Obamacare Exchanges Continue Meltdown, On Life Support- An Update

A recent article in Human Events (online, 5/15) by conservative blogger Michelle Malkin confirms what many Affordable Care Act observers have suspected, if not outright known: “While private health insurance exchanges have operated smoothly and satisfied customers for decades, the Obamacare models are on life support. Oregon’s exchange is six feet under – – shuttered last year after government overseers squandered $300 million on their failed website and shady consultants who allegedly set up a phony website to trick the feds,” so writes Ms. Malkin.

And this trouble does not start or stop in The Beaver State.  Also according to Malkin’s Human Events account earlier this month, the feds subpoenaed the Massachusetts Obamacare Exchange – after whistleblowers who worked brought to light catastrophic technological shortfalls in its Health Connector program.

The report goes on to cite Josh Archambault, a senior healthcare fellow at Boston’s Pioneer Institute. It seems Archambault recently released a report recently outlining “the complete incompetence” of the state’s health officials.

Meanwhile, Malkin additionally claims . . . “Obamacare exchanges across the country are instead bleeding money, seeking more taxpayer bailouts.” And, in citing The Washington Post, the Human Events report says this is in spite of $5 billion worth of taxpayer’s subsidies.

Read more at Human Events

Ted Cruz Is Not An Obamacare Participant – Yet

A report in The Washington Post blogs section (online, 5/16: Katie Zezima) recaps the less-than-secret opposition to the Affordable Care Act by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Additionally, according to The Washington Post, Cruz’ 2016 campaign manager Rick Tyler says, “He continues to have an opposition to the ACA, and he’s very vocal about that. It’s definitely part of campaign, running against Obamacare. He has continually said he’d like to repeal every word of it.”

Yet, the Texas Republican senator and 2016 GOP presidential contender now concedes he may have to enroll in Obamacare. The explanation? Cruz’ wife having taken “a leave from her job and its benefits.”

Read more at The Washington Post

Mandatory Obamacare Expansion For States Manifests As A Gross Miscalculation

According to a recent report by Jason Hart in Florida Watchdog.org (online, 5/11) one hope the Obama administration had about Affordable Care Act implantation was that states would fall right into line, at least when it came to Medicaid expansion.

But, as the FloridaWatchdog.org account also says, “combined with nationwide spending and emergency room data, threats to existing Medicaid waivers are solidifying Obamacare opposition.”  The result is a backfire on the Obama administration.

Christie Herrera, who is a senior fellow at Florida’s Free-Market Foundation for Government Accountability, is quoted by Watdog.org, as saying:  “I think people are starting to see that it’s not the little guy pushing Obamacare in Florida. It’s big hospitals, big business, big insurance companies.”

One result, according to Florida Watcdog.org, is Florida gov. Rick Scott having filed suit against the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That suit is over “plans to stop funding the state’s Low Income Pool program, which compensates hospitals for seeing uninsured patients,” according to Hart’s Watchdog report.

Others suing HHS include Gov. Greg Abbott, R.-Texas, and Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

Read more at FloridaWatchdog.org 

Are Insurers Being Deceptive About Their Physician Networks?

An emerging, even challenging aspect of Obamacare it may well be, according to The Los Angeles Times (Michael Hiltzik – online 5/8) “holding insurance companies to their promises and obligations to keep their networks adequate – – and to keep them from lying about the availability of doctors.”

Hiltzik’s L.A. Times Article explains, “One of the most controversial and least understood aspects of coverage under the Affordable Care Act is the network concept. More precisely, the narrow-network concept, since the whole goal of health insurers that steer patients to networks of preferred doctors and hospitals is to keep the provider roster limited and therefore (so they expect) cheaper.”

But, do these “networks” cater to patients adequately?  The Times report also asks:

  • “Are there enough doctors and hospitals of all types so that patients can get the care they need without necessary delay?”
  • “Are customers getting sufficient, and accurate, information about the networks to make a fair choice about which health plan to choose?”
  • What about narrow networks for conventional insurance customers? The ACA leaves the task of ensuring that all enrollees have reasonable access to primary care doctors, specialists, and hospitals to the states.”

Read more at The Los Angeles Times 

In The Blue Grass State, Some Say the ACA Causes Hospital Closures

“This Facility is CLOSED,” reads a sign posted on the door of a Nicholas County, Kentucky hospital. Reading further, the sign also directs those needing “immediate care,” to “call 911.” This is then followed by a listing of “Closest Emergency Rooms.”

The blame, some say, for such notices winding up on now shuttered hospital entryways in the Blue Grass State can be laid right at the doorstep of the Affordable Care Act.

According to a recent report in USA Today (online 5/8, by Laura Ungar) the reasons are traceable to the scenario as recently outlined by the Kentucky Hospital Association (KHA) during a recent press conference. Those concerns have been released in its report entitled “Code Blue,” which says, according to USA Today, that “payment cuts to hospitals are expected to reach nearly $7 billion through 2024,” and also that “Kentucky hospitals will lose more money under the Affordable Care Act than they gain in revenue from expanded coverage.” USA Today also says, a net loss of $ 1billion will be realized by the year 2020.

Ungar adds, “Meanwhile many patients with job-based private insurance, and plans purchased on the state exchange, face high deductibles and co-pays. When they can’t pay their bills, a hospital’s bad debt grows. This pushes up uncompensated care, even as charity care to the uninsured drops.”

During the recent press conference KHA President Mike Rust alluded  to Medicaid expansion as having provided many Kentucky residents with healthcare insurance which also brought fresh funds to hospitals, but Rust is also said, “the rest of the story is the cuts.”

