Obamacare and Medicare Don’t Mix!

OBAMACARE VS MEDICARE

A cautionary message is conveyed in today’s feature article:
Do not confuse Obamacare with Medicare and complicate your situation! If you are a Medicare recipient – Obamacare, or the new Affordable Care Act (ACA) “Marketplace” health plan options do not apply to you. They only apply to Americans below the age of 65 or otherwise not on Medicare. If you are on Medicare – do nothing at all! Steer clear of the Marketplace where people will go to apply for the new health care compliant plans. Even though the enrollment periods for Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug Plans over-lap with the ACA health plans this fall – your benefits are already covered by Medicare and–at least for now–are not changing.

 
Admin. – Kenton Henry
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WALL STREET JOURNAL
September 7, 2013, 8:36 p.m. ET
Don’t Confuse Medicare With Obamacare
Covered by Medicare? Don’t Give the New Health Insurance Marketplace Another Thought.
BY JENNIFER WATERS
October is an important medical-insurance sign-up month for millions of Americans, both under and over 65 years old.
The annual Medicare open-enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, overlaps this year with the initial registration for the Health Insurance Marketplace, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
But don’t confuse the two. They serve different populations.
If you’re already covered by Medicare, you needn’t give the Marketplace another thought. That’s for people under the age of 65 who don’t have any health insurance. Enrollment starts Oct. 1 and runs through March 31.
“We want to reassure Medicare beneficiaries that they are already covered, that their benefits aren’t changing and that the Marketplace doesn’t require them to do anything different,” says Richard Olague, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Specifically, they do not have to change their Medicare coverage or enroll in any Marketplace plan.”
The Medicare open-enrollment period is the window for the 50 million covered to review their policies for any modifications in costs, coverage and benefits.
“It’s the one time of the year to look at other options available and make a change for a new plan that will take effect Jan. 1,” says Paula Muschler, manager of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, a Medicare plan selection service.
Even if you’re comfortable with the plan you have, study it to make sure it hasn’t been reworked. Ms. Muschler helped a woman last year switch to another plan, saving $7,000 in out-of-pocket expenses when her first plan did away with covering costly brand-name medications she regularly used.
The Medicare open-enrollment period also differs from the initial enrollment requirements. For those new to Medicare, there is a seven-month window to register that starts three months before your 65th-birthday month and ends the third month after your birthday month.
These enrollment periods are also prime time for swindlers to rip you off, so take heed to this warning from CMS: “It’s against the law for someone who knows that you have Medicare to sell you a Marketplace plan.”

http://allplaninsurance.com

Obamacare and Medicare Don’t Mix!

OBAMACARE VS MEDICARE

A cautionary message is conveyed in today’s feature article:
Do not confuse Obamacare with Medicare and complicate your situation! If you are a Medicare recipient – Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA,) does not apply to you. It only applies to Americans below the age of 65 or otherwise not on Medicare. If you are on Medicare – do nothing at all! Steer clear of the Marketplace where people will go to apply for the new health care compliant plans. Even though the enrollment periods for Medicare Advantage and Part D Prescription Drug Plans over-lap with the ACA health plans this fall – your benefits are already covered by Medicare and–at least for now–are not changing.

 
Admin. – Kenton Henry
***************************************************************************************************
WALL STREET JOURNAL
September 7, 2013, 8:36 p.m. ET
Don’t Confuse Medicare With Obamacare
Covered by Medicare? Don’t Give the New Health Insurance Marketplace Another Thought.
BY JENNIFER WATERS
October is an important medical-insurance sign-up month for millions of Americans, both under and over 65 years old.
The annual Medicare open-enrollment period, which runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, overlaps this year with the initial registration for the Health Insurance Marketplace, a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).
But don’t confuse the two. They serve different populations.
If you’re already covered by Medicare, you needn’t give the Marketplace another thought. That’s for people under the age of 65 who don’t have any health insurance. Enrollment starts Oct. 1 and runs through March 31.
“We want to reassure Medicare beneficiaries that they are already covered, that their benefits aren’t changing and that the Marketplace doesn’t require them to do anything different,” says Richard Olague, spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Specifically, they do not have to change their Medicare coverage or enroll in any Marketplace plan.”
The Medicare open-enrollment period is the window for the 50 million covered to review their policies for any modifications in costs, coverage and benefits.
“It’s the one time of the year to look at other options available and make a change for a new plan that will take effect Jan. 1,” says Paula Muschler, manager of the Allsup Medicare Advisor, a Medicare plan selection service.
Even if you’re comfortable with the plan you have, study it to make sure it hasn’t been reworked. Ms. Muschler helped a woman last year switch to another plan, saving $7,000 in out-of-pocket expenses when her first plan did away with covering costly brand-name medications she regularly used.
The Medicare open-enrollment period also differs from the initial enrollment requirements. For those new to Medicare, there is a seven-month window to register that starts three months before your 65th-birthday month and ends the third month after your birthday month.
These enrollment periods are also prime time for swindlers to rip you off, so take heed to this warning from CMS: “It’s against the law for someone who knows that you have Medicare to sell you a Marketplace plan.”

http://allplaninsurance.com

Medicare Recipients Get Short End of the “Affordable Care Act” Stick

Op-Ed

Admin. – Kenton Henry

 

It seems to me, Medicare recipients are forfeiting the most benefit and assuming the greatest liability as a direct result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of any group of Americans. This opinion is based, in part, on two traps recipients can fall into which can significantly compromise their financial and physical well-being. To appreciate them, you must first understand:

 

What is this new Center for Medicare Services Re-admission program and what is the purpose of it?

 

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires HHS to establish a readmission reduction program. This program, effective October 1, 2012, was designed to provide incentives for hospitals to implement strategies to reduce the number of costly and unnecessary hospital readmissions. CMS defines a readmission in this context as “an admission to a subsection(d) hospital within 30 days of a discharge from the same or another subsection(d) hospital.” Subsection(d) hospitals, per the Social Security Act, include short term inpatient acute care hospitals excluding critical access, psychiatric, rehabilitation, long term care, children’s, and cancer hospitals. http://www.acep.org/Legislation-and-Advocacy/Practice-Management-Issues/Physician-Payment-Reform/Medicare-s-Hospital-Readmission-Reduction-Program-FAQ/

 

What this gets down to is–if a hospital readmits a patient within 30 days of a prior hospitalization–they pay a penalty. What is the Center’s motivation? We already know that last year the administration authorized the transfer of approximately $716 billion from Medicare to fund Obamacare. Medicare is projected to be on the path to insolvency around 2023. A Medicare recipient (or his private insurance plan) is charged a $1,184 deductible per hospital stay for each medical condition or for the same medical condition separated by 60 days or more. Therefore, if a patient is readmitted within 30 days for the same medical condition – no deductible is due. Medicare pays the full cost for the stay. On track to be broke (and having shifted dollars to those under the age of 65 in need of health care) Medicare has created a disincentive to readmit patients by fining the hospital when this takes place. The objective is to encourage alternative methods and venues for treatment.

