Obamacare State Exchange Directors Defend Programs on Capitol Hill

While stories about enrollment deadlines for Obamacare are possibly old news, one part of the Affordable Healthcare Act, with a breaking news continuum, is state level healthcare exchanges (or marketplace) websites. As recently as April 3, 2014, six heads of such state sites for healthcare marketplaces were grilled before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The six were from Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oregon, and California. Not only were there lawmaker questions regarding malfunction-plagued websites, but also about enrollment practices and missed sign-up goals.

“No one is trying to push back and say you’re not working hard or you’re not trying to make something work”, said Rep. James Lankford (R. Okla.) towards then end of the lengthy hearing: “The frustration is obviously this is a round peg in a square hole at times and trying to work through federal regulations and what you already have in your state.”

The subjects of additional congressional questioning were: improper marking of a mailed voter registration envelope, with an “x” next to Democratic Party in California, and enrollment goals actually being estimates in Maryland. Oregon has allegedly failed to sign up one applicant completely through its site.

Read more at Heritage.org/The Foundry

It’s a Loss in Md: 73K Lose Insurance; 60K Enroll on Exchange

The Obamacare saga at state levels will continue as long as the computer is with us. The Head of the Maryland Health Insurance Exchange testified April 3, 2014 before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, stating only 60,000 in the State of Maryland have signed up for Obamacare through that State’s healthcare exchange or marketplace. That is 13,000 less than the number of individuals reported to lose their insurance due to the Affordable Care Act.

Representative Jim Jordan (R.-Ohio) grilled the head of the state’s exchange pointing out that the exchange’s new goals are only two thousand more (for a figure of 75,000) to have as sign ups.

Jordan contends: “I think you’re leaving out the fact your calculation, what you just went through, those that are kicked off. There are certainly people who are now in the individual market. They just got kicked off their plan”, Jordan re-emphasized.

Read more at CNS.com

Obamacare Late Surge May Signal Young, Healthy Sign-Ups

More than 1 million people (arguably procrastinators) waited until the last 5 days to sign up for health coverage under the auspices of the ACA. Preliminary indicators show many were both young and minorities. This may be good news for health insurers who are concerned that customers enrolling in health plans through the health insurance exchanges are sicker and older than the average American.

More than 5.4 million adults may have gained health insurance since the start of enrollment in Obamacare plans through early March, according to a survey released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That would bring the percentage of uninsured Americans to 15.2 percent from 17.9 percent in September, the Princeton, New Jersey-based non-profit group said. The survey of 7,500 adults younger than age 65 doesn’t include the late surge of people who selected plans close to the March 31 deadline, the group also said.

Read more at BloombergBusinessweek.com

Dr. Ben Carson Calls for Replacing Obamacare

Noted pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson, recently debuted an initiative: “Save our Healthcare Project”. The end result hoped for? “[T]o replace Obamacare with positive, patient-oriented reforms to ensure all Americans have access to high-quality care.” Carson unveiled the “initial phase” – which lists his seven core principles, including one describing physicians as “the backbone of our healthcare system.”

Carson’s plan also attacks bureaucracy and large scale change, while advocating prudent advancement of technology, and championing consumer freedom.

Read more at the WeeklyStandard

Obamacare Tax: Another $100 Billion Hit to Businesses, Consumers

As President Obama did his first victory lap over reported sign-up levels for the ACA, not everyone joined the chorus line. The reason is heightened concern over what some view as an Obamacare Tax, the expensive healthcare issue in the room businesses will face. It may add up to $100 billion over 10 years. Observers feel the tax could hurt those Obamacare claims to help. “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay”, Obama triumphantly trumpeted in the rose garden. The president, in spite of well-publicized glitches, calls it progress. Obama added: “Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels. Armageddon has not arrived. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans, and in the coming years it will help millions more.” In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed, Bernie Marcus, co-founder and co-chairman and CEO of Home Depot claims: “small and mid-sized businesses will bear the brunt of the health insurance tax”, known as HIT in the business community. The worst may come yet for business, according to critics closely watching the impending healthcare tax.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) projects the health insurance tax will add an additional $475.00 per year on the average individual (purchased) family policy.

Read more at HumanEvents.com

15-20 Percent Aren’t Paying Obamacare Premiums, Insurer Says

One of the biggest players in Obamacare’s exchanges says 15 to 20 percent of its new customers aren’t paying their first premium—which means they’re not actually covered.

The latest data come from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, whose members—known collectively as “Blues” plans—are participating in the exchanges in almost every state. 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.

Read more at The National Journal

Paul Ryan’s Budget Faces Criticism from All Corners

The Ryan budget (Part 4). More details emerge, at least about machinations of it. Republicans in control of the House Budget Committee forged full speed ahead on April 2, 2014 with their budget-balancing program – which sharply reduces spending on expenditures such as transportation, health care programs for the middle class and poor, food stamps and other domestic outlays.

The plan, as put forth by Republican Chairman, Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) would have cuts totaling $5.1 trillion to help bring the government’s ledger back into the black by 2024. His take on the budget leaves intact both Medicare cuts and tax increases – as crafted by President Obama – to fund the new healthcare law. It also repeals the law’s benefits.

The budget legislation promises to serve more as an election-year political and policy statement by House Republicans, versus a realistic attempt to engage President Obama and other key Democrats, who control the Senate, in any other serious efforts to cut the deficit.

Read more at CBSNews.com

Vulnerable Democrats Still Afraid of Obamacare

Endangered Democrats in the midterm elections continue to distance themselves from Obamacare while President Barack Obama celebrates hitting the 7 million sign-up mark by the March deadline.

Read more at Newsmax

Paul Ryan on Pins and Needles: How Obamacare Could Help Kill His Budget

The Ryan Budget (Part2). With Obamacare possibly no longer being seen as a policy vortex pulling democrats into the political abyss, political observers may recall not too long ago, the GOP could pretty much shove a version of Paul Ryan’s repeal-laden budget through the House, not fretting over passage. Those days have passed. For the past three springs, Congress has passed closely related versions of what adds up to the same budget. During those three occasions there was little doubt as to its durability during the conference level process. Not so this year. In 2014 Republican Party leaders are pushing through a budget bill – fast – so the coalition which helped to craft it does not fall apart. As the mid-terms get nearer, Republicans in marginal districts don’t want to complicate matters with a risky vote. What’s happened? An underlying reality: the political base has shifted somewhat underneath Republicans, thus their policy consensus is seen as more politically dangerous than it was, in let’s say 2011, 2012, or 2013. Conservatives won’t like the latest budget bill because it keeps intact near-term expenditure deals Paul Ryan struck with Senate Democrats late in 2013.

Ryan’s latest budget contains no new anti-poverty programs, or any of the innovative reforms he promised, to make the social safety net more meaningful, for example.

Read more at Salon.com

‘Obamacare’ Is More Than Exchanges — And These 3 Charts Will Help You Understand How

The White House is celebrating an achievement that once seemed impossible: Hitting 7.1 million Obamacare enrollees.

The more important story now is all the other elements of Obamacare—the ones that no one is talking about when they talk about ”Obamacare.”

There is still much left to do and there are other issues, such as the following:

  • The incomplete Medicaid expansion
  • Early ACO results appear mixed
  • Readmissions penalties flash promise

Read more at Forbes