Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic Senate candidate in Kentucky who is trying to defeat Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, twice refused on Wednesday to say whether she would have voted for Obamacare.
Asked two times whether she’d have voted for the 2010 overhaul, Grimes said: “I, when we are in the United States Senate, will work to fix the Affordable Care Act.”
According to Heritage Foundation report by Amy Payne on Wednesday, at least 1 million individuals received incorrect ACA subsidies. The account on the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry page outlines how Obamacare pays such subsidies if you elect to obtain coverage through the federal healthcare exchange and you are at a qualifying income level.
Alyene Senger, a Heritage expert, cautions Affordable Healthcare Act subsidies are income based, adding, “[I]f a person’s income fluctuates, which happens more frequently than many realize, the subsidy amount will change from month to month. . . So if you qualify for more subsidy help than you receive during the year, you’ll get a tax refund. But if you were given more subsidy than your income qualifies you for, you will be required to repay the excess subsidy.”
The Washington Post says the federal government is trying to keep pace with this scenario, but the component of the Obamacare computer system which “is supposed to match proof of income with people’s Obamacare applications is, well, not built yet.”
Alec Phillips, a Goldman Sachs economic researcher, said additional subsidies garnished from the Affordable Care Act have already boosted the economy. The article appeared in MarketWatch, May 12, in The Wall Street Journal.
Phillips said the first quarter received a boost from the new healthcare plan and he expects the same during the second quarter ─ creating optimism including an estimated gain in the second quarter GDP of 3.9 percent and 4.5 percent annually.
And, according to Phillips, healthcare spending accelerated in the first quarter, more so than at any other time in 30 years. The cause? A $37 billion rise in personal income. Phillips claims subsidies will free up income for those who had no coverage before, as well as those who had insurance but were paying for it themselves.
Effects from Obamacare should be minimal in the third and fourth quarters of this year, but will again increase in 2015 and 2016, if enrollment increases as predicted. “Overall, around 40 percent of the subsidies should find their way to non-health consumption this year,” Phillips concludes.
The May 8 USA Today.com reports companies have varying excuses to explain disappointing earnings. The latest scapegoat? The Affordable Care Act.
John Butters, an analyst at FactSet, a financial data research concern, claims 30 companies have highlighted Obamacare during conference calls since March, and also throughout the first quarter of 2014. “That’s a healthy cross section of companies if you consider that so far, 446 companies in the S&P 500 have reported first-quarter results.”
The irony is that half of the companies are in the healthcare industry. The remainder told of decreased profits, as well as other negative effects stemming from the ACA’s implementation including the increase in insurance costs.
“Most of the companies talking about the law did so negatively, pointing out how it either hurts demand for their business or causes costs to increase,” said USA Today.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, healthcare spending rose at an annual rate of 9.9% last quarter, the most rapid rate of increase since 1980. The list of corporations citing adverse ACA impacts include: General Electric, UPS, Dollar General, and Cognizant, a technology company that outsources its services.
According to the Daily Caller.com, on May 12, 2014, the head of Colorado’s troubled Obamacare exchange recently garnered a $14,000 bonus, in addition to a 2.5 cost of living raise. These increases were in spite of that state’s exchange struggles.
Health News Colorado reported Patty Fortneau is currently the third highest paid administrator of a state-run ACA marketplace, making over $195,300 annually. Predictably, Fortneau raised eyebrows following her request for the raise and bonus last October. At the time, the exchange was performing poorly and not meeting enrollment targets. Although the request was rescinded, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner expressed outrage over Fortneau’s request.
Suggestions for the exchange’s solvency in 2015 and 2016 include varying fee increases. “They include raising the per-customer fee of 1.4 percent paid by those who buy policies through the exchange, and another proposal to levy a fee on all insurance holders ─ regardless of whether the policy came from the exchange or not ─ to raise $13 million to cover the exchange’s expenses.”
Have House Republicans run out of things to say on Obamacare? According to a May 12 article in The Hill.com, there are no House-level planned votes or hearings on the Affordable Care Act ─ at least in the foreseeable future.
