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Tag Archive: Obamacare


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The New American

Monday, 07 December 2015

Senate Votes to Repeal Much of ObamaCare, Defund Planned Parenthood

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The Senate passed a bill Thursday that would both repeal significant portions of ObamaCare and defund Planned Parenthood. This marks the first time that chamber of Congress has approved any type of ObamaCare repeal, in contrast to the dozens of such bills passed by the House of Representatives.

“Middle-class Americans continue to call on Washington to build a bridge away from ObamaCare. They want better care. They want real health reform,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “For too long, Democrats did everything to prevent Congress from passing the type of legislation necessary to help these Americans who are hurting. Today, that ends.”

Democrats, of course, controlled the Senate from 2010, when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed, through 2014 and blocked all attempts at ObamaCare repeal during that period. Even after Republicans took charge, the minority was still able to stall repeal by threatening a filibuster. But the GOP outflanked them this time by using a parliamentary maneuver known as budget reconciliation to bring the bill, already passed by the House, to the floor for a vote. Ironically, this is the same tactic the Democrats, despite possessing a filibuster-proof majority at the time, utilized to ram the ACA through the Senate in late 2009.

The bill passed 52-47, with all Democrats plus two Republicans opposed. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) voted against the bill because of the amendment defunding Planned Parenthood, which they tried unsuccessfully to get removed. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) missed the vote because he was out campaigning for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

 

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First, the administration revealed that enrollments for Obamacare next year will barely hit 10 million, far below previous projections.

Then last week, the consulting firm of McKinsey & Company estimated that premiums for policies under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, were going up substantially in 2016. For instance, the median rate increase for the lowest priced, highly popular “Silver” plan will rise by 11 percent – compared to just a seven percent increase in 2015.

 

Related: Millions Face Premium and Deductible Sticker Shock under Obamacare

 

Now there are troubling reports  that consumers will be facing soaring out-of-pocket costs for deductibles next year – increases that in many cases will neutralize the benefits of their health care plans or discourage some from purchasing coverage.

“That these deductibles are so high is clearly one of the reasons people aren’t buying a plan—they simply don’t see themselves getting anything for the money,” Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy & Strategy Associates, a business and policy consultant, said in a newsletter on Monday.

Department of Health and Human Services officials insist that there are still plenty of plans available with low premiums for those willing to aggressively shop on the federal and state operated insurance exchanges. Americans have until the end of the year to enroll for the third season of Obamacare. But even in cases where consumers find good deals on premiums, they are likely to be stung on the back end by requirements to pay sizeable out of pocket costs before their Obamacare coverage actually kicks in.

The average annual out-of-pocket costs per worker increased nearly 230 percent between 2006 and 2015, according to an annual survey of employer health benefits coverage by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

 

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Americans Give Health Insurers a Big Thumbs Down

Americans haven’t been this fed up with health insurance companies in a decade, and their frustration likely won’t fade soon.

Consumer satisfaction with health insurance providers fell to the lowest level since 2005, largely due to the slow processing of claims and the rising costs of premiums, deductibles and copays, according to a new survey from the American Customer Satisfaction Index that dates to 2001.

 

Related: How Workers Are Getting Slammed With Higher Health Care Costs

 

Americans are extremely cost sensitive, especially in the health sector, and take notice of how fast their costs go up, says ACSI managing director David VanAmburg.

Obamacare also plays an indirect role. Providers are unable to keep up with customer service as more people purchase insurance, he says. And many insurers haven’t beefed up their staffing to deal with the increase in demand. As insurers become responsible for more consumers, they may need to recalibrate, VanAmburg says.

 

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 POLITICO
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Roughly 80 percent of Obamacare customers received subsidies. | Getty

Obamacare rates to rise 7.5 percent next year

But the figures will vary widely from state to state.

Obamacare customers are facing an average 7.5 percent price increase for a key benchmark health plan next year, according to limited data the Obama administration released just days before the start of a challenging enrollment season.

But the average rate hikes will vary dramatically from state to state — skyrocketing more than 30 percent in Alaska, Montana and Oklahoma while dropping 12.6 percent in Indiana.

The administration’s analysis looks at the second-cheapest “silver” plan available to customers when open enrollment begins on Nov. 1. Those benchmark plans, which are among the most popular sold on the law’s health insurance exchanges, are important because they’re used to calculate how much federal support low- and middle-income exchange customers will receive toward their monthly premiums.

More than 70 percent of exchange customers chose silver plans this year, which cover about 70 percent of medical costs. Roughly 80 percent of Obamacare customers received subsidies, worth an average monthly credit of $270.

