Posts Tagged ‘obamacare

27
Aug
14

Medicare Is Not Destroying The Budget? Thanks, ObamaCare

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David Leonhardt: Medicare: Not Such A Budget-Buster Anymore

You’re looking at the biggest story involving the federal budget and a crucial one for the future of the American economy. Every year for the last six years in a row, the Congressional Budget Office has reduced its estimate for how much the federal government will need to spend on Medicare in coming years. The latest reduction came in a report from the budget office on Wednesday morning. The changes are big. The difference between the current estimate for Medicare’s 2019 budget and the estimate for the 2019 budget four years ago is about $95 billion dollars. That sum is greater than the government is expected to spend that year on unemployment insurance, welfare and Amtrak — combined. It’s equal to about one-fifth of the expected Pentagon budget in 2019. Widely discussed policy changes, like raising the estate tax, would generate just a tiny fraction of the budget savings relative to the recent changes in Medicare’s spending estimates.

In more concrete terms, the reduced estimates mean that the federal government’s long-term budget deficit is considerably less severe than commonly thought just a few years ago. The reduced estimates are also an indication of what’s happening in the overall health care system. Even as more people are getting access to health insurance, the costs of caring for individual patients is growing at a super-slow rate. That means that health care, which has eaten into salary gains for years and driven up debt and bankruptcies, may be starting to stabilize as a share of national spending. The Affordable Care Act, in particular, made significant reductions to Medicare’s spending on hospitals and private Medicare plans, to help subsidize insurance coverage for low- and middle-income Americans.

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22
Aug
14

Access To Birth Control? ObamaCare Guarantees That

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Irin Carmon: White House Issues New Fix For Contraceptive Coverage

The Obama administration has issued a new set of rules to provide contraceptive access to women whose employers object to their insurance plans covering birth control, which is required under the Affordable Care Act. The new policies are intended to fill gaps left by two Supreme Court moves: The landmark Hobby Lobby decision saying contraceptive coverage violated the religious liberty of a for-profit corporation, and a preliminary order in Wheaton College v. Burwell. With today’s regulations, employees of for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby will be able to access an “accommodation” where the insurer directly provides the cost-free coverage with no financial involvement by the employer. That accommodation was originally limited to religiously-affiliated nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor; houses of worship are fully exempt.

For nonprofits like Wheaton College that object to even that accommodation – which involves them signing a form to their insurer – the Obama administration has created a new accommodation to the accommodation. “The rules, which are in response to recent court decisions, balance our commitment to helping ensure women have continued access to coverage for preventive services important to their health, with the Administration’s goal of respecting religious beliefs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said. For the non-profits that object to the form – arguing that signing it triggers the very birth control coverage they oppose – the new rule allows those employers to write to HHS directly, instead of filling out the form. The Supreme Court first suggested the letter-writing option, and so far the litigants have accepted it. But there was some dispute among legal scholars before about whether the letter would result in actual coverage for the women who worked at those companies. The new rule clarifies that it does.

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21
Aug
14

A Life Was Saved Today Thanks To ObamaCare

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Jane C. Timm: Study: Obamacare Helping More Youth To Get Mental Health Treatment

Young adults have a higher risk of mental health problems and substance abuse – both issues that the U.S. health care system traditionally has struggled to treat. But according to a new study, the number of high-risk youth seeking and receiving affordable care is on the rise, thanks to an Obamacare provision that allows young people to stay on their parents’ health plan until they turn 26. Two million young people now have health care coverage because of the provision, the study notes, but the biggest shift has been with youth demographics that are most at risk.

Among 18-25 year olds exhibiting signs of mental health or substance abuse problems, 5.3% more received mental health care than a comparable group of 26-35 year olds, researchers from Johns Hopkins and Harvard found in the study, published this month in the health care journal Health Affairs. The cost of care has decreased, too: Uninsured doctor visits requiring patients to pay out of pocket were down 12.4%, while the number of covered visits rose 12.9%. Three-quarters of all mental illnesses begin by age 24, according to the National Institute of Health. Before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, nearly 60% of all mental health or substance abuse care for young Americans was paid for out-of-pocket. Mental health care coverage is often prohibitively expensive, a factor that respondents routinely cite as a reason for not seeking care.