 
If you are, or will someday be, a Medicare recipient – how do you feel about this? If you think you really would like to be more closely monitored because of your fragile heart – do you really want your provider saying, “There is a pill for that!” and sending you home with your spouse? Certainly readmissions have been unnecessary in the past. Certainly, some were ill advised. But don’t you think the decision whether to readmit you should be left to your doctor free of considerations of poor job performance. Free of concern about the hospital blaming him or her for any penalties they must pay?
The second trap lies in failure to know whether your hospital admission is classified as for “medical observation” or “in-patient”?
The difference in terminology is not a mere technicality. The distinction can make all the difference in terms of your financial liability and leave you with a huge hospital bill. The trap is set when the hospital does not inform you or your guardian of your status upon admission. If you are not an in-patient–guess what? You are an out-patient. Without supplemental coverage, you will be responsible for the 20% (plus excess charges) of your out-patient medical expenses Medicare does not pay. People kept in the hospital beyond the usual 24-48 hours for observation can find themselves responsible for tens of thousands of dollars depending on the length of their stay.
Now . . . follow the bouncing ball on this. If a hospital does not code a stay an admission – it does not get penalized if, within 30 days, it then does admit the patient. Hence, a hospital has in essence double dipped. It’s billed you and Medicare both as an out-patient and an in-patient while avoiding penalties. Is it simply smart business or do the Medicare regulations and their accompanying financial incentives / disincentives affect the decision making process of your doctor? A more detailed analysis of these issues is outlined in the feature articles below. Mine is just an opinion piece but . . . methinks something may be rotten in Denmark.
Your counter points are welcomed.
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FEATURE ARTICLES:
NEW BEDFORD (MA) STANDARD TIMES
By BEVERLY FORD
NEW ENGLAND CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING
August 25, 2013 12:00 AM
Massachusetts hospitals will lose millions of dollars in funding this year — and perhaps tens of millions more in the future — because of penalties imposed by the federal Medicare program on hospitals that excessively readmit some of the state’s sickest patients, the New England Center for Investigative Reporting has found.
“In Massachusetts, we’re facing approximately $5 billion in cuts to Medicare over 10 years,” said Tim Gens, executive vice president with the Massachusetts Hospital Association. Add to that an anticipated $1.5 billion in sequestration cutbacks due to be imposed in January along with other potential funding cuts, and “it’s a very scary time for hospitals,” Gens notes.
A provision of the Affordable Care Act of 2012, the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program was designed to force hospitals to change the way they treat elderly patients by keeping them out of the hospital and in their own homes. To realize that goal, Medicare imposed penalties that increase annually from less than one percent in fiscal 2012 to a top rate of three percent by 2014, based on a hospital’s total Medicare payments
“In the long run, it will reduce per patient cost because if a patient isn’t going back into the hospital to have the same treatment done, we’re not going to be paying for those same treatments twice,” Ray Hurd, regional administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said of the penalties.
It’s not that Medicare is against readmissions, Hurd said. Patients who need hospital care will still be able to get it. The policy only aims to cut unnecessary readmissions.
With Medicare’s penalty program in its early stages, however, it’s still too soon to tell whether reducing readmissions will actually result in better patient care, said Katherine Baicker, a professor of Health Economics at Harvard.
“The goal is to reduce patients from coming back to hospitals because it’s not good for patients and it’s not good for Medicare,” said Baicker.
Nationally, one in five Medicare patients is readmitted to a hospital annually at an estimated cost of $17.5 billion. Under its new program, Medicare expects to save about $280 million in the first year alone.
In Massachusetts, of the 61 hospitals that accept Medicare payments, 54, or 88 percent, were penalized during fiscal 2012 under the readmission reduction program, according to Medicare statistics. That program targets seniors who are most likely to be re-hospitalized within 30 days for pneumonia, heart failure and heart attacks, the three ailments Washington claims are responsible for 30 percent of all elderly readmissions.
Of those 54 penalized hospitals, 12 received the severest penalties which require them to pay back between 0.90 and 1 percent of all Medicare funds received during fiscal 2012. Many of those penalties, health officials said, were imposed against “safety net hospitals” that treat poor and minority communities and teaching hospitals, where mortality rates are often low.
“We all agree readmissions are an important thing we need to work on, but the concern about the penalty is that it really penalizes hospitals for things that are out of their control,” said Karen Joynt a cardiologist and instructor in health policy at Harvard School of Public Health who has studied readmission rates.
The data, she says, shows outside factors such as access to outpatient care, patients with mental health or substance abuse issues, seniors with chronic health conditions and a transient patient population dramatically affect the number of patients hospitals readmit.
Yet, while many larger hospitals are feeling the pinch, others aren’t getting penalized at all, Joynt said.
“The bad part is that the penalties seem so unfair,” she said.
The Massachusetts Hospital Association agrees.
“The penalties are flawed,” said Gens, whose organization has been working with Bay State hospitals to reduce readmission rates since 2009. “The time has come for policymakers to realize this (policy) was not a good decision.”
A congressional advisory committee concurred.
In June the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee suggested that Congress change the penalty formula by setting annual target readmission rates and exempt from penalties those hospitals that reach those targets.
Dr. Robert Klugman, chief quality officer for UMass Memorial Health Care system, the largest healthcare system in Central and Western Massachusetts, said the real worry, however, is that the pressure put on hospitals will cause some medical facilities to turn away patients that really do need to be readmitted.
“We clearly have to change the trajectory of healthcare costs,” Klugman said. “The problem is when you look at Medicare, they place rules to penalize the bad people but sometimes it hurts the innocent people too.”
Whether the penalties are unfair or not, hospitals still find them to be burdensome, taking away money that would generally be used for equipment, programs and treatments that could benefit Medicare patients and others as well.
At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Dr. Kenneth Sands, senior vice president of Health Care Quality, said the hospital expects to lose $2 million in Medicare funding in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2012.
“It’s a relatively big portion of our budget,” Sands said of the Harvard-affiliated teaching hospital, one of several teaching facilities affected by the Medicare penalties. Because Beth Israel Deaconess operates on “very low margins” of about 2 percent annually, the impact is noticeable, Sands said.
It also means there will be less money for capital outlay, infrastructure improvements and new programs — “all the things that keep us one of the better medical centers nationally,” he said, adding that the cutbacks should have no affect on patient care or result in additional patient charges.
Klugman said he too worries that the $1.5 million in penalties imposed on the UMass Memorial Health Care system this fiscal year may impact the six hospitals served under the UMass system.
“If we have less income, we can’t invest in necessary equipment. We’ll be forced to reduce programs and services,” Klugmen said.
Toby Edelman, a senior policy attorney for the non-profit Center for Medical Advocacy in Washington, DC, says Medicare’s mandate may also be too daunting for some hospitals, forcing them to look to alternative measures to meet the government’s new standards.
To skirt Medicare’s readmission rules, she said, more hospitals may begin classifying returning patients as “outpatients” even though the patients may spend the same amount of time in the hospital and get the same tests, medications and other care given to admitted patients.
The problem with outpatient status, however, is that patients who need additional care outside of a hospital — in a nursing home for example — may end up paying for that care out of their own pocket since Medicare reimburses for outside costs only when admitted patients transition into a nursing home or rehabilitation center setting, Edelman explained. Patients classified as “outpatients” just don’t qualify.
Take, for example, the 86-year-old woman who was listed as an outpatient during her hospital stay and ended up with a nursing home bill of more than $17,000. Another family cashed in an elderly relative’s life insurance policy to pay for nursing home care after their loved one was hospitalized as an outpatient instead of being listed as admitted.
“It’s very frightening,” said Edelman. “People assume when they’re in a hospital bed they’re an admitted patient. (But) a lot of people are listed as observation status for much of their stay.”
Yet, hospitals say they are making progress.
At Beth Israel Deaconess and at other medical facilities, new programs are being implemented that help Medicare patients deal with their own healthcare after they are discharged. By hiring nurses to check on patients, forging partnerships with doctors, nursing homes and other facilities and installing software that can predict which patients will need more help after leaving the hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess has cut readmission rates by between 15 and 20 percent, Sands said.
Helping to fund that program is a $5 million federal grant that will allow the hospital to add seven transition councilors to help patients make the move from hospital to home. The grant will also place four pharmacists in the community and employ nurse practitioners to work with family members and primary care physicians to ensure that post-discharge plans are followed.
At UMass Memorial and its sister hospitals, staff members work closely with high-risk patients to ensure that once discharged, they have ample outside resources to help in their recovery.
“We do everything we can to make sure they have a soft landing,” said Klugman.
That includes contacting patients within 24-hours after they are discharged to see if they need further assistance from a nurse. The hospital also is implementing software to identify patients who may require frequent hospitalizations. The measures have already helped the hospital system cut readmission rates by about 20 percent. Whether that’s enough to reduce next year’s Medicare penalty, remains to be seen, says Klugman..
Yet, Baicker remains optimistic.
“The hope is that this improves the quality of care,” she said.
Now that’s something just about everyone — even Medicare — can agree on.
The New England Center for Investigative Reporting (www.necir-bu.org) is a nonprofit newsroom based at Boston University. NECIR intern Anais Vaillant contributed to this report.
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Medicare Billing Practices Detailed.
On its front page, the Boston Globe (8/25, Kowalczyk) details how Medicare patients can face higher hospitalization costs depending on whether their stay is classified as “medical observation” or “inpatient.” Medicare patients who are under “observation” receive “a huge bill” even though they “usually share rooms with regular inpatients and receive care from the same doctors and nurses, making their status invisible to them.” Although “hospitals say it’s not their fault,” facilities “are increasingly keeping patients in observation status longer” than the usual 24 to 48 hours. Some claim that the growing trend is “a response to aggressive reviews of hospital billing practices in recent years.”
The Cleveland Plain Dealer (8/24, Harris) reported on the case of an 83-year-old woman who is being sued by a nursing home for a $6,000 bill that went unpaid because she was admitted after nine days of “observation” at a hospital instead of the three days of inpatient care required by Medicare. The Plain Dealer says that the Center for Medicare Advocacy is suing HHS on behalf of Theresa McGarry and other Medicare patients who face bills that are $10,000 on average for being transferred to another facility without the in-patient classification. The Plain Dealer says it “may take an act of Congress” to help McGarry.
In a similar article, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (8/25, Nixon) reported on the case of an 85-year-old woman who “was surprised by a $15,000 nursing home bill after spending three days in a hospital for a broken ankle in 2009,” only to find out that she was “under observation” at the hospital, which “doesn’t count toward the three-day minimum needed for Medicare coverage.” The Tribune-Review says that Betty Rickett eventually filed for bankruptcy and is among the “estimated 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries” similarly affected by being admitted for observation. It says that “like Rickett, most people who are hospitalized never know they are under observation and not admitted.”