 

 

 

MSN News

Many Low-Income Workers Say ‘No’ to Health Insurance

By STACY COWLEY 6 hrs ago
An employee at Golden Corral taking clean cups from the kitchen. Some Golden Corral restaurants began offering health insurance to employees, but few have opted in.© Logan R. Cyrus for The New York Times An employee at Golden Corral taking clean cups from the kitchen. Some Golden Corral restaurants began offering health insurance to employees, but few have…JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — When Billy Sewell began offering health insurance this year to 600 service workers at the Golden Corral restaurants that he owns, he wondered nervously how many would buy it. Adding hundreds of employees to his plan would cost him more than $1 million — a hit he wasn’t sure his low-margin business could afford.

His actual costs, though, turned out to be far smaller than he had feared. So far, only two people have signed up.

“We offered, and they didn’t take it,” he said.

Evidence is growing that his experience is not unusual. The Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, which requires employers with more than 50 full-time workers to offer most of their employees insurance or face financial penalties, was one of the law’s most controversial provisions. Business owners and industry groups fiercely protested the change, and some companies cut workers’ hours to reduce the number of employees who would be eligible.

But 10 months after the first phase of the mandate took effect, covering companies with 100 or more workers, many business owners say they are finding very few employees willing to buy the health insurance that they are now compelled to offer. The trend is especially pronounced among smaller and midsize businesses in fields filled with low-wage hourly workers, like restaurants, retailing and hospitality. (Companies with 50 to 99 workers are not required to comply with the mandate until next year.)

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Daily Caller News Foundation

Feds Hide Secret List Of 11 Staggering Obamacare Insurers

 

Richard Pollock

 

Federal officials have a secret list of 11 Obamacare health insurance co-ops they fear are on the verge of failure, but they refuse to disclose them to the public or to Congress, a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation has learned.

Just in the last three weeks, five of the original 24 Obamacare co-ops announced plans to close, bringing the total of failures to eight barely two years after their launch with $2 billion in start-up capital from the taxpayers under the Affordable Care Act.

All 24 received 15-year loans in varying amounts to offer health insurance to poor and low income customers and provide publicly funded competition to private, for-profit insurers. The eight co-ops to announce closings served populations in ten states: Iowa, Nebraska, Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, Nevada, Tennessee, Vermont, New York and Colorado.

Nearly half a million failing co-op customers will have to find new coverage in 2016. More than $900 million of the original $2 billion in loans has been lost.

The 11 unidentified co-ops appear to be still operating but are now on “enhanced oversight” by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which manages the Obamacare program. The 11 received letters from CMS demanding that they take urgent actions to avoid closing.

Aaron Albright, chief CMS spokesman, said 11 co-ops “are either on a corrective action plan or enhanced oversight. We have not released the letters or names.” He gave no grounds for withholding the information from either the public or Congress.

CMS officials have stonewalled multiple congressional inquiries into the co-op financial problems. The latest congressional inquiry came in a September 30 letter to CMS acting administrator Andy Slavitt demanding transparency over the troubled program.

“We have long been concerned about the financial solvency of CO-OPs,” three House Ways and Means committee members wrote to Slavitt. “Which plans have received these warnings or have been placed on corrective plans,” the congressmen asked. To date, they have received no reply.

Insurance commissioners in Vermont were the first to refuse to license the federally approved co-op there in 2013 because they feared those financial plans were unrealistic. But then the dominoes began to fall this year, resulting in at least eight co-op failures. And if CMS officials are to be believed, more failures may be on the way.

Sen. Charles Grassley , a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee who has been an outspoken critic of the troubled co-op program, said transparency should be a top priority for the faltering program.

“Since the public’s business generally ought to be public, CMS should have a good reason for not disclosing which co-ops are troubled,” he said.

 

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© Andrea Comas
A school district in Tennessee voted to cancel classes and shut down its schools as a result of a budget problem that has left the government unable to fund the facilities. The school director blamed Obamacare for its problems.

Clay County, Tennessee operates three schools total – one high school and two that cover pre-kindergarten through eighth grade – on a $9.5 million budget. However, now more than 1,100 students are sitting at home while officials try to figure out how to reopen the doors. A school board meeting last week saw the board voting 6-4 to close the schools. A separate vote to keep them open failed.

Notably, the county’s financial issues are not new. Clay County Director of Schools Jerry Strong told Associated Press that officials have been struggling with the budget for three years, and blamed county obligations such as state and government mandates, particularly the Affordable Care Act, for the monetary hole.

“Clay County’s inability to generate the revenue to offset the mandates is what’s caused this to come to a head,” he said.

 

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The New American

Wednesday, 23 April 2014 15:08

Democrat Says Worst of ObamaCare Yet to Come

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 Photo of Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.): AP Images

It is always noteworthy when a lawmaker breaks what seems to be the “Cardinal Rule” against speaking out against one’s own party, particularly when it regards the party’s signature accomplishment. The Obama administration cannot possibly be pleased with the assertions made by Representative Stephen Lynch (shown, D-Mass.) about the healthcare law, which stand in direct opposition to statements made by the president about the very same law.