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13
Aug
14

ObamaCare Is Not Collapsing And That Makes The GOP Mad

Image: Supreme Court Upholds Obama's Affordable Care Act

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Joshua Green: Dire Obamacare Prediction Falls Hilariously Flat

The story of Obamacare over the last year has in many ways been a story about how the various claims made by conservatives about why the law would collapse have systematically fallen apart as the Affordable Care Act has gone into effect. The website debacle was so bad that nobody was going to sign up. Actually, lots of people signed up. The net number of people insured was going to go down, not up, because Obamacare would force insurers to cancel their plans.

Nope, the uninsured rate has gone down. One of the scariest claims was that premiums were going to shoot up because only the sick and the old would sign up. Back in March, the Hill published a representative story under the headline, “O-Care Premiums to Skyrocket.” Here we are five months later, and those insurance officials have begun reporting their premium increases for next year. To put it mildly, those increases do not seem to fit the definition of “skyrocketing.”

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Wendell Potter: Dire Predictions About Doctor Shortage Post-Obamacare Haven’t Panned Out

Among the many predictions of Obamacare-related catastrophe was that the law, by enabling millions to join the ranks of the insured, would force us all to wait longer to see a doctor and very possibly lead to a code blue for U.S. health care. “Doctor shortage, increased demand could crash health care system,” A CNN report warned last October. A few months earlier, a Forbes headline predicted that, “Thanks to Obamacare, a 20,000 Doctor Shortage Is Set to Quintuple.”To find out if the critics’ were prescient or way off base, Kaiser Health News reporter Phil Galewitz went looking for problems. He didn’t find many. “Five months into the biggest expansion of health coverage in 50 years,” he wrote after interviewing officials from more than two dozen health centers and multi-group practices across the country, “there are few reports of patients facing major delays getting care.”

One reason the system has not been overwhelmed is that, although we might not have as many doctors as some think we should have, we do have a rapidly growing supply of mid-level medical providers — like physician assistants and nurse practitioners — who now treat many of our health problems. It probably won’t be long before most of us are treated — and treated just fine — by a well-trained professional who doesn’t have an M.D. after his or her name. A couple of weeks ago, I sustained an injury that my wife felt was serious enough that I should either go to the ER or see my doctor. When I called my doctor’s office, I was told that while the doctor was on vacation, a nurse practitioner could see me right away. And she did. And I lived to tell about it.

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08
Aug
14

ObamaCare: Helping Millions? ✓ Strengthening Medicare? ✓

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Alex Wayne: Medicare Reduces Payments For 2015 Hospital Admissions

Medicare, the U.S. program for the elderly and disabled, said payments for hospital admissions would fall $756 million next year as penalties stiffen for patients who return too early. Payments for inpatient services at about 3,400 acute-care hospitals will be cut about 0.6 percent in 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a regulatory filing,

including reductions in funding for hospitals who provide care for many low-income patients, those with too many patients who contract infections while admitted and higher penalties for readmissions within 30 days. The Obama administration has applauded reduced Medicare spending for hospital admissions, a trend encouraged by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that has added 13 years to the life of Medicare’s key trust fund.

