According to a story in The Hill (online, Apr. 29 – by Sarah Ferris) current federal rules say states can utilize Obamacare grants for expenditures in correlation with “design, development, and implementation” of the (web) sites engaged for purposes of obtaining health insurance.
But The Hill concurrently cites concerns by the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services that because some states are facing budgetary conundrums this year, they may “pay for overhead costs instead.”
In Washington State, the Obamacare exchange is looking at a “funding shortfall” of $125 million. Therefore that marketplace might be tempted to employ some “$10 million in (Obamacare) establishment grant funds to support operations.”
If you are a lower-income worker, chances are, according to The Daily Caller – online, Apr. 25 – you ultimately should not be expecting much ACA assistance if you fall within something known as the “coverage gap.”
Connor Wolf’s Daily Caller report cites recent findings by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) which hold, “It is unlikely that people who fall into the coverage gap will be able to afford ACA coverage without financial assistance.”
Those in the income range of $10,000 to $12,000 are in a real bind in this regard. As the Daily Caller starkly describes, “Those in that income range make too much to qualify for assistance under Obamacare but often times make too little to actually afford coverage or the fee that comes with not being covered.”
According to a fresh report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (online, Apr. 29) – – (citing a Reuters story by Caroline Humer) the major U.S. health insurer, Aetna, has been submitting 2016 insurance rates geared to individuals, to state regulators. But Aetna is now also wary that it may need to examine such rate proposals following the U.S. Supreme Court’s anticipated ruling (in late June, of this year) in the case of Burwell vs. King. Pointedly, the St. Louis post Dispatch report says, “The court’s decision could affect an estimated 7 million people who receive subsidies to help pay for the plans and may not be able to afford insurance otherwise. Industry experts say insurers would probably need to raise their rates further if many people do not buy medical coverage after losing subsidies.”
There is more to the now well-publicized Obamacare penalty (or fine) than meets the eye. Some may not view some of these surprises as presents. According to a recent report in Accounting Today (online, Apr. 27) by Mark Ciaramitaro, “Next tax season, many taxpayers will need to have additional information documents on hand when they do their taxes to indicate their household’s health insurance coverage status” . . . “[N]ext year, all taxpayers with insurance will be provided documentation from the government, their employer or their private insurance carrier. Two new documents will be required in the form of a 1095-B or 1095-C.”
In addition to the extra health coverage verification paperwork and documentation required for the feds, according to Ciaramitaro, “the average penalty of $178 at year’s end was almost double what many assumed was a flat $95 fee.” According to the Accounting Today report, tax filers can expect the flat fee to increase to $325 per adult, or it could be 2 percent of household income minus the filing threshold, whichever is greater.”
A family of four with a household income of $60,000 annually saw a penalty of roughly $400, that number increased to $975 in 2016.
An update on how a U.S. Supreme Court ruling could severely impact small business in America: The Boston Herald’s Kimberly Atkins (online 4/28) says, “Lawmakers have been scrambling to put legislative fixes in place of the court ruling, expected in June. Last week Senate GOP leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, R-Ky., signed on to a bill by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., that would extend the federal subsidies through 2017 should the court rule against the administration.” One of the key issues remaining for small business is that of Obamacare subsidies. Atkins’ Boston Herald report elaborates, “For those covered through the federal exchange, David Chase, national health care policy director at the advocacy group Small Business Majority, said, ’This is a really big deal, because small business owners are self-employed and they rely on these subsidies.’”
According to new report on OhioWatchdog.org (Apr. 29) the Buckeye States’ governor, John Kasich, is expected rack up ACA expansion costs surpassing $4 billion by the end of June, 2015. Holding the governor’s feet to the budgetary fire (and to account) are two state legislators, State Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, and State Rep. Nino Vitale – notably, both Republicans (as is Kasich). Jason Hart writing in OhioWatchdog.org describes the latest expansion efforts for the ACA as being “So far, not so great.”
How much can the Affordable Care Act wind-up costing you? In one instance, getting an answer means getting into the story about at least one Obamacare contractor. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (online, Apr. 20; article by Chuch Raasch) Serco, a British based concern operated under a five-year agreement, “worth up to $1.2 billion,” . . . “to process applications for the Affordable Care Act. It was paid $114 million for the first year of the contract and $98 million for the current year, with annual renewal options.”
Maybe no one would have paid much notice until the whistleblowing by ACA processing workers began in Wentzville, Mo. The St. Louis Post Dispatch elaborates: ”Lavonne Takatz, who had worked at Wentzville from October 2013 to April, 2014 said: We played Pictionary. We played 20 Questions. We played Trivial Pursuit.”
