.
July 17: The Daily Caller: 92% of Federal Auditors attempts to Scam Obamacare were successful! The results of an undercover investigation conducted by the Government Accounting Office (GAO) were presented Thursday at Senate hearing, the GAO report showed that federal auditors 11 out of 12 times were able to gain subsidized coverage with fictitious applications, three of the successful applications never provided citizenship or immigration documentation. The investigators in each case were able to obtain $2,500 or around $30,000 annually in advance premium tax credits. The GAO also purposely had seven of the 11 applicants not submit all required verification to the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, “but the Marketplace did not cancel subsidized coverage for these applicants.” The Marketplace terminated subsidized coverage for six of the 11 applicants in early 2015, though they restored coverage for five of these applicants, even giving them larger subsidies. They got these larger subsidies without even asking for them
June 25: The Daily Signal: Quotable Quotes: Scalias Dissent on Court’s ObamaCare Decision
Justice Antonin Scalia is known for his sharp wit and even sharper pen. He pulled no punches in his dissent today from the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell allowing the Obama administration to allow Obamacare subsidies to flow through the federal exchange. Here are a some of highlights:
- “This case requires us to decide whether someone who buys insurance on an Exchange established by the Secretary gets tax credits. You would think the answer would be obvious—so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it.”
“Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved.”
“Perhaps sensing the dismal failure of its efforts to show that ‘established by the State’ means ‘established by the State or the Federal Government,’ the Court tries to palm off the pertinent statutory phrase as “inartful drafting.’ This Court, however, has no free-floating power ‘to rescue Congress from its drafting errors.’”
“The Court’s decision reflects the philosophy that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. That philosophy ignores the American people’s decision to give Congress ‘[a]ll legislative Powers’ enumerated in the Constitution. They made Congress, not this Court, responsible for both making laws and mending them.”
June 23: The Daily Caller: Obamacare Exchanges Imploding State by State
And in the last few days, he has gone off the deep end on Obamacare. It’s working even better than planned, he said. All the dire predictions made by opponents … none of them came true. Well, there’s this impressive list of predictions that did come true.
The news this week that Hawaii will become the latest state to give up on its state exchange and turn over its Obamacare duties to healthcare.org. The state spent $130 million over two years on its exchange, and in the second year, it did not enroll a single person.
New Hampshire Gov. Shumlin, a rising star in his party, who has announced he will step down at the end of his term because his support has collapsed over the problems with his rebuild of the state’s healthcare system.
Maryland, where a Republican was elected governor in state that is 2:1 Democrat because the Democratic candidate, as lieutenant governor, so thoroughly botched his state’s exchange that it had to scrap it and buy a copy of Connecticut’s system.
In Nevada and New Mexico, they gave up the ghost after realizing the project just doesn’t add up.
Then there’s usually somewhat competent Oregon, whose exchange went down in a $300 million flame of taxpayer money in April without ever registering a single person for health insurance. It missed its launch date and never worked properly. Eventually, Oregonians could sign up through the system but had to use paper forms to actually apply for insurance.
“There have been numerous disasters along the way as the federal government and the states have struggled to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare),” wrote Neil McCabe in National Review Online. “But none come close to Oregon’s sorry effort for the millions of dollars lost, the raw political opportunism, and the melodramatic plot twists.”
June 17: The Daily Signal: What the GOP will, or should, do it the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies
Republicans can offer a path forward without accepting the premise that the Obamacare model of highly regulated and subsidized insurance is the only solution, and they can do it while offering in legislative form the clearest possible distillation of the conservative case against Obamacare: that its mandates and regulations are driving up prices for all consumers and eliminating affordable coverage options, including those now dependent on Obamacare’s federal subsidies.
Mandates like Obamacare’s age rating rules, essential health benefits requirements and minimum actuarial value requirements are driving up prices for consumers across all age groups. Eliminating all of these requirements would make insurance far more affordable, particularly for the young, who have the fewest resources with which to purchase insurance and it could see reductions as high as 44 percent in a deregulated market. In a market with more affordable coverage available to all consumers, there shouldn’t be a need for Obamacare’s massive system of subsidies.
The map shows in Red the states that have chosen not to establish their own exchanges. These states have brought suit saying under Obamacare as written and enacted the Federal government does not have the authority to subsidize premium payments in their states.
June 15: The Hill: Supreme Court Won’t Review Decision on North Carolina Abortion Law:
The Supreme Court on Monday decided not to take up a controversial North Carolina law that would have forced women to undergo a “narrated ultrasound” before receiving an abortion. The North Carolina law had been declared unconstitutional by district and federal courts after it was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights. Opponents of the law were quick to celebrate the court’s decision not to review the case.
June 11: The Washington Post: The SupremeCourt would do Democrats a favor by killing Obamacare
Maybe the pending King v. Burwell decision will finally put Obamacare out of its misery. No matter what President Obama or
HHS Secretary Burwell say, the truth is Obamacare is just limping along as another misguided, over-priced and underperforming
government program. In practice, it’s not doing anything like what was promised. Like other big government programs,
Obamacare is slowly building a constituency as more people succumb to the coerced dependency Democrats see as vital to
their political strength. But even some Democrats privately acknowledge that the minimal positive impact the law is having is
not worth the cost and that it isn’t getting any easier to defend. So if Obamacare is brought down in the Supreme Court, it
could actually help Obama and the Democrats save face. And it would keep Hillary Clinton from being distracted in 2016 by
having to defend Obamacare as premiums continue to rise, overall healthcare costs keep going up and the program stagnates.
One of the smartest long-term GOP replacements for Obamacark is from Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), a former physician. The
Cassidy approach would allow states to “opt out of Obamacare mandates and instead receive tax credits for health savings
accounts,” relying on incentives for individuals to buy health insurance coverage. His Patient Freedom Act is already backed by
a number of Senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and is a solid conservative plan in the event
that the court rules against the Obama administration later this month.
June 11: The Hill: Obama’s Supreme Court Gambit
President Obama’s impassioned defense of the Affordable Care Act is riling opponents of the law and drawing accusations he’s
trying to bully the Supreme Court. But Obama’s pointed comments, which appeared to be aimed at least partly at influencing
the justices, are baffling some court-watchers who say that the decision in the King v. Burwell case was likely settled long ago. “I don’t know what they’re up to. It seems quite calculated, but I can’t figure out calculated to do what,” said Tom Goldstein,
a Supreme Court expert and publisher of SCOTUSBlog.
With the ruling on ObamaCare expected any day, legal experts say it’s unlikely that any rhetoric from the White House could
cause a major shift in the justices’ opinion. Still, they say it’s possible that the justices are continuing to nail down all the details,
particularly if they are planning to rule against the administration. And there’s a chance that the court could be paying attention
to Obama’s remarks. “As a practical matter the case has been decided. That doesn’t mean all the nuances have been decided,” said Jim Blumstein, a constitutional and health law professor at Vanderbilt University.
May 27: The Hill: Cruz Threatens to Subpoena Treasury Officials About Obamacare
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) warned Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Wednesday he could force department officials to testify over ObamaCare. He wants Mark Mazur, an assistant secretary for tax policy; Emily McMahon, deputy assistant secretary for tax policy; and Cameron Arterton, deputy tax legislative counsel for tax policy, to testify before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing next month. But he has been told they would not available because of an ongoing court case. He warned that if the Treasury officials do not agree to testify, he could compel them to testify "at any time deemed convenient for the Committee."
The Supreme Court is expected to announce its decision in the case King v. Burwell sometime in June. The ruling will determine whether people who sign up for insurance through the federal ObamaCare exchange are eligible for subsidies. But Cruz noted he doesn't believe congressional testimony would affect the court's decision.
May 23: Hot Air: Expect Obamacare Premiums to rise by Double Digits in some states in 2016
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Obamacare rates are about to shoot up, in some cases as much as 40%. The rate increases requested by insurance carriers vary state by state, but the overall picture is bad. “In New Mexico, market leader Health Care Service Corp. is asking for an average jump of 51.6% in premiums for 2016,” the Journal reports. “The biggest insurer in Tennessee, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has requested an average 36.3% increase. In Maryland, market leader CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield wants to raise rates 30.4% across its products. Moda Health, the largest insurer on the Oregon health exchange, seeks an average boost of around 25%.”
Not all of the states are looking at rate increases in that range. Some of them are “only” going to be asking for increases in the ten percent range. But the direction is still consistent, and it isn’t down. You may recall that during the entire debate in the run up to the passage of Obamacare we were assured that one of the overarching purposes of the legislation was to halt the skyrocketing cost of health insurance, as well as making sure that more people could afford it. We were told this tale by Nancy Pelosi, though she later seemed to have forgotten saying it. Later, the message was fine tuned a bit and we were told that costs would not rise as quickly. On can only imagine what health insurance would cost in New Mexico without this legislation since they’re looking at a more than fifty percent jump in a single year.
May 11: The Hill: Obama Administration: All Federally approved types of birth control must be offered for free
Insurers must cover a wide range of contraceptive methods at no cost to consumers, the Obama administration said Monday in new guidance to health insurance companies. The guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) makes clear that insurers are obligated under the Affordable Care Act to cover at least one version of each of the 18 federally approved birth control methods. “Today’s guidance seeks to eliminate any ambiguity,” HHS said. “Insurers must cover without cost-sharing at least one form of contraception in each of the methods (currently 18) that the FDA has identified for women in its current Birth Control Guide, including the ring, the patch and intrauterine devices.” The agency made the announcement after a series of reports indicated insurers had conflicting policies on covering contraceptives, despite ObamaCare’s requirement that contraception be offered at no cost. [We are not sure how all this fits with the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case which allows closely held corporations to opt out of providing certain types of contraception if they have a religious objection .]
May 6: The Hill:Florida Governor Confronts HHS over Obamacare:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Wednesday demanded an answer from the Obama administration “right now” on the renewal of federal funds for hospitals in his state, amid a showdown over ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion. “I've let them know our timeline and we need an answer right now,” Scott told reporters outside the Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington after meeting with HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. At issue are federal funds to reimburse hospitals in Florida for treating uninsured people, known as the Low Income Pool (LIP). Scott is suing the Obama administration, alleging that the administration is withholding the funds in an effort to force the state to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.
The administration counters that Florida is free to expand Medicaid or not, and that the decision on LIP funding will be made “regardless” of whether the state expands Medicaid. There is also the condition, though, expressed in an April 14 letter to Florida, that the LIP funding should be tailored so as to not cover costs that would be covered if Medicaid was expanded. The administration says giving people Medicaid is a better system than reimbursing hospitals for uninsured care.
May 6: The Hill:Republicans bring new case against Obamacare: Coverage and Care are Two Different Things
Republicans are shifting their line of attack on ObamaCare saying enrollees are getting stuck with low-quality insurance plans. Republicans initially argued the Affordable Care Act (ACA) had not made a dent in the size of the uninsured population. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in March 2014 that the law had led to “a net loss of people with health insurance” because of canceled plans. A year later, the Republicans are acknowledging that an expansion has taken place, but are pointing to the quality of the insurance that people are gaining and the costs to argue that the law is still bad for the country.
Asked Sunday about his previous statement, Boehner said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “Yeah, you know why there’s more people insured? Because a lot more people are on Medicaid. “Giving people Medicaid insurance is almost like giving them nothing, because you can’t find a doctor that will see Medicaid patients,” Boehner added. “And so where do they end up? The same place they used to end up, in the emergency room.”
April 19: The Wall Street Journal: The Impact of ObamaCare? Hospital Monopolies
During the 2008 financial crisis, “too big to fail” became a familiar phrase in the U.S. financial system. Now the U.S. health-care system is heading down the same path with a record number of hospital mergers and acquisitions—95 last year—some creating regional monopolies that, as in all monopolies, will likely result in higher prices from decreased competition. Hospital consolidation, done properly in a competitive marketplace, can have positive effects. Multi-hospital conglomerates can quickly disseminate best practices and quality initiatives, for example. But competition and the choices it provides can also disappear.
Health-care conglomeration aligns with the Affordable Care Act, which created incentives for physicians and hospitals to work together in “accountable care organizations.” But an important and often forgotten prerequisite for this model is hospital competition. Today’s frenzy of hospital mergers and physician practice acquisitions is giving hospital systems even greater leverage to inflate opaque “charge-master” medical bills that even hospitals are sometimes unable to itemize sensibly. With no mechanism to allow free-market forces to keep prices in check, this translates into higher health-insurance deductibles and copays for insured Americans, and in the case of Medicare and Medicaid, higher taxes.
April 9: The Washington Post: Supreme Court: Obamacare Case Could Impact Subsidies for 8 million people We won't find out for another few months how the Supreme Court will rule on a crucial case regarding Obamacare subsidies. If the Supreme Court rules that the text of the ACA does not allow for states using a federally run exchanges to receive subsidies, these people would lose financial assistance. The Urban Institute has said that such a decision could leave 8.3 million more people uninsured. The states that run their own exchanges and would not be impacted by the ruling, at least initially. Proponents of Obamacare believe that striking subsidies for the states in brown would make health care unaffordable for many people and undermine Obamacare altogether.
April 6: The Daily Signal: Obamacare’s $800 Billion Tax Hike Shown in a Chart!
April 15 is right around the corner, and millions of Americans will find themselves paying more in taxes than ever thanks to Obamacare. The law is more than a fundamental change to the country’s health care system. It also is a massive tax hike. As The Heritage Foundation’s chart shows, according to the most recent scores, Obamacare will increase taxes by nearly $800 billion for the period of 2013-2022.
Obamacare contains 18 separate tax increases. A few of the biggest include a tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans, which doesn’t take effect until 2018, long after President Obama and many in Congress who voted for the tax in 2010 have departed Washington. Also, there is a tax on health insurance premiums and a higher rate on the Hospital Insurance payroll tax for single filers with incomes above $200,000 ($250,000 for married filers) that also applies to investment income. Because of Obamacare, Americans are paying much higher taxes and those taxes are hurting the economy. Though some bipartisan efforts exist to repeal some of the new taxes that benefit special-interest groups, including the medical device tax, an incomplete approach won’t be sufficient to overcome the detrimental effects of this law.
March 18: The Hill:Republicans move closer to ObamaCare Alternative
Budget proposals from the House and Senate are moving the GOP closer to a fallback plan if Supreme Court strikes down billions of ObamaCare subsidies later this spring. Both chambers’ budget proposals include an obscure but powerful budget tool known as "reconciliation," which allows committees to write bills that can’t be filibustered in the Senate -- much like how the Democrats got Obamacare passed in the first place. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Enzi (R-WY) said that the Senate will use reconciliation to come up with legislation to address the looming court case, King v. Burwell. If the Obama administration loses, congressional Republicans will be pressed to help the 7.5 million people who would then lose $28 billion worth of subsidies. “We have an instruction with flexibility for that healthcare dilemma,” Enzi said as he began the markup process Wednesday. He stressed that a GOP plan is necessary as the court threatens to throw ObamaCare “into disarray.”
GOP leaders had been eyeing reconciliation as a way to show the Supreme Court that they have a plan of action in case King v. Burwell goes in their favor, while buying themselves several months to hammer out details. Enzi’s proposal gives power to two committees to draft legislation on ObamaCare — the Finance Committee and the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). The Senate budget notes that the healthcare law "is now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court," and says the ruling in the case "could significantly alter the levels of spending in the budget resolution." "Consequently, the Senate Republican budget includes reconciliation instructions for health care, but the actual contours of that legislation are unknowable at this time."
While federal law prevents leadership from giving committees specific instructions, the Senate proposal sends a strong message by including reconciliation instructions in the section that calls for a repeal of ObamaCare. Still, it will be a tough battle for Congress to consolidate the two proposals into a single document before reconciliation can be used.
March 4: Fox News:Supreme Court Split on “Four Little Words” in the Obamacare law
The Supreme Court appeared divided Wednesday along ideological lines after hearing a challenge of ObamaCare tax subsidies that, if struck down, could affect up to 8 million policy holders. The liberal justices peppered Michael Carvin, the lawyer for the health law challengers, with skeptical questions almost from the outset over his argument to limit the subsidies. When Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. -- who represents the Obama administration -- stepped to the lectern, the liberal justices fell silent, and Justices Alito and Scalia took over. But Chief Justice John Roberts, who was the deciding factor in the last major ObamaCare case in 2012, said almost nothing in nearly 90 minutes of back-and-forth. And the questions posed by Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a key swing vote on the bench, did not make clear how he will come out. During the hearing, Kennedy posed tough questions to both sides.
The justices met Wednesday to determine whether the law makes people in all 50 states eligible for federal tax subsidies -- or just those who live in states that created their own health insurance marketplaces. This question matters because roughly three dozen states opted against their own marketplace, or exchange, and instead rely on the U.S. Health and Human Services Department's Healthcare.gov. If the court rules against the Obama administration, insurance subsidies for people in those states would be in jeopardy.
Scalia later said… "It may not be the statute Congress intended, but it may be the statute Congress wrote." The case focuses on four words in the law, "established by the state." The challengers say those words are clear and conclusive evidence that Congress wanted to limit subsidies to those consumers who get their insurance through a marketplace, or exchange, that was established by a state. Alito wondered if the justices could delay the effect of such a ruling to allow states and perhaps the federal government to act. Scalia said he believes Congress would act.
March 2: The Daily Caller: House GOP unveils replacement plan for Obamacare if it goes down
Three House Republican chairmen on Monday night outlined a healthcare plan to replace ObamaCare, if the Supreme Court guts the president's signature healthcare initiative. The court is this week hearing arguments in a challenge to key ObamaCare subsidies. The plan from Chairmen Ryan (R-WI), Upton (R-MI), and Klinne (R-MN) joins a separate proposal from Senate Republicans unveiled on Sunday night. Republicans are looking to show that they will be ready if the Court invalidates subsidies that help people buy insurance in roughly three dozen states. In an Opt Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal the chairmen are attempting to show there are alternatives available. "No family should pay for this administration’s overreach,” they contend. The plan would roll back ObamaCare's mandates to buy insurance while also providing tax credits to help people afford coverage.
Gone would be the requirement for individuals to buy insurance and for employers to provide it.
This plan guarantees that people who already have coverage are able to renew it.
It also includes some elements of ObamaCare, such as letting people stay on their parents' plans until they are 26 and prohibiting lifetime limits on benefits.
The second main element of the plan would offer people in states losing ObamaCare's subsidies some tax credits to help them buy insurance. The size of the refundable credits would be adjusted for age, with the elderly getting more support.
February 27: The Washington Post: Obamacare threatens to end Robert’s dream of a nonpartisan Supreme Court:
The first time the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) came before the Supreme Court, its constitutional foundation under attack, John G. Roberts Jr. was its unlikely savior. In a spectacular display of spot-welding, the chief justice joined fellow conservatives on some points and brought liberals on board for others. Roberts was the only member of the court to endorse the entire jerry-rigged thing, and even he made sure to distance himself from the substance of the law. (“It is,” he wrote, “not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”) Still, his efforts rescued President Obama’s signature achievement on grounds that many had dismissed as an afterthought.
As long as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is on the court, he will most often be the decider when the justices split along their familiar ideological fault lines. But, slowly and quietly, Roberts is the one trying to build its legacy. He sees it as somehow exempt from the partisan fugue that long ago enveloped Washington. And then here comes Obamacare II. In King v. Burwell, to be argued Wednesday, plaintiffs say the text of the law must be interpreted in a way that would neuter it, canceling health insurance subsidies for about 7.5 million Americans in at least 34 states. Can Roberts’s portrayal of the Supreme Court as above politics survive another round with the most partisan issue of the decade?
February 26: The Washington Examiner:
Treasury won’t explain decision to make $3 billion in unauthorized Obamacare payments:
The U.S. Treasury Department has rebuffed a request by House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) to explain $3 billion in payments that were made to health insurers even though Congress never authorized the spending through annual appropriations. At issue are payments to insurers known as cost-sharing subsidies. These payments come about because President Obama’s healthcare law forces insurers to limit out-of-pocket costs for certain low income individuals by capping consumer expenses, such as deductibles and co-payments, in insurance policies. In exchange for capping these charges, insurers are supposed to receive compensation. What’s tricky is that Congress never authorized any money to make such payments to insurers in its annual appropriations, but HHS, with the cooperation of the U.S. Treasury, made them anyway. HHS’s spending on these cost-sharing payments is one of the issues named in House Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the Obama administration's executive actions on Obamacare.
In a Feb. 3 letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Ryan, along with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Fred Upton (RMI) asked for “a full explanation for, and all documents relating to” the administration’s decision to make the cost-sharing payments without congressional authorization. In response, on Wednesday, the Treasury Department sent a letter to Ryan largely describing the program, without offering a detailed explanation of the decision to make the payments. The letter revealed that $2.997 billion in such payments had been made in 2014, but didn't elaborate on where the money came from. Over the next decade, cost-sharing payments to insurers are projected by the Congressional Budget Office to cost taxpayers nearly $150 billion.
February 25: CNN: What you should know about the Obamacare case before the Supreme Court:
The Obama administration's most significant legislative achievement is now, once again, teetering before the Supreme Court. The justices aren't weighing the fate of the entire statute this time. In fact, the dispute concerns what Congress meant in just four words in one section of the law. But the impact could be nearly as dramatic as when Chief Justice Roberts joined with the court’s four liberal justices to uphold the law. The health care law provides for the establishment of "exchanges" through which individuals can purchase competitively priced health insurance. It also authorizes federal tax credits to low- and middle-income Americans to help offset the cost of the policies. Currently 16 states plus the District of Columbia have set up their own exchanges; the remaining 34 states rely on exchanges run by the federal government.
