Glenview Capital Management is a hedge-fund founded in 2000 by Larry Robbins, whom the Wall Street Journal describes as a “billionaire hockey fanatic.” According to a new report in the Journal (online, 7/23) by David Benoit, Mr. Robbins apparently has knack for spotting trends early, especially when it comes to healthcare and its related, needed insurance coverage. Back when President Barack Obama was unveiling the concepts of healthcare overhaul, Robbins and his fund began gobbling up shares of stock in health insurers. It turned out to be “too early” according Benoit’s Wall Street Journal article.
While Robbins and Glenview suffered their share of losses as a result of the 2008 financial meltdown, Robbins started making “investments in hospitals and insurers four years ago,” and the result “has been one of the most successful hedge-fund wagers in recent years,” adds Benoit.
A new report in the Baltimore Sun (online, 7/21) by Meredith Cohn and Andrea K. McDaniels says that it wasn’t long after disastrous 2013 debut of Obamacare in Maryland, that “The Old Line State” severed ties with Noridian, it’s prime Obamacare website (a/k/a marketplace or exchange) contractor. This was because the website failed. Maryland wound up paying Noridian “about $73 million of its $193 million contract to build and operate the exchange,” according to The Baltimore Sun account. Eventually, Maryland “dumped the website and adopted technology from Connecticut in time for the second open enrollment in 2014, costing the state extra millions of dollars,” the report elaborates.
Now according to Cohn and McDaniels, Noridian “will repay the state $45 million to settle claims that it botched the rollout of the marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.”
Anyone signing up for health coverage under Obamacare must check only one box on a form – indicating their gender. This is true whether the person is applying for health insurance “on the individual or small group markets,” according to a new article on the Kaiser Health News (KHN) web site (7/22). Lisa Gillespie (on KHN) relates the story of Eli Strong – formerly of Washington, D.C., who started transitioning from female to male before passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. As Gillespie’s KHN story further explains, “In 2008 he [Strong] changed all his legal identification to male, but kept his health insurance ID as female.” He had not yet undergone a hysterectomy, and had no desire to wrestle with his insurance company over the issue of a gynecological exam.
Gillespie continues, “Strong finally changed his insurance ID to male in 2014 after having a hysterectomy. But some of his transgender friends have not had an easy time navigating the system.”
The IRS sees the 2015 tax filing season as one of smooth sailing. A recent article in The Hill by Bernie Becker (online, 7/20) clarifies that this IRS view was recently reflected in its response to a query by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “[W]ith the exception of the continued erosion of taxpayer services, the 2015 tax filing season has gone smoothly, generally.” However, when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, and more specifically, its tax credits, Hatch may not agree. According to Becker’s Hill story, Hatch, who is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill, is now after the IRS “watchdog,” seeking a determination as to why “hundreds of thousands of people who received tax breaks under Obamacare didn’t file their taxes this year,” as Becker writes. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently told Sen. Hatch that some 710,000 taxpayers who got tax credits to assist them in getting Obamacare coverage, “had yet to either file, or seek an extension,” the Hill story adds.
Hatch is quoted as saying, “While it is likely that not all of these are fraudulent, because of the marketplace’s lax integrity controls there is reason to believe that a significant portion are fraudulent.”
An (un-bylined) report in The New York Times (online 7/17) tells of the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming and its desire for a change in Obamacare. The Indian tribe employs approximately 1,000 workers, who are mostly found at the tribe’s casinos and government divisions. The Arapaho’s have historically paid its workers enough, so they can afford healthcare coverage – - at least under the “employer mandate” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Dean Goggles, chairman of the Northern Arapaho Business Council, is now closely scrutinizing a pending congressional bill, which according to the Times story, “would exempt tribes nationwide from being classified as large employers under the federal Affordable Care Act.” The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. As things stand now, The New York Times says that provision “requires tribes to pay higher insurance costs or face federal penalties.”
Recently federal district court judge Scott Skavdal rejected the Arapaho Tribe’s challenge to its falling under Obamacare’s definition of a “large employer.” “If Congress wished to exempt Indian tribes from this mandate that otherwise might be reasonably construed as applying to them, it needed to do so explicitly,” Skavdal determined.