Read more at USA Today 

Obama Administration Seeks To Assuage Consumers Over Troubling Aspects Of The ACA

Is the Obama White House now a consumer advocate – – at least when it comes to single-payer healthcare? The administration is seeking to address areas of Obamacare purportedly causing angst among healthcare consumers. This is the recent word coming from veteran New York Times reporter Robert W. Pear (online, 5/8) who writes, “The White House is moving to address two of the most common consumer complaints about the sale of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act: that doctor directories are inaccurate, and that patients are hit with unexpected bills for costs not covered by insurance.”

As Pear elaborates: “The problems that consumers face with unexpected costs may result, in part, from the way plans are listed on HealthCare.gov, the website for the federal marketplace. More than 8.5 million people are in private health plans selected through the site, and the plans are listed on order of their premiums, from lowest to highest.” Pear’s report adds, “The Medicare Agency said it had received complaints about insurance company directories that included doctors who ‘have retired from practice, have moved locations or are deceased.’”

Pear also says, “New federal rules will require insurers to update their Medicare directories each month, ‘with specific notations to highlight those providers who are closed or not accepting new patients.’”

Read more at The New York Times

The Most Important Obamacare Litigation May Be A Case You Never Even Heard Of

Jeffrey Cutler is the Tax Collector of East Lampeter Township, Pa. According to a new report in Human Events (online, May 13 – by Justin Haskins) in Oct. 2013 Mr. Cutler received a notice from his health insurance provider that his then current healthcare plan did not qualify for renewal under established rules of the Affordable Care Act. Making matters worse, Cutler was satisfied with his plan- – one he obtained in 2007. Thus, Mr. Cutler had no desire to change over to what he personally regarded as a less than quality plan; one which would have had to be obtained through the government run healthcare marketplace (or exchange).

In legal terms, this prompted the Pennsylvania man to go “Pro se,” representing himself in court. He filed a lawsuit, according to the Human Events account, “alleging Obamacare violates his constitutional right on two counts.”

  • The Pennsylvania Tax Collector’s lawsuit claims that Obama’s “transition policy,” also known as the ‘”administrative fix” is a violation of the 5th Amendment’s (implied) equal protection clause.
  • Human Events also says, “Cutler’s second argument is Obamacare violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. According to Cutler, who is Jewish – – a religion that is not exempt from Obamacare mandates – – federal agencies under Obamacare unfairly give certain religious groups the freedom to avoid having compliant health insurance plans without paying a penalty. By making this exception, Obamacare clearly favors some religious groups over others.”

Read more at Human Events

When It Comes To Obamacare Most Doubt High Court’s Fairness

If recent polling is any indication, the U.S. Supreme Court may not rank especially high in the trust and fairness departments, at least when it comes to its anticipated (June, 2015) ruling in King v. Burwell.

According to a recent report in the New York Daily News (online, May 11) which cites an Associated Press-GfK poll,  “. . . 44 percent prefer that Congress leave the law as is and let states decide whether they want to create insurance exchanges that would allow their residents to receive subsidies.”

For its part the Obama White House says that many of their Affordable Care Act adversaries just simply misinterpret Obamacare, by honing in on very small portion(s) of it. Here too, perception, and that perception as enumerated in polling numbers may be of significance – especially as they relate to the High Court’s trustworthiness. The New York Daily News explains further, “In a twist, the poll found that opponents of the law, who tend to be politically conservative, have less confidence in the objectivity of a court with a conservative majority. Among foes, 60 percent are not confident, compared with 44 percent of the law’s supporters.”

And as to the now well-publicized Obamacare federal subsidies, the New York Daily News adds, “Regardless of how the public feels about the court’s internal deliberations, a majority wants the justices to allow subsidies to continue flowing in all 50 states, an opinion in line with the administration’s position.”

Read more at The New York Daily News 

Five Republicans Allegedly Let Congress Retain Questionable Obamacare Subsidies

A new report in The National Review Online (May 7, by Brendan Bordelon) describes a “For thee but not for me” scenario when it comes to members of Congress and Obamacare. Specifically, ACA rules applying to some, but not to others.  According to Bordelon’s report, approximately one week before a scheduled vote on a subpoena for: “Congress’ fraudulent application to the District of Columbia’s health exchange – the document that facilitated Congress’ ‘exemption’ from Obamacare by allowing lawmakers and staffers to keep their employer subsidies,” some Republican leaders covertly advocated that senators yank their support for such a subpoena.

According to Bordelon’s National Review account, “The application said Congress employed just 45 people.” Bordelon’s report also says, “To Small Business Committee chairman David Vitter, who has fought for years against the Obamacare exemption, it was clear that someone in Congress had falsified the document in order to make lawmakers and their staff eligible for taxpayer subsidies provided under the exchange for small-business employees.”

Michael Cannon, who heads up health studies at Cato is quoted as saying by The National Review, “The most powerful interest group in Washington, D.C. is not the Chamber or the unions or anyone else. It is members of Congress and their staffs. And when it comes to their benefits, they are all members of the same party.”

Read more at The National Review Online

ACA’s Risk Aspect May Rock Insurance Rates

More from CBNC’s healthcare writer Dan Mangan. This time he says, on the CNBC Web page (5/5)  “There may not be enough to cover costs of Obamacare’s Risk Corridor Program.” Mangan’s report cites a recent Standard & Poors Ratings Services Report which says, “A large number of insurers – more than half of the Obamacare exchange issuers – – “were conservative” and did not record any risk corridor payments that they might be owed.” . . . “This indicates that the actual aggregate payments due to insurers from the corridor are likely even higher than what has been currently recorded.”

According to CNBC, the Standard & Poors Report also says, “ . . . [S]ome insurers may have a tougher time covering their costs—and Obamacare customers in some areas of the country may face higher premium prices in 2016.”

Read more at CNBC