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BOSTON GLOBE

Status of Medicare patients can result in huge bills
Elderly patients hospitalized but not ‘admitted’ can face higher costs
By Liz Kowalczyk
| Globe Staff
August 25, 2013
Harold Engler recently spent 10 days in a Boston teaching hospital, trying to snap back from complications after urgent hernia surgery. Nurses provided around-the-clock treatment, changing the 91-year-old’s catheter, for example, and pumping him with intravenous drugs for suspected pneumonia.
It all seemed like textbook hospital care to his wife, Sylvia. So she was shocked to learn that Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center had never “admitted” her husband at all.
“Mrs. Engler, we have bad news for you. This was marked ‘medical observation,’ ” said a nurse at the nursing home where her husband was sent for rehabilitation. The hospital had decided Harold Engler was not sick enough to qualify as an official “inpatient.”
The difference in terminology was not a mere technicality: the observation classification left the Englers with a huge bill. It triggered a mystifying Medicare rule that required the Framingham couple to pay the entire $7,859 cost of his rehabilitation care and the medications he needed while at the nursing facility. If Harold Engler, a retired sales executive, had been admitted to the hospital, they would have likely paid nothing.
It is a striking example of just how impenetrable the US health care system can be for those who use it. Thousands of Medicare enrollees in Massachusetts and across the country are finding themselves caught in the same perplexing bind: Despite long hospital stays, they have been deemed observation patients or outpatients whose follow-up care is not covered. They also can face higher costs for the hospital stay itself when they are not officially admitted.