Scott W. Atlas, physician and Hoover Institution senior fellow, writes in The Wall Street Journal (online, 6/28) detailing certain Obamacare flaws which must be resolved if the Affordable Care Act itself is to remain viable. Dr. Atlas elaborates: “To revive and expand private health insurance, the first step is to reduce onerous regulatory requirements. This means eliminating unnecessary coverage mandates that have ballooned under Obamacare.” Dr. Atlas also says, “Ironically, it is the growing government centralization of health insurance at the expense of private insurance that must be addressed.” Citing a specific ACA-related healthcare cost, as one example of an Obamacare deficiency, Dr. Atlas WSJ story adds, “So-called minimum essential benefits, including unproven treatments by chiropractors, along with zero co-pay preventative services, have increased prices by as much as 10 percent.”
While the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in King V. Burwell, regarding the legitimacy of healthcare subsidies, under the auspices of Obamacare, may have strengthened the Obama administration’s single-payer healthcare arguments, a recent story in The National Journal (online, 6/30, by Sam Baker and Daniel Newhauser) says, “In a new legal filing” . . .”attorneys for the House GOP said there’s a fresh precedent supporting their suit challenging the administration’s implementation of Obamacare.” That is the Supreme Court’s very recent ruling on congressional redistricting.
Attorneys for the U.S. House say (according to The National Journal) “the high court’ decision could help Republicans overcome their biggest hurdle: establishing that the House has standing to sue the executive branch.”
House Speaker John Boehner, and other House Republicans, are arguing, according to Baker’s and Newhauser’s story, that “the Obama administration injured the House, as an institution, by funding a particular part of Obamacare even though Congress did not appropriate money to fund that program.”
Employers not offering group health to their workers, but who fund their employees with additional pay for the purpose and goal of being able to afford health insurance, can still be fined $100.00 – for each employee. That fine coming from the IRS. Robert Wood, a lawyer and tax expert, returns to the pages of Forbes (online, 7/2) telling of just what sort of gratitude employers can expect form the IRS — for such generosity towards their employees.
While the IRS had spared businesses until July 1, 2015 according to Wood “there is no more relief.” Even more so incredibly is this, according to Wood’s story, “According to the IRS, an employer arrangement that reimburses or pays for employee individual health premiums is considered to be a group health plan that is subject to the $100 per-employee per-day penalty.”
According to Wood’s, the IRS fine could wind up becoming widespread: “The National Federation of Independent Businesses says that 14 percent of small businesses that do not offer group insurance reimburse their workers.”
Contacting a Social Security field office may not always yield the exact answers consumers seek, but the agency’s customer service end of things at least provides resources which “exist as an option for people who are confused,” so says a recent story in the International Business Times by Elizabeth Whitman (online, 6/29).
Obamacare, according to some, is another story. Some even now say that if the Affordable Care Act is to survive it must become simpler and more user friendly. Some finding fault with Obamacare even say it “is so complex that some say patients deserve the equivalent of accountants or lawyers.”
The IBT account cites 46-year old Sandy Castillo, a Texas resident and cancer survivor. She found looking for healthcare options on HealthCare.gov numbing. “It was confusing” . . . “They all kind of look alike after a while.”
According to Whitman’s IBT story, Castillo has even suggested a “live chat” function return to HealthCare.gov. However, when the federal site had such a function previously, it performed unsatisfactorily.
ACA co-ops were initially funded in 2011, and began with some $2 billion under the then new healthcare law. This beginning marked a venture into experimentation, at least as a way “to provide tax-paid competition to private sector health insurance providers.”
Now according to a recent story in The Daily Caller (online, 6/30) by Richard Pollock, “Taxpayer-funded Obamacare health insurance co-ops may be running afoul of the law by giving extravagant paychecks to their top executives.” This is according to an investigation conducted by the Daily Caller itself.
In March 2014, “advisory board members” met in Washington, D.C. and expressed concern about “unjust enrichment,” according to Pollack’s article.
18 of 23 co-ops have paid their top execs salaries ranging from: $263,000 to $587,000.