Those bringing the case say that the words "established by the State"in a subsection of the law make clear that subsidies are only available to those living in the 16 states that set up their own exchanges. They say the IRS -- one of the agencies charged with implementing the law -- was wrong to offer tax credits to individuals who live in states that only have federally run exchanges. In their eyes, the only exchanges that comport with the letter of the law are those established by the states themselves. If the court says the IRS rule is invalid, absent some kind of action by the states or Congress, more than 5 million individuals will no longer be eligible for the subsidies, shaking up the individual market. The stakes are high. Though a ruling against the government wouldn't nullify the law, it could destabilize it. If millions of Americans were to lose the tax subsidies, and as a result not buy insurance, it would cause premiums to skyrocket in the individual market because there would be less healthy people in the pool. It would then be up to Congress to fix the law or states to set up their own exchanges. Just Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell warned that if the government loses, it has no plan B to "undo the massive damage."
The challengers say that Congress limited the subsidies in order to encourage the states to set up their own exchanges. But when only a few states acted, the IRS tried to "fix" the law and wrote a rule allowing subsidies for those living in states with state-run exchanges as well as states with federally run exchanges. "If the rule of law means anything," wrote Michael Carvin, a lawyer for the challengers, in court briefs, "it is that text is not infinitely malleable and that agencies must follow the law as written -- not revise it to 'better' achieve what they assume to have been Congress's purposes."
In January 2012, Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the bill said: “What’s important to remember politically about this is if you're a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don't get their tax credits—but your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying [to] your citizens you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that that's a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges. But, you know, once again the politics can get ugly around this.”
February 20: The Hill: Feds sent incorrect tax info to 800,000 people on ObamaCare
The administration sent the wrong tax information to 800,000 people who have enrolled in ObamaCare, officials announced Friday. The information used to calculate subsidies was wrong on about 20 percent of tax forms, an error that could delay tax refunds for thousands of people. Administration officials stressed that the vast majority of HealthCare.gov customers received the correct forms, and White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the issue impacted “a very small fraction of people.” But the tax glitch quickly provided new ammunition for Republicans, who continue to argue that the healthcare law is fatally flawed. “Surprise, surprise, the Obama administration still does not have its act together,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote in a statement. She said the new problems offer more proof that the IRS should be kept out of healthcare, and pledged to redouble her efforts to repeal the ObamaCare insurance penalty entirety.
February 16: Associated Press:Dems Seek Relief from Obamacare Taxes The official sign-up season for President Barack Obama's health care law may be over, but leading congressional Democrats say millions of Americans facing new tax penalties deserve a second chance. Three senior House members told AP that they plan to strongly urge the administration to grant a special sign-up opportunity for uninsured taxpayers who will be facing fines under the law for the first time this year. The three are Michigan's Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, and Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, and Lloyd Doggett of Texas. All worked to help steer Obama's law through rancorous congressional debates from 2009-2010.
The lawmakers say they are concerned that many of their constituents will find out about the penalties after it's already too late for them to sign up for coverage, since open enrollment ended Sunday. That means they could wind up uninsured for another year, only to owe substantially higher fines in 2016. The fines are collected through the income tax system. This year is the first time ordinary Americans will experience the complicated interactions between the health care law and taxes. Based on congressional analysis, tax preparation giant H&R Block says roughly 4 million uninsured people will pay penalties. So far, administration officials have deflected questions about whether an extension will be granted. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell has authority to grant special enrollment periods under certain circumstances.
February 14: Fox News: Obamacare signups hit snag on Big Weekend Consumers trying to sign up for health insurance ahead of a looming deadline are getting snagged by technical difficulties, the Obama administration said Saturday. Administration spokeswoman Katie Hill said some people trying to get coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law haven't been able to get their income information electronically verified. That's crucial because the amount of financial assistance to help pay premiums is based on people's income. The health care law offers subsidized private insurance to people who don't have coverage on the job. More than 8 in 10 of those who apply qualify for help. Without it, most can't afford the coverage.
The Internal Revenue Service handles income verification for the HealthCare.gov website. In a statement, Hill said the problem was due to issues with "external verification sources." The glitch seemed to be affecting people with new applications. People who previously submitted their income details -- but hadn't completed the final step of picking a plan -- were still able to do so.
Officials posted an advisory on the home page of the HealthCare.gov website. It reassured consumers that they would still be able to get coverage once the glitch is resolved. "Keep checking back for updates," it said. The official deadline in the 37 states served by HealthCare.gov is 2:59 a.m. Eastern time Monday. Last year, HealthCare.gov stumbled at the start. Numerous technical problems with the website were a huge headache for consumers, and an embarrassment for the tech-savvy White House.
February 5: Fox News: GOP unveils plan for ObamaCare Replacement:
Congressional Republicans are unveiling what they say is a new plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, but the ‘blueprint,’ as they call it, looks an awful lot like what’s been floated before. The Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment – or CARE – Act was crafted by Sen. Richard Burr, (R-NC) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, (R-UT), and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, (R-MI). The first bicameral proposal of the 114th Congress calls for the outright repeal of President Obama’s signature health care law, and with that, the individual mandate to buy insurance or pay a fine.
It provides for targeted tax credits to individuals and families up to 300 percent above the poverty line to encourage people to buy plans in the market place. It also allows insurers to sell plans across state lines and caps the amount of monetary damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice litigation. Like the Affordable Care Act, dependents are able to stay on their parents’ healthcare plans until they’re 26, and no one can be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions -- although this plan calls for a specific ‘continuous coverage’ protection where individuals moving from one plan to another cannot be denied.
The 3-1 age-rating ratios banning insurance companies are replaced with a 5-1 ratio where insurance companies can charge older Americans five times what they charge younger individuals, essentially lowering costs for younger, lower risk consumers. To pay for it, Burr, Hatch and Upton propose taxing the value of health insurance plans above $30,000 a year as regular income.
January 31: The New York Times:White House Seeks to Limit Health Law’s Tax Troubles!
Obama administration officials and other supporters of ObamaCare say they worry that the tax-filing season will generate new anger as uninsured consumers learn that they must pay tax penalties and as many people struggle with complex forms needed to justify tax credits they received in 2014 to pay for health insurance. The White House has already granted some exemptions and is considering more to avoid another political firestorm.
Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur said up to six million taxpayers would have to “pay a fee this year because they made a choice not to obtain health care coverage that they could have afforded.” But Christine Speidel, a tax lawyer at Vermont Legal Aid, said: “A lot of people do not feel that health insurance plans in the marketplace were affordable to them, even with subsidies. Some went without coverage and will therefore be subject to penalties.” The penalties, approaching 1% of income for some households, are supposed to be paid with income taxes due April 15. In addition, officials said, many people with subsidized coverage purchased through the new public insurance exchanges will need to repay some of the subsidies because they received more than they were entitled to.
January 28: The Daily Mail:
CBO report says Obamacare program costs taxpayers $50,000 for every person covered:
It will cost the federal government [Taxpayers, that is] $50,000 for every person who gets health insurance under the Obamacare law, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revealed on Monday. The number comes from figures buried in a 15-page section of the nonpartisan organization's new ten-year budget outlook. The best-case scenario described by the CBO would result in 'between 24 million and 27 million' fewer Americans being uninsured in 2025, compared to the year before the Affordable Care Act took effect. Pulling that off will cost Uncle Sam about $1.35 trillion – or $50,000 per head. The numbers are daunting: It will take $1.993 trillion, a number that looks like $1,993,000,000,000, to provide insurance subsidies to poor and middle-class Americans, and to pay for a massive expansion of Medicaid and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) costs.
Offsetting that massive outlay will be a small by comparison $643 billion in new taxes, penalties and fees related to the Obamacare law. That revenue includes quickly escalating penalties – or 'taxes,' as the U.S. Supreme Court described them – on people who resist Washington's command to buy medical insurance. It also includes income from a controversial medical device tax, which some Republicans predict will be eliminated in the next two years. If they're right, Obamacare's per-person cost would be even higher. Not addressed is what would happen if the Supreme Court decides that health insurance subsidies only apply to states that have their own healthcare exchanges (e.g., not including most of the states where the Federal government, and not the state, established the exchanges).
January 25: Fox News:Grassley to Hospitals: Why are you suing poor patients?
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) is calling out nonprofit hospitals who are suing poor patients over unpaid bills and says they could be breaking the law, according to a report by ProPublica and NPR. Grassley sent a letter, dated January 16, 2015, to Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in St. Joseph, Mo., that has garnished the wages of low-income patients who were unable to pay their medical bills. Grassley said the hospital had stretched the law to the breaking point. He wrote that the hospital, “may not be meeting the requirements to be a nonprofit, tax-exempt hospital." He also asked questions about the hospital’s treatment of lower-income patients and the process by which it collects debts and administers financial assistance. He was concerned that “… patients who would qualify for financial assistance…” have been subject to abusive billing and collection practices. "The practices appear to be extremely punitive and unfair to both low-income patients and taxpayers who subsidize charitable hospitals' tax breaks."
January 22: Fox News:GOP base: Repeal Obamacare or go home! [Republican lawmakers are facing rising pressure from conservative groups and activists to go big – or potentially go home].
After taking control of Congress, Republicans who ran in part on their opposition to the law are starting to roll out legislation undoing pieces of it. But the party is stuck in an internal debate over how far they can really go – risking a potential backlash from the party’s right flank if they don’t go far enough. Tea Party activists say they are frustrated with the pace of progress toward conservatives’ goal of upending the Affordable Care Act. Some activists are encouraging members to “fax blast” all 435 House members and 100 senators and demand they “drive a stake through the heart of ObamaCare once and for all.”
Some Tea Party-backed lawmakers like Ted Cruz (R-TX) are leading the charge against the Affordable Care Act. The senator, and potential presidential candidate, recently warned that Republicans will “get walloped” in 2016 if they don’t live up to their promises, including working to get the health law eliminated. But so far, several Republican lawmakers, like Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orin Hatch (R-UT) have indicated they’d have better luck chipping away at the law “piece by piece.” On Wednesday, Hatch and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced legislation to repeal the health care law’s individual mandate requiring most people to obtain insurance. The legislation, called the American Liberty Restoration Act, is backed by 20 GOP senators. They are also pushing a bill to scratch the law’s controversial 2.3 percent tax on medical devices.
January 19: The Weekly Standard:Democrats having second thoughts – buyer’s remorse?
The Depression and New Deal left Republicans discredited, irrelevant, and shattered. GOP House and Senate majorities of 62 percent and 58 percent, respectively, after the 1928 election shrank to caucuses of 20 percent and 17 percent after 1936. Under Obama the trajectory has been the opposite: Republicans have gone from 41 percent of the House seats after the 2008 election to 57 percent and after 2014 and from 40 senators to 54. Inevitably, Democrats are trying to figure out why the present that dismays them is so much less congenial than the future they recently anticipated. Some have begun to disparage Obamacare, the incumbent’s most FDR-like achievement. Half of the 60 Democratic senators who voted for the Affordable Care Act in December 2009 are no longer in the Senate. These ex-senators include eight who were defeated by Republicans, and eight more who chose not to run again and were succeeded by Republicans. In the wake of the new reality, some Democrat Senators are claiming Obamacare was a mistake or needs to be redrafted to fix the problems that are becoming more evident on a daily basis.
January 18: The Washington Times: Obamacare taxes are likely to be more than $95
Those Americans who didn’t get health insurance last year could be in for a rude awakening when the IRS asks them to fork over their Obamacare penalty [“tax” according the U.S. Supreme Court] — and it could be a lot more than the $95 many of them may be expecting. The Affordable Care Act requires those who didn’t have insurance last year and didn’t qualify for one of the exemptions to pay a tax penalty, which is at least $95 but can be as much as 1% of their household income. So if a person has no health insurance and earns $70,000 a year the tax penalty could be $700, not the $95 that has been cited.
Next year it gets worse: the tax penalty can run from a minimum of $325 per year up to 2% of the household income (which equates to up to $1,400 for the person who earns $70,000 a year!). in 2016 the rate goes up again to a minimum of $695 or $1,750 for our $70,000 wage earner. The only way to avoid this tax penalty is to obtain Obamacare health insurance.
January 1: The Hill: ObamaCare Faces New Challenges in 2015 As ObamaCare enters its fifth year, there are still major components of the law to be worked out for the first time. Both the individual mandate and the employer mandate – which are considered vital pillars of the president’s landmark healthcare law – will confront new challenges in 2015. Doctors and hospitals will also face new penalties for failing to comply with federal rules such as those requiring the use of e-records. The stakes are high in 2015. The administration will be hoping that ObamaCare regains ground after a muddy patch over the last few weeks that included controversies around the administration’s famously blunt former adviser Jonathan Gruber, an inflated enrollment tally and a new legal threat to the law’s subsidies.
December 30: Fox News:ObamaCare Fines rising in 2015 as the IRS Prepares to Collect:
Don't have health insurance? Get ready to pay up. The ObamaCare-mandated fines for not having insurance are rising in 2015 -- and for the first time, will be collected by the Internal Revenue Service. The individual requirement to buy health insurance went into effect earlier this year. But this coming tax season is the first time all taxpayers will have to report to the IRS whether they had health insurance for the prior year. The fines for the 2014 year were relatively modest -- $95 per person or 1 percent of household income (above the threshold for filing taxes), whichever is more. But insurance scofflaws face a sharp increase if they don't get covered soon. The fine will jump in 2015 to $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is higher. By 2016, the average fine will be about $1,100, based on government figures. The insurance requirement and penalties remain the most unpopular part of the health care law. They were intended to serve a broader purpose by nudging healthy people into the insurance pool, helping to keep premiums more affordable. But the application of fines in 2015 could renew criticism of the law, at a time when Republicans are taking control of Congress and looking at ways to undercut the policy. According to government figures, tens of millions of people still fall into the ranks of the uninsured.
December 29: Daily Caller:IRS Goes After Nonprofit Hospitals on Asking Customers to Pay Bills
The Obama administration announced new rules under Obamacare on Monday that target nonprofit hospitals’ efforts to get paid by their patients. Nonprofit hospitals, which serve a charitable purpose and are often religiously affiliated, will now be subject to strict rules on when and how they can collect payments from customers, thanks to regulations included in the health-care law. As a condition of their tax-exempt status, these hospitals must “take an active role in improving the health of the communities they serve,” Treasury Department deputy assistant secretary for tax policy Emily McMahon wrote. Under the new IRS rules, the penalty for failing to meet the new standards could even lead hospitals’ tax-exempt status to be revoked entirely.
December 27: The New York Times:As More Get Insurance; Doctor Shortage Worsens
Just as millions of people are gaining insurance through Medicaid, the program is poised to make deep cuts in payments to many doctors, prompting some physicians and consumer advocates to warn that the reductions could make it more difficult for Medicaid patients to obtain care. The Affordable Care Act provided a big increase in Medicaid payments for primary care in 2013 and 2014. But the increase expires on Thursday — just weeks after the Obama administration told the Supreme Court that doctors and other providers had no legal right to challenge the adequacy of payments they received from Medicaid.
The impact will vary by state, but a study by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, estimates that doctors who have been receiving the enhanced payments will see their fees for primary care cut on average about 43%. Under federal law, Medicaid rates must be “sufficient to enlist enough providers” so that beneficiaries have at least as much access to care as the general population in their geographic area. The Obama administration told the Supreme Court last month that health care providers had no legal right to enforce the “equal access” requirement in court. This section of the Medicaid law provides guidance to federal and state officials in setting Medicaid rates, but does not allow health care providers to sue state officials to enforce it, said Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the solicitor general of the United States.
December 19: The Washington Times:Obamacare Surprise just in time for Christmas!
If you like your healthcare plan, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has a Christmas surprise for you! When will this new present arrive? December 25th. In an ongoing effort to keep Obamacare numbers elevated, CMS has embarked on the next step of its government takeover of healthcare. It seems CMS is taking a page from Jonathan Gruber’s book; rather than allowing the “stupid” masses to make a decision on their own health plan, CMS has proposed a new rule that includes an overly reaching provision allowing CMS to re-enroll anyone who has not made the annual trek back to healthcare.gov in a cheaper plan of CMS’ choosing.
The government will select your health plan for you because they know what is best for you!
They will do so without knowing if you are currently undergoing treatment or working with a specific doctor. They will do so without knowing your financial status. Despite the fact that the millions of people who already enrolled chose the plan that they believed was best for them. CMS has laid the perfect trap: Sign up at healthcare.gov one time in your life and we will never let you go. If you don’t continually re-enroll each and every year, CMS will keep you on the plan that it chooses.
December 17: The Hill:Obamacare fines loom on the horizon for the uninsured
People without insurance are running out of time to avoid the hefty ObamaCare penalties that the IRS will be handing down in 2016. Consumers face a Feb. 15, 2015, deadline to buy insurance, after which those without coverage could be hit with fines of $325 per adult or 2 percent of family income, whichever is higher. Uninsured people looking to escape the penalties are turning to the exchanges before they close, while insurance companies and tax preparers are seizing on the looming tax hit as a business opportunity. One recent mass mailer from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield obtained by The Hill warned potential customers in the Washington, D.C., region that going without health insurance coverage would come with a steep cost. Under the second-year enrollment rules, families that forgo insurance could end up owing $1,000 or more.
December 10: The Daily Standard:Reid: “We never recovered from the rollout” of Obamacare:
There's more Obamacare bashing from the political left today. This time it's from outgoing Senate majority leader Harry Reid. As reported in the New York Times, in hindsight, Mr. Reid said, it was easier to see how damaging the mismanaged rollout of the Affordable Care Act exchanges had been. “We never recovered from the rollout because the election became one that was directed toward the president. We couldn’t overcome that,” he said. Still, he added, “I should have seen it coming.” This comment follows on the heels of a comment by another leading Democrat, Chuck Schumer (D-NY). After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus, but unfortunately Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem—health care reform,"
December 10: Fox News:
Record levels want Obamacare repealed as the December 15th signup deadline approaches
Jonathan Gruber, an MIT economist who helped develop the health care law, has said several times that a lack of transparency and the stupidity of American voters were critical to getting the law passed. A new poll finds 56 percent of voters are at least somewhat bothered by Gruber’s comments. By a narrow 49-43 percent margin, voters think Gruber’s comments prove the administration intentionally lied about the law. That includes 26 percent of Democrats. Twice as many independents (54 percent) and nearly three times as many Republicans (72 percent) believe Gruber’s comments prove the White House lied.
December 9: The Daily Caller:Congresswoman Lummis's Heartbreaking Speech at Gruber Hearing before House Government Reform:
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) made a powerful personal speech in Tuesday’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing that featured testimony from disgraced Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber. Gruber repeatedly referred to his comments about Obamacare deception as being “glib” or made in the interest of “glibness.” But in the most emotional moment this reporter has seen in covering government accountability hearings, Lummis made it clear she was not having it.
Lummis also fiercely questioned Gruber, at one point trapping Gruber into a central contradiction: he previously claimed he wrote parts of Obamacare, then claimed the opposite in the hearing. “Were all of your prior statements a lie?” Lummis asked.
December 9: Fox News:Obamacare architect Gruber attempts to apologize for his "Glib" comments
MIT economist Jonathan Gruber tried to explain and even justify his controversial comments about ObamaCare during a profuse apology on Tuesday before a House committee -- as Darrell Issa (R-C A) accused him of creating a false model as part of "a pattern of intentional misleading" to get ObamaCare passed. Gruber, himself a well-paid consultant during the drafting of the law, was hammered by Republicans on the House oversight committee at his first appearance on Capitol Hill since videos of his remarks surfaced.
December 7: Yahoo News: Congressional Republicans to question ObamaCare consultant at hearing”
The Republicans in Congress plan to renew their investigation of the President’s signature healthcare plan on Tuesday when they question a consultant who said "the stupidity of the American voter" helped ensure the law's passage. Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said panel members will ask consultant Jonathan Gruber about possible deceptions and a lack of transparency in the 2010 Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. This all started when videos were revealed in which Gruber, a healthcare economist at MIT and an Obamacare consultant, said the law was written in a "very tortured way" to hide taxes, and passed thanks to "the stupidity of the American voter."
Issa said the public deserves an explanation from Gruber at Tuesday's hearing. "If you can't trust what he says, and what he says he'll do, to get votes and trick the American people into voting for something, then can you trust his analytics?" "It is our job to see that the administration is … …reporting honestly their successes and their failures,” he told Reuters. Republicans say Grubber's comments show the administration deceived Americans as it pushed the law through Congress. Americans For Prosperity used Grubber's comments to attack Democrat Mary Landrieu in her unsuccessful runoff election in the Louisiana Senate race.
December 7: Yahoo News:
Meanwhile ObamaCare has Intensified the Shortage of Primary Care Physicians:
When Olivia Papa signed up for a new health plan last year, her insurance company assigned her to a primary care doctor. The relatively healthy 61-year-old didn't try to see the doctor until last month, when she and her husband both needed authorization to see separate specialists. She called the doctor's office several times without luck. "They told me that they were not on the plan, they were never on the plan and they'd been trying to get their name off the plan all year," said Papa. It was no better with the next doctor she was assigned. The Naples, Florida, resident said she left a message to make an appointment, "and they never called back." The Papas were among the 6.7 million people who gained insurance through ObamaCare last year, flooding a primary care system that is struggling to keep up with demand.
A survey this year by The Physicians Foundation found that 81 percent of doctors describe themselves as either over-extended or at full capacity, and 44 percent said they planned to cut back on the number of patients they see, retire, work part-time or close their practice to new patients. At the same time, insurance companies have routinely limited the number of doctors and providers on their plans as a way to cut costs. The result has further restricted some patients' ability to get appointments quickly.