These observation patients usually share rooms with regular inpatients and receive care from the same doctors and nurses, making their status invisible to them. “I just assumed he was an inpatient. He was on a medical floor,’’ Sylvia Engler said.
Hospitals say it’s not their fault. Executives at Beth Israel Deaconess and other institutions say they are just trying to follow Medicare billing rules that even they don’t always fully understand.
Medicare originally intended observation care as a way to give doctors time to evaluate whether a patient should be admitted to the hospital or is stable enough to go home, usually within 24 to 48 hours. But hospitals are increasingly keeping patients in observation status longer: 8 percent of Medicare recipients had observation stays longer than 48 hours in 2011, up from 3 percent in 2006.
That increase may partly be a response to aggressive reviews of hospital billing practices in recent years. Medicare contractors have demanded refunds from hospitals that admit patients the government believes should have been treated as observation patients or outpatients. Medicare pays hospitals less for those patients.
Medicare officials said they could not comment, in part because the American Hospital Association last year filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the issue.
Beth Israel Deaconess reached a $5.3 million settlement with the government last month over allegations that it improperly admitted patients between 2004 and 2008. And while the hospital denied any wrongdoing, investigators implied the hospital was motivated by profit.
Sylvia Engler believes the hospital has now gone too far in the other direction. She cashed in a money market account to pay the nursing home bill, and took her case to Diane Paulson, a senior attorney at the Medicare Advocacy Project of Greater Boston Legal Services. Paulson plans to appeal to Medicare.
Toby Edelman, senior policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy in Washington, D.C., said she believes hospitals also could be trying to avoid readmission penalties, which are assessed if too many patients are readmitted within 30 days. Harold Engler, for example, went home after five days, grew sicker, and then returned for another five-day observation stay. If he had been an inpatient, he would have counted as a readmission within 30 days.
Dr. James Hart, who heads a Beth Israel Deaconess committee that makes sure the hospital follows Medicare rules, said he could not comment on Engler’s case. But he said the hospital uses a sophisticated computer program that tries to match patients with the correct Medicare designation based on their illness and the intensity of hospital services required. “We are very focused on getting the level of care accurate,’’ he said.
JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF
Ann Gillis paid a $7,100 rehabilitation bill after a stay at Milton Hospital, where she wasn’t considered an inpatient.
Case managers generally inform patients of their status, especially if they require skilled nursing care, he said. But that doesn’t mean patients digest the information, at a time when they have so much to focus on. “Part of the challenge from a patient perspective is there really is an information overload,’’ Hart said.
Ann Gillis also was surprised to learn she wasn’t a hospital inpatient. At age 83, she fell in her Milton home in February. An ambulance sped her to Milton Hospital, where doctors discovered she had broken her pelvis in two places. “The doctor said, ‘We are going to send you upstairs,’ ’’ she recalled.
Gillis was in terrible pain but doctors decided she didn’t need surgery. Instead, they provided pain medication and advised her to lay absolutely still. On the fourth day, a hospital social worker said she would require rehabilitation at a nursing home. To her surprise, the social worker said she’d have to pay herself.
“I was not admitted and I didn’t know that,’’ Gillis said. “I was in a regular bed and a regular room.’’ Gillis used part of her IRA to pay $7,100 for two weeks of rehabilitation. Medicare publishes a pamphlet titled “Are You a Hospital Inpatient or Outpatient? If You Have Medicare — Ask!” but she never saw it.
Since becoming aware of Gillis’s case, Milton Hospital executives said they have scheduled talks on navigating the health care system. Gillis’s first appeal to Medicare was rejected but she plans to file another.
In a letter to Medicare, Paulson described another case she is fighting. A 90-year-old Lynn woman with numerous medical problems fell and broke her shoulder and was rushed by ambulance to North Shore Medical Center. Two doctors and a caseworker recommended that she be admitted as an inpatient, but the caseworker’s supervisor overruled them. The patient had to pay $40,000 for rehabilitation in a nursing home.
“Our clinical staff and case managers do what is in the best interest of the patient, working within existing Medicare guidelines,’’ said Rich Copp, spokesman for Partners HealthCare, the hospital’s parent company. “However, it is no secret that current Medicare policy is not perfect.’’
If hospitals determined that these patients were not sick enough for inpatient care, who would be?
Hart said that Medicare lists operations that are always inpatient, including heart bypass and valve surgery and many neurosurgical procedures.
Beyond that, hospital doctors and managers decide case by case. A heart failure patient with fluid in the lungs and trouble breathing might feel better with a single dose of a diuretic. That patient likely would be listed as outpatient or observation. But if the patient required a longer round of medications to become stable, the patient probably would be admitted, he said.
“Medicare isn’t making this easy for patients,’’ he said.
Medicare officials have said they are concerned about patients being observed for days in the hospital without being admitted, and issued regulations this summer they believe will help provide clarity to hospitals. But advocates for the elderly are not so sure.
“They’re contradictory and unclear,’’ Edelman said.
The rules, which take effect Oct. 1, allow hospitals to change a patient’s care level up to a year after discharge. One worry is that patients will be switched from inpatient to observation status months after they leave the hospital — and get socked retroactively with a rehabilitation bill.
Instead, patient advocates back federal legislation that would require Medicare to pay for nursing home care after three days in the hospital — no matter what those three days are called. Medicare now requires a three-day inpatient stay before it will pay for nursing home care.
At the very least, Paulson said, patients should receive immediate written notice of observation status and the chance to appeal while they are still in the hospital. For now, she and Edelman recommend that patients and families always ask — and push back if needed.
Edelman said one patient’s son and her lawyer met with a hospital chief executive and convinced him to change the patient from observation to inpatient.
“Do anything you can to get the hospital to change your status,’’ she said.
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http://thewoodlandstxhealthinsurance.com

The Chameleon Which Is The Affordable Care Act

08.14.2013

The Affordable Care Act, like a chameleon, is capable of changing its color or otherwise morphing to fit the pragmatic motives of its creator.