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Tony Carrk: Conservatives Want You To Pay More For The Health Plan You Like

The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, is working: The uninsured rate has fallen dramatically since the law went into effect. Newly released data published in The New England Journal of Medicine show that 10.3 million adults gained coverage during the first open enrollment period. According to a recent Commonwealth Fund survey, 60 percent of those with new coverage said they used their coverage to go to the doctor or hospital or to fill a prescription; 62 percent of those people said they would not have been able to do so without their new coverage. Moreover, of those who were looking for a doctor, two-thirds said they were able to get an appointment within two weeks. People are happy with their coverage. Overall, 78 percent of those surveyed said they were either somewhat

satisfied or very satisfied with their new coverage. This is about the same rate as those reported by both people who were previously insured and by those who newly gained coverage. Even 74 percent of self-identified Republicans reported being satisfied with their coverage. The ACA has not only led to millions of Americans getting health care coverage, but it has also benefited the country as a whole. Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, reported that the ACA is helping slow the growth rate of health care costs, which has positive consequences for the federal budget. It is also helping strengthen the solvency of Medicare.

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The New England Journal Of Medicine: Health Reform And Changes In Health Insurance Coverage In 2014

In this analysis of nationally representative survey data from January 2012 through June 2014, we found a significant decline in the uninsured rate among nonelderly adults that coincided with the initial open-enrollment period under the ACA. These changes remained highly significant after adjustment for potential confounders such as employment, demographic characteristics, and income. As compared with the baseline trend, the uninsured rate declined by 5.2 percentage points by the second quarter of 2014, a 26% relative decline from the 2012–2013 period. Combined with 2014 Census estimates of 198 million adults 18 to 64 years of age, this corresponds to 10.3 million adults gaining coverage, although depending on the model and confidence intervals,

our sensitivity analyses imply a wide range from 7.3 to 17.2 million adults. Absolute gains were largest among young adults and Hispanics, two groups with high uninsured rates at baseline. We found evidence that within the first 6 months of gaining insurance, more adults reported having a personal doctor and fewer had difficulties paying for medical care — even though the latter measure asked about the prior 12 months. These results are consistent with studies of previous insurance expansions that have shown that gains in coverage can lead to rapid improvements in access. In conclusion, we found that the number of Americans without health insurance declined significantly since the ACA open-enrollment period began in October 2013.

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08
Aug
14

A Heckuva Train Wreck

Reuters: New Medicaid enrollments top 7 million under Obamacare

More than seven million Americans have gained health coverage through government programs including Medicaid since enrollment in Obamacare health insurance was launched October 1, the U.S. administration said on Friday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said 7.2 million new participants in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program by June brought overall Medicaid enrollment to 66 million people.

The enrollees include uninsured Americans who gained coverage through traditional Medicaid, as well as a special Medicaid expansion in 26 of the 50 U.S. states under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

…. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 10.3 million uninsured Americans have gained coverage through the marketplaces and Medicaid, resulting in a 5.2 percentage point drop in the U.S. uninsured rate since last September.

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07
Aug
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Barack Obama gestures during a roundtable discussion with Hispanic print and web media in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, on Aug. 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

11:20: The President delivers remarks and signs H.R. 3230, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act of 2014; Fort Belvoir, Virginia

12:15: White House press briefing

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Courant: Number Of Residents Without Health Insurance Drops 50%

The number of people in Connecticut without health insurance has dropped by 50 percent since 2012, according to research findings released Wednesday by the state’s health insurance exchange. Access Health CT, the state-run onlinehealth insurance marketplace created under the federal Affordable Care Act, has enrolled more than 256,000 state residents in private health plans or Medicaid since the website launched last fall.

CEO Kevin Counihan said at a press conference with the governor Wednesday that the percentage of state residents who lack health coverage dropped from 7.9 percent at the start of the open enrollment period to 4 percent now. About 286,000 residents did not have insurance before the launch of the marketplace. “Nobody expected us to be down to 4 percent,” said Counihan, who compared the figure to those of European countries with national health insurance, where uninsured rates hover around 2 percent to 3 percent.

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AP: BofA Nears $16-$17B Settlement With US

Bank of America is nearing a $16 billion to $17 billion settlement to resolve an investigation into its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities before the 2008 financial crisis, a person directly familiar with the matter said Wednesday. The deal with the bank, which must still be finalized, would be the largest Justice Department settlement by far arising from the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure.