One purpose of the new health law was connecting patients, many of whom never had insurance before, with primary care doctors to prevent them from landing in the emergency room when they are sicker and their care is more expensive. Yet nearly 1 in 5 Americans lives in a region designated as having a shortage of primary care physicians, and the number of doctors entering the field isn't expected to keep pace with demand. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects the shortage will grow to about 66,000 in little more than a decade as fewer residency slots are available and as more medical students choose higher-paying specialty areas.
December 7: USA Today:Supreme Court Decision: Too Close to Call!
Nearly five years after the law was passed, an ObamaCare case has reached the Supreme Court. In 2012 Justice Roberts saved the President’s signature healthcare law from destruction but it is not clear that he will do it again. The challenge hinges on four words repeated several times in the statute: "established by the State." It says that only state-operated health insurance exchanges can offer the federal subsidies that make premiums affordable for millions of participants. In 36 states where the federal government runs the exchanges, the lawsuit claims, such assistance shouldn't be allowed. If the challengers succeed — a prospect that once seemed far-fetched but now looks like a 50-50 proposition — it would threaten federal tax credits averaging $4,700 a year for more than 7 million people. Without that help, most of them would not be required to get health insurance, because it would not be affordable. If they drop out, insurers would be forced to raise rates on everyone else, and the entire economic model behind Obamacare would collapse.
December 6: The Washington Examiner: Over Half of the Democrat Senators who voted for ObamaCare will not be returning:
On Dec. 24, 2009, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed President Obama’s healthcare law with a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority, triggering a massive backlash that propelled Republicans to control of the House the following year. On the Senate side, going into this year's midterm elections, 25 senators who voted for Obamacare were already out or not going be part of the new Senate being sworn in next month. After Democratic losses on Nov. 4 and Saturday's defeat of Sen. Mary Landrieu, (D-LA), the number has risen to 30. In other words, half of the Senators who voted for Obamacare will not be part of the new Senate.
To be sure, it isn’t fair to attribute all of the turnover in the chamber to Obamacare. In some cases — such as John Kerry leaving his seat to become secretary of state, or Robert Byrd passing away — Obamacare clearly had nothing to do with the departures. That having been said, many senators who voted for Obamacare lost re-election battles in which they were hit hard for their support for the law and other Democrats were forced to retire because they had no hope of getting re-elected given their support for the law. A total of 16 Senators who voted for Obamacare either failed to win reelection and had their seats turned over to Republicans. These included: Senators Begich, D-AK; Pryor, D-AR; Udall, D-CO; Hagan, D-NC; Landrieu, D-LA; Feingold, D-WI; Lincoln, D-AR; and Specter, D-PA. In addition the following Democrat Senators left the Senate and were replaced by Republicans: Rockefeller, D-WV; Baucus, D-MT; Johnson, D-SD; Harkin, D-IA; Nelson, D-NE; Dorgan, D-ND; Bayh, D-IN; and Burris, D-IL.
December 3: The Wall Street Journal: More Healthcare Costs Passed On to Consumers:
Americans increasingly have to dig into their own pockets to pay for medical care, a shift that is helping to curb the growth in health spending by employers and the government. The trend is being accelerated by the Affordable Care Act because many private plans sold by the law’s health exchanges come with hefty out-of-pocket costs, which prompt some people to delay or put off seeking care.
For the exchanges’ 2015 policies, which went on sale last month, “bronze- level” plans have an average deductible of $5,181 for individuals, up from $5,081 in 2014, according to a November report from HealthPocket, which publishes health insurance market analyses. Bronze plans generally cover 60% of consumers’ medical expenses. While surveys show steeper out-of-pocket costs lead some people to defer even routine medical care, economists say the trend brings an important upside: It is helping fuel a period of historically low growth in health-care spending, which eases the federal deficit.
December 3: The Daily Caller: Obamacare Author: We shouldn’t have passed the ACA the way we did:Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who helped co-author Obamacare in 2009 and 2010, says the bill is too complicated and Congress probably shouldn’t have passed it at all.Harkin, a liberal senator who’s in favor of a single-payer health-care system, told The Hill Wednesday that the Affordable Care Act turned out too complicated and doesn’t actually make health care more affordable for most people. As chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Harkin was instrumental in constructing Obamacare and getting the bill passed, but is retiring this year.
“We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified healthcare, made it more efficient and made it less costly and we didn’t do it,” Harkin told The Hill. “So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all.” Harkin’s the second high-profile Democrat to pull his support from the law. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, said in November that Congress should not have passed Obamacare because the law does not help the middle class.
December 3: The Daily Caller:Obamacare Sign Ups Stall in Week Two
The number of Americans signing up for Obamacare coverage on HealthCare.gov slowed significantly in the second week of the open enrollment season for the health-care law. Just over 303,000 people chose plans on HealthCare.gov between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28, down from 462,125 who selected insurance coverage on the federal website during its first week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.
November 29: Yahoo News: US CEOs threaten to pull support for Obamacare:
Leading U.S. CEOs, angered by the Obama administration's challenge to certain "workplace wellness" programs, are threatening to side with anti-Obamacare forces unless the government backs off, according to people familiar with the matter. Although some major corporations have supported Obamacare some are considering pulling the plug because of recent rulings by the administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has challenged “Wellness” programs of companies like Honeywell. EEOC lawsuits have infuriated some large employers so much that they are considering aligning themselves with Obama's opponents, according to people familiar with the executives' thinking.
Business Roundtable members are due to meet Obama in a closed-door session on Tuesday, where they may air their concerns. It is not clear how many members of the group, whose companies sponsor health insurance for 40 million people, are considering any action. It is also not clear if the White House can stop the EEOC from challenging wellness programs. A threat of a corporate backlash comes at a time when Obama faces criticism even from his Democrats' ranks that he had devoted too much political capital to healthcare reform. Such action could take the form of radical changes in health benefits that employers offer. It could also mean supporting a potentially game-changing challenge to Obamacare at the Supreme Court next year and expected Republican efforts to eviscerate the law when they take control of Congress in 2015.
November 29: The Hill:Dark Days Ahead for Obamacare?
The Obama administration is facing a slew of healthcare challenges as the winter holidays approach. While this fall has been a far cry from last year, 2014 has brought wholly unexpected problems to the fore for federal health officials and the White House. Take for example the revelations by Jonathan Gruber, the ObamaCare consultant whose suggestion that a "lack of transparency" and voters' "stupidity" was vital in getting the law passed in the first place. His remarks have become a new flashpoint in debate over healthcare reform. Gruber has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Dec. 9th which is sure to prove a distraction for the White House as officials try once again to keep a lid on opposition to the law.
There are several other healthcare challenges the Administration faces this winter:
Open Enrollment: The three-month window — about half as long as last year — is proceeding while the back-end of HealthCare.gov remains partly unfinished. Health insurers have been exasperated by the delays, as health officials verify some account and application details by hand.
Flawed Enrollment Figures: An investigation revealed Nov. 20 that ObamaCare enrollment figures at HHS were inflated by roughly 400,000 people after the department miscounted dental plans as medical coverage.
Birth Control Challenges by Non-Profits: There are more than 50 cases pending, some of them in the 7th, 8th and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeal that argue that participating in any process that leads to birth control coverage for their employees violates their faith, even if they do not pay for or distribute the benefits. These cases could lead to a string of decisions this year.
November 28: The Daily Caller:Gallup: Peak Number of Americans Delaying Medical Care over Costs
One in three Americans has put off seeking medical treatment in 2014 due to high costs, according to Gallup — the highest percentage since Gallup began asking the question in 2001. According to the survey, 33% of Americans have delayed medical treatment for themselves or their families because of the costs they’d have to pay. Obamacare, of course, had promised that it would help make health care more affordable for everyone, but the number of people who can’t afford a trip to the doctor has actually risen three points since 2013, before most Obamacare provisions took effect.
The hardest-hit: the middle-class. Americans with an annual household income of between $30,000 and $75,000 began delaying medical care over costs more in 2014, up to 38% in 2014 from 33% last year; among households that earn above $75,000, 28% delayed care this year, compared to just 17% last year. The lowest-income section, some of whom can take part in Medicaid and who are more likely to qualify for significant premium and cost-sharing subsidies on an Obamacare exchange, are less likely to delay care this year. Now, 35 % of those who earn under $30,000 a year are putting off seeking medical care, down from 43% last year.
It’s a remarkable shift: after Obamacare’s redistribution of wealth, the middle class is actually delaying medical care due to high costs at a higher rate than the poorest section of the country, which is highly subsidized by taxpayers.
November 26: Fusion.net:Top Dem sets off firestorm, saying Obamacare passage was a “mistake”
Sen. Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) recent comments about Democrats’ misguided focus on health care in the President’s first term prompted backlash from top Democrats and left-leaning groups. At a speech before the National Press Club in Washington, Schumer said Democrats made a mistake by entering into a fight over health care after they passed the 2009 economic stimulus. His reasoning: Democrats were targeting the uninsured, a population that he said makes up only about 5 percent of registered voters. Only about one-third of the uninsured, he said, are registered or eligible to vote. “The plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed,” he added. “But it wasn’t the change we were hired to make. Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs — not for changes in their health care.”
November 21: Reason.com:New Obamacare regulatory proposal released just before the weekend: Here's an Obamacare news-dump for you: In a 300-page regulatory proposal released late Friday, HHS announced it’s considering changing Obamacare's auto-renewal rules so that instead of being automatically renewed into your current health plan, you'd be moved into the lowest cost plan from the same service tier. States running their own exchanges could start doing this in 2016, and federal exchanges could start in 2017. It's not just auto-reenrollment. It's auto-reassignment, at least for those who pick that option. Basically, if you like your plan, but don't go out of your way to intentionally re-enroll, the people at HHS or state health exchanges can just pick a new plan for you —perhaps with different doctors, clinics, cost structures, and benefit options. And if you want to switch back you will need to wait until next year when a new enrollment period comes around.
Presumably the idea came up because, even though by some measures premiums aren't rising by large amounts this year, premiums for many of the lowest cost and most popular plans from last year are rising dramatically. And since HHS decided over the summer to institute auto-renewal -- and the majority of Obamacare enrollees are expected to take no action and thus stay in their current plans -- the reality is that under the current system a lot of enrollees are likely to see large premium hikes, just because they didn't shop around for a new plan. This sort of problem was more or less inevitable with automatic renewal, which was initiated as a way to shore up enrollment and prevent too much attrition in year two. The easy, straightforward way to fix it would be to turn auto renewal off. But that might result in lower enrollment with political repercussions. So instead, HHS is going to let bureaucrats make that decision for you instead of letting people make their own choices.
November 12: Fox News: Obama architect makes disparaging remarks about voter intelligence: Yet another video has surfaced of ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber crediting the passage of the health care bill in part to American voters’ lack of intelligence. The Daily Caller posted the third video Wednesday of the MIT professor, this time speaking at the University of Rhode Island in 2012. Gruber was discussing the law’s so-calfled "Cadillac tax,” which he said was helped along by “hero” then-Sen. John Kerry. The “Cadillac tax” mandates that insurance companies be taxed rather than policy holders. He said that taxing individuals would have been “politically impossible,” but taxing the companies worked because Americans didn't understand the difference. “So basically it's the same thing,” he said. “We just tax the insurance companies, they pass on higher prices that offsets the tax break we get, it ends up being the same thing. It's a very clever, you know, basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”
The new video follows a second tape played on Fox News' "The Kelly File” Tuesday that showed Gruber speaking on a similar topic at an October 2013 event at Washington University in St. Louis. Referring to the "Cadillac tax,” he said: "They proposed it and that passed, because the American people are too stupid to understand the difference." This was similar to remarks he made at a separate event around the same time in 2013. In a clip of that event, Gruber said the "lack of transparency" in the way the law was crafted was critical. "Basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass," he said.
"It confirms people's greatest fear about the government," Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told Fox News on Wednesday. "Remember, it was Nancy Pelosi who said first you have to pass it before you get to find out what's in it." As Congress returns for a lame-duck session, on the heels of midterm elections where Republicans won control of the Senate, GOP leaders say they will try once again next year to repeal the law -- or least change its most controversial provisions.
November 12: Fox News:Gruber | Obamacare architect: Elitist with contempt for ordinary Americans:
In the annals of elitist contempt for ordinary Americans, the remarks of an ObamaCare architect stand out. Jonathan Gruber of MIT, who helped shape the complex law, admitted the “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. Call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically, that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.” Gruber’s arrogance became public only because a conservative group, American Commitment, posted his remarks on YouTube. His words shock without surprising.
Remember Nancy Pelosi’s outrageous argument in 2010 that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Remember, too, the quid pro quos where a handful of Senate Democrats sold their votes for grants and carve-outs. There was the Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker Kickback and the Gator Aid. And many big unions that wanted the bill belatedly discovered they needed to be exempt from its provisions, or their members would suffer a rollback in benefits. And don’t forget President Obama’s dozens of rewrites, a key plank in the claim that he has stretched executive power past the breaking point.
ObamaCare was the largest piece of legislation ever passed on a strict party-line vote, and it marked the height of Democratic power. Two midterm elections later, Dems have lost both the House and the Senate, and ObamaCare was a prime reason. Still, it is the law and remains unpopular and unworkable. It is going back to the Supreme Court for another challenge.
November 12: The Daily Caller:Media would explode if Gruber was a Republican:
Co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” went off the liberal script this morning, shaming the mainstream media for ignoring the story of Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber saying the “stupidity of the American voter” required them to lie in order to pass the bill. Brzezinski mentioned that she had seen the Gruber story the day before, and she was “surprised it didn’t emerge” in the mainstream media. “Nobody covered it except for some right-wing outlets,” she said. “Had this been a Republican, what do you think would have happened?”
November 7: USA Today:Supreme Court to Consider Obamacare subsidies:
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to consider a major new challenge to President Obama's health care law. The decision to hear the case without waiting for a split among federal appeals courts represents a major victory for opponents, who had lost a unanimous verdict at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. The justices agreed without comment to reconsider that ruling, which upheld the law's system of subsidizing the insurance coverage it requires. That's a setback for the administration and proponents of Obamacare, but it is not the final word. The case probably will be argued the first week in March, with a decision expected by late June.
The controversial program faces four separate lawsuits charging that billions of dollars in subsidies can only be offered in health care exchanges run by states. The federal government operates more than two-thirds of the exchanges. Opponents mounted the challenges based on the specific language of the law, which states that subsidies, offered in the form of tax credits, will be offered in exchanges "established by the state." They contend that nullifies the subsidies offered since the program began in 36 states that did not set up their own exchanges, relying instead on the federal exchange — a form of online marketplace. (See related story for additional information)
Any ultimate ruling against the system of subsidies would blow a major hole in the law. Those subsidies make the private health insurance policies offered on the exchanges affordable to most Americans without employer-sponsored insurance plans. If the subsidies are invalidated in 36 states, then many of the tax penalties imposed on employers and individuals for non-compliance with the law also would be eliminated. Employers pay a penalty when their workers get subsidized on the exchange. Individuals get penalized if they don't buy affordable insurance, but the subsidies often are what make it affordable.
November 5: The Hill: Obama draws another “line in the sand” on Obamacare
President Obama said Wednesday that there are lines he “can’t cross” as Republicans again set out to dismantle his signature healthcare law. “There are certainly some lines I’m going to draw,” he said in his first remarks since the midterm elections, in which every Republican winner opposed the law. “Repeal of the law, I won’t sign,” he said. While he said he would be open to “responsible changes” to the law, he did not provide examples of changes he would support and said he was waiting to hear the priorities of the new Congress.
Obama said he also wouldn’t allow Congress to strike down the law’s individual mandate. He said that piece of the law is crucial to ensuring that people with pre-existing conditions could be guaranteed coverage. “You’ve got to make sure that people can’t game the system and just wait until they get sick and try to buy health insurance,” he said. He offered some hope to opponents of the medical device tax, which is another GOP priority. Obama declined to say whether he would force the tax to stay in the law, promising to “take a look comprehensively at the ideas they present.”
He also touted the progress that has been made under the law, including millions more who gained insurance and millions of dollars saved. “We are really proud of the work that’s been done,” he said. “But there’s no doubt that there’s areas we can improve it.” Meanwhile, he ignored the millions of Americans who were forced out of existing plans even though he promised “If you like your plan you can keep it” and who are now paying more for replacement plans that include higher deductibles.
November 2: The Daily Caller: 30,000 Indiana Residence Lose Healthcare Coverage because of ObammaCare
Notifications have been sent out to 30,000 residents of Indiana informing them their health insurance plans no longer meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and will be cancelled at the end of this year. Indiana joins Virginia (the hardest hit with 250,000 cancellations), Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina, New Mexico, Tennessee and Maine,
among the more than dozen states and the District of Columbia that are experiencing another round of health insurance cancellations this year.
October 30: The Daily Caller: Americans Think Obama Administrations Playing Politics by Delaying Obamacare Sign-ups until after election
A large majority of Americans are calling out the Obama administration’s decision last year to delay Obamacare enrollment until after midterm elections as an overtly political move, according to a new poll from nonpartisan health research firm HealthPocket. In addition the Administration pushed back the start date for Obamacare’s open enrollment period by one month, from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, conveniently after the midterm elections next week. But the public aren’t buying the claim that it wasn’t a political decision. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed nationwide think it was a political move; just 37 percent disagree.
October 22: Fox News:Companies try to escape Obamacare penalties:
With companies set to face fines next year for not complying with the new mandate to offer health insurance, some are pursuing strategies like enrolling employees in Medicaid to avoid penalties and hold down costs. The health law’s penalties, which can amount to about $2,000 per employee, were supposed to start this year, but the administration delayed them until 2015, when they take effect for firms that employ at least 100 people. Now, as employers race to find ways to cover their full-time workers while holding a lid on costs, insurance brokers and benefits administrators are pitching a variety of options, sometimes exploiting wrinkles in the law.
The Medicaid option is drawing particular interest from companies with low-wage workers, brokers say. If an employee qualifies for Medicaid, which is jointly funded by the federal government and the states, the employer pays no penalty for that coverage. “You’re taking advantage of the law as written,” said Adam Okun, a senior vice president at New York insurance broker Frenkel Benefits LLC. Other companies are planning to dial back some employees’ premium contributions because an employer can owe penalties if its coverage doesn’t meet the law’s standard for affordability.
October 17: The New York Times: Unable to Meet the Deductible or the Doctor, Enrollment Rates Drop
Patricia Wanderlich got insurance through the Affordable Care Act this year, and with good reason: She suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2011, spending weeks in a hospital intensive care unit, and has a second, smaller aneurysm that needs monitoring. But her new plan has a $6,000 annual deductible, meaning that she has to pay for most of her medical services up to that amount so she is skipping this year’s brain scan and hoping for the best. “To spend thousands of dollars just making sure it hasn’t grown?” said Ms. Wanderlich, 61. “I don’t have that money.”
About 7.3 million Americans are enrolled in Obamacare’s private marketplaces, and more than 80 percent qualified for federal subsidies to help with the cost of their monthly premiums. But many are still on the hook for deductibles that can top $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for families, which is the trade-off, for keeping premium levels down. The high deductibles are keeping many people from dealing with illnesses that, if left untreated, can turn into major problems.
October 12: Politico: New Strategy for ObamaCare: Lower expectations
The Obama administration vastly oversold how well Obamacare was going to work last year. It’s not making the same mistake this year. Gone are the promises that enrolling will be as easy as buying a plane ticket on Orbitz. The new head of HHS is not on Capitol Hill to promise that HealthCare.gov is on track. And no one is embracing Congressional Budget Office projections of total sign-up numbers. Sobered — and burned — by last fall’s meltdown of the federal website, the administration is setting expectations for the second Obamacare open enrollment period as low as possible. Officials say the site won’t be perfect but will be improved. They refuse to pinpoint how many people they plan to enroll, instead describing general goals of reducing the number of uninsured and providing a positive “customer experience” — not exactly metrics that can be immediately judged.
“What we have said is that the experience will be better,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell told reporters on Thursday. “It will not be perfect. We know that, and we know that there will be issues that will be raised as we go on in the process.” Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and one of the people responsible for HealthCare.gov’s technology, wouldn’t make any projections on how the website would operate when open enrollment begins Nov. 15. “We are much more comfortable talking about results than expectations,” Slavitt said Wednesday. “We are extremely focused on meeting our milestones. We’re very focused on making sure that everyone has a good customer experience.”
October 7: The Daily Caller: Study shows Obamacare will reduce employment by at least 3%
Employment disincentives contained in Obamacare will likely reduce the nationwide weekly employment rate by at least 3 percent, according to a study released by the Mercatus Center on Tuesday. The study, authored by University of Chicago economics professor Casey Mulligan, examines the potential consequences of several explicit and implicit Obamacare tax increases on weekly work hours and overall employment.
The report shows there are several major Obamacare provisions that introduce incentives to change the workweek, the most obvious of which is the explicit penalty on assessable large employers that do not offer health insurance to their full-time employees. Under Obamacare, full-time employees are defined as those who work at least 30 hours per week, and assessable employers are those with at least 50 full-time-equivalent employees. The rationale behind this provision is that while the government provides subsidies through the Obamacare exchanges for individuals without employer-provided health insurance, “in effect, it claims them back by penalizing the employers.” Mulligan says. “A penalty on full-time employment can be expected to lead to less full-time employment.”
Another provision likely to affect employment is that, “full-time employees and their families cannot receive subsidized health coverage,” on the Obamacare exchanges “unless their employer fails to offer affordable coverage.” According to Mulligan, this amounts to “an implicit tax on full-time employment.” In addition another Obamacare provision affects workweek incentives by giving “lower subsidies to families with higher incomes.” This provision works on a sliding scale, so “a household participating in the exchanges will find that earning additional income will not only add to its federal and state income-tax liabilities, but will also decrease the subsidy it receives for its health insurance.” This has the impact of encouraging workers to keep their income level down.
