Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Obamacare: Early Checkup

"Where's The Train Wreck?"


21 things you never knew Obamacare did. Adrianna McIntyre in Vox.

The White House is trumpeting slower growth in health costs. "The White House officials cited both public and private data to argue that cost growth is happening more slowly. The price of healthcare goods and services rose just 0.9 percent in the last year, the slowest rate of increase in the last 50 years, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. Meanwhile, Automatic Data Processing (ADP), a human resources firm, reported that premiums for large-employer health plans grew 1.7 percent from 2013 to 2014, compared to 3.1 percent in the previous year. Economists generally attribute slower healthcare cost growth to the dragging economy, though some argue ObamaCare is playing a role." Elise Viebeck in The Hill.

Chart: For the first time in 50 years, health costs are barely growing. Sarah Kliff in Vox.

Sticker shock unlikely for most in 2015. "As health plans begin next month to submit their 2015 rate's unlikely most of these individuals will have sticker shock, several reports and statements from health insurance executives indicate. The Urban Institute...just last week threw cold water on the prospect of 'skyrocketing premiums.'...Another report out this week indicated health insurance companies are under pressure to keep the rates low particularly given the most popular choice of individuals purchasing coverage on exchanges was the so-called silver plans, which generally cover 70 percent of medical care costs." Bruce Japsen in Forbes.

Poll: But Obamacare still unpopular. Mario Trujillo in The Hill.

Hospitals do want poor people to buy exchange insurance. "Hospital systems around the country have started scaling back financial assistance for lower- and middle-income people without health insurance, hoping to push them into signing up for coverage through the new online marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act. The trend is troubling to advocates for the uninsured, who say raising fees will inevitably cause some to skip care rather than buy insurance that they consider unaffordable. Though the number of hospitals tightening access to free or discounted care appears limited so far, many say they are considering doing so, and experts predict that stricter policies will become increasingly common." Abby Goodnough in The New York Times.

Insurers that were sitting out of the exchanges now want in. "In a sign of the growing potential under the federal health care law, several insurers that have been sitting on the sidelines say they will sell policies on the new exchanges in the coming year, and others plan to expand their offerings to more states. 'Insurers continue to see this as a good business opportunity,' said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation. 'They see it as an attractive market, with enrollment expected to ramp up in the second year.'...Estimates put next year's enrollment around 13 million." Reed Abelson in The New York Times.

How enrollees are using their coverage. "It's pretty clear that the uninsured rate has dropped since Obamacare's coverage expansion took effect, though there are still questions about by how much and where new coverage is coming from. Just as importantly, though, there are questions about how people are using their new coverage. We still don't have a clear answer on that yet, but some new data this week suggests that primary care doctors haven't been overly burdened with newly insured patients since Affordable Care Act coverage took effect in January." Jason Millman in The Washington Post.

How's the small-business exchange working? "Six months have passed since the Obama administration announced that the launch of the health care law's online insurance marketplace for small businesses would be delayed until November, more than a year after its originally scheduled start. So, how is the work coming? Six months from now, can small employers across the country expect to finally sign on to a fully functioning health insurance exchange? So far, the answer seems to be yes -- with an asterisk." J.D. Harrison in The Washington Post.

Other health care reads:
KLEIN: Another scandal in American health care. The investigation is ongoing, but as of now, it looks like overwhelmed VA hospitals shunted some veterans onto secret wait lists and delayed their care (read Vox's explainer here). The revelations are correctly being treated by both parties as a national scandal....It's a relief to see so much outrage over poor access to government-provided health-care benefits. But it would be nice to see bipartisan outrage extend to another unfolding health-care scandal in this country: the 4.8 million people living under the poverty line who are eligible for Medicaid but won't get it because their state has refused Obamacare's Medicaid expansion." Ezra Klein in Vox.

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