As I have said before, the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (or ACA for short) is law. Therefore, of late, I have attempted to focus on the reality of it and its ramifications for all of us whether we are currently uninsured, covered by our employer’s plan or have our own individual or family health insurance plan. The primary purpose of this blog is to educate and inform– not to editorialize. If the latter were my objective, I would establish a separate blog where I would rant and rave ad infinitum about all I see wrong with the Act and big government in general. But it is not, so writing for The MedPlus Messenger, I try to remain objective and minimize expression of my feelings. But it is difficult. Increasingly so. Each day I try to put more lipstick on this pig but each day I awaken to more news the White House has selectively chosen another segment of the ACA not to implement in 2014 pursuant to the law.
Yesterday’s headlines broke news that the caps on insured’s out-of-pocket (OOP) maximums–set to go in effect in 2014–have been delayed until 2015. This potentially doubles (or worse) the liability of an insured and benefits the insurance company by allowing it to avoid covering expenses above the current OOP’s. Do you believe that is the objective of the White House? To benefit the insurance companies? And I thought the whole reason for the ACA was to better protect the patient, consumer, insured member. After all, it is the Patient Protection … … … Act is it not?
So what was the motive behind the White House’s reprieve for insurance companies? “General Math” provides the answer. I.e.:
Lower patient out-of-pockets = higher insurance premiums
Higher insurance premiums = less participation in coverage and greater backlash against the ACA

 

Greater backlash = trouble for the Democrats in the 2014 mid-term elections
Conclusion = this reprieve was politically motivated

 

Reader and followers – if you can argue this to a different conclusion – please feel free to do so here for my erudition and that of the rest of us.

 
Admin – Kenton Henry
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Feature Articles:
Washington Times
By Tom Howell Jr.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
President Obama has granted yet another part of his health care law a delay, quietly announcing a one-year grace period before imposing a strict limit on consumers’ out-of-pocket medical expenses.
The delay means some health care plans in the group market will have until 2015 to begin paying for all expenses exceeding $6,350 for an individual’s out-of-pocket spending, or $12,700 for a family.
________________________________________
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Health Care Reform
________________________________________
Language on the delay has been posted on the Labor Department’s website since February, but it did not surface in the political arena until The New York Times reported on it Tuesday.
Mr. Obama used the limits as a key selling point when he pushed the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2010. Now, Republicans are using the delay as part of last-ditch bids to dismantle the law before key implementation dates this fall.
“Burying this announcement online in a ‘maze of legal and bureaucratic language’ shows little concern for the promises with which this law was sold,” said House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, borrowing language from the Times article. “What else in the law isn’t working that we don’t yet know about?”
The Obama administration also announced in a pre-July Fourth blog posting that it was delaying the mandate that requires employers with at least 50 full-time employees to provide them with health care coverage.
For the Obama administration, the setbacks are ill-timed and leave officials trying to convince consumers that the delays don’t signal an inability to carry out other parts of the law.
Erin Shields Britt, spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the health care law is still implementing historic consumer protections from “the worst insurance company abuses, by banning discrimination based on pre-existing health conditions, ending lifetime and annual limits on what an insurance company will cover, and capping out-of pocket spending to protect Americans and their families.”
“The February guidance builds on these landmark consumer protections by requiring that health plans limit out-of-pocket spending for major medical coverage for the first time, in 2014, on time,” she said. “This single limit will apply to additional benefits in 2015.”
The newly reported delay arose because some employers and insurers use separate companies to administer major-medical coverage and drug benefits, resulting in separate out-of-pocket limits.
Because of this fractured landscape, parties needed time to streamline their data systems . The rule says that, for the first plan year after Jan. 1, 2014, the annual limit on out-of-pocket expenses will be satisfied if a group health plan that uses more than one service provider complies with the cap on major medical coverage and maintains a similar cap on the non-major medical coverage.
Even as it delays some parts, the administration has said the individual mandate requiring most Americans to have coverage remains in effect. Officials also are working feverishly to implement by Oct. 1 state-by-state health care exchanges where those without employer-based coverage can buy insurance with the help of tax credits.
A recent inspector general report suggested that Health and Human Services is months behind in setting up the federal data hub that will allow federal and state agencies to synchronize information about consumers on the exchanges.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, wrote to the Obama administration Monday to suggest that it delay the rollout of the exchanges.
Conservative lawmakers are waging a rhetorical war against Obamacare ahead of a spending showdown on Capitol Hill in September.

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Forbes

Pharma & Healthcare |

8/13/2013

Yet Another White House Obamacare Delay: Out-Of-Pocket Caps Waived Until 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 18: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) speaks as Assistant Attorney General of Justice Department’s civil rights division Thomas Perez (R) listens during a personnel announcement March 18, 2013 at the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. Perez has succeeded Hilda Solis as the U.S. Secretary of Labor. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

First, there was the delay of Obamacare’s Medicare cuts until after the election. Then there was the delay of the law’s employer mandate. Then there was the announcement, buried in the Federal Register, that the administration would delay enforcement of a number of key eligibility requirements for the law’s health insurance subsidies, relying on the “honor system” instead. Now comes word that another costly provision of the health law—its caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs—will be delayed for one more year.

According to the Congressional Research Service, as of November 2011, the Obama administration had missed as many as one-third of the deadlines, specified by law, under the Affordable Care Act. Here are the details on the latest one.

Obamacare contains a blizzard of mandates and regulations that will make health insurance more costly. One of the most significant is its caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs, such as co-pays and deductibles. Section 2707(b) of the Public Health Service Act, as added by Obamacare, requires that “a group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage may not establish lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits for the any participant or beneficiary.” Annual limits on cost-sharing are specified by Section 1302(c) of the Affordable Care Act; in addition, starting in 2014, deductibles are limited to $2,000 per year for individual plans, and $4,000 per year for family plans.

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Obamacare Increases Costs of College Health Plans by as Much as 1,112% Avik Roy Contributor

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you ban lifetime limits, and mandate lower deductibles, and cap out-of-pocket costs, premiums have to go up to reflect these changes. And unlike a lot of the “rate shock” problems we’ve been discussing, these limits apply not only to individually-purchased health insurance, but also to employer-sponsored coverage. (Self-insured employers are exempted.)