October 4: Fox News: ObamaCare Second Time Around: Concerns continue: The ObamaCare exchanges that opened for business last fall to disastrous consequence are expected to be largely improved with better technology and more insurance plans when they re-open next month, but critics are still raising concerns about consumer costs and choices. A report last week on eight of the 14 state-run sites showed 67 companies now offering insurance policies, compared to 61 in 2014. The additions are essentially existing, private insurance companies going into new states, not new companies offering policies for the first time, a source told FoxNews.com. Regarding the federal Healthcare.gov site, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), a doctor and a member of the Congressional Health Care Caucus – said the Administration has made some progress but “They’re scared to death about what they know … about the web platform … they know the technology is not up to par.” He argued that the so-call “front end” of the computer system that allows Americans to buy insurance online might be largely improved, but the back end that connects patients’ insurance information to health-care providers remains a “terrible problem for doctors and hospitals.”
The president crafted the legislation to help an estimated 30 million uninsured Americans get coverage. Some reports say the administration reached its goal of enrolling 6 million people by its self-imposed March 31 deadline. And right now, the reports indicate, 7.3 million people have enrolled in marketplace plans, paid their premiums and have access to insurance. But many of those currently enrolled are not from the ranks of the uninsured but instead from those who had their previous health insurance plans cancelled because of ObamaCare. Some states continue to struggle with their site, most notably Oregon and Maryland. Software bugs and other technical problems kept Oregon from fully enrolling a single customer online. State official conceded this spring that the Cover Oregon site, built in part with roughly $30 million in federal grants, was unfixable and agreed to move the operation to the federal exchange. The problems and transition is estimated to cost state and federal taxpayers at least an additional $85 million -- including $50 million to manually enroll thousands of customers and $35 million to Deloitte Consulting to salvage the faulty technology.
October 3: The Daily Caller: Obama to Company: Your health costs are raising because of you, not us!
When a company manager asked the President about his company’s rising health care costs on Friday, Obama’s first response was to blame the company. Speaking at Millennium Steel Services in Princeton, Indiana, the president said that if the company’s health insurance costs were still rising, the management simply isn’t “shopping” correctly. “We are seeing almost a double-digit increase in health-care costs every year,” Millennium Steel general manager Mihir Paranjape told President Obama. “Do you think that trend is going to go down, and what can we do to control that trend?”
“I think that’s really interesting, you’re gonna have to talk to Henry,” Obama replied, referring to Henry Jackson, Millennium Steel’s CEO. “No, no, no, this is serious,” he continued, when several audience members laughed, “The question is whether you guys are shopping effectively enough.” Obama claimed that health care premiums are growing at the lowest rate in the past 50 years. [Note those words carefully: “premiums are growing at the lowest rate…” if he is telling the truth this time, the fact is that they are still growing!] According to every Federal Reserve Bank that has released such a report, businesses say that their health care costs are growing due to the health care law. The New York Federal Reserve says a majority of businesses are planning for Obamacare to increase the cost of their health coverage; the Philadelphia Fed noted that Obamacare is keeping many more businesses from hiring. The Dallas and Atlanta Federal Reserve Banks have come to similar conclusions.
September 19: The Hill: Washington Lobbyists push to change rule that requires health coverage for people who only work 30 hours a week:
Major advocates for private industry are forming a new lobbying coalition to push to raise the ObamaCare's definition of full-time work to 40 hours a week. The effort will combine firepower from major K Street associations prior to an election that could see the GOP claim the Senate. The groups argue that ObamaCare sets an unreasonable standard when it requires employers to offer health coverage to employees who work 30 hours a week or more. The House in April voted to change the definition to 40 hours, and if the GOP takes the Senate they're expected to make the healthcare law's 30-hour rule a top target in their offensive against ObamaCare.
The "More Time for Full-Time" initiative appears to be laying the foundation for that agenda. "Unless there is a statutory change to the definition of a full-time employee in the Affordable Care Act, there will be fewer full-time jobs, more part-time workers and fewer overall hours available for Americans to work," said International Franchise Association (IFA) President Steve Caldeira in a statement. "This initiative will bring greater focus to the negative impact this law is having for workers and employers and hopefully move us closer to the bipartisan reform we need."
September 16: The Daily Caller: Minnesota’s biggest and cheapest ObamaCare insurer dropping coverage because of costs:
The largest insurer with the lowest premium rates on Minnesota’s Obamacare exchange is dropping out because the government health-exchange is unsustainable, the company announced Tuesday. PreferredOne Health Insurance told MNsure, the state-run exchange, Tuesday morning that it would not continue to offer its popular insurance plans on the marketplace in 2015. It’s “purely a business decision,” spokesman Steve Peterson told KSTP-TV. The company is losing money on administrative costs for plans offered on the bureaucratic and glitchy government exchange.
Part of the problem, according to PreferredOne, is that MNsure hasn’t even been able to verify its customers’ information. PreferredOne said that some of its customers have turned out not to even live in Minnesota. Insurers are required to accept customers who’ve been approved by the exchange for coverage, but states and the federal government have been struggling for months to determine which applicants are actually eligible for the benefits.
September 16: Fox News:Watchdog Report: Healthcare.gov Still Has Security Issues:
Despite efforts to protect patient information on the HealthCare.gov website, a new government watchdog report scheduled to be released Thursday says security issues are still a concern. According to a GAO report, “weaknesses remained in the security and privacy protections applied to HealthCare.gov and its supporting systems.” The agency will present its findings to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday.
In the report, the GAO makes six recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services to implement security and privacy controls to protect sensitive material. The report also makes 22 recommendations to resolve technical weaknesses in security controls. Problems with the site ranged from the agency not setting up an alternate processing site for HealthCare.gov systems to allow them to be recovered if the site was hacked or went down to the strength of passwords.
September 14: Fox News:Hurdles for ObamaCare in 2nd Sign-up Season:
Potential complications await consumers as the President’s health care law approaches its second open enrollment season, just two months away. Don't expect a repeat of last year's website meltdown, but the new sign-up period could expose underlying problems with the law itself that are less easily fixed than a computer system. Getting those who signed up this year enrolled again for 2015 won't be as easy as it might seem. And the law's interaction between insurance and taxes looks like a sure-fire formula for confusion. For example: For the roughly 8 million people who signed up this year, the administration has set up automatic renewal. But consumers who go that route may regret it. They risk sticker shock by missing out on lower-premium options. And they could get stuck with an outdated and possibly incorrect government subsidy. Automatic renewal should be a last resort, consumer advocates say.
September 11: The Daily Caller: Obamacare to Cancel Health Plans for 250,000 Virginians
According to a local NBC affiliate up to 250,000 Virginia residents will have their health insurance plans cancelled this fall due to Obamacare regulations. “Nearly a quarter million Virginians will have their current insurance plans cut this fall,” said NBC-29 anchor on Thursday. “That is because many of them did not — are not following new Affordable Care Act rules, so a chunk of the companies that offer those individuals their policies will make the individuals choose new policies.” “This goes back to that now heavily-criticized line we heard before Obamacare was put in place: ‘If you like your plan, you can keep it,’” said the reporter. “Ultimately, that turned out not to be true for thousands of Virginians and companies in the Commonwealth. … Wednesday Virginia lawmakers on the health insurance reform commission met for the first time this year. Turns out, a staggering number of Virginians will need new plans this fall.”
September 9: The Daily Caller:Voters Don’t Like Obamacare and Probably Never Will:
Two months before midterm elections, Obamacare has the disapproval of a majority of registered voters — just above its all-time low level of support, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest tracking poll. Four years after its passage, the health-care law’s stagnant unpopularity is unlikely to change anytime soon. Republicans and independents continue to staunchly oppose Obamacare, heavily outweighing supportive Democrats in overall numbers and in intensity. Forty-nine percent of registered voters now view Obamacare unfavorably, and even worse, 51 percent of likely voters disapprove of it, compared to just 35 percent that support the health-care law. Pure independents are twice as likely to dislike candidates that voted for Obamacare than they are to favor them, according to Kaiser’s September tracking poll. Across all independent voters, 46 percent say they’d be more likely to vote for a candidate that voted to repeal Obamacare, not simply fix it.
August 30: USA Today:Who is paying the new Obamacare tax? You are!
When Congress passed Obamacare, it required health insurers, hospitals, device makers and pharmaceutical companies to share in the cost because they would get a windfall of new, paying customers. But with an $8 billion tax on insurers due Sept. 30 — the first time the new tax is being collected — the industry is getting help from an unlikely source: you, the taxpayer. States and the federal government will spend at least $700 million this year to pay the tax for their Medicaid health plans. The three dozen states that use Medicaid managed-care plans will give those insurers more money to cover the new expense. Many of those states — such as Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee — did not expand Medicaid as the law allows, and in the process turned down billions in new federal dollars. Other insurers are getting some help paying the tax as well. Private insurers are passing the tax onto policyholders in the form of higher premiums. Medicare health plans are getting the tax covered by the federal government via higher reimbursement.
August 21: The Daily Caller: Another 2,000 losing healthcare insurance, this time in Colorado:
More than 2,000 more Coloradans had their health insurance plans cancelled as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to a letter from the state regulatory agency to state Senate Republicans. Following a dust-up earlier this year between Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and the Division of Insurance, Republicans have requested regular updates on policies that are cancelled because they don’t conform to Obamacare or because companies are getting out of the individual insurance market. Udall disputed the original number of nearly a quarter million cancellations in the immediate wake of Obamacare’s rollout in late 2013, arguing that almost all of those whose plans were canceled were given options for renewing them early. Emails obtained by the website Complete Colorado showed that Udall’s staff pressured the insurance commission to make that distinction to the point where some staffers felt bullied.
August 14: Fox News: Majority continues to oppose ObamaCare: Opposition to the 2010 health care law has been above 50 percent for over a year. And that continues to be true, as the latest Fox News national poll finds voters oppose the law by a 52-41 percent margin. Support for Obamacare has been as high as 43 percent (May 2014) and gone as low as 36 percent (January 2014). As in the past, the new poll shows that most Democrats favor Obamacare (74 percent), while most Republicans (84 percent) and independents (61 percent) are against it. Voters in every age group are more likely to oppose the law than favor it, with one exception: those ages 65 and over. And that group only favors it by two percentage points.
August 13: Fox News: Companies desperate to avoid ObamaCare Cadillac Tax are shifting costs to workers: A national business group representing the nation’s large employers reported Wednesday that companies desperate to avoid a 40 percent ObamaCare “Cadillac tax” are finding ways to shift the costs to workers. The so-called “Cadillac tax,” now four years away, will affect health plans that spend more than $10,200 per worker.
“The excise tax, when it hits in 2018, will affect both employers and employees," said Brian Marcotte, president of the National Business Group on Health. Employees will get incentives to reduce costs through such arrangements as wellness programs, including losing weight or stopping smoking. Meanwhile, employers are shifting workers into plans with higher deductibles, just as ObamaCare does in the health care exchanges, and using health savings accounts to help defray the costs. Another cost saver, Marcotte added, is to increase premiums for spouses who have access to other plans. "If the spouse has coverage through their own employers, employers are beginning to charge more if they elect to stay on their employee’s plan rather than go with the spouse's plan."
August 7: The Daily Caller: Where Have We Heard This Before; Obama Official Deleted ObamaCare Email Sought by Congress The administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) deleted some of her emails and may not be able to cooperate with a congressional investigation into the flawed Obamacare rollout, CMS has warned Congress. Though Tavenner’s computer did not crash like ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s computer allegedly did, Tavenner may be unable to cooperate with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee subpoenas.
“During her entire tenure at CMS, Ms. Tavenner’s CMS email address, which is accessible to both colleagues and the public, has been subject to write-in campaigns involving thousands of emails from the public,” according to a CMS letter to the National Archives and Records Administration. “Therefore, she receives an extremely high volume of emails that she manages daily. To keep an orderly email box and to stay within the agency’s email system capacity limits, the Administrator generally copied or forwarded emails to immediate staff for retention and retrieval, and did not maintain her own copies.” CMS noted that this practice of not keeping emails “continued until November 2013,” just one month after the Obamacare website launched. “It is possible that some emails may not be available to HHS,” the letter stated.
August 5: Fox News:HHS grapples with massive ObamaCare backlog
Now that the ObamaCare exchange websites are largely up and running, federal health officials are finding themselves swamped as they fact-check a flood of paperwork from applicants seeking taxpayer subsidies. The Department of Health and Human Services seems to be caught between critics on both sides as it confronts the task. The department, which oversees the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, has gotten hit by audits showing it hasn't done enough to crack down on fraudsters trying to scam the system. At the same time, some frustrated applicants say they have played by the rules -- signed up on time and submitted the necessary paperwork -- only to be caught up in bureaucratic red tape.
“We are working with consumers every day to make sure individuals and families get the tax credits and coverage they deserve and that no one received a benefit they shouldn’t,” HHS spokesman Ben Wakana told FoxNews.com. HHS has been busy tracking down hundreds of thousands of Americans who bought subsidized coverage through the ACA’s insurance exchanges.
August 1st: The Daily Caller:Administration asks the full D.C. Court of Appeals to take a second look at its ObamaCare ruling:
The Obama Administration is asking the full D.C. Court of Appeals -- which is heavily weighted with Democrat appointees (four by Obama himself) --
to revisit the three judge panel's split decision over whether subsidies can be provided to federal healthcare exchanges. The law was drafted in a way that attempted to entice states to set up their own exchanges by providing subsidies for only those that did so. But the tactic backfired when the vast majority of states decided let the federal government set up healthcare exchanges instead of doing so themselves. The suit contends that only state sponsored healthcare exchanges qualify. If the three judge panel's decision stands then the case is likely to go to the Supreme Court for a final decision. But the Obama Administration is hoping that the entire appeals court will overrule the previous decision. If the federal exchanges are not eligible for subsidies then it is highly likely that the entire Affordable Healthcare law will start to crumble for lack of funding.
July 28: The Daily Caller: White House Advisor Soothed Top Insurer on Big ObamaCare Hikes
New documents reveals that top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett personally conducted damage control with nervous health insurance companies after those companies saw no other way to hold premiums down under Obamacare without a taxpayer-funded bailout. Their pleas worked. A month later, the Obama administration issued rules to allow for a taxpayer-funded insurer bailout.
July 22: The New York Times:Two Courts Issue Conflicting Opinions on ObamaCare
Two federal appeals court panels issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on whether the government could subsidize health insurance premiums for people in three dozen states that use the federal insurance exchange. The decisions are the latest in a series of legal challenges to central components of President Obama’s health care law. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, upheld the subsidies, saying that a rule issued by the Internal Revenue Service was “a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion.” The ruling came within hours of a 2-to-1 ruling by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which said that the government could not subsidize insurance for people in states that use the federal exchange.
That decision could potentially cut off financial assistance for more than 4.5 million people who were found eligible for subsidized insurance in the federal exchange, or marketplace. Under the Affordable Care Act, the appeals court in Washington, DC said, subsidies are available only to people who obtained insurance through exchanges established by states. July 22: The Daily Caller:So much for Checks and Balances as White House plans to ignore Court Ruling:
The Obama administration will continue handing out Obamacare subsidies to federal exchange customers despite a federal court’s ruling Tuesday that the subsidies are illegal. The DC Court of Appeals panel ruled Tuesday morning that customers in the 36 states that didn’t establish their own exchange and use HealthCare.gov instead cannot be given premium tax credits, according to the text of the Affordable Care Act itself. But the White Houise said in response that it will continue handing out the billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that while the case continues to be battled out in the courts, the administration will continue to dole out billions in tax credits to federally-run exchange customers. “It’s important for people all across the country to understand that this ruling does not have any practical impact on their ability to continue to receive tax credits right now,” Earnest said in a press briefing Tuesday.
A three-judge panel issued the ruling Tuesday, concluding 2-1 that the federal subsidies are illegal. The Department of Justice is seeking an en banc ruling from the appeals court, which would require all judges in the court to rule on the case. Eleven judges on the court would hear the case: seven Democrats and four Republicans. In any event, this is a case that could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
July 22: Breitbart.com:Dueling Court Rulings on ObamaCare: What’s Next?
Split appeals court decisions are a classic route to the Supreme Court. But in this situation, it's far from clear what will happen because the administration still has a legal card to play. Since the Washington case was decided by a three-judge panel, the administration will ask the full 11-member appeals court to hear the case. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has seven judges appointed by Democratic presidents, including four by Obama. If the full court comes out in favor of the administration, the prospect of Supreme Court involvement would be greatly diminished. On the other hand, if the full Washington court stays out of it or, after a hearing, essentially leaves the panel's decision in place, then the Supreme Court would almost certainly weigh in.
Democratic appointees also constitute a majority of the full appeals court in Richmond. Both cases are part of a long-running political and legal campaign to overturn Obama's signature domestic legislation by Republicans and other opponents of the law.
July 18: The Daily Caller: Insurer Drops N.Y. Medicaid Coverage for 53,000 Over Unsustainable Losses:
Blue Cross Blue Shield in New York is dropping out of the state’s Medicaid program due to serious financial losses, dropping 53,000 New Yorkers from coverage. “We have incurred losses in excess of $40 million over the past three years in these programs,” the insurer’s vice president of state and federal relations Don Ingalls wrote in a memo.. “We have a 20+ year history of supporting these programs and members; however, we cannot continue to do so as the losses ultimately have been funded by other lines of business.”
Medicaid managed care patients in upstate New York will have until Oct. 31 to find new coverage. Blue Cross Blue Shield is one of the top Medicaid insurers in New York. Stephen T. Swift, the insurer’s chief financial officer said that while the company has been trying to fix the failing Medicaid business for years, it’s just unable to continue taking the losses.
July 17: The Washington Times: Depending on the courts:
Five Million people could be in for spikes in their ObamaCare health insurance premiums
A Washington-based consultancy estimated Thursday that 5 million Americans would see their health premiums spike if the courts rule in favor of a lawsuit that seeks to cut off Obamacare subsidies to about two-thirds of the states. Consumers who purchased health plans on an insurance exchange run by the federal government would see an average premium increase of 76 percent if the plaintiffs prevail over the Obama Administration, according to Avalere Health. The suit, Halbig v. Burwell, argues the Affordable Care Act explicitly reserved subsidies for people who purchased a plan on an exchange “established by the State.” In real terms, that would mean the 15 exchanges set up and run by 14 states and the District. The plaintiffs say Congress set it up this way to compel states to take responsibility for running their exchanges. But in 2012, the IRS unlawfully extended tax credits to all the exchanges, they argue.
July 17: The Washington Post:Obama Just Took Away ObamaCare from the U.S. Territories
Looking for a place where Obamacare doesn't exist? Try moving to the U.S. Territories, where the Obama administration just provided a pretty big waiver from the law's major coverage provisions. The Affordable Care Act's design dealt a pretty big problem to the territories. It required insurers there to comply with the law's major market reforms — guaranteed coverage, mandated benefits, limits on profits, etc. — without requiring residents to get coverage or providing subsidies to help them afford coverage. The territories — Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands — have been warning for years that would destroy their insurance markets. The individual mandate and the subsidies are the major ways the ACA tries to bring healthy people into the individual insurance market to balance out sick patients who can no longer be denied coverage.
That was until Wednesday, when the Obama administration told the territories that the coverage requirements actually don't apply to them. The exemption was posted on a Health and Human Services Web site on Thursday. It's an apparent reversal from last July, when a HHS official told the territories there was nothing HHS could do to help them out and it appears that the Administration may have, again, overstepped its authority by acting without Congressional Authority.
July 16: The Wall Street Journal: How to Run Against ObamaCare:
Draw attention to the pernicious effects on ordinary Americans [OpEd piece by Karl Rove] Liberal columnists and Democratic strategists have taken to arguing that ObamaCare is working and no longer a political negative, implying that Democratic candidates should tout it on the campaign trail. Republicans should pray they do, assuming the GOP knows how to respond. But GOP candidates can't simply rely on attacking Democrats for having voted for ObamaCare or, in the case of non-incumbents, supporting it. They should draw attention to the law's pernicious effects on ordinary Americans. Many people who lost their existing policies because they didn't comply with ObamaCare's mandates are finding their new premiums and deductibles are much higher.
Republicans should routinely campaign with families who make this vivid and real by describing how this is affecting their household budget. There should be a special emphasis on appearing with young workers. ObamaCare's "community rating" provision means young people are charged higher premiums and deductibles than they should be, to subsidize coverage for older people. Many older workers have bigger paychecks than the young families forced to shell out more cash than their risk profile would require.
July 10: Fox News:Court Decision Looms over challenge to ObamaCare subsidies and
has the possibility of toppling the healthcare plan:
A few blocks down the street from where the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, a powerful federal appeals court is preparing its own decision in a case that could cause serious complications for ObamaCare. The case is a major legal challenge that cuts to the heart of the Affordable Care Act by going after the legality of massive federal subsidies and those who benefit from them. A ruling could come as early as Friday. The plaintiff is claiming that the Obama administration – in particular, and the IRS in particular -- is breaking the law by offering tax subsidies in all 50 states to offset the cost of health insurance. The suit maintains that the language in ObamaCare actually restricts subsidies to state-run exchanges -- of which there are only 14 -- and does not authorize them to be given in the 36 states that use the federally run system, commonly known as HealthCare.gov.
A ruling against the subsidies would mark the biggest blow to ObamaCare to date, and would threaten the entire foundation of the newly devised health care system. A total of $1 trillion in subsidies is projected to be doled out by U.S. taxpayers over the next decade. A legal victory for those challenging the subsidies would achieve a large part of what Congressional Republicans have sought but have been unable to achieve legislatively – rolling back and unraveling ObamaCare.