It would follow earlier multibillion-dollar agreements reached in the last year with Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The deal would be the latest arising from the sale of toxic mortgage securities leading up to the recession. The Justice Department last year reached a $13 billion settlement with JPMorgan and in July announced a $7 billion settlement with Citigroup. Each of these deals is designed to offer some financial relief to homeowners, whose mortgages were bundled into securities by the banks in question and then sold to investors.

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Reid Cherlin: The Presidency And The Press

Somewhere between Seoul and Kuala Lumpur, with Air Force One cruising just shy of the speed of sound, Barack Obama decided to have a word with the press. It has been tradition for Obama to make a visit back to the press cabin during the last leg of exhausting presidential foreign trips – just a friendly off-the-record chat – but this junket, a barnburner taking the chief executive to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines this past April, wouldn’t be over for three days. The president’s blood was up over two analysis pieces in The New York Times. One, written by national security correspondent David Sanger and timed for Obama’s arrival in Seoul, accused the administration of dangerously underestimating Kim Jong-Un. A second story, splashed on the paper’s front page, had effectively declared the trip a failure while it was still in progress.

With the chat being off the record, a definitive accounting of what was said is hard to come by; it is clear, though, that the thrust of the president’s message was this: Foreign policy is hard, you guys are scoring it like a campaign debate, and moreover, you’re doing it inaccurately. He went further, telling the dozen or so reporters that what he favored was a judicious use of American power, and that his primary concern was not to get the country embroiled in situations from which it might take a decade to extract ourselves. He offered up an oddly sophomoric mantra for his foreign policy: “Don’t do stupid shit.”

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Victoria Stilwell: Jobless Claims Fall As Average Drops To Eight-Year Low

Fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, sending the average over the past month to an eight-year low, a sign the labor market continues to gain momentum. Jobless claims decreased by 14,000 to 289,000 in the week ended Aug. 2 from 303,000 in the prior period, a Labor Department report showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 47 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an increase to 304,000. Companies are holding on to more workers in an effort to keep up with increased orders and stronger consumer demand, contributing to a virtuous cycle of growth as the economy accelerates. Fewer layoffs and more jobs

would support further gains in incomes and household spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy. “This is one of the early steps in the process of a really good run for the labor market,” said Thomas Simons, a money market economist at Jefferies LLC in New York, whose forecast for the drop in claims was the closest in the Bloomberg survey. “If we have fewer layoffs, it’s a necessary precondition for an acceleration in hiring, and as hiring increases and the slack in the labor force is taken up, that should put some upward pressure on wages as well.”

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Tommy Christopher: Liberal MSNBC Host Says Obama “Broke Politics”

Fresh off his weeks-long stint flacking for Paul Ryan’s poverty plan, Vox publisher and All In fill-in host Ezra Klein further dabbled in Beltway view-from-nowhere dumbshittery Wednesday night when he declared, to MSNBC viewers, that President Obama broke politics. He promised to change politics, but instead, he broke them worse than they already were broken…

…. The theory is that despite all of his promises, Republicans were such pricks that Obama had no choice but to become a partisan ramrod, further dividing our country. Now, even if you accept that narrative, saying Obama broke politics is like saying Jesus sure stained the shit out of that cross… The truth is, it started within hours of President Obama’s inauguration. President Obama didn’t break politics, politics set out to break him…

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Seventeen: Michelle Obama’s Open Letter To American Girls: Commit To Your Education & Get Involved In Others

Did you know that right now, 62 million girls around the world are not in school, and in some countries, fewer than ten percent of girls complete high school (as compared to 85 percent in the U.S.)? Did you know that when girls are educated, they go on to earn higher wages, get married later, and have healthier children who are more likely to attend school themselves? So you might be wondering: why on earth are so many girls worldwide not in school? There are many answers to this question. Sometimes, families simply can’t afford to send their daughters to school (some countries don’t have free public education, and families have to pay school fees); or girls live in rural areas, far from