These mandates have already had drastic effects on a number of colleges and universities, which offer inexpensive, defined-cap plans to their healthy, youthful students. Premiums at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C., for example, rose from $245 per student in 2011-2012 to between $2,507 in 2012-2013. The University of Puget Sound paid $165 per student in 2011-2012; their rates rose to between $1,500 and $2,000 for 2012-2013. Other schools have been forced to drop coverage because they could no longer afford it.

According to the law, the limits on out-of-pocket costs for 2014 were $6,350 for individual policies and $12,700 for family ones. But in February, the Department of Labor published a little-noticed rule delaying the cap until 2015. The delay was described yesterday by Robert Pear in the New York Times.

Delay needed to align ‘separate computer systems’

Notes Pear, “Under the [one-year delay], many group health plans will be able to maintain separate out-of-pocket limits for benefits in 2014. As a result, a consumer may be required to pay $6,350 for doctors’ services and hospital care, and an additional $6,350 for prescription drugs under a plan administered by a pharmacy benefit manager.”

The reason for the delay? “Federal officials said that many insurers and employers needed more time to comply because they used separate companies to help administer major medical coverage and drug benefits, with separate limits on out-of-pocket costs. In many cases, the companies have separate computer systems that cannot communicate with one another.”

The best part in Pear’s story is when a “senior administration official” said that “we had to balance the interests of consumers with the concerns of health plan sponsors and carriers…They asked for more time to comply.” Exactly how is it in consumers’ interests to pay far more for health insurance than they do already?

It’s not. Unless you have a serious, chronic condition, in which case you may benefit from the fact that law forces healthy people to subsidize your care. To progressives, this is the holy grail. But for economically rational individuals, it’s yet another reason to drop out of the insurance market altogether. For economically rational businesses, it’s a reason to self-insure, in order to get out from under these costly mandates.                         Patient groups upset

While insurers and premium-payers will be happy with the delay—whose legal justification is dubious once again—there are groups that grumbled. Specifically, groups representing those with chronic diseases, and the pharmaceutical companies whose costly drugs they will use. “The American Cancer Society American Cancer Society shares the concern” about the delay, says Pear, “and noted that some new cancer drugs cost $100,000 a year or more.” But a big part of the reason those drugs cost so much is because manufacturers know that government-run insurers will pay up.

“The promise of out-of-pocket limits was one of the main reasons we supported health reform,” says Theodore M. Thompson of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “We have wonderful new drugs, the biologics, to treat rheumatoid arthritis,” said Patience H. White of the Arthritis Foundation. “But they are extremely expensive.”

The progressive solution to expensive problems? More subsidies. But subsidies don’t reduce the underlying cost of care. They only excuse the high prices that manufacturers and service providers already charge.

It’s one of the many aspects of Obamacare that should be repealed, if we are to combat the rate shock that the health law imposes on tens of millions of Americans. But that will require Republicans to come up with a smarter strategy than shutting down the government.

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http://allplaninsurance.com

Democrats Can See Their Hometowns From the Steps of the Capitol!

08.09.2013

Sarah Palin was made the butt of jokes – which were later extended to include Republican Paul Ryan – when she proclaimed Medicare recipients would be subjected to “death panels” if the Affordable Care Act’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) or Medicare’s cost cutting board remained part and parcel to the statute.

Now it seems even Howard Dean and other notable Democrats are concurring. Like the President, these Democrats are attempting to excise key components of a statute (already law) by repealing the board’s power. In light of next year’s mid-term’s their effort appears politically motivated. Perhaps the Senators and Representatives cited in today’s Feature Article can see their hometowns from the steps of the Capitol Building! It seems they are more concerned with their political lives than the welfare of their constituents. Otherwise, why did they pass the bill with this liability to their constituents in it in the first place? Oh–I forgot–they had to pass it before they could read it!

Admin. – Kenton Henry

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Feature Article:

The Hill

ObamaCare ‘death panel’ faces growing opposition from Democrats

By Elise Viebeck – 08/08/13 05:00 AM ET

ObamaCare’s cost-cutting board — memorably called a “death panel” by Sarah Palin — is facing growing opposition from Democrats who say it will harm people on Medicare.

Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean drew attention to the board designed to limit Medicare cost growth when he called for its repeal in an op-ed late last month.

Dean was quickly criticized by supporters of the Independent Payment Advisory Board        (IPAB) who noted his ties to the healthcare industry as an adviser to a major D.C. lobbying firm.

But the former Vermont governor is not the only Democrat looking to kill the panel.

A wave of vulnerable Democrats over the past three months has signed on to bills repealing the board’s powers, including Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Reps. Ron Barber (Ariz.), Ann Kirkpatrick (Ariz.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Elizabeth Esty (Conn.).

All five are considered vulnerable in next year’s election, highlighting the stakes and the political angst surrounding the healthcare measure.

The four House Democrats faced criticism from their party in July after voting with Republicans to delay ObamaCare’s individual and employer mandates — moves widely interpreted as political positioning ahead of 2014.

Two of the lawmakers explained their opposition by suggesting the board would limit care for Medicare patients.

But the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) blasted the four Democrats for “desperately trying to jump off the ObamaCare train.”

The cost-cutting board has been dogged with controversy over the last three years.

Major healthcare interests like the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and the pharmaceutical lobby have supported IPAB repeal, saying the panel would cut providers’ pay arbitrarily.

Public awareness of the board shot up last year when Palin called it a “death panel,” connecting the IPAB to her previous attacks on a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning in the Affordable Care Act.

“Though I was called a liar for calling it like it is, many of these accusers finally saw that ObamaCare did in fact create a panel of faceless bureaucrats who have the power to make life and death decisions about healthcare funding,” Palin wrote on Facebook.

This claim experienced a revival on the right after Dean published his op-ed, which argued that the board would ultimately ration care for Medicare patients.

“The IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them,” Dean wrote in The Wall Street Journal.

“Getting rid of the IPAB is something Democrats and Republicans ought to agree on.”

The piece quickly went viral, prompting conservative bloggers and Fox News hosts to cheer: “Dean confirms that Sarah Palin was right!”

The IPAB is designed to kick in when Medicare cost growth grows above a specified rate. It is charged with making recommendations on how to reduce Medicare spending, and its proposals are required to be fast-tracked through Congress.