Is this a new GOP strategy? The GOP has failed to say whether the party will initiate new efforts regarding Obamacare. The Hill said, “The lack of action highlights the GOP’s struggle to adjust its message now that enrollment in the exchanges beat projections and the uninsured rate is going down. Insurers also report that 80 to 90 percent of new policyholders are paying their premiums, contradicting a frequent criticism from the GOP.”
In the Senate, polarized debate virtually evaporated during confirmation hearings for HHS Secretary nominee, Sylvia Mathews Burwell. However, National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said, “There is absolutely zero evidence that any Republican is talking about ObamaCare less.”
The Fiscal Times on May 13, online discusses how state run healthcare exchanges have cost nearly half a billion dollars to construct. Just over six months later they are still not at acceptable performance levels.
“Largely inoperable state exchange websites in Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Nevada have racked up $474 million federal tax dollars so far,” as reported initially by Politico.com. “The costs will continue to climb as states scramble to salvage the flailing websites or transition onto the federal exchange.”
“The Obama administration had intended for states using the federal portals to gradually transition away from HealthCare.gov and onto their own exchanges,” said The Times. But because of state website issues, the contrary is occurring. Minnesota, Nevada and Rhode Island are each mulling over following Oregon and going over to HealthCare.gov.
The Fiscal Times also said policy experts cite cost as an unintended benefit of more states using the federal portal as it averages out being less expensive per enrollee. A report by Jay Angoff, a former Missouri Insurance Commissioner, outlines those costs to the federal government at an average of $647 to sign up each enrollee on the federal portal, versus $1,503 per enrollee on the state-based exchanges.
Reed Abelson reports in The New York Times on May 12, regardless of consumer choices for healthcare plans, the number of doctors and hospitals in coverage networks is down. Getting to a provider specifically sought may soon cost more. Narrow networks, according to the report, “have made a big entrance on the newly created state insurance exchanges, where they are a common feature in many of the plans.” They vary significantly, and exclude some major hospitals or physician groups.
Larry Boress, head of the Midwest Business Group on Health, explains that insurers outside the exchanges, are pushing smaller networks for employers as a way to cut healthcare expenses. Consumer dissatisfaction is over confusion regarding which providers are part of which plans. Federal and state regulators assure they are scrutinizing coverage offered in the coming year to ensure “that consumers have sufficient access to hospitals and doctors.”
States continue to struggle with narrow networks. “After much debate, New York regulators decided last month not to require health plans to offer out-of-network benefits in 2015, despite pressure from patients and doctors,” said the Times. Others grappling with narrow networks are Washington and New Hampshire. Insurers like such networks because it allows them to oversee costs and care.
In April, Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said, “Too often, Obamacare cancels the policy you wanted to keep and tells you what policy to buy.” Pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Monica Wehby, is employing the narrow networks issue as political fodder for her own Senate bid in Oregon. Her slogan, “Keep your doctor. Change your senator.”
AmeriMark Direct founded its mail-order catalog business in Cleveland in the 1960s. The 700-employee company in 2014 received an initial estimate from a broker that noted a 30 percent increase in the price of premiums if they stayed with the same insurance provider. The company chose a new provider and changed some of their policy’s benefits — such as increasing the deductibles and copays that employees pay as their contribution to their own health coverage.
The new costs of the Affordable Care Act are an added burden on top of the health insurance premiums that have been rising for years. The largest of the new Obamacare costs is the health insurance provider tax, or HIT.
Nationally, federal taxpayers have spent $4,633 per Obamacare enrollee for each of the 8+ million who have signed up for Exchange coverage through April 19, 2014. But this ranges from a low of $3,038 in Tennessee to a high of $24,947 in Hawaii. There were similar large differences across states in terms of federal costs per dollar of premiums for plans offered on the Exchanges.
In terms of how much Federal taxpayers spent per dollar of premiuums, there was a 10-fold difference in this metric between the lowest state (Arizona: 63 cents per dollar) and the highest state ($6.38 per dollar in Hawaii). This ratio was slightly higher in Democrat-controlled states ($0.98) than Republican-controlled states ($0.88), but was highest of all in states run by Republican governors facing opposition legislatures ($1.27).