July 7: The Daily Caller: Poll: Most Workers Fear Being Pushed into ObamaCare Exchanges:
Workers who already have health coverage through their employer are afraid of being dumped into Obamacare exchanges against their wishes, according to a Monday poll. The Morning Consult found that 63 percent of workers are at least somewhat concerned that their employers will end their current health insurance programs and shift workers into Obamacare exchanges instead. A majority of workers also believe that moving to the government exchanges would lower the quality of their health care. Fifty-one percent think the quality of their coverage would drop if they were shifted into the exchanges; meanwhile, just 16 percent think it would improve. Any shift would make 52 percent of workers consider looking for a new job.
July 7: Fox News:GOP Senator launches effort to sue administration over ObamaCare for Congressional Staffers
Sen. Ron Johnson, (R-WI) launched an effort to sue the Obama administration because it gave many staffers in Congress something no other American has: tax-free money to cover their costs under ObamaCare. "Americans hate it when elected officials or people in power are exempt from laws," Johnson said after the first hearing to determine whether he has standing to sue.
The original health care law was clear that lawmakers and their staffers should be treated the same as other Americans, but then the administration issued a ruling that did just the opposite. Former Solicitor General Paul Clement, who is advising Johnson, said, "it's not only that it wasn't in the legislation, the exact contrary rule was in the legislation."
And that, legal critics argue, gives Johnson standing -- meaning he can establish that the administration ruling imposed a burden on him. The burden in this case would be because Johnson would be forced to choose among staffers as to who would qualify and who wouldn’t. He also argues the administration ruling forces him into a transaction that was not in the law and therefore illegal and makes him a party to a process prohibited by the plain language of the law.
June 30: ABC News:Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby but narrows its findings:
The Supreme Court, today, rejected the government’s claim that neither the owners nor the corporations could bring a religious liberty claim against the ObamaCare mandate that contraceptives be included in healthcare insurance. In rejecting the government’s position, Justice Alito wrote: “Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga … protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those companies.” Alito went on to say the court has “little trouble” concluding that the HHS contraceptive mandate substantially burdens the exercise of region: "The Hahns and the Greens believe that providing the coverage demanded by the HHS regulation is connected to the destruction of an embryo in a way that is sufficient to make it immoral for them to provide the coverage.”
"Protecting the free-exercise rights of corporations like Hobby Lobby, Conestoga and Mardel protects the religious liberty of the humans who own and control those … companies,” Alito wrote in the majority opinion. Alito made it clear the opinion was limited to closely held corporations: “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.”
June 24: The National Journal: Chief Justice Roberts: Round Two on Obamacare
– What is at stake in the Hobby Lobby Case
Even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of Hobby Lobby it won't strike down Obamacare's contraception mandate, but a ruling for the law's challengers could still render the policy of mandating the provision of contraception toothless. The justices are set to rule any day now and any decision against the policy would have ripple effects far beyond the two companies that filed this lawsuit. Just how far, however, depends on how broadly the Court rules—and it has plenty of options. The reason the entire mandate will not be overturned is because the two companies that brought their challenge to the Supreme Court—Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties—haven't asked the justices to ax the entire policy.
The most sweeping option available to the court is to rule that all corporations, just as people, have a fundamental right to exercise religion, in this case by refusing to cover birth control in their employees' health care plans. This option, which is highly unlikely, would probably open the door for any company to challenge a slew of state or federal regulations, and would allow any corporation to avoid the contraception mandate. However, both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga are closely held companies, controlled entirely or almost entirely by their owners. The Court could rule in their favor without setting a broader precedent that corporations in general can practice religion. A decision limited to closely held corporations could be a way to skirt the outcome liberals fear most—a broad and explicit expansion of corporate “personhood.” But it would still allow a significant number of employers to exclude birth control from their health plans.
June 17: The Daily Caller:Former HHS Secretary Sebelius Blames “Right-Wing Media” for Obamacare failures:
Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took aim at her “hostile” right-wing opponents Tuesday, in her first speech after resigning her top post. At the State of Enrollment conference run by Enroll America, an Obamacare-promoting nonprofit, Sebelius addressed a friendly audience “We had right-wing media, leadership in Congress who was determined on the House side to stop this law at any cost, shadow political organizations, hostile governors, hostile legislators, all working to make sure you couldn’t do the job that was so important,” Sebelius gushed, only once mentioning “our well-known issues with the website” putting a damper on customers getting coverage.
Sebelius even hit states for putting limits on navigators at all, seemingly, despite reports that personal information has already been put at risk. She hit back at the “relentless obstruction” of those who would put a check on Obamacare staffers asking for customers personal information — “people who were forced with getting fingerprints and paying a fee in order to help people access health insurance.
May 30: Fox News: Analysts predict most employer-provided health insurance will disappear as ObamaCare takes hold:
Across the political spectrum, analysts now say that 80 to 90 percent of employer-provided insurance, the mainstay of American health coverage for decades, will disappear as ObamaCare takes hold. The estimate is that less than 10% of those who get insurance at work will still get it there ten years from now. "The companies will really be hard pressed to justify why they would continue to have to spend the kind of money they spend by offering insurance through corporate plans when there's an alternative that's subsidized by the government" said Michael Thompson, head of S&P IQ.
The reason analysts see this historic change in health coverage is because the tax penalty for not offering insurance -- $2,000 per worker-- is so much less than the cost of providing it. John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis explained that, "for a worker making only $15 an hour, typical employer coverage for a family costs $15,000 or $16,000, that's more than half of that worker’s annual wage." Goodman added, "they don't want to be in the health insurance business. So if they see a low cost way to get out of it, many will jump at the chance."
Former Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Holtz-Eakin said, "you could give them [employees] more, so after taxes they end up with the same and the math says you still come out ahead. I expect for them to get to the exits pretty quickly." Employers would also get rid of the headache and uncertainty of providing insurance, he noted. "Most people are not in the health insurance business they are manufacturers, exporters, they are service providers. And they would rather stick to that than worry about health insurance."
So employers can offer more pay to workers, pay the fine and still come out ahead, while workers would still get health care. The only losers in all this would be the federal deficit and taxpayers, since the taxpayers will be left holding the bag because many workers going into the ObamaCare exchanges would qualify for federal subsidies, thereby driving up the cost.
May 26: Fox News:IRS Bars Employers Dumping Employees into Healthcare Exchanges [video]:
A big ruling quietly made by the IRS essentially bans employers from dropping their own health insurance coverage and pushing workers on to the ObamaCare exchanges. Firms that do this face fines. Many small businesses saw pushing employees onto the exchanges and paying each worker a tax-exempt lump sum to help pay for their cost as a way to avoid a major expense of fashioning their own health insurance plan and to help keep their companies viable. But the IRS is saying wait a minute… we don’t want to lose out on the revenue when firms do this!
Small businesses have already doing this for years and the problem is that with the IRS changing the rules in midstream companies may lay off workers or simply close their doors because they can no longer afford to operate. This will have a major impact on the economy since it is small business that creates most of the jobs in our country. It is all linked to the employer mandate which was postponed for a year.
May 26: The Hill: Will the House GOP Pass a bill to replace ObamaCare before the August Recess?
House conservatives will press their leaders this week to move on an ObamaCare replacement bill before the August recess. But it's unclear if there are enough votes to pass it. According to several GOP lawmakers, members of the conservative-leaning Republican Study Committee (RSC) plan to wear lapel pins to the weekly conference meeting that state, "HR 3121, There's a Better Way" as a sign of support for moving a bill that is co-sponsored by 130 House Republicans.
Phil Roe (R-TN), a doctor, said the GOP has two months to move an alternative to the House floor before lawmakers head back to their districts for the month-long recess. Roe noted that several alternatives have been offered by his colleagues, including fellow physician Tom Price (R-GA). House GOP members agree on about 80 percent of what should be in a repeal-and-replace bill, Roe said, adding there has been some disagreement on tax provisions. The Roe measure, strongly backed by RSC Chairman Steve Scalise (LA), would fully repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with an expansion of health savings accounts, medical liability reform and the elimination of restrictions on purchasing insurance across state lines. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has vowed to pass a replacement bill in 2014.
May 25: The New York Times: Hospitals Look to ObamaCare to cut Charity
Hospital systems around the country have started scaling back financial assistance for lower-and middle-income people without health insurance, hoping to push them into signing up for coverage through the new online marketplaces created under ObamaCare. The trend is troubling to advocates for the uninsured, who say raising fees will inevitably cause some to skip care rather than buy insurance that they consider unaffordable. Though the number of hospitals tightening access to free or discounted care appears limited so far, many say they are considering doing so, and experts predict that stricter policies will become increasingly common.
Driving the new policies is the cost of charity care, which is partly covered by government but remains a burden for many hospitals. The new law also reduces federal aid to hospitals that treat large numbers of poor and uninsured people, creating an additional pressure on some to restrict charity care. In St. Louis, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has started charging co-payments to uninsured patients, no matter how poor they are. The Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua no longer provides free care for most uninsured patients who are above the federal poverty line — $11,670 for an individual. And in Burlington, Vt., Fletcher Allen Health Care has reduced financial aid for uninsured patients who earn between twice and four times the poverty level.
May 22: The Daily Caller:Democrat-led Colorado backs Lawsuit calling Obamacare unconstitutional
Colorado has become the 20th state to support a federal lawsuit filed last week by a Texas doctor to overturn the Affordable Care Act. It’s only the third state with a Democratic governor to do so. Colorado Attorney General John Suthers signed onto an amicus brief last week, showing support for the effort to overturn the law based on the U.S. Constitution’s Origination Clause, which says that all bills that raise revenue must begin in the House of Representatives. Obamacare, the suit contends, began in the Senate.
“If the Origination Clause means anything, it must mean that the ACA is unconstitutional,” the brief reads, as reported by the Colorado Observer. But exactly where the controversial law began is itself a point of controversy. The Justice Department contends that it did indeed begin in the House, originally as H.R. 3590, which was concerned with housing tax credits for veterans. Once in the Senate, however, Obamacare opponents say its language was entirely stripped and replaced with what became the ACA.
“By a voice vote of 416-0, the House passed the bill on October 8, 2009, and the enrolled version was eight pages long,” the brief reads. “About one month later, on November 19, 2009, the Senate struck every single word of H.R. 3590, deleted any reference to members of the military or home-ownership tax breaks, and substituted a 2,074-page ‘amendment’ that we now know as the ACA.”
Pacific Legal Foundation is also challenging the law based on an Origination Clause argument in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the penalty for not signing up for health care under the new law is considered to be a tax.
May 14: The Hill: GOP seeks to kill ObamaCare Device Tax in the Senate
Senate GOP leaders on Tuesday called for a vote to kill ObamaCare’s tax on medical devices, as part of a broader package to revive tax breaks that expired at the end of last year. But the tax package is popular with members of both parties, and it’s unclear if Republicans have the leverage to win a vote on the medical device tax. Republicans stopped short of saying they would oppose the tax package without the medical device vote. “Most of our members voted to get on the bill. So the bill does enjoy support,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters hours after the Senate voted 96-3 to start consideration of the measure. Still, McConnell noted that House Democrats have gotten far more amendment votes in recent months than Senate Republicans. “It is always our hope to have amendments, and as to what we’ll do in the future? I can’t tell you right now,” McConnell said. “But our hope is to have amendments and in particular the medical device tax repealed.”
Sen. John Thune (SD), another member of GOP leadership, also acknowledged that there was broad bipartisan support to extend the collection of more than 50 expired tax breaks, commonly known as extenders. “There is a constituency for tax extenders,” said Thune. “It’s probably premature to determine what Republicans might do.” Lawmakers who want to repeal the medical device tax say it hurts an industry that Washington should be trying to assist.
Republicans said Tuesday that they were confident they would have the support to roll back the medical device tax if it hit the floor, given that 79 senators backed a nonbinding repeal measure last year. Some Democratic senators from states with burgeoning medical device industries, like Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.), also said they were working to get a repeal vote to the floor. But others, like Sen. Bob Casey (Pa.), said repeal might have to wait for another vehicle. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), who backed killing the medical device tax last year, said he wouldn’t help this time around even as he pledged to work with Republicans on amendments.
May 9: Yahoo News: Call for Hawaii Exchange Shutdown As Being Unsustainable:
Michael Gold, president and CEO of Hawaii Medical Services Association -- the chief executive of Hawaii's largest health insurance company -- is calling on Hawaii to shut down its beleaguered ObamaCare exchange. Gold said the state shouldn't keep spending money on the Hawaii Health Connector, a system that he says is financially unsustainable and does not work.
Hawaii should ask the federal government for an exception to the part of ObamaCare that requires states to set up and run their own insurance exchanges, Gold said. He thinks businesses should buy approved plans directly from insurance companies, as they have done in the past. Individuals would do the same, or the federal government could take over that part of the exchange, he said.
The rollout of Hawaii's health exchange was delayed and plagued with technical problems. The Connector was awarded more than $200 million in federal funds. It has used about $100 million. It signed up 9,217 individuals, plus 628 employees and dependents. To date, the Connector has raised only $40,350 in user fees, according to Nathan Hokama, the exchange's spokesman.
May 5: Politico:Massachusetts ditches RomneyCare Health Exchange
RomneyCare’s pioneering health insurance exchange is headed for the scrap heap. Bay State officials are taking steps this week to junk central parts of their dysfunctional health insurance exchange — the model for President Barack Obama’s health care law — and merge with the federal enrollment site HealthCare.gov. The decision is part of an expensive plan that would occur alongside a parallel, last-ditch attempt to still build a working state system. The state on Monday announced the hiring of a Virginia-based contractor that helped construct the Kentucky and Colorado exchanges. The company would rush to build a viable state exchange in time for the next enrollment season, which begins Nov. 15.
May 4: Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Own a small business? Brace for ObamaCare Pain! 90,000 in Nevada could lose heath care benefits:
Local business owners might be hoping the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandates cover sticker shock. The law’s employer coverage mandate doesn’t take effect until 2015, but early plan renewals are starting to roll in. And for some businesses, the premium jumps are positively painful. Local insurance brokers are reporting spikes ranging from 35 percent to 120 percent on policies that renew from July to December. The increases are especially acute among employers with workforces made up of younger, healthier men. That’s because Obamacare prohibits offering lower rates to healthier groups. It also narrows the allowed premium gap between older and younger enrollees.
“It’s like if there were no more safe-driver discounts with State Farm,” said local insurance broker Frank Nolimal of Assurance Ltd. “Everybody has the same rate, whether you have three DUIs, or you’re a (nondrinking) churchgoing Mormon.” The changes put as many as 90,000 policies across Nevada at risk of cancellation or nonrenewal this fall, said Las Vegas insurance broker William Wright, president of Chamber Insurance and Benefits. That’s more than three times the 25,000 enrollees affected in October, when Obamacare-compliant plans first hit the market.
May 1: CBS News: Many ObamaCare Enrollees Have Not Paid their Premiums Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said as much herself: "You are not fully enrolled [in Obamacare] until you pay your premium." Yet data collected by the Republican-led House Energy and Commerce Committee shows that as of April 15, just 67 percent of enrollees in the federally-run Obamacare marketplace had paid their first month's premiums.
May 1: The Truth Revolt: Carney on ObamaCare Enrollments: “We Don’t have Hard Numbers, but we dispute their numbers:
In today's press briefing, Jay Carney was asked about the number of Obamacare premium payments that have been made. In other words, the total number of people actually, factually covered, not including window shoppers and unpaid accounts. "We dispute their numbers. We don't have hard, concrete numbers, but we dispute them," the press secretary reasonably explained. The question followed a report from the House Energy Committee on how many enrollees had actually paid for their chosen Obamacare plans. The report stated, “as of April 15, 2014, only 67 percent of individuals and families that had selected a health plan in the federally facilitated marketplace had paid their first month’s premium and therefore completed the enrollment process.” Just one quarter of those who had paid into the system were young people aged 18 to 34 – far below the 40% in this age group the Obama administration most wanted to sign up in order to provide solvency to the failing system. The bulk of those who signed up came from the 35-64 age group.
At issue is how many of the 8 million enrollees that are touted by the Obama Administration are actually covered. The recent report indicates that those who are actually covered [enrolled with a premium paid] is closer to 5.6 million, far below the 7 million target set by the Administration.
Apr. 29: The Daily Caller: Sources say Sebelius is refusing to testify before Senate Appropriations on HHS funding bill:
Outgoing Health and Human Services [HHS] Sec. Kathleen Sebelius is refusing to testify before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services a Senate aide told The Daily Caller Tuesday. Sebelius had originally been set to testify before the subcommittee about the department’s 2015 $70 billion budget request on April 2. According to another aide, however, several weeks after confirming the hearing date, she requested a date switch with the National Institutes of Health budget hearing on May 7. The committee accommodated her request.
Now, after announcing her resignation on April 11, she is refusing to testify according to the two aides, even though she is still the sitting secretary — remaining at the post until her successor, OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell is confirmed. “It appears that Sec. Sebelius has unilaterally decided that she is no longer accountable to Congress,” the first aide said. The other aide explained that HHS has not given the committee any reason for her refusal and that Sebelius has not suggested anyone to testify in her place. That same aide noted subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin planned to call Sebelius about the hearing.
Apr. 29: Breitbart News:California Targeting Recently Release Convicts to help boost Obamacare signups:
California Obamacare Director Peter Lee said he plans to provide increase enrollment “during the next open enrollment period by targeting low-income and minority communities as well as prisoners who have recently been released from incarceration. As Breitbart News reported earlier this month, several cash-strapped states are looking to dump health care costs onto the federal government by signing up prisoners for Obamacare. Lee says enrollment efforts are "only just beginning" and that Covered California plans to tap 250 grassroots organizations to sign more people up on the highly unpopular Obamacare program.
The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that over one in three (36%) uninsured individuals said they "tried to get coverage but it was too expensive." Worse for the Obama administration, after four years of being the law of the land, Obamacare's approval rating stands at just 38% nationally. The unpopular Obamacare program has also dragged down President Barack Obama's approval ratings to all-time lows. The new Washington Post/ABC News poll puts Obama's approval rating at just 41%.
Apr. 28: UT-San Deigo.Com:Obamacare deals blow to one-doctor medicine
Despite the predictions of fortune tellers in politics and think tanks, we won’t know for years whether ObamaCare will ultimately leave people sicker or healthier, richer or poorer. Yet already the law, coming on top of previous legislation, is speeding the demise of an American small-business institution; the one-doctor medical practice. Their problems began in the late 1990s. Government cost controls steadily eroded revenues while simultaneously boosting costs, by stacking on requirements for paperwork and accounting. Some doctors adapted by figuring out ways to see more patients. Others just accepted falling incomes. Now federal health care policy has delivered a major blow to productivity.
Apr. 23: The Daily Caller: Report: Nevada ObamaCare Exchange Considering Dumping All Customers:
Nevada’s Obamacare exchange and its lead contractor Xerox allegedly discussed dumping sign-ups from its queue and starting over while dealing with serious website glitches, according to documents released Wednesday. Matthew Callister, an attorney who has filed a class-action lawsuit against the exchange, released anonymous emails allegedly from a Nevada Health Link employee. Callister took the opportunity to ask the author of the documents to come forward publicly, but in the meantime plans to use the emails as a guide for discovery during the lawsuit. The documents allege that on November 8 and 9 last year, Xerox officials and former exchange director Jonathan Hager met regarding the website’s technical problems and discussing cancelling all applications from that time on and asking customers to sign up all over again.
The proposed cancellations would also affect customers who had already paid their first premiums, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports. By clearing out all enrollees, the exchange would have been able to rid itself of corrupted files that contained inaccurate information. Nevada’s exchange has continued to struggle with serious website glitches throughout the first enrollment period. Customers have struggled with a system that sometimes fails to communicate new coverage to the insurer, contains incorrect effective dates for insurance, and technical glitches on the consumer-facing side of the website as well.
Apr. 23: The Daily Caller: General Electric to Investors: ObamaCare is hurting our medical business:
General Electric is telling its investors that Obamacare is to blame for recent losses in the company’s health care division, The Daily Caller has learned. “Hospitals and clinics appear to be delaying purchases and responses to the ACA [Affordable Care Act],” stated GE senior vice president and CFO Jeffrey S. Bornstein in the company’s first-quarter earnings call. General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt – who is also an outside economic adviser to President Obama -- confirmed at a shareholder meeting Wednesday that the health sector is experiencing uncertainty. Asked at the meeting about Obamacare’s impact on the company’s earnings, Immelt responded, “I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty in health care and we’ll just have to see that over time.”
The company’s health care unit, which produces medical and biopharmaceutical technologies and which grew in 2013, showed losses in revenues, segment profits, margins and orders in the first quarter of 2014. The Daily Caller has reported extensively on Obamacare’s damage to the medical device and technology industry. By February, the health-care law had already cost 33,000 jobs in the industry and 132,000 more were expected, according to a report from an industry trade group.
Apr. 22: The Daily Caller:ObamaCare Exchange in Colorado asks for fee on all insurance policies:
Colorado’s latest effort to ensure its state-run health care exchange is self-sufficient involves a $13 million fee collected from all Coloradans with health insurance, regardless of whether they bought their policies through Obamacare. The fee would pay for half of the annual operating costs of Connect for Health Colorado, the state Obamacare exchange, according to Health News Colorado.
The exchange’s latest financial plan comes soon after its oversight board rejected a proposal to hike fees on those who use the website from 1.4 percent to 1.7 percent. Connect for Health Colorado staff has said the increase was needed to keep it solvent. Board members said staff should look at cutting expenses before raising fees, and many had the same reaction to the proposed $13 million fee, which is being called a “general market health insurer assessment.” Others call it an illegal tax.
Apr. 21: National Review: Democrat Congressman on ObamaCare: The Worst is Yet to Come – It’s “going to hit the fan!”