The Affordable Care Act prevents the IPAB from making recommendations that would directly ration care. But critics say reducing provider reimbursements would have the same result by making it difficult for healthcare professionals to make money in Medicare.

While it’s unlikely the board will be convened soon, Medicare cost growth is not high enough to trigger its work, and any nominees would face long confirmation fights in the Senate, Dean’s op-ed renewed focus on bills to repeal the IPAB.

The Senate and House measures currently have 32 and 192 co-sponsors, respectively, including 22 Democrats in the House. Co-sponsors include lawmakers like Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.), a longtime GOP target.

But calls for repeal are not taking up the whole debate.

Dean’s piece also drew strong arguments in favor of the panel from supporters like Peter Orszag.

The former White House budget director said the IPAB is necessary in light of Medicare’s transition to new payment models that are meant to lower costs while improving care.

It’s preferable to the “old way,” which saw Congress “simply slash Medicare payments” to providers, Orszag wrote in a column for Bloomberg.

“The point of having such a board — and here I can perhaps speak with some authority, as I was present at the creation — is to create a process for tweaking our evolving payment system in response to incoming data and experience, a process that is more facile and dynamic than turning to Congress for legislation,” he wrote.

In the meantime, the Democratic National Campaign Committee (DCCC) is warding off criticism of the anti-IPAB Dems with a push to turn the ObamaCare tables on the GOP.

The committee pointed to evidence Wednesday that resisting the healthcare law could hurt Republicans in the next election.

A new poll commissioned by the Service Employees International Union found that undecided voters prefer an anti-repeal Democrat over a pro-repeal Republican in a generic match-up.

“Instead of fighting old political battles on healthcare, polling shows that Americans want Republicans to work with Democrats to implement Obamacare and move on to focus on creating good jobs,” said Emily Bittner, a spokeswoman with the DCCC.

“The public strongly disapproves of Republicans’ plan to give insurance companies free rein over our health care.”

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http://allplaninsurance.com/medicare/medicare-supplement.htm

No Joke! – IRS Employee’s Union Wants No Part of ACA Exchange Coverage

07.26.2013

No Joke! – IRS Employee’s Union Wants No Part of ACA Exchange Coverage
Op Ed:
In an ultimate case of hypocrisy (which would be hysterical were it not foretelling a travesty of monumental proportions about to be inflicted on the American people) the Union of IRS employees wants no part of the Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act (ACA)! The Union urges its members to write their congressmen expressing reservation about being forced out the Federal Health Benefits Program and into the insurance exchanges scheduled to be up and functional by October 1. The Federal Health Benefits Program is the “Cadillac” health plan we have always heard federal employees enjoy at our expense. In the meantime, many of us will be forced to give up our current health insurance and providers to acquire what they dictate is right for us. The very representatives who passed and will enforce the legislation and mandates say it is good enough for you and me while not wanting to accept it for themselves. They want no part of the very thing they are forcing down our throats!
We cannot make this up people! And you’re not outraged? Or are you?
(For more details, please see our first feature article below.)

Admin. – Kenton Henry
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FEATURE ARTICLES:
Washington Examiner
IRS employee union: We don’t want Obamacare
BY JOEL GEHRKE | JULY 26, 2013 AT 11:45 AM
TOPICS: ANALYSIS BELTWAY CONFIDENTIAL

National Taxpayer Employee Union officials are giving members a form letter expressing concern…
IRS employees have a prominent role in Obamacare, but their union wants no part of the law.
National Treasury Employees Union officials are urging members to write their congressional representatives in opposition to receiving coverage through President Obama’s health care law.
The union leaders are providing members with a form letter to send to the congressmen that says “I am very concerned about legislation that has been introduced by Congressman Dave Camp to push federal employees out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program and into the insurance exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.”
The NTEU represents 150,000 federal employees overall, including most of the nearly 100,000 IRS workers.
Like most other federal workers, IRS employees currently get their health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which also covers members of Congress.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp offered the bill in response to reports of congressional negotiations that would exempt lawmakers and their staff from Obamacare.
“Camp has long believed every American ought to be exempt from the law, which is why he supports full repeal,” Camp spokeswoman Allie Walkersaid.
“If the Obamacare exchanges are good enough for the hardworking Americans and small businesses the law claims to help, then they should be good enough for the president, vice president, Congress and federal employees,” she also said.
“The NTEU represents Internal Revenue Service employees who have the responsibility to enforce much of the health insurance law, especially in terms of collecting the taxes and distributing subsidies that finance the whole system,” said Paul Kersey, director of Labor Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute.
“IRS agents will also collect data and apply penalties for those who fail to comply with many of Obamacare’s requirements,” Kersey said.
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Polls Identify Americans’ Disapproval Of ACA.
In continuing coverage, the Washington Times (7/26, Sherfinski) “Inside Politics” blog reports on a Fox News poll which shows that 53% of respondents would choose to repeal the Affordable Care Act, given the choice between keeping the law in entirety or overhauling it. The piece also reports on a separate poll, from CBS News, which found that “fifty-four percent disapprove of the law and 36 percent approve of it.”
The National Journal (7/26, Shepard, Subscription Publication) reports on the findings from the new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll which found that “opponents of President Obama’s health care law overwhelmingly believe the Affordable Care Act will worsen the quality of their care.” Further, more of the law’s supporters than not “don’t think it will improve their health care.”
Klein Extols Opportunities Brought By ACA. Washington Post blogger and MSNBC political analyst Ezra Klein writes about the coming “opportunity to change American health-care forever,” in a piece for Bloomberg News (7/26). He explains that the Affordable Care Act “carries the potential for both huge profits and huge social benefits,” as long as “Washington can stop bickering over the politics long enough to pay attention.”
Wonkblog Explores Former Republican Alternative To ACA. The Washington Post (7/26, Matthews) “Wonkblog” reports on a former Republican plan to “replace” the Affordable Care Act, proposed in 2009 by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). Known as the Patients’ Choice Act, the law was “a credible way of covering almost all Americans,” picking up 13 co-sponsors in the House and seven in the Senate. After describing the central aspects of the bill, pointing out its similarities with the ACA.
Papers Offer Opposite Opinions On Repealing ACA. In an editorial, the Colorado Springs (CO) Gazette (7/26) encourages Republicans to work to defund the Affordable Care Act, because “most Americans don’t want” it. The paper argues that “perhaps nothing would give our country’s economy a greater jump-start than” stopping the law “in its tracks.”
However, in an opposing editorial, the Ogden (UT) Standard-Examiner (7/26) asks Congress to “respect” the Affordable Care Act. Although the paper has “problems” with the law, it argues that implementation “should not be hijacked through the inappropriate use of a filibuster, or the House refusing to vote for its funding.”

