Ethics Waiver Granted to Obamacare Official

In October 2013, a tech company now known as Optum Insight QSSI, was charged with rescuing Healthcare.gov – following its tech-flawed debut. According to a report in Wednesday’s Daily Signal, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and UnitedHealth are now silent following some senators’ inquiries regarding an ethics waiver which has been granted to Andrew Slavitt.

The waiver, by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), allows the agency to begin working with Slavitt’s former company – Optum Insight QSSI. Slavitt currently has the second in command administrative position at CMS, as its principal deputy administrator. The waiver has been issued in spite of concerns about potential conflicts of interest by Republican senators Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Chuck Grassley, of Iowa. Hatch and Grassley have sent letters to both CMS and United Health, which acquired QSSI in September, 2012.

Aaron Albright, spokesman for CMS, told the Daily Signal: “Andy Slavitt has taken all appropriate steps, such as severing financial ties with his former employer, which allow him to execute his duties as principal deputy and participate in broad policy matters, including those affecting the health care industry. He will be recused, as appropriate, from participation in specific party matters, such as contracts or claims, involving his former employer.”

Read more at The Daily Signal

Appeals Court Contests Legality of Obamacare Subsidies

The Hill reports Tuesday that though supporters of the plaintiffs in the federal case of Halbig v. Burwell say they only want to ensure Obamacare is adhered to as written, the net effect is that an appeals court decision on Tuesday ruled subsidies for millions of enrollees may be in jeopardy. While that may not be an immediate scenario, speculation now ensues that consumers may at some point have to pay back the subsidies they received from the government; an outcome which could be potentially politically disastrous for the Obama administration.

At the same time, another federal court decision at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, reflected a completely different opinion that the IRS can grant such subsidies on the federal healthcare exchanges. The court cited the lack of clarity in the language of the Affordable Care Act. Though, if things eventually go the Halbig way, 5 million individuals could lose their health coverage subsidy.

Read more at The Hill

Legislation Would Unravel Home Healthcare Cuts

According to a report in the Heritage Foundation’s The Daily Sign on July 16, the home healthcare industry in the United States is lagging. In February of this year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that those businesses providing care to those patients requiring such care lost 3,800 jobs. This is following Medicare cuts which occurred between December of 2013 and this past January.

Some claim those cuts originated from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Daily Signal said such HHS reductions in home healthcare have wound up significantly impacting women.  The Daily Signal cites findings by Avalere Health, which say “more than 5 million women are affected directly, since women make up the majority of home health care beneficiaries.”

Read more at Heritage.org/The Daily Signal

People Still Don’t Understand Obamacare

Some people put off seeing the doctor, others don’t understand why they would still pay a premium while on vacation. Still, some don’t comprehend having to make a co-payment for a check-up. According to a Washington Post report of July 16, such confusion is common because Obamacare has its own language and complex fee structures. In one instance, a healthcare facility  resorted to diagrams and charts as a way to try and explain Obamacare plans to new enrollees.

Also, according to the Washington Post report, some local community health centers are finding they’re having to make a mad dash of it ─ coming up with ad hoc, easy-to-read brochures to explain health insurance policies. According to Kathy May, director of Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare, some people “think they have to pay their full deductible up front, and they don’t have it.” Still, others often don’t understand why they would need to pay a monthly rate for services scarcely used, and later pay additional monies when they do.

Read more at The Washington Post

Fighting the Affordable Healthcare Act

The best way to fight Obamacare may be to give a human face to those adversely impacted by it. One place to start could be with the doctors, nurses, and other hospital care workers seeing first-hand the damaging effects the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare, some say, is adversely impacting the relationship between healthcare provider and patient.

According to political veteran Karl Rove, in the Washington Post on July 16, this means the highest level of patient care is not dispensed. Rove suggests politicians should put these and other Obamacare issues at the center of their campaigns.  This would compel GOP candidates to lay out their options to Obamacare, while holding Democrats feet to the fire – at the polls.

Rove adds, “Many people who lost their existing policies because they didn’t comply with Obamacare’s mandates are finding their new premiums and deductible are much higher.” Rove also says this serves to “explode the myth of liberal competence and compassion.”

Read more at  The Wall Street Journal 

Malfunctioning Websites Still Delaying Hawaii Obamacare Signups

The Hawaii Health Connector, has been unable to produce a fully functional website since it launched in October, 2013, even though the CGI Group got $53 million for its creation and another $20 million for operation and maintenance.

A separate $100 million web portal operated by the state Department of Human Services and designed by KPMG to connect Hawaii residents with Medicaid services, a requirement under Obamacare, has also been problematic, House lawmakers said Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Read More at Watchdog.org

Insurers Owe $330M in Obamacare ‘Refunds’

Nearly 500,000 people in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana will get refunds or other consideration totaling $19.4 million because their insurers didn’t spend 80 percent of their 2013 premiums on patient care. The requirement, which was designed to curb administrative costs in health care, is one part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Read More at Cincinnati.com

Obamacare Fight Carries Risks for Republicans in 2016 Swing States

To understand the complex political calculations Republicans now face in attacking Obamacare, consider that almost 1.4 million people could lose coverage in Ohio, Florida and Virginia, the three largest presidential battleground states, if the courts side with the law’s critics.

Read More at Businessweek.com

Appeals Courts Differ on Obamacare; Supreme Court Case Likely

First, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit court of appeals ruled Tuesday against a key component of the law — the federal subsidies for millions of people who signed up for health coverage.

The 2-1 decision created a legal path for a possible Supreme Court case that could essentially gut the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which passed with zero GOP votes.

A few hours later, all three judges on a 4th Circuit panel in Virginia decided the opposite by declaring the subsidies legal and proper.

Read More at CNN.com

Agents Get Subsidized ‘Obamacare’ Using Fake IDs

Undercover investigators using fake identities were able to secure taxpayer-subsidized health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care law, congressional investigators said Wednesday, July 23, 2014.

Read more at ABC News