Massachusetts representative Stephen Lynch isn’t just worried about the negative impact Obamacare will have on his party’s performance this fall — he also thinks its worst effects on our health-care system are still to come. Lynch, who voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2010, warned that the situation is “going to hit the fan” when the law’s delayed provisions go into effect down the road. “There are parts of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, that were postponed because they are unpalatable,” he told the Boston Herald. The “Cadillac tax” that goes into effect in a few years and taxes employer health plans over a certain value, he said, will be “the first time in this country’s history that we have actually taxed health care.”
Repeal is now impossible, he says, because of the number of Americans who’ve signed up for the law’s exchanges. Democrats will take big political hits on the law this fall anyway, Lynch said. “We will lose seats in the House,” he said. “I am fairly certain of that based on the poll numbers that are coming out from the more experienced pollsters down there, and I think we may lose the Senate.”
Apr. 17: Fox News:GOP Steps Up Demand for Documents on White House Role in botched ObamaCare role out
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is ratcheting up pressure on President Obama's top aides to turn over more documents revealing the extent of the White House's direct involvement in the botched rollout of the health insurance exchanges, according to a letter to White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler obtained exclusively by Fox News. In the letter transmitted to Ruemmler at the White House Thursday morning, Issa asserts "senior White House officials -- as well as the President -- appear to have been far more personally involved in decision-making related to HealthCare.gov than the White House previously represented. Documents obtained by the Committee show the significant involvement of senior White House officials in the rollout of HealthCare.gov."
Issa charges he has been blocked from getting further documents about the president's personal involvement in the rollout because HHS officials have told him that those other documents have been determined to raise "executive branch institutional interests" and have been held back for further White House review.
In his letter the chairman demands that Ruemmler provide more detail about how many documents the White House is holding back and what types of documents are under review. He gives the White House Counsel a deadline of April 29 to provide a written response to his letter.
Apr. 13: Fox News: Sebelius says timeline for ObamaCare rollout “flat out wrong”
Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the timeline for the ObamaCare rollout was "flat-out wrong" and that the federal exchange could have used “more time and testing” before going online. Sebelius, who led the agency through the problem-plagued rollout, made her comments in an interview that aired Sunday on “NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the first interview since she announced her resignation Thursday.
"Clearly, the estimate that it was ready to go Oct. 1 was just flat-out wrong," she said Sunday. Sebelius also said the roughly first eight weeks of the glitch-filled rollout was the low point of her five years as secretary. The federal site, HealthCare.gov, was supposed to be the primary place for people to buy private insurance under the 2010 health care law. But its first several weeks were an embarrassment for the administration and its allies.
Apr. 12: The Hill: Democrats Just Don’t Understand Market Economics and Target Medicare Advantage Insurance Companies
A new Democrat bill would prevent Medicare Advantage (MA) plans from dropping providers in the middle of the year. The measure is forthcoming from Representative DeLauro (D-CT) and responds to UnitedHealth's move to drop thousands of doctors from its MA policies at the end of last year. "The timing and scale of UnitedHealth Group's provider cuts have been extremely disruptive to patient care and put participants at risk," said DeLauro in a statement. "Congress has to hold these companies accountable, and make sure they are putting the care of their enrollees ahead of their profits." But DeLauro just doesn’t understand that market economics. When ObamaCare imposes cuts in the reimbursement rates health insurance companies need to respond by making cuts in order to remain profitable (e.g., they are not non-profit companies).
Apr. 11: The Daily Caller: ObamaCare Taxes add Billions to rising premiums and an average increase of $354 per policyholder in 2014: On top of rising premiums, Obamacare taxes are adding hundreds of dollars per year onto customers’ costs, according to new study from the American Action Forum. Those who braved the health-care law’s exchanges will have to pay an extra $354 on average in 2014, reports the D.C.-based think tank, just due to seven taxes included in Obamacare. The vast majority of the country covered by employer-sponsored health insurance will be forced to pay a somewhat lower tab of $196 to cover the taxes. Those with self-funded employer-sponsored insurance are exempt from several of the largest culprits and will have the lowest added cost at $94 in 2014, which will drop to $59 by 2016.
One is aimed at the insurance companies, forcing them to pay the federal government for the privilege of selling health insurance — an ironic touch for a law meant to make health coverage cheaper. A similar tax targets pharmaceutical companies, upping the cost of paying for medicine. The reinsurance fee — commonly known as bailout funding, a pool of money for insurance companies to draw from if their pool of customers on the exchanges cost more than expected to insure – raising premium prices as well.
Apr. 10: The New York Times: Sebelius Steps Down After Five Troubled Years with ObamaCare:
Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary, is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, ObamaCare. Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning, he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said. The departure comes as the Obama administration tries to move beyond its early stumbles in carrying out the law, convince a still-skeptical public of its lasting benefits, and help Democratic incumbents, who face blistering attack ads after supporting the legislation, survive the midterm elections this fall.
Officials said Ms. Sebelius, 65, made the decision to resign and was not forced out. But the frustration at the White House over her performance had become increasingly clear, as administration aides worried that the crippling problems at HealthCare.gov, the website set up to enroll Americans in insurance exchanges, would result in lasting damage to the president’s legacy.
Apr. 8: Fox News: Surprise! Most won’t be able to buy health insurance until the end of the year:
There is yet another ObamaCare surprise waiting for consumers: from now until the next open enrollment at the end of this year, most people will simply not be able to buy any health insurance at all, even outside the exchanges. "It's all closed down. You cannot buy a policy that is a qualified policy for the purpose of the ACA (the Affordable Care Act) until next year on January 1," says John DiVito, president of Flexbenefit which has 2,500 brokers. John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas adds, "People are not going to be able to buy individual and family policies, and that's part of ObamaCare. And what makes it so surprising is the whole point of ObamaCare was to encourage people to get insurance, and now the market has been completely closed down for the next seven months."
That means that with few exceptions, tens of millions of people will be locked out of the health insurance market for the rest of this year. Only about one in four subsidy-eligible people signed up for health insurance," says Robert Laszewski of Health Policy Associates. "That means about 13 million subsidy-eligible people have not yet signed up for health insurance." Add to that millions more who waited, or thought the policies under ObamaCare were too expensive and decided just to pay the tax penalty.
Although those who failed to buy insurance during the enrollment period could face a government penalty, most will not have to pay that penalty until they do their taxes next year. “In all likelihood," says Laszewski, "we've only signed up somewhere between one in five and one in seven people who were uninsured prior to the start of ObamaCare." That means millions are left outside the health insurance market. There is short term insurance, but anyone with a pre-existing condition can be turned down.
Apr. 7: The New Republic: House GOP Leadership “Expands” ObamaCare? When the House Leadership snuck through the “Doc Fix” a week or so ago it got Conservatives upset that they had tried, and succeeded with a parliamentary end run. But along with this “fix” the GOP Leadership also eliminated a provision of the Affordable Care Act that capped deductibles for small-group health plans at $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families. When the Associated Press laid it all out on Sunday—including the fact that GOP leaders sought the fix at the behest of powerful business organizations—Matt Drudge freaked out and accused Republican leaders of "expanding Obamacare."
The change will make expanding coverage under Obamacare marginally easier. And to the extent that it helps small business owners, it weakens the already splintering coalition of interest groups and movement leaders who support repealing the law in its entirety.
Apr. 3: CNS News: Net Loss from ObamaCare in Maryland: 73K lose coverage | 60K sign up
The head of the Maryland Health Insurance Exchange testified Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that only 60,000 people have signed up for Obamacare through the state’s exchange - 13,000 less than the number of individuals reported to lose their insurance due to Obamacare. “According to our reports… 73,000 individuals in Maryland were going to lose their insurance because of the Affordable Care Act, and what you’re telling me is your revised goal is approximately the same number,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said.
Apr. 2: The Foundry: Krauthammer Blasts the ObamaCare “Phony” 7.1 Million enrollment number The 7.1 Billion dollar figure is “meaningless,” Krauthammer said on “Special Report” on Fox News, “because … we don’t know how many of them have paid, so it’s an enrollment number that’s not [actual] enrollment.” “The more important [number] is how many were previously uninsured,” he added. How many of these people didn’t have insurance previously verses how many are from the 6 million plus who had their previous insurance cancelled because of ObamaCare? Krauthammer said these are the real numbers that we are not being told.
Apr. 2: The National Journal: 15-20% of “Enrollees” Aren’t Paying ObamaCare Premiums, Insurers Say Blue Cross/Blue Shield says 15 to 20 percent of its new customers aren't paying their first premium—which means they're not actually covered. Roughly 80 to 85 percent of people who selected a Blues plan through the exchanges went on to pay their first month's premium, a BCBSA spokeswoman said Wednesday. The new statistics, particularly from such a large carrier, help define how many people are actually getting covered under ObamaCare. The Blues' experience is in line with anecdotal estimates from other insurance executives.
Wherever the final number ends up, it will be the real measure of how many people are actually covered through the ObamaCare exchanges. The administration has been releasing the number of people who selected a plan, but says it doesn't have accurate data on how many have actually paid. And consumers don't have coverage they can use until they make that first payment. If the nationwide payment rate, across all carriers, remains at 80 to 85 percent, the 7.1 million sign-ups Obama announced Tuesday would translate into somewhere between 5.7 and 6 million people who are actually covered, while 6 million health insurance plans were cancelled due to ObamaCare.
Mar. 30: CBS News: On the Eve of ObamaCare Deadline, the law remains a work in progress:
After six tumultuous months, open enrollment on the new Obamacare marketplaces comes to a close. Once enrollment is over, a look at the marketplaces will give the nation a better picture of how well the Affordable Care Act is functioning. It's already perfectly clear, though -- to voters and lawmakers alike -- that the law is a work in progress.
The first few months of open enrollment were disastrous, after HealthCare.gov -- the site that serves as the Obamacare portal for 36 states -- was launched with major technical problems. Still, the administration says it has largely recovered, with more than 6 million Americans enrolling in private insurance as of Thursday – about the same number of people who had their previous insurance coverage cancelled under the law.
The public has noticed the improved enrollment process, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll released Friday. While just 12 percent of Americans said in December that the launch of the new marketplaces has gone well, 26 percent say so now.
Mar. 30: The Weekly Standard: Senator says: There’s No Such Thing as ObamaCare
Senator Angus King, an independent senator from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, said this morning on Fox that "There's no such thing as Obamacare." "Two points if I may, sir," says Fox host Chris Wallace. "One, then why is Harry Reid saying he's not going to allow a vote on the fixes? And, two, speak directly and briefly, because we're about to run out of time, to Senator Barrasso's comment that a lot of doctors, a lot of hospitals are being excluded by what Obamacare is offering." "Now, now that's a big” King said, “There is no such thing as Obamacare. You can't sign up for Obamacare. You sign up for an Anthem policy or an Aetna policy or a WellPoint policy. It's private insurance,"
Mar. 29: Fox News:Maryland reported to abandon $125 Million ObamaCare exchange, seeks new system
With just days to go before open enrollment ends on March 31, Maryland officials are reportedly planning to abandon its glitch-ridden ObamaCare website and replace the health exchange with technology from Connecticut’s marketplace. The Washington Post reported late Friday that the board of the Maryland exchange will vote on changing the system that has cost at least $125.5 million at a meeting on Tuesday, the day after the end of the first enrollment period under ObamaCare.
Maryland residents will apparently still be able to use the exchange as it is being replaced with technology from the Connecticut exchange. Maryland's online health exchange has been bedeviled by computer problems that have made it difficult for people to enroll in private health care plans since its debut Oct. 1. Although improvements have been made, computer problems remain. So far, the state says 49,293 Maryland residents have enrolled in private health plans as of last week, far short of the state’s original goal of 150,000 enrollments.
Mar. 27: The Daily Caller: House Conservatives up at arms over rush-through “Doc Fix” vote
Some conservatives are up in arms over a hurried Thursday vote on the so-called “doc fix” for Medicare, which they felt GOP leadership tried to slip by them. The bill passed in a 30-second voice vote with very few members on the House floor. The “doc fix” is a temporary patch to prevent a 24 percent cut to the amount of money the government pays doctors who take care of Medicare patients. The cut would take effect on April 1 if Congress does not move to prevent it. Given the tight deadline the leadership opted to bring the measure to a vote “under suspension of the rules,” meaning it needed a two-thirds vote to pass. However, because most Congressman were not present on the floor, the measure passed easily with most members not voting.
Mar. 25: Fox News:Is it lawful? Obama admin. Extends ObamaCare signup deadline for some, not all?
The Obama administration will grant extra time to Americans who say they are unable to enroll in health care plans through the federal insurance marketplace by the March 31 deadline, in a decision that swiftly drew Republican ridicule. All consumers who have begun to apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, but who do not finish by Monday, will now have until about mid-April to ask for an extension. "We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment -- either online or over the phone," Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Joanne Peters told Fox News.
But House Speaker John Boehner said the move has rendered another ObamaCare deadline "meaningless." "The administration is now resorting to an honor system to enforce it. What the hell is this, a joke?" Boehner said Wednesday. The Washington Post first reported that users will have a chance to check a box on the website indicating they tried to enroll before the deadline, though the government will not try to determine whether the person actually made an effort to sign up.
Mar. 25: Fox Business: Another Key Piece Missing from ObamaCare: Payments!
Much emphasis has been placed on enrollment stats as the Affordable Care Act’s inaugural open enrollment period comes to an end. But there’s a key function on the federal exchange that remains inactive: the mechanism reconcile payments between the government and insurance companies. This “back-end mechanism” has been missing for the entirety of open enrollment period to, which launched Oct.1, meaning insurance companies have had to manually bill the government for subsidies and cost-sharing plans, a procedure that’s being dubbed an administrative nightmare.
An insurance industry source close to the matter says insurance companies have been participating in a manual workaround over the last five months, which has been “an incredibly labor intensive process.” Right now, insurance companies are manually billing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for all subsidy and cost-sharing plans. If a person is eligible for a $250 subsidy toward a $450 plan, once he or she makes their $200 payment, the insurance company would continue to wait on the government to complete payment. The enrollee would remain insured all the while.
Mar. 24: CBSNews St.Louis:Vatican Chief Justice: Obama’s Policies “Have Become Progressively More Hostile Toward Christian Civilization”
The Vatican’s chief justice feels that President Barack Obama’s policies have been hostile toward Christians. In an interview with Polonia Christiana magazine Cardinal Raymond Burke said that Obama “promotes anti-life and anti-family policies.” “It is true that the policies of the president of the United States have become progressively more hostile toward Christian civilization. He appears to be a totally secularized man who aggressively promotes anti-life and anti-family policies,” Burke told the magazine. The former archbishop of St. Louis stated that Obama is trying to “restrict” religion.
“Now he wants to restrict the exercise of the freedom of religion to freedom of worship, that is, he holds that one is free to act according to his conscience within the confines of his place of worship but that, once the person leaves the place of worship, the government can constrain him to act against his rightly-formed conscience, even in the most serious of moral questions,” Burke said. Pointing to the ObamaCare birth control mandate, he said “such policies would have been unimaginable in the United States even 40 years ago.”
Mar. 24: The Hill:Four years later, Dems still waiting for ObamaCare popularity bounce:
Democrats have been waiting for ObamaCare to become popular for four years and counting. Congressional leaders and senior White House advisers have been saying since 2010 that public opinion will turn their way sometime soon. Be patient, they have told anxious members of their party again and again. But it was ObamaCare that helped catapult Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) to the speakership of the House, and demolished dozens of Democratic political careers. Democrats now face the prospect of a second midterm drubbing in 2014, and the healthcare law is even more unpopular than it was last time around. Adding to the nervousness among ObamaCare’s advocates is the fact that enrollment numbers lag significantly behind the administration’s original estimates. If that doesn’t change, especially among young healthy people less likely to need healthcare, premiums could rise sharply.
Mar. 24: The Daily Caller:ObamaCare’s regulatory costsmore than double benefits: The annual costs of Obamacare regulations come in at $6.8 billion a year so far — around 2.5 times the total benefits of its heavy-handed regulations, according to a study released Monday. The federal government’s estimates of Obamacare’s regulatory “benefits” — what they project in increased efficiency or productivity due to streamlined processes and standards — clock in at just $2.6 billion annually, as opposed to the costs to states and businesses of complying with all those regulations, which is almost $7 billion. By 2014, when all but those delayed parts of the ObamaCare have been implemented, regulations have imposed over $27.2 billion in costs upon the private sector and $8 billion in unfunded state burdens, the report by free-market think tank American Action Forum (AAF) found.
A large portion of the costs come from the paperwork burden that Obamacare places upon states and private companies. Implementing the law takes 159 million paperwork hours a year for state governments and the private sector — an amount that would take close to 80,000 employees, working 50 weeks per year full-time. (That’s 40 hours per week, not Obamacare’s 30-hour work week threshold for full-time.)
Mar. 23: The Daily Caller: Woodward: ObamaCare is like a car stuck in first gear… will stay stuck for years! Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward likened Obamacare to “a car stuck in first gear” on Sunday, adding that Obamacare supporters he’s talked to believe it will be years before the law starts working. The Administration is saying that about 5 million have signed up but is not indicating how many are the young people they need in order to fund the program and no word has been forthcoming on how many have actually paid their premiums. Keep in mind over 5 million people had their previous health plans cancelled because of ObamaCare so there is no indication that any overall gains have been achieved as we are only eight days from the deadline for signing up.
Mar. 21: Fox News:
Another Glitch: Newly discovered ObamaCare error giving bad info on premium assistance:
A newly discovered glitch in the main ObamaCare website reportedly is giving thousands of people the wrong information about whether they qualify for premium subsidies. The Philadelphia Inquirer discovered the glitch while entering hypothetical incomes into the calculator on HealthCare.gov. The newspaper found that the calculator is using the wrong year's poverty guidelines -- a simple mistake that, for months, has resulted in would-be enrollees getting inaccurate guidance.
Because of the glitch, some people may be initially told they qualify for subsidies when they don't. Others may be told they don't qualify when they do. It's unclear how many people have been affected, but the mistake raises the possibility that thousands are giving up
Mar. 21: BreitBart.com: Liberty Tax: White House, Media attack Drudge after they pay ObamaCare Opt-Out Penalty A White House aide set off a stampede of liberal media criticism for Internet news pioneer Matt Drudge over Obamacare – but his critics don't seem to understand how small businesses pay taxes. The brouhaha started when Drudge tweeted, “Just paid the Obamacare penalty for not 'getting covered'... I'M CALLING IT A LIBERTY TAX.” This started a firestorm from the liberal media claiming his post was a flat out lie, there is no fee until next year when the 2014 taxes are due (e.g., he doesn’t have to pay Obamacare’s Individual Mandate tax until next year because the individual mandate went into effect Jan. 1 of this year, and most people paying their taxes right now are paying taxes for 2013).
But Drudge set them straight! You see, as a self-employed proprietor of The Drudge Report, he files as a small business. According to the IRS’s Website self-employed individuals are required to pay taxes quarterly. Consequently, when he paid his first quarterly installment in 2014 he was required to pay the ObamaCare Individual Mandate tax because he opted to not have health insurance. Case closed! Those commenting otherwise, evidently, have never had to run a business and had no knowledge of what is entailed.
Mar. 20: Fox News:AMA warns ObamaCare rule could hurt doctors:
The largest doctors group in the country is raising alarm that an obscure ObamaCare rule could stick them with the tab for patients who skip out on paying their premiums. The American Medical Association (AMA), which originally supported ObamaCare, warned the rule could pose a "significant financial risk" for doctors and hospitals, and on Wednesday, sent out guidelines to help members try and avoid those costs.
At issue is a 90-day "grace period" which lets patients who are not paying their premiums keep coverage for 90 days before it can be canceled. Under the rule, insurers are responsible for paying any claims during the first month of that period -- but not necessarily for any claims during the final 60 days. This could leave doctors holding the bag for patients they have served but who have not paid the premiums for insurance.
Mar. 20: Fox News:ObamaCare Check Up (Video)
Bret Baier presents an ObamaCare checkup, seeing where we are -- with the sign up deadline less than two weeks away. The majority of Americans disapprove of the law 53% to 41% according to a PEW poll. “But what does it mean for your household budget and the national deficit?” the video continues. What has it truly done when it comes to cutting the cost of health care? National Health expenditures have risen 3.7% in 2012 a total of $2.8 trillion or $8,915 per person, the fourth consecutive increase in the last four years.
Mar. 18: The Daily Caller: Premiums rising faster than eight years before ObamaCare:
Health insurance premiums have risen more after Obamacare than the average premium increases over the eight years before it became law, according to the private health exchange eHealthInsurance. The individual market for health insurance has seen premiums rise by 39 percent since February 2013. Without a subsidy, the average individual premium is now $274 a month. Families have been hit even harder with an average increase of 56 percent over the same period — average premiums are now $663 per family, over $426 last year. The bottom line; health Insurance costs have risen faster under Obamacare than in the previous eight years.
An important caveat is that eHealth’s prices don’t include subsidies, so the prices for anyone earning between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will be lower. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has repeatedly claimed patients will pay as little as $18 per month. The cost is the same but those who work and pay taxes are picking up these added subsidy costs.
Mar. 18: The Weekly Standard: Pastor Diagnosed with Cancer: “There is No Compassion in the Affordable Care Act”
"Back in January, Pastor Angran was diagnosed with stage three cancer of the esophagus. He had insurance, but because of a previous heart condition, it did not cover the treatments he needed for his cancer. He found that out just minutes before receiving life-saving chemo," says the local reporter.
The pastor says, "One of the workers came and said let me talk to you. And so I went to talk to her. She says that we found out that your insurance does not include chemo."
