Experts from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University warn that unless a rarely cited but essential funding provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) – better known as Obamacare – is renewed in 2015, the community health centers that provide primary care to over 25 million people will be forced to roll back services or, in many cases, shut down completely.
Does the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) live up to its name? Does it make health insurance less expensive? In November 2013, a team at the Manhattan Institute published a study indicating that Obamacare had increased the underlying cost of individually-purchased health insurance in the average state by 41 percent in 2014, relative to 2013. They have now redone the study on a county-by-county basis.
In an article in The Hill online, June 10, Elise Viebeck says the Obama White House is now permitting over 12 states to defer putting into effect a portion of the ACA’s insurance exchange for small businesses. The delay is until 2016.
House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R.-Mo.) has criticized the latest delay, by saying, “HHS and CMS haven’t answered any inquiries regarding the development if SHOP and it appears that the dysfunction is worse than many of us thought.”
Viebeck says this means only one option will be open to small-business employees who wish to purchase health insurance in the SHOP system. “In the latest deferral, the administration allowed state insurance commissioners to request that the SHOP in the state not offer “employee choice” next year.”
John Hayward notes in a Human Events, June 6, that four years have transpired since the Affordable Care Act passed, but it is still hazy as to whether Obamacare will ultimately lower the deficit, or wind up increasing federal debt.
Hayward adds, “In its latest report on the law, the Congressional Budget Office said it is no longer possible to assess the overall fiscal impact.”
Human Events also cites the Investor’s Business Daily: “Almost none of the uninsured will end up paying the ObamaCare mandate penalty, according to an updated analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, which found that 87% will be able to claim an exemption.” The exemption rate is higher than the CBO had previously thought.
CBO also projects 30 million people will remain without coverage in 2016 and 4 million will end up facing a tax or fine.
A June 6, 2014 report by Martha Lynn Craver in Kiplinger said “tensions remain, and the rhetorical battle is still being waged, but Republicans lost the war to kill the controversial health care law, and most of them accept that as political reality. Instead the focus will shift to making new changes in the law, some of them substantive over the next few years.”
Yet, most organizations, according to Kiplinger, will still continue to offer their employees health coverage.
Craver also cites business’ goals including redefining what a full time employee is, and seeing stripped-down “copper” plans with lower premiums. The private sector would also like a deferment of the steep Obamacare excise tax which is currently 40 percent, set to begin in 2018.
Other Obamacare issues outlined by Craver’s report: additional delays in key Obamacare deadlines which Craver’s says are zero.
From The Blaze online, June 5, is a report by Pete Kaserowicz saying Sylvia Mathews Burwell has been confirmed by the Senate as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Underlying this good news for her is how split the U.S. Senate was during the period of the confirmation vote. The Blaze reports, “Burwell’s confirmation was never in doubt, as the Senate only needed a simple majority to approve her, and Democrats have a majority in the upper chamber. But many Republicans were expected to support her given her unanimous Senate confirmation to become the director of the Office of Management and Budget.”
The Blaze account outlines Republican divisions which may remain. While Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would cast a vote for Burwell, 17 Republicans voted against her. Others maintain their vote was a protest against putting Obamacare into effect, rather than a no vote against Burwell.
Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said while he likes Burwell as a person, he concurrently believes her “failure to control the federal debt while at OMB, as well as her lack of qualifications to run HHS,” add up to a no vote. “I take no pleasure in opposing her nomination, but she lacks the background necessary to assume responsibility for this important agency.”
During the time of nomination and confirmation process for Burwell, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate should be focusing on scrapping the ACA, and “not changing out leadership at the top.”
Ferdous L-Faruque reports in The Hill online, June 3, that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is willing to provide $300 million worth of assistance to aid community health centers in their treatment of recently covered patients.
“The money will be used to expand service hours, hire more healthcare providers, and add oral health, behavioral health, pharmacy, and vision services according to HHS.”
Healthcare centers number 1,300 and operate 9,000 facilities that provide care for 21 million people nationwide and in U.S. territories, according to the HHS.
According to a June 3 report by Chuck Ross in the Daily Caller online, a leading name once considered a strong first choice to head the troubled Veterans Affairs, “previously predicted that Obamacare will eradicate employer-based insurance and push the U.S. towards a single-payer system.”
Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove made the prediction in a 2012 Wall Street Journal interview. Cosgrove was quizzed if he thought employers would cease providing health coverage, in spite of Obamacare penalties for doing so. Cosgrove’s response was, “the first ones will be the small companies,” adding, “every CEO I’ve talked to knows how much he’d save between insuring his people and paying the federal penalty.
“The first time some big player does that, it’s going to fall like dominoes,” said Cosgrove. He added, “What that does is drive everybody to the exchanges.”
A report in the Wall Street Journal online, June 5, says the Obama administration is restructuring its troubled Healthcare.gov Obamacare website. The White House is also planning on discontinuing key components of the federal health-insurance marketplace as part of an initiative ”to avoid the problems that plagued the site’s launch last fall.”
Also, according to the WSJ report, because the proposed restructuring is under a tight deadline, concerns are emerging “that consumers could face another rocky rollout this fall when they return to the site to choose plans.” Functions, such as an automated payment system to insurers are experiencing delays. Healthcare.gov is still attempting to move over to new federal government vendors who will manage the system.
“We’re all going to be nervous until November 15,” said Shaun Greene, chief operating officer of Utah-based Arches Health Plan. “There is no wiggle room. They’re on a very tight time frame.”
Greene added, “The re-enrollment process is what scares me.”
One group having a big problem with the Affordable Care Act (ACA, better known as “Obamacare”) might surprise you: union members, who have historically been the staunchest supporters of President Obama and the Democrats.