The New York Times reports the Obama Administration is casting a wide net while searching for fresh private contractors to oversee the troubled HealthCare.gov website. This is the Federal Obamacare exchange which suffered from well-publicized technologically-based glitches last fall, during the equally well-publicized, botched Affordable Care Act rollout.
Federal officials are especially compelled by the prospect of reaching out to small businesses, inclusive of: women, disabled vets, as well as socio-economically disadvantaged groups. “In documents distributed to federal contractors, the administration makes clear that it wants to find a vendor that can overhaul the website under ‘aggressive time constraints”’, said The New York Times. Specifically, it wants a company that can “transition a large-scale systems development project” totaling 400 or 500 employees.
CGI Federal was the first contractor to run HealthCare.gov, but the site’s malfunctions led the administration to bring in Accenture as the lead contractor early this year. Accenture’s contract expires in January 2015.
Another Daily Caller.com report Monday claims the federal government is trudging through piles of overdue applications due to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion efforts. Yet, the administration is considering cuts to funding, directly impacting such applications.
Again the Obamacare issue is technology. “A massive amount of Medicaid applications has been further complicated by technological snafus between HealthCare.gov and incompatible state technologies, creating backlogs across the country,” said Sarah Hurtubise, the article’s author. For months, federal systems have been dealing with issues in sending the most complete information to state Medicaid agencies.
Ideally, HealthCare.gov should guide applications of customers eligible for Medicaid to the state agencies, which should be able to verify eligibility and then enroll the applicant. However, breakdowns in communications in many of the states have caused customers to sign up for a second time.
“Hundreds of thousands of Medicaid applicants are still waiting for access to care.” Illinois’ backlog totals an estimated 200,000 applications, while California’s Medicaid backlog numbers some 800,000 applications.
Do recent earnings reports from WellPoint raise concerns about whether hope and change in healthcare are real? A story in The Daily Caller.com on Wednesday said Blue Cross Blue Shield’s WellPoint has reported higher than anticipated profits in the aftermath of the Affordable Care Act and its accompanying requirement to buy insurance coverage.
WellPoint, the second largest health insurer nationally, disclosed Wednesday that its first quarter profits fell “due to investment spending related to the healthcare reform law, and higher administrative costs from adding new commercial customers.” The company’s net income was $701 million in the beginning of this year. That’s down from $885.2 million in the beginning of 2013, leaving this year’s earnings at $2.30 a share — better than the $2.12 per share growth previously anticipated by experts.
WellPoint has now raised its 2014 fiscal outlook, expecting its total 2014-15 earnings to reach $8.50 a share, up by 10 cents on earnings per share. Also, according to the Daily Caller report, “Not only did membership grow in the wake of the individual mandate, WellPoint benefited from higher premiums and a decline in doctor visits — a possible result of an Obamacare-sparked move to higher out-of-pocket costs for patients.”
While insurers may garner the benefits of mandatory health coverage, ACA-related costs are likely to keep premiums rising. WellPoint predicts double digit increases in premiums for 2015.
States with their own Obamacare exchanges spent far more than the federal government on getting clients signed up for the new healthcare program, a new study says.
According to an analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, state spending per enrollee on customer-assistance programs varied significantly, from $920 per person in Hawaii, for example, to just $16 in Florida.
Calling Obamacare “a smorgasbord of opportunity for big abortion,” Matthew Clark’s column on RedState.com on April 28 chronicles California’s Obamacare exchange and how they are paying Certified Enrollment Counselors a fee of $58 per person to enroll healthcare recipients on the state’s exchange.
Clark is the Associate Counsel for Government Affairs and Media Accuracy with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). He said that by providing a fee to Certified Enrollment Counselors, the abortion industry has found ways to locate taxpayer dollars, resulting in Planned Parenthood receiving approximately half of its annual billion dollar budget from that revenue base. “Obamacare is replete with kickbacks, subsidies, and programs that benefit big abortion,” said Clark.
California isn’t the only government body teaming up with the abortion industry promoting the Affordable Care Act. The federal government’s Champions for Coverage is scattered with abortion providers and advocacy groups throughout. “Though not paying them in the same way as California, the federal government has partnered with numerous Planned Parenthood affiliates, NARAL, and various ‘reproductive health’ organizations (code for abortion) to promote pro-abortion Obamacare throughout America,” said Clark.
Grace-Marie Turner, President of the Galen Institute, writes the White House is “manufacturing” news about the Affordable Care Act.
Her remarks appeared in a Forbes.com op-ed on April 18. Turner said cold realities lie ahead for Obamacare and that all we need do is to “follow the money.” While the column covers topics discussed elsewhere, such as who has really paid for their insurance, and the demographic mix of enrollees, it also touches on premium increases and payback, referring to the fact that while the Obamacare tax this year is modest, higher real costs could be waiting for healthcare exchange enrollees. And, they could eventually have to pay back extra subsidies received.