Also, according to Raasch’s story, “From May 1 through Aug. 15 last year, workers in the Wentzville facility logged 13,228.25 hours of overtime to process ‘backlogged inconsistency work.’” This information comes from a report by Serco Inc. itself. Serco operated the contracting services for the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (or CMS) in Wentzville.
CMS would wind up prohibiting Serco officials from responding to reports of waste. Yet, a CMS spokesperson said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “the company was not denying the reports of what happened.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch also filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests – this following allegations made by whistle blowers, “that workers in Wentzville were playing games or purposely working slowly because they had so little to do.” Back in February of this year, Serco said such “slow-downs” were because of computer-based issues, but that, while disputing the such claims, took such allegations to heart, retraining its employees to perform other job functions, so says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
More Obamacare news from The Sunshine State. Republicans are huddling in there – in the state’s capital, Tallahassee – as they gear up to oppose Medicaid Expansion full throttle. Meanwhile, Florida State Senators have held a “public workshop,” according to the Orlando Sentinel – in a report (online, by Gray Rohrer, Apr. 22).
Indicative of the depths of feelings over the Obamacare issue in Florida, the Orlando Sentinel report elaborates, “Members of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, group of leaders from multiple faiths, added to that pressure Tuesday [Apr. 21]. They met with [Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando] to thank him for pushing for the Medicaid expansion plan, after first praying for the House to come around on the issue.”
Meanwhile Florida state senators have also “pushed for Medicaid expansion as a replacement for care for the poor and uninsured.” Additionally, according to the Orlando Sentinel, one plan supported by Gardiner, “requires the 800,000 newly eligible Medicaid recipients to pay co-pays and premiums and be employed or looking for work.”
Rohrer’s report also notes, “Americans for Prosperity, a free-market advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, is running ads across the state attacking senators from supporting Medicaid expansion.”
“Government overreach” frequently sparks lively debates about the proper role of federal, state and municipal ruling bodies. A report in The Washington Examiner (online Apr. 20, by Paige Winfield Cunningham) says, “The two biggest states to reject Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion are accusing the administration of trying to force them into it.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, recently voiced his advocacy for a lawsuit filed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Scott initiated the litigation against the Obama White House “over ending federal funds to pay hospitals for caring for the uninsured,” according to The Washington Examiner.
The Feds have are saying they will stop such funding unless the Sunshine State grows its Medicaid program under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act. The Examiner report additionally explains, some U.S. states have “funding pools.” These reimburse hospitals – who would otherwise receive no monies for care dispensed. Yet as Cunningham’s article points out, Medicaid expansion, “would reduce the need for such funds.”
Gov. Abbott (speaking for Florida) is quoted by Cunningham as saying, “Florida’s approach should be determined by Floridians, not coerced by federal bureaucrats.”
Back in December, 2014 Jeb Bush hinted at a 2016 presidential run. While a Jeb Bush candidacy could place the former Florida governor under the spotlight on issues ranging from immigration to Common Core, what about his stance on Obamacare “Death Panels”? If Bush holds fast to his viewpoints, will he, in the words of The New Republic’s Brian Beutler (online, Apr. 21) “set a new and incredibly high bar of boldness for Republican presidential candidates and make a lasting contribution to the public debate”? Or, will he back down out of fear of being seen as, in the words of Beutler’s New Republic’s article, “a real supporter of Obamacare and national healthcare more generally”?
Of concern to some, is Bush’s position on the purported ACA panels. If they are not “death,” per se, but rather “end of life” counseling sessions, is their concept really as ghoulish as it sounds?
Beutler’s story goes on to explain, it was actually Sarah Palin (in 2009) who came up with the term. During that time, The New Republic story contends – with regard to the descriptor, “it had a much more concrete and un-ironic meaning. Reformers wanted to allow doctors to bill Medicare for providing end-of-life counseling to sick and elderly patients. They also wanted to increase the incentive for doctors to incorporate comparative effectiveness research findings into their practices. Taken together, reform foes alleged, Obamacare would leave the most infirm patients without access to potentially lifesaving treatments, and they would die avoidably.”
So where does Jeb Bush stand? Beutler’s article quotes Bush as having said during a recent New Hampshire political gathering, “In hindsight, the one thing I would have loved to have seen was an advance directive where the [Schiavo] family would have sorted this out,” adding, “I think if we’re going to mandate anything from government, it might be that if you’re going to take Medicare, you also sign up for an advance directive where you talk about this before you’re so disabled.”