On April 17, readers may recall, President Obama announced during a White House news conference that the healthcare law “is working.” Yet during an interview with the Boston Herald, Lynch did not hesitate to criticize the law when he said the worst of the Affordable Care Act has yet to be seen.

“There are parts of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, that were postponed because they are unpalatable,” he told the Herald. “As these provisions come into effect, the administration thus far is saying, ‘Gee, we really can’t handle this right now so we’re going to delay it.’”

 

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Washington Examiner

EXography: State government dependence on federal funding growing at alarming rate

By David Freddoso | APRIL 15, 2014 AT 5:18 AM

Source: Annual Survey of State Government Finances, U.S. Census Bureau

Only 11 states depended on the federal government for more than one-third of their total revenues in 2001. By 2012, 24 states found themselves in this situation.

State-by-state data from the U.S. Census Bureau, compiled by the State Budget Solutions nonprofit, illustrates the trend of increasing state dependence on federal financial assistance.

Forty-one of the 50 states have become more dependent on the federal government since 2001 — with federal dollars accounting for an increasing share of their total revenues.

This trend of increased state dependency on Washington reduces state and local control, while threatening the states’ long-run autonomy.

The reason is that with federal patronage comes federal leverage. The original Obamacare plan, for example, was to force states to expand Medicaid by threatening them with loss of all federal matching Medicaid funds if they refused.

Although that particular scheme was struck down by the Supreme Court, state governments hate to turn down revenue, and federal dollars have strings attached that force states either to operate as Washington prefers or lose the money.

This problem is exacerbated by the federal government’s control of the currency and ability to borrow virtually unlimited amounts of money.

 

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MICHAEL REYNOLDS / EPA 8 minutes

Kathleen Sebelius Resigning as Health Secretary

Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, U.S. officials told NBC News on Thursday.

U.S. officials told NBC News that President Barack Obama on Friday will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently director of the White House Office and Management and Budget, to succeed Sebelius, 65, the former governor of Kansas, who was an original member of the Cabinet that Obama appointed when he took office in January 2009.

Image: U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius answers a question while she testifies before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the President's budget proposal for FY2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington LARRY DOWNING / Reuters
As secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius was the public face of the bug-ridden rollout of President Barack Obama’s health care insurance initiative..

No reason for Sebelius’ departure, was immediately available, but she came under sustained criticism as head of the agency in charge of the controversial rollout of Obama’s health care reform initiative.

Sebelius told Obama of her intentions in early March, a White official said, but she didn’t tip her hand when she told the Senate Finance Committee earlier Thursday that 7.5 million Americans had signed up for health coverage under the new law — a figure that exceeded the original expectations despite the months of problems.

Sebelius has apologized numerous times for the glitch-prone website, which initially blocked many Americans from comparing and enrolling in health insurance plans. Testifying before a House committee in October, she conceded that the website, healthcare.gov, was “a miserably frustrating experience for way too many Americans.”

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Bloomberg

Sebelius Said to Resign as U.S. Health Secretary

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, speaks during a Senate..

Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. health secretary who steered the troubled rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law, will resign just as the program topped its first-year enrollment goal, according to two people familiar with the decision.

The resignation of Sebelius, 65, is expected to be announced tomorrow, said the people who asked not to be identified because the decision is still private. Sylvia Mathews Burwell, 48, director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be nominated to succeed Sebelius, one of the people said. White House officials had no immediate comment on the report.

A former Democratic governor of Kansas, Sebelius was an early backer of Obama’s campaign for the president. She spent five years running the Health and Human Services Department, presiding over the largest change to government health programs since Medicare and Medicaid began almost 50 years ago.

Sebelius’s resignation closes the first major chapter of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The 2010 law is projected to eventually offer health insurance to 25 million more people in the U.S., paid for with changes to Medicare, taxes on health-care providers and a requirement that all Americans have insurance.

Sebelius’s departure was unexpected by at least one person close to her, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger, a Republican who has worked with her since 1991. Praeger said she was at a dinner where the health secretary spoke last week and that “she seemed like she was in it for the long haul.”

Enrollment Goals

Assessing Sebelius’s work, the number of people who signed up for coverage through Obamacare may trump the difficulties in getting there when the new online insurance marketplaces started with flawed technology last October. In total, 7.5 million Americans signed up for private health plans through the exchanges, half a million more than the government’s most optimistic estimates.

The secretary “played a key role that enabled the Affordable Care Act to become the law of the land, and she worked tirelessly to implement it successfully,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a Washington-based health advocacy group that supports the law, said in an e-mail. “We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her excellent work in improving health care for families across America.”

Sluggish Start…

 

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Harry Reid: People Are Not Educated On How To Use The Internet

 

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