“Millions of Americans are facing substantially higher health insurance costs as a result of the law’s mandates,” said Turner, while others are finding it increasingly difficult to locate a doctor due to tiny networks in Obamacare plans. This proves particularly difficult for patients with chronic illnesses who both lose doctors and/or watch treatments diminish before their eyes, if not stop altogether.
Turner cites McKinsey survey estimates that approximately “53 percent of previously uninsured enrollees had paid their premiums.” A larger number, 86 percent had paid. One main reason for premiums going up in 2015, is due to a lack of enrollment success by exchanges, at least in terms of getting enough healthy young people to sign up, and not having enough of them to pay more than their share of premiums, according to Turner. Youth up to age 26 have been permitted to stay on their parents’ plans.
The actual number of paying healthcare customers varies among states. Turner asks how many who pay the first through fourth month’s premium, especially after they realize the benefit limitations and high deductibles the policies carry, still remain to be seen.
According to Talking Points Memo.com, President Obama offers tough love advice to Democrats up for midterm re-election in the fall of 2014: Take up, or rather take up for the second time the Obamacare mantle. The president, in a White House brief on April 18, said, “I don’t think we should apologize for it. I don’t think we should be defensive about it. I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell.”
Behind this latest ACA push amongst Democrats, predictably, are Democratic strategists encouraging Democratic Senatorial Candidates in tight races to “start making the case for Obamacare.” Stan Greenberg, a leading Democratic analyst, told TPM, “The question is: Do you lean into it? Is it mostly let’s get it fixed? Or is it that these are serious transformative changes that have to happen? That’s still being sorted.”
At this stage, uncertainty exists whether candidates whose re-elections are tenuous will follow the president’s sage counsel. Some claim they do not plan to campaign with him this go round. According to TPM, “Some have even released TV ads that highlight their distance from the White House.”
Sally C. Pipes writes in the April 16, New York Post online, regarding the latest healthcare choice of the day returning to favor among the left: the government-run, single-payer system. According to Pipes, the Democratically-controlled Senate recently held hearings about the single-payer concept in other countries where witnesses testified advocating single-payer benefits.
Single-payer supporters use Canada as evidence of that system’s excellence. Yet, critics maintain Canada’s healthcare system is muddled with: parceling of healthcare, long waits, poor quality, scarcity of vital medical technologies, as well as unsustainable costs. This is what the U.S. can precisely look forward to if we pattern ourselves after Canada, said Pipes.
Are we witnessing an Obamacare secession by several Republican-controlled states? A number of red states have reportedly declined the option of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, according to an April 23 article on Bloomberg BNA.
Those states are also seeking to utilize their own state-specific plans for coverage to low income adults to access the federal funds earmarked for state Medicaid expansion. In doing so, they specifically seek waivers of ACA requirements for Medicaid expansion. This would allow them to include conditions such as copayments, health savings accounts, as well as offer monetary incentives for those engaging in healthy behaviors.
According to University of Michigan researchers, in a report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), this direction possibly signals an emergent middle way towards reductions in ranks of the uninsured: “They (the waivers) have enabled governors to persuade enough conservatives to support a modified Medicaid expansion,” allowing them to “remain critical of the ACA while pursuing Medicaid waivers they view as beneficial for their states.”
CNN Money.com, in an April 11 article, asks if being ACA compliant by singing up for Obamacare puts you at risk for cyber attacks? Can visiting Healthcare.gov, or a state web-based health insurance marketplace exchange compromise your computer’s security, and, your very personal health-related information? Officials at the federal level, at Healthcare.gov, claim that site has not been affected. While coverage ideally protects you and your pocketbook, questions about personal Internet security arise if those applying for health insurance coverage have become more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves.
CNN claims both government regulators and cybersecurity experts have seen a sharp increase during the past several months, of Internet attacks. Cybercriminals use the new healthcare law and its new plans as vehicles to target unsuspecting healthcare consumers. It’s unclear whether the relatively new Heartbleed security flaw has enabled hackers to attack individual healthcare consumer’s computers. The email security firm, Agari, has observed a large amount of malicious emails disguised as authentic messages from health insurers. The emails appear to originate from the insurance company, using both its logos and branding. In 2013, Agari found that consumers were five times more likely to receive a compromised message from their healthcare provider’s domain, more so than from banks, retailers, airlines, social media, and every other industry it analyzed.
In May 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), months before the healthcare exchanges first opened, warned consumers to be watchful of what appear to be Obamacare-related emails, since they could trick potential healthcare consumers into handing over sensitive personal data, or even worse. . . their hard-earned cash. A recent report by Dell’s Secure Works claims black marketers get $20 for each set of personal health insurance credentials. Supplementary dental, vision, and chiropractic information nets an extra $20. But when such information is batched with Social Security numbers, bank account and credit card information, online logins and more, they could fetch between $500 and $1,300 – all for just one individual’s health analysis-based profile.