"Over the past two months, the Angrans have emptied their savings account and racked up $50,000 in debt. They signed up for the Affordable Care Act," says the local reporter, "but found it to be anything but affordable. It will cost the couple more than $800 per month, money they just don't have." The reporter adds, "As a pastor, Angran has devoted his life to helping others, to being compassionate. He says, 'There's no compassion in the Affordable Care Act.'"
Mar. 18: The Daily Caller: Obama lets insurers keep more profit and pay less for care:
Republican Tennessee Rep. Diane Black says that the Obama administration’s most recent Obamacare rule change will result in insurance companies keeping more profits while paying less for customers’ health care needs.
“I am writing to express my concern with the proposed rule change released on Friday, March 14th that would allow insurance companies to keep an additional two percent of premiums for purposes other than medical care…your department is now proposing to increase the amount of money that insurance companies will be allowed to retain for profit,” Black wrote in a letter Tuesday to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, which was obtained by The Daily Caller.
HHS’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services quietly introduced the new rule Friday, which relieves insurance companies of some of the damage about to be levied on them by Obamacare-related administrative costs.
Mar. 17: The Las Vegas Review Journal: Harry Reid’s Constituent left with $407,000 Doctor Bills While Unsure of Coverage:
The hospital bills are hitting Larry Basich’s mailbox. That would be OK if Basich had health insurance. But he doesn’t, well maybe he doesn’t! Thing is, he should be covered.
Basich, 62, bought a plan through the state’s Nevada Health Link insurance exchange in the fall. He’s been paying monthly premiums since November. Yet the Las Vegan is stranded in a no-man’s-land where no carrier claims him, and his tab is mounting: Basich owes $407,000 for care received in January and February, when his policy was supposed to be in effect. Instead, he’s covered only for March and beyond. Basich has begged for weeks for help from the exchange and its contractor
Mar. 13: Politico: Florida Loss exposes Democrat’s disarray on OamaCare: Democrats can’t even agree whether Obamacare was the reason for their crushing loss in a Florida special election Tuesday. Republican lobbyist David Jolly’s victory over Democrat Alex Sink has many Democrats privately worried and publicly split about how to talk about Obamacare. Some Democrats plan to sharply criticize the Affordable Care Act when running for re-election. Many plan to stick to the simple message that Obamacare is flawed and needs to be fixed —a tactic that plainly didn’t work for Sink. Taken together, the Democratic Party is heading into an already tough election year divided on the very issue Republicans plan to make central to their campaigns.
Mar. 12: The Daily Caller: ObamaCare is definitely Not as cheap as your cell phone bill:
One of President Barack Obama’s favorite new Obamacare sign-up pitches is that young enrollees, which the law banks on, can get health insurance for the price of a monthly cell phone bill. But in reality, premiums are more than a little pricier. Options for cell phone plans are spread across a wide range, depending on phone type, data limits, upgrade terms, etc. For comparison’s sake, we’ll define an average middle-of-the-road plan as consisting of a smart phone, two-year upgrade, unlimited calls, unlimited texts and an average of two gigs of downloadable Internet data per month. Discounting taxes that plan costs about $90 on Verizon, $80 on AT&T, $70 on Sprint, and $60 on T-Mobile every month. Both Sprint and T-Mobile offer the same plans with unlimited monthly data for $80. All pricing is relevant as of January 2014.
Of the Affordable Care Act’s “bronze,” “silver” and “gold” coverage plans offered on the Washington, D.C. health insurance exchange marketplace, the cheapest middle-of-the-road equivalent silver plan is $181.01 per month, after subsidies, for the lowest age bracket, which covers 27-year-olds and under that make about $25,000 annually. Silver plans must cover 70 percent of all medical costs, according to the law. But conservatively, that’s about twice as much as the highest average cell phone
Mar. 12: The Foundry:White House Becomes Desperate in its Marketing of ObamaCare: The White House is getting desperate—desperate—in the marketing of Obamacare. Today, Lance Bass—a member of the boy band *NSYNC, which was popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s—tweeted that he was “entering the White House to meet w[ith] the President to discuss health care reform.” He added a website address: “HealthCare.org.” Politically active Twitter users quickly mocked this high-level meeting and the fact that the pop star of yesteryear didn’t even know he was supposed to be pointing followers to HealthCare.gov.
Mar. 11: The Daily Caller:
Bill Young’s Seat goes to Republican Jolly and is seen as a test of ObamaCare’s Appeal:
Republican David Jolly is the new congressman for Florida’s 13th District. On Tuesday, he beat out Democrat Alex Sink 48.4 percent to 46.6 percent to take the seat that has been empty since Republican Rep. Bill Young passed away last year. Jolly’s victory bodes well for Republicans heading into the 2014 midterm elections in November — the closely watched race was a test run for how Obamacare would affect Democrats in the upcoming elections, and whether it would be as problematic as the GOP hoped.
Republicans focused the campaign on Sink’s support for the health care law, and hammered her relentlessly on the subject. The fact that it worked against Sink, who entered the race with better name ID than Jolly and in a swing district where neither side had a clear cut advantage, forecasts good news for Republicans in November — particularly in Senate races where a group of Democratic incumbents are running in red states.
Mar. 11: National Review: Replace ObamaCare, “STAT”
We cannot wait until 2017 to reform ObamaCare, says John Goodman, president and CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis and a senior fellow with the Independent Institute. Goodman outlines the elements that form the basis of his proposal to reform the U.S. health care system. And explains why his reforms would provide genuine access to care and protections for those with preexisting conditions.
Choice: No health insurance mandate, Americans should be able to choose what plan they want and need,
Fairness: Offer the same tax credit to anyone who purchases insurance. Making income irrelevant would eliminate the link between health insurance the IRS and other federal agencies.
Jobs: The ObamaCare labor issues would vanish with a uniform tax credit and the elimination of the mandates. Businesses would no longer have incentives to stay small or hire part-time workers and employment costs would drop – thereby encouraging hiring. .
Portability: Today, it is illegal in most states for employers to buy employees insurance that travels with them from job to job. This is also largely responsible for the preexisting condition problem. Instead, employers should be allowed to provide portable insurance, similar to a 401(k).
Real Insurance: ObamaCare is destroying the individual insurance market, as states, cities and counties dump high-cost patients into the exchanges. Until insurers are allowed to charge premiums that actually reflect the cost of enrolling a specific enrollee insurance companies will continue to do what they can to avoid coverage for people who are high risk patients.
Mar. 11: The Daily Caller:New enrollment numbers bad for ObamaCare:
The Obama administration announced new Obamacare numbers showing that they’ll need to sign up a whopping 1.8 million people in March to meet even their pared-down goals. A total of 4.2 million people have selected a plan on Obamacare exchanges nationwide so far, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The Obama administration has already given up meeting its original 7 million-strong enrollment goal, but the new numbers suggest it may not reach its lowered 6 million enrollment target either.
Mar. 10: CNSNews: Oakland Airport Vendors allowed to levy ObamaCare Surcharge:
Travelers passing through the Oakland Airport may be in for a surprise when they get their meal or drink receipts - a surcharge for employees' health benefits. The Oakland Airport authority decided to allow an additional surcharge to be added to patrons' bills - not unlike the Obamacare surcharge restaurants in Florida and L.A. are charging. "A 2% Airport Health Benefits Surcharge will apply to all pre-tax food and beverage purchases," a sign says on one eatery.
Mar. 6: The Washington Post: Survey Says: Health Insurance Marketplace Signing Up Few Uninsured Americans
The new health insurance marketplaces appear to be making little headway so far in signing up Americans who lack health insurance, the Affordable Care Act’s central goal. A pair of surveys released on Thursday suggest that just one in 10 uninsured people who qualify have signed up for one. Taken together the surveys provide preliminary answers to what has been one of the biggest mysteries: Is HealthCare.gov and the state marketplaces attracting their prime audience?
One of the surveys shows that only one-fourth of the people who signed described themselves as having been without insurance for most of the past year and only half of those signing up have actually paid a premium. The second survey shows that awareness of the new marketplaces is fairly widespread but that lower-income Americans and those who are uninsured are less likely to know about this new avenue to health coverage than other people.
Mar. 5: CNBC News: Feds Give 2 Year Compliance Extension for Non-Compliant Health Plans, thereby Avoiding Impact Prior to the 2014 & 2016 Elections
The Obama administration will let people with health insurance plans that don't comply with Affordable Care Act standards keep them through October 2017 if their states allow it, officials said Wednesday in announcing a series of final ObamaCare rules. In addition the administration also extended ObamaCare's open enrollment for next year by a month — it now will run from Nov. 15, 2014, until Feb. 15, 2015. And it is giving insurers additional financial help to offset the costs of benefits claims from new ACA enrollees, with the goal of keeping Obamacare premiums "affordable" in coming years, officials said.
New rules also simplified the paperwork that larger employers will need to file when the mandate obligating them to offer affordable health insurance to workers begins next year. And the rules gave a financial break to the types of self-insured health plans run by many unions, excluding them for two years from the $63-per-capita "reinsurance contribution" assessed for each enrollee.
All of this was done administratively without going to Congress for statutory authority.
Mar. 3: Fox News: Christian alternative to ObamaCare growing fast as March 31st Deadline nears:
With just weeks left to sign up for insurance on HealthCare.gov, a growing number of people are opting to enroll in a Christian alternative to traditional health insurance. Nationwide networks of fellow believers help share each other's major medical bills through what's known as health care sharing ministries. "It works just like insurance. I have an insurance card. I show it just like anyone else would. I have a deductible. I have a monthly premium that I pay," explained Eileen Wade, who joined the health care sharing ministry, Medi-Share, in 2011.
The nation's three largest ministries boast more than 242,000 members, spanning all 50 states, who agree to live so-called biblical lifestyles -- meaning regular church attendance; no drugs, tobacco, or sex outside of marriage; and limited alcohol consumption. This kind of healthier lifestyle helps keep monthly premiums lower than that of other health insurers for most members. "There's definitely an economic benefit, a windfall if you would, by living healthier lives," said Medi-Share's CEO, Tony Meggs.
Mar. 3: The Daily Caller: Poll shows 33% of Americans have been hurt by ObamaCare: 33 percent of Americans report that Obamacare has personally had a negative impact on them, according to the new poll released Monday by Rasmussen Reports. Obamacare has also contributed to changes in the health insurance coverage of 33 percent of Americans, according to the February 28-March 1 survey. 56 percent of Americans view Obamacare unfavorably, according to the poll. 40 percent of Americans at least lean toward a favorable opinion of Obama’s law, but only 16 percent have a ‘Very Favorable’ opinion on it and only 14 percent of Americans claimed to have been helped in any way by the law. By comparison, 41 percent of Americans have a ‘Very Unfavorable’ opinion of Obamacare.
Feb. 27: The Hill: Report: Obama considered scraping HealthCare.Gov and starting over:
President Obama considered scrapping HealthCare.gov and starting over at the height of the website's problems last fall, according to a report in Time magazine. The revelation underscores the total chaos that faced the White House and federal health officials in October when ObamaCare's enrollment website was barely functioning. In a lengthy piece, journalist Steven Brill reported that Obama sent White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in October to determine whether the site could be fixed. McDonough described the central question of his mission as: "Can it be patched and improved to work, or does it need to be scrapped to start over? "[Obama] wanted to know if this thing is salvageable," McDonough added.
Brill's nearly 7,000-word piece explores the technical challenge of repairing HealthCare.gov and the team of experts who worked around the clock for nearly six weeks to finish the task. The story also describes specific failures by contractors, the CMS and the White House that led the linchpin of Obama's signature domestic achievement to stumble out of the gate. The CMS was "so uncoordinated," Brill writes, that it created three separate war rooms to deal with the mess after Oct. 1. There was also widespread confusion within the agency about how many users the site could handle in its initial days online, a fact that would have been clearer had officials created a technical "dashboard" to monitor site operations.
Feb. 27: The Daily Caller: Restaurant Chain Adds Obamacare Surcharge to bills:
A chain of Florida restaurants are making customers pick up the tab for the company’s mandatory participation in the Affordable Care Act — with a surcharge to every bill to help cover the cost of providing healthcare to their employees. Eight Gator’s Dockside restaurants have started putting an “ACA Surchar” on every customer’s bill. The new charge adds one percent to the total check, which would mean 15 cents for an average $15 lunch according to a CNN report. “The costs associated with ACA compliance could ultimately close our doors,” a sign outside one restaurant reads. “Instead of raising prices on our products to generate the additional revenue needed to cover the costs of ACA compliance, certain Gator’s Dockside locations have implemented a 1 percent surcharge on all food and beverage purchases only.”
Despite the fact that the ACA’s employer mandate won’t begin until 2015, Gator’s has implemented the charge to help the company deal with the future costs of compliance. “I’m just trying to keep the employees I have that I’ve worked hard to train,” the chain’s Director of Operations Sandra Clark said when explaining the company’s decision to add the surcharge, which is expected to help cover the health-care costs of its full-time employees — who make up half of the chain’s workers. The restaurant chain has also hired an additional staff member and consulting firm to make sure it stays legally compliant with the law, which Clark estimated will cost the company an additional $500,000 per year, while the surcharge is only expected to make up $160,000 of that cost.
Feb. 21: The Daily Caller: Once the ObamaCare model, Massachusetts now the law’s disaster:
Obamacare is an absolute mess in Massachusetts. Nearly eight years ago, surrounded by legislative leaders and Senator Ted Kennedy, then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney signed historic health legislation into law. Starting in 2007 — over a period of three years — Massachusetts spent $3.4 million developing a first-in-the-nation online health exchange, which allowed the state’s citizens to purchase health coverage. And when President Obama campaigned for the passage of his own federal health law, he leaned on the Massachusetts experiment as a model for the nation.
But the changes mandated by Obama’s Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, have actually gutted the effectiveness of Massachusetts’ once-working model. Thanks to Obamacare, in 2012, Massachusetts began a transition to a new federally compliant health exchange, budgeted to cost $69 million. But to date, not one person has purchased health care through that federally funded exchange.
Feb. 21: Roll Call: Cantor: GOP finishing work on ObamaCare Alternative:
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA, reiterated on Friday that the House plans to bring up a bill to replace President Barack Obama’s health care law. In a memo to members laying out the House agenda for the remainder of the winter, Cantor noted that the replacement is being finalized, and said that in the meantime, Republicans will work to target parts of the law with which they disagree. “As we continue to work to finalize our Obamacare replacement plan, we will also act to highlight and address the serious consequences of the law,” he said.
The memo highlights an onslaught against the administration’s policymaking, including bills to target Obama’s executive actions, the IRS and the health care law. Cantor said the House will take up legislation in March targeting the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time workload as 30 hours per week, arguing that it removes incentives to work. The bill would define full-time work as 40 hours per week. Cantor also noted that the House could consider legislation targeting the law’s mandate that individuals buy insurance or pay a fine and legislation dealing with the ACA’s cuts to Medicare Advantage.
Setting up a Judiciary Committee hearing this week on the president’s “Constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws,” Cantor said the House will take aim at Obama’s State of the Union promise to use his executive authority rather than wait for Congress to act. He did not specify which bills will be taken up. “The House will consider a number of bills the week of March 10th designed to restore the balance of power created by our Founders and require that the President faithfully execute our nation’s laws,” he said.
Feb. 13: The Weekly Standard: Obamacare enrollment Rate Slows Markedly in January
On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that enrollment in the Obamacare private exchanges increased by 1.146 million in January. In December, HHS reported 1.788 million enrollees in December. That suggests a drop-off of approximately half a million, or 29 percent. Yet this underestimates the true extent of enrollment dropoffs. The HHS reporting period for December was four weeks, beginning on 12/1 and ending on 12/28. The reporting period for January was five weeks, beginning on 12/29 and ending on 2/1. This suggests that in December, enrollments averaged 447,000 per week, compared to 229,000 in January, or a 49 percent drop-off in new enrollees.
At this point, industry insiders estimate that about 20% of people whom HHS claims are enrollees have not paid their premiums. Meanwhile, hard data from a handful of states suggests that the number of non-payees may be larger. If the insiders are right, then the real level of enrollment right now is just 2.6 million, which puts the administration at just 38 percent of the original target with two-thirds of the enrollment period now finished.
Feb. 8: The Daily Caller: Is the Obama Administration Waving White Flag on Canceled Plans?
The Obama administration’s admission that it may extend the exemption for health insurance plans canceled due to Obamacare regulations could signal an end to the war on “junk plans.” Conservative estimates from the Associated Press put the total of canceled plans at 4.7 million; in contrast, Obamacare exchanges across the country can only claim that 3 million Americans have selected private plans via online exchanges (actual enrollment could be even lower).
In response to growing outcry over the cancellations, the Obama administration issued an “administrative fix” in November to extend the plans — a move that was rejected by at least 22 states and several private insurance companies as well. Obama’s original fix was slammed by some states and industry leaders as a last-minute attempt to mitigate the political repercussions of canceling plans, not a practical fix to help those without coverage. Obama’s order came just over a month before Obamacare went live; insurers had already canceled the plans, told customers they’d need new coverage and informed regulators of the changes. Widespread rejection of the plan fixated on it as a political move, not a practical solution.
Feb. 8: The Hill: Medicare fight looms over midterm election
Health insurers are arming themselves for an aggressive campaign to beat back cuts to Medicare Advantage. Insurers are hoping that their seven-figure lobbying and advertising effort, coupled with pressure from key business interests, will convince the administration to abandon the cuts that officials are expected to announce on Feb. 21. "Seniors cannot afford another round of rate cuts to their Medicare Advantage coverage," said America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) President Karen Ignagni in a statement this week. "[Medicare] should protect seniors in the program by maintaining current payment levels next year."
On average, the government pays more per Medicare Advantage patient than it does for beneficiaries in traditional Medicare. Democrats have sought to rectify the imbalance by cutting reimbursements to the private plans, an approach Republicans strongly oppose. One major insurer has cited the cost pressure when it eliminated a large number of doctors from its Medicare Advantage networks. The industry and its GOP allies blamed the decision on ObamaCare, which cuts Medicare Advantage by $200 billion over 10 years.
Feb. 5: Fox News: CBO Chief: Obamacare creates a disincentive to work:
The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office delivered a damning assessment Wednesday of the Affordable Care Act, telling lawmakers that ObamaCare creates a "disincentive for people to work," adding fuel to Republican arguments that the law will hurt the economy. The testimony from CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf comes after his office released a highly controversial report that detailed how millions of workers could cut back their hours or opt out of the job market entirely because of benefits under the health law.
The White House and its Democratic allies accused Republicans, and the media, of mischaracterizing the findings. But Elmendorf backed Republicans' central argument -- fewer people will work because of the law's subsidies. "The act creates a disincentive for people to work," Elmendorf said, under questioning from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-WI.
Feb. 5: Fox News: House Committee to investigate why Obamacare site has no appeals process:
A House committee will investigate why the ObamaCare website does not allow customers to appeal errors created when enrolling online for insurance, Fox News learned Wednesday. The investigation is being conducted by the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and began with a letter this week asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to send officials to Capitol Hill no later than February 21 to discuss the issue. The letter points out the Affordable Care Act requires the secretary to establish a process by which she “hears and makes decisions with respect to appeals of any determination.” In addition, “the law requires that exchange applicants be notified … in the case of an ‘inconsistency or inability to verify’ the information contained in the application” for insurance, the letter said.
The problem was reported first by The Washington Post and has reportedly impacted about 22,000 Americans. Among the reported concerns are customers thinking they were overcharged for polices and believing the site steered them into buying the wrong policies. The appeals process takes on new urgency this week because insurers will begin sending cancellation notices to policyholders who did not pay their first month’s premium.
Feb. 4: The L.A. Times: Obamacare enrollees hit snags at doctor’s offices:
After overcoming website glitches and long waits to get ObamaCare, some patients are now running into frustrating new roadblocks at the doctor's office. A month into the most sweeping changes to healthcare in half a century, people are having trouble finding doctors at all, getting faulty information on which ones are covered and receiving little help from insurers swamped by new business. Experts have warned for months that the logjam was inevitable. But the extent of the problems is taking by surprise many patients — and even doctors — as frustrations mount.
Feb. 3: The Washington Free Beacon:
From bad to worse – U.S. Intelligence suspects malware from Belarus in Healthcare.gov:
U.S. intelligence agencies last week urged the Obama administration to check its new healthcare network for malicious software after learning that developers linked to the Belarus government helped produce the website, raising fresh concerns that private data posted by millions of Americans will be compromised. The intelligence agencies notified the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency in charge of the Healthcare.gov network, about their concerns last week. Specifically, officials warned that programmers in Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied with Russia, were suspected of inserting malicious code that could be used for cyber attacks, according to U.S. officials familiar with the concerns.
Cyber security officials said the potential threat to the U.S. healthcare data is compounded by what they said was an Internet data “hijacking” last year involving Belarusian state-controlled networks. The month-long diversion covertly rerouted massive amounts of U.S. Internet traffic to Belarus—a repressive dictatorship located between Russia, Poland, and Ukraine.
Jan. 31: The Washington Post: Labor Union Officials: Obama Betrayed us on health-care rollout:
Labor leaders who have spent months lobbying unsuccessfully for special protections under ObamaCare warned this week that the White House’s continued refusal to help is dampening union support for Democratic candidates in this year’s midterm elections. Leaders of two major unions, including the first to endorse Obama in 2008, said they have been betrayed by an administration that wooed their support for the 2009 legislation with promises to later address the peculiar needs of union-negotiated insurance plans that cover millions of workers. Their complaints reflect a broad sense of disappointment among many labor leaders, who say the Affordable Care Act has subjected union health plans to new taxes and mandates while not allowing them to share in the subsidies that have gone to private insurance companies competing on the newly created exchanges.