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Christie Slams ACA At GOP Governors’ Meeting.
The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger (7/26, Portnoy) reports that in a discussion with fellow Republican Governors in Aspen, Chris Christie of New Jersey on Thursday called the Affordable Care Act a “sad legacy” for President Barack Obama. During the talk, Christie said that while he has expanded Medicaid under the law, “he twice vetoed health exchanges.” Criticizing the law, Christie said, “This is what happens when you use Parliamentary maneuvers to jam an absolute sea change in American life down the throats of the American people with bare majorities and not one Republican vote.”
Jindal, Walker Say ACA Is Not Workable. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (7/26, Jindal, Subscription Publication), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker write that the ACA is not workable and predict chaos as the Oct. 1 deadline for health insurance exchanges to launch. The Governors argue that while delaying implementation off the ACA is a good idea, outright repeal of the law would be better.
New Jersey Policy Analyst Discusses ACA Benefits. NJ Today (7/26) carries video of an interview with New Jersey Policy Perspective Senior Policy Analyst Raymond Castro, who discusses the benefits of the Affordable Care Act to “New Jersey residents and business owners.” In the interview, Castro drew attention to the law’s subsidies, available to those purchasing insurance on the state’s exchange, calling them “the most important part of the reform.” Castro also pointed out that New Jersey stands to “save a lot of money” under the ACA, as the Federal government will take over a large chunk of costs.
Panels Answer ACA Questions In Utah And Alabama. The Salt Lake (UT) Tribune (7/26) reports that on Thursday, a “panel of Utah health care advocates, experts and state policy leaders answered questions” about the Affordable Care Act in “a televised town hall” event. The article links to recorded versions of the event.
Alabama Live (7/26, Berry) reports that the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County held a panel Thursday morning to inform “several dozen professionals” how the Affordable Care Act “will impact their small businesses in Madison County.” Led by Small Business Administration Alabama District Director Tom Todt, the Affordable Care Act 101 seminar “featured an overview of the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) and Employer Shared Responsibility for Employee Health Coverage.”

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White Castle Considering Upping Part-Time Hires Due To ACA.
The Huffington Post (7/26) reports that in response to the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, White Castle “is considering hiring only part-time workers in the future,” its Vice President Jamie Richardson said in an interview Thursday. Richardson insisted, though, that “the restaurant chain has no intention of firing members of its current full-time staff or reducing benefits.”
The Los Angeles Times (7/26, Lopez) reports that in an interview with NPR Wednesday, Richardson further outlined his plan to deal with ACA implementation, saying, “As we look to the future, when the new healthcare law takes effect, we are considering at that point, for new hires, letting those people know upfront, ‘Hey, at this point we’re only able to hire part-time team members.’”
Brooks-LaSure Speaks At Senate Hearing On ACA. Bloomberg BusinessWeek (7/26, Clark) reports on Wednesday’s Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing on concerns about the Affordable Care Act. According to the article, “the big questions…didn’t have easy answers.” Will, when asked whether “all health exchanges will be up and running as scheduled on Oct. 1,” HHS Deputy Director Chiquita Brooks-LaSure “said she expects all exchanges will be up and running.”
Survey: Business Owners In New England More Optimistic About ACA. The Boston Globe (7/26, Reidy) reports that a new survey out of Deloitte LLP shows that “mid-size companies in New England seem to be more optimistic about containing health care costs than their national counterparts.” Overall, 60% of executives “cited rising health care costs as a major obstacle to US growth,” while only 46% did in New England.

http://allplaninsurance.com

What will my health insurance premiums go to January 1?

07.23.2013
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What will your health insurance premiums be come January 1? If you are covered by a small business (less than 50 employees)group plan – projections are you can expect your company’s premiums to increase by a minimum of 8%. If you are not covered by an employer group plan, you will be forced to buy from a federal, state or partnership (between the two) exchange or directly from the private market. While premiums are predicted to go down in as many as 10 states, that leaves 40 where potentially they will not. The question remains – what will your premiums go to? The federal exchange which–will be the source for plans in 34 states which are not creating their own exchange–is yet to release their premiums for the plans which must be available by October 1st. The word is that you better qualify for a subsidy or you are looking at rates at least 30% higher for those currently covered.
As our feature article details, the debate still continues as to how accurate and complete is the information we are being fed as to what our costs will be.
Admin. – Kenton Henry
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Feature Article:
GOP: Obama administration selective with health law data
By Tom Howell Jr. – The Washington Times
Congressional Republicans on Monday accused the Obama administration of withholding data on insurance premiums because it would undermine positive trends the White House touted last week while promoting the health care law.
Citing news reports, three senior GOP senators and the chairmen of House health-related committees said the administration has collected premium filings for 34 states that will use a federally run or federal-state partnership exchange — a market where those without employer-based insurance can buy coverage with the help of government subsidies — but it will not release the information until September as it negotiates the final rates.
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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Health Care Reform
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“We believe it is essential that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide transparent pricing as soon as possible for the millions of Americans who will be impacted by this law,” they said in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, arguing many Americans’ premiums will rise under the Affordable Care Act.
They also accused the Obama administration of negotiating rates in secret, something the Wall Street Journal editorial page described as “running Obamacare as a black-ops mission.”
Supporters of the law have been buoyed by news out of New York, where officials last week said premiums on the state’s health care exchange in 2014 will be about 50 percent lower than last year’s direct-pay rates for individuals.
The Obama administration then released a report showing that, on average, premiums would drop by 18 percent in about 10 states and the District of Columbia. Those states have made information available for the individual market in 2014, when their health exchanges open under “Obamacare.”
Since then, Republicans have cited states where early data suggest that premiums will rise.
“Instead of selectively highlighting provisions and data that paint a rosy picture, we encourage the administration to give the American people as much information as possible so they can plan and prepare, and so that we can continue the necessary oversight,” the senior Republicans said in their letter.

http://allplanhealthinsurance.com