After dozens of frustrating meetings with White House officials over the past year, including one with Obama, a number of angry labor officials say their members are far less likely to campaign and turn out for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections. “We want to hold the president to his word: If you like your health-care coverage, you can keep it, and that just hasn’t been the case,” said Donald “D.” Taylor, president of Unite Here, the union that represents about 400,000 hotel and restaurant workers and provided a crucial boost to Obama by endorsing him just after his rival Hillary Rodham Clinton had won the New Hampshire primary.
Jan. 27: Fox News: Senate Republicans pitch ObamaCare alternative on eve of State of the Union Speech:
Seizing on the public's continued anxiety over the ObamaCare rollout, Senators Hatch (UT), Coburn (OK), and Burr (NC), unveiled a sweeping alternative proposal they say would gut the law's mandates and taxes while preserving consumer protections. The proposal, dubbed the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility and Empowerment Act, would repeal the president's marquee legislative achievement while instituting new reforms that the senators say would give states and individuals more flexibility and purchasing power. "Americans deserve a real alternative, and a way out," Coburn said.
Under the plan, insurances companies would not be able to impose lifetime limits on patients and would be required to allow dependent coverage up to the age of 26, as ObamaCare currently does. The Republican proposal would address the issue of pre-existing conditions by creating a new "continuous coverage" standard that would prevent any individual moving from one insurance plan to another from being denied on the basis of a pre-existing condition so long as that individual was continuously enrolled in a health plan. The requirements on individuals to buy insurance, and on mid-sized and large businesses to provide it, would be repealed.
Although there is little chance of passage with the current make up of the Senate but with the continued dissatisfaction with the way ObamaCare is being implemented might help move their ideas forward. A new Associated Press-GfK poll shows that while negative perceptions of the new exchanges have eased, 66 percent of Americans say the rollout is not going well.
Jan. 25: The Daily Caller: Supremes exempt Nuns from ObamaCare birth control mandate while the case goes on:
A Catholic organization won’t have to comply with the Obamacare contraception mandate until a final decision has been made on the case, the Supreme Court announced Friday. The entire court extended a temporary injunction put in place on December 31 by Justice Sonia Sotomayor that allowed the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Colorado convent and charity, to forgo filling out contraception mandate paperwork while their case against the Obama administration is ongoing. Sotomayor’s initial injunction, which garnered her accusations of being part of a Catholic, anti-women’s rights conspiracy from some on the left, would have lasted just until the federal appeals court, which is now reviewing the case, makes a decision. Now the Little Sisters will be free from the mandate at least until a final decision is made.
Jan. 22: Fox News: Administration fears part of health care system is so flawed it cound backrupt insurance companies
While the administration publicly expresses full confidence in its health care law, privately it fears one part of the system is so flawed it could bankrupt insurance companies and cripple ObamaCare itself. "Week after week, month after month," says John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis, "the Obama administration kept telling us everything's working fine, there's no problem and then they turn on a dime and fire their contractor." To justify a no-bid contract with Accenture after firing CGI as the lead contractor, the administration released documents from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services that offered a rare glimpse of its worst fears, saying the problems with the website puts "the entire health insurance industry at risk" ... "potentially leading to their default and disrupting continued services and coverage to consumers."
Then it went even further, saying if the problems were not fixed by mid-March, "they will result in financial harm to the government." It even added that without the fixes "the entire health care reform program is jeopardized." In spite of the "urgent" need officials cited to keep the system from collapsing, the White House spokesman said he knew nothing about it.
Jan. 19: Daily Caller: Report says most of the people who signed up for ObamaCare previously had health insurance coverage, belying the rhetoric that the new healthcare law was to get insurance for those who were not covered.
Is the Affordable Care Act only affordable for people who already have health insurance? Halfway through ObamaCare’s open enrollment period, insurers, brokers and healthcare consultants are finding that the vast majority of ObamaCare enrollees already had health insurance before switching to the exchange, the Wall Street Journal reports. Some of them may have had their individual policies cancelled by ObamaCare. Others may have seen their employers drop their insurance. And still more may have found taxpayer subsidies attractive. But whatever the reason, most enrollees so far already had insurance before ObamaCare was even launched.
Given the heavy regulations the Act imposed on all plans, the primary motivation for switching over from an employer policy or individual coverage is the generous taxpayer subsidy provided for exchange customers under 400 percent of the federal poverty line. Reports of low enrollment by the previously uninsured indicate that the subsidies are not enough to get those who want and can’t afford health insurance out to purchase it.
Another possibility is that ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion overwhelmingly covered this demographic, leaving the ObamaCare exchange subsidies as a bonus for those previously covered. There have been many reports from consumers that wanted to purchase their own insurance and were sidelined into Medicaid — including, notably, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s son.
Jan. 16: Fox News: World’s greatest hacker calls Healthcare.gov security “shameful” Security expert -- and once the world's most-wanted cyber criminal -- Kevin Mitnick submitted a scathing criticism to a House panel Thursday of ObamaCare's Healthcare.gov website, calling the protections built into the site "shameful" and "minimal." In a letter submitted as testimony to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Mitnick wrote: "It's shameful the team that built the Healthcare.gov site implemented minimal, if any, security best practices to mitigate the significant risk of a system compromise."
Mitnick's letter, submitted to panel Chairman Lamar Smith, R-TX, and ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-TX, held comments from several leading security experts. He concluded that, "After reading the documents provided by David Kennedy that detailed numerous security vulnerabilities associated with the Healthcare.gov Website, it's clear that the management team did not consider security as a priority."
Jan. 16: The Weekly Standard: Official: Nobody knows how many people have actually paid for ObamaCare coverage:
An official from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services admitted at a House hearing today that no one knows how many people have actually paid for Obamacare coverage: "So we don't know at this point how many people have actually paid for coverage?" asked a member of Congress. "That's right," the CMS official conceded.
Jan. 16: National Review: Democrat Super PAC Slams ObamaCare in Ad
A new ad from a Democrat super PAC indicates that, despite the claims of Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and others, at least some Democrats are wary of embracing Obamacare in upcoming midterm elections. In the TV spot, the Democratic political action committee House Majority PAC highlights Arizona congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick’s criticism of the bungled HealthCare.gov website. Kirkpatrick is a vulnerable Democrat running for reelection in November.
The ad opens by praising her for blowing the whistle on the “disastrous healthcare website.” In Congress, Kirkpatrick has taken steps to distance herself from the embattled health-care law. In November, for example, she was one of 39 Democrats to support Fred Upton’s bill, which would have allowed individuals renew their health-care plans after the law’s regulations required insurance companies to cancel them.
Jan. 15: KTVZ.Com(Oregon-Regional News Coverage): Lawmakers grill “Cover Oregon” Exchange Director
State lawmakers grilled the leader of Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange about whether Cover Oregon's technology and reputation can ever recover from widespread problems with its online enrollment system. Several Republican lawmakers asked if it's time to drop Cover Oregon and have the federal government run Oregon's exchange instead, as it does for 36 other states.
Cover Oregon's acting director, Dr. Bruce Goldberg, says it's too soon to consider that option. He says he's planning for contingencies in case the technology can't be fixed in the next two months or very few people enroll in coverage. Cover Oregon's success depends on having enough people sign up to pay its bills after federal grants dry up at the end of the year.
Jan. 14: Fox News:Insurers raise cost concerns after ObamaCare demographic data released
Insurers have raised concerns that too few young people are signing up for health insurance through the ObamaCare exchanges after newly released statistics showed that less than a quarter of people who have enrolled are between the ages of 18 and 34. According to the numbers released Monday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 24 percent – or 489,460 – of the 2.2 million people who signed up for ACA were in the coveted 18-to-34 age range. That means the government has hit only 18 percent of its stated goal of registering 2.7 million adults in the 18-to-34 age range.
Experts have predicted that the program will need roughly 40 percent of enrollees to be in that prime demographic in order to be fiscally solvent. Adults ages 55 to 64 made up 33 percent of the total number of Americans who signed up, the largest group represented in the data. ObamaCare needs so-called 'invincibles' -- healthy young adults -- to sign up in coming months to help offset the costs of older and less healthy enrollees. If that doesn’t happen, insurers could be forced to raise the rates, making the costs and future of ObamaCare uncertain. "This is concerning to us that we're seeing this portion come in so old," Marty Anderson, marketing director for Wisconsin-based Security Health Plan, told the Wall Street Journal.
Jan. 13: The Weekly Standard: Bailing Out Health Insurers and Helping ObamaCare is in the planning
A prominent consultant to health insurance companies— recently wrote in a remarkably candid blog post that, while Obamacare is almost certain to cause insurance costs to skyrocket even higher than it already has, “insurers won’t be losing a lot of sleep over it.” How can this be? Because insurance companies won’t bear the cost of their own losses—at least not more than about a quarter of them. The other three-quarters will be borne by American taxpayers.
For some reason, President Obama hasn’t talked about this particular feature of his signature legislation. Indeed, it’s bad enough that Obamacare is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to funnel $1,071,000,000,000.00 (that’s $1.071 trillion) over the next decade (2014 to 2023) from American taxpayers, through Washington, to health insurance companies. It’s even worse that Obamacare is trying to coerce Americans into buying those same insurers’ product (although there are escape routes). It’s almost unbelievable that it will also subsidize those same insurers’ losses.
Jan. 13: Fox News:Stats show Administration lags on attracting young people to ObamaCare
The administration is lagging behind its goals for attracting young people to the ObamaCare exchanges, according to newly released statistics. Of those who signed up for health insurance through the ObamaCare insurance exchanges, less than 25 percent are between 18 and 34 years old. Experts predicted that the program will need roughly 40 percent of enrollees to be in that prime demographic in order to be fiscally solvent.
Administration officials, though, were upbeat in describing the numbers. They said they're in a "solid place," and noted that this age group makes up just 26 percent of the general population. About 1.8 million people enrolled in new individual health plans through the law in December, bringing the total number of new enrollments through Dec.28 to about 2.2 million. Monday’s report is the first time the government has released demographic data on the performance of President Obama’s signature health care overhaul.
Jan. 11: Fox News: Obama Administration cutting ties with HealthCare.gov contractor The Obama administration is cutting ties with contractor CGI Federal over its handling of the problem-plagued HealthCare.gov, months after the troubled Oct. 1 launch. The Washington Post first reported that federal health officials plan to sign a year-long, $90 million contract with Accenture. The government's contract with CGI was up at the end of February anyway, but the administration apparently is deciding not to renew it. According to the Post, officials concluded CGI was not effective in fixing the myriad problems with the federal ObamaCare website.
Republicans are not letting up in their criticism of the law's implementation. "A change in contractors does not change the sad state of this law," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-MI, said in a statement. Enrollment through the federal website has picked up considerably since the Oct. 1 launch, when many were blocked from accessing the site due to technical glitches. But outside experts had to be brought in and many lawmakers criticized CGI and other contractors who had been working for years on the project.
Jan. 10: Roll Call:House Passes First anti-ObamaCare bill of 2014, this time with Democrat support:
More Democrats defected on the House’s first anti-Obamacare bill of 2014 than on any other Obamacare-related vote to date, a blow to party unity and leadership’s advice that rank-and-file members stand strong against GOP “gotcha” bills. The legislation, which would require victims of security breaches through the HealthCare.gov insurance exchanges to be notified within two days, passed 291-122. Sixty-seven Democrats joined Republicans to vote for the bill.
Democratic leaders were expecting defections from the rank and file, particularly from more moderate and vulnerable incumbents. But it wasn’t immediately clear whether they were expecting fractures of this magnitude. Even the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, Steve Israel, D-NY, voted for the bill. Democratic leaders had encouraged a “no” vote.
While Republicans called the measure “good government” and “common sense,” many Democrats called it a political stunt that would put undue administrative burden on administration officials. Democrats also said the bill functions as a scare tactic against using the website when security breaches have never been a problem. Jan. 8: The Hill: Chairman Issa threatens perjury probe of Sebelius: House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) on Wednesday accused Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of providing “false and misleading” testimony to Congress and threatened to open an investigation. In a letter to Sebelius, Issa said he would give her an opportunity to “clarify or amend” her testimony prior to “further investigative action by the Committee.” “Providing false or misleading testimony to Congress is a serious matter,” Issa warned in the letter.
Witnesses who purposely give false or misleading testimony during a Congressional hearing may be subject to criminal liability.” “With that in mind, I write to request that you correct the record and to implore you to be truthful with the American public about matters pertaining to ObamaCare going forward,” he continued.
The 12-page letter details testimony Sebelius gave before the Oversight panel that Issa says differs from his independent investigation into security testing of HealthCare.gov before its launch. Issa said he would give Sebelius time to review and alter her testimony before moving ahead with an investigation.
Jan. 6: Fox News: Supreme Court Refuses to grant ObamaCare reprive to Doctor’s Group: The Supreme Court has refused a group of doctors' request to block implementation of the nation's new health care law. Chief Justice John Roberts turned away without comment Monday an emergency stay request from the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. and the Alliance for Natural Health USA. They asked the chief justice Friday to temporarily block the law, saying Congress had passed it incorrectly by starting it in the Senate instead of the House. Revenue-raising bills are supposed to originate in the lower chamber. They also wanted blocked doctor registration requirements they say will make it harder for independent non-Medicare physicians to treat Medicare-eligible patients. Still pending is a decision on a temporary block on the law's contraceptive coverage requirements, which was challenged by a group of nuns.
Jan. 6: The Hill: White House credits slow growth in healthcare to ObamaCare The White House on Monday said ObamaCare was partly responsible for slowing the growth of healthcare spending, even as the agency tasked with implementing the law said the impact was “minimal.” The new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found healthcare spending rose by 3.7 percent in 2012, the fourth year in a row that the increase was at a near-record low. “For years, healthcare costs in America skyrocketed, with brutal consequences for our country,” wrote White House deputy assistant for health policy Jeanne Lambrew in a blog post. “The Affordable Care Act, for the first time in decades, has helped to stop that trend.”
The White House acknowledges that a slow economy has played a role in keeping cost growth low, but it argues that the trend persisted in part because of ObamaCare as the economy improved. Republicans immediately challenged this assertion and pointed to a section of the CMS report that described the law's impact on the healthcare spending slowdown as small. “No matter how much bluster the White House puts behind these findings, the actuaries continue to show that ObamaCare's impact on slower growth is negligible. To suggest otherwise is nonsense,” Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) spokesman Brendan Buck said. In response to the CMS report, Republican critics argued the law will eventually accelerate healthcare cost growth by imposing taxes and adding people to insurance rolls.
Jan. 5: Politico: ObamaCare: If you can’t win the game, just move the goal posts! Top White House economic adviser Gene Sperling downplayed on Sunday a previous administration goal of enrolling 7 million people in Obamacare by the end of March. "There's no magic number," the director of the National Economic Council said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "The key is to enroll as many people as we can." Pressed by host David Gregory on how the administration would define Obamacare's success, Sperling said: "Success is having an ongoing strong market."
Jan. 5: The Daily Caller: Funny Money: How student loan money was used to cook the books to make ObamaCare look good: Cato education scholar Neal McCluskey revealed how a little-reported feature of the Affordable Care Act uses shady accounting to hide its overall cost. “The change in student loans was part of Obamacare — and why was it part of Obamacare?” McCluskey said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller. “So that the profit they were supposedly making from the student loans could then be plugged into how much money would come from Obamacare, so it didn’t look like it cost as much.”
In the last days of Obamacare’s formulation, the projections had student loans folded into them to make them not seem so expensive. “At the last minute, they said, ‘Look, let’s take what was then called the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, make it part of healthcare and then we can make the budget numbers come out right… [W]e will take these projected profits from the student loans, and we will say that’s part of Obamacare.’” McCluskey warned that this fiscal conjure trick could lead to problems in the future. “It’s very dicey to look at federal profits on student loans, and say they will make those profits, and to know why they are doing it and what the money is being used for,” he said. “To follow the smoke and mirrors of budgets — especially Obamacare — is impossible.”
Jan. 5: Politico: Senator Johnson to sue OPM over ObamaCare:
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) plans to file a lawsuit Monday against the Office of Personnel Management over its policy permitting lawmakers and Hill staff to receive Obamacare subsidies for their health plans. Johnson and other opponents of the policy say that the OPM decision to allow the government to fund a portion of members and staffers’ health insurance is not authorized in the text of the Affordable Care Act.
Johnson has scheduled a press conference for Monday to discuss the suit. He will first have to prove that he is being hurt by the policy and so has the right to sue. An aide told Politico on Sunday that the senator will argue that the policy forces him to comply with a rule that he believes is illegal. He also believes the policy harms his relationship with constituents because it gives him and other congressional employees special treatment through government subsidies regardless of income levels. Finally, the aide said, Johnson will contend that OPM’s decision created an administrative burden in forcing him to determine which staff qualified as “official” office employees who were required to seek health coverage through one of the new Obamacare exchanges. (Unofficial employees could stay on the federal health plan.)
Jan. 4: Fox News (Bulls and Bears):Video: Will ObamaCare cause the economy to flat line?
Gary B. Smith of thechartman.com says he can’t see how ObamaCare can do anything other than cause the economy to falter. With premiums doubling and the amount of the deductibles going up about 42% young people have just seen their medical costs (ObamaCare Taxes) go up 25%. “I can’t see how this can’t kill the economy!” Although we may see some examples where people are getting more coverage for less, the information we are seeing across the board tells us that most of the costs are going up and so are the deductibles.
John Layfield of Layfieldreport.com said about 2/3rd of the states wanted nothing to do with the exchanges because of what it would cost to have them so the Federal Government had to step in and offer them. This is going to be an expense the government needs to pay for. The number of doctors you can see will be limited and the number of healthcare options you have will be limited. 105 insurance plans in TN were cancelled because of ObamaCare. What we are going to have is a bi-level situation like we see in Europe. If you are wealthy with cash in hand you can see a doctor and get service right now. If you are not rich you will be facing a limited number of doctors and hospitals you can go to and long wait times for healthcare.
Jan. 3: Fox News:Exposing the World’ Greatest Lie: ObamaCare and Socialized Medicine
ObamaCare, opposed by a clear and consistent majority of citizens, immediately caused millions of Americans to lose their health insurance along with their choice of doctor and hospital, and millions more to pay far higher insurance premiums. While the focus has been on the embarrassing roll-out that, at a minimum, demonstrated both the incompetence and the poor judgment of this administration, the true harm of this law is still to come as new government authority over U.S. health care dramatically increases.
Despite what Americans are led to believe about nationalized health systems, including the claims that everyone is insured and care is free under such systems, the facts about what’s really important in health care --- actual medical care access and quality -- showed the harmful impact of government control on health care. One critical distinction generally lost amid the naïve but passionate backers of nationalized insurance is the difference between being insured and having access to care.
The nationalize socialized medicine in the United Kingdom, similar to ObamaCare, had to issue a directive last year that no patient would be forced to wait longer than 18 weeks to get treatment. 18 weeks is 4 ½ months! The UK system has been in place for 65 years, long enough to work the kinks out of it and yet some patients have to wait 4 ½ months to see a doctor? Whoa! And that is where the Administration wants us to go? Wow!
Jan. 3: CBS News: Doctor’s Office Spends two hours on hold with ObamaCare Health Insurer for Patient while seeking Authorization to conduct surgery: The new year brought relief to some Illinois patients newly insured under the nation’s healthcare law. Others still weren’t sure whether they were covered, despite their best efforts to navigate the often-balky new system. By Thursday, the first business day of the new insurance system, it became clear that snags in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act still remained. On the plus side, the law’s protections mean consumers can no longer be denied coverage if they’re in poor health. But early problems with the federal HealthCare.gov website led many people to wait until last week to sign up, and insurers are still processing enrollment forms.
Paperwork problems almost delayed suburban Chicago resident Sheri Zajcew’s scheduled surgery Thursday, but Dr. John Venetos decided to operate without a routine go-ahead from the insurance company. That was after Venetos’ office manager spent two hours on hold with the insurer Thursday, trying to get an answer about whether the patient needed prior authorization for the surgery. The office manager finally gave up.
Jan. 3: Politico: Administration faces tough fight on contraception cases: As a new round of religion-based challenges to President Barack Obama’s health care law head to the Supreme Court, advocates on both sides of the issue say the administration’s arguments are likely facing a chilly reception. On Friday, the Obama administration urged the court to reject a plea from an order of nuns who say a provision of Obamacare conflicts with their opposition to birth control. Already, the Supreme Court is preparing to hear two cases filed by private companies who say contraception provisions in the law violate their firms’ rights to religious freedom.
Together, the cases could recreate a broad left-right coalition on the court that has emerged in the past decade to defend religious rights against alleged government intrusions. “I wouldn’t be betting on the government winning,” said Michael McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge who favors granting broad religious exemptions. “I would say that the government has an uphill battle.”
Jan. 2: The Daily Mail: “They had no idea if my insurance was active or not” – ObamaCare confusion reigns as frustrated patients walk out of hospitals without treatment: Hospital staff in Northern Virginia are turning away sick people on a frigid Thursday morning because they can't determine whether their Obamacare insurance plans are in effect. Patients in a close-in DC suburb who think they've signed up for new insurance plans are struggling to show their December enrollments are in force, and health care administrators aren't taking their word for it.
In place of quick service and painless billing, these Virginians are now facing the threat of sticker-shock that comes with bills they can't afford. 'They had no idea if my insurance was active or not!' a coughing Maria Galvez told MailOnline outside the Inova Healthplex facility in the town of Springfield. She was leaving the building without getting a needed chest x-ray. 'The people in there told me that since I didn't have an insurance card, I would be billed for the whole cost of the x-ray,' Galvez said, her young daughter in tow. 'It's not fair – you know, I signed up last week like I was supposed to.' The x-ray's cost, she was told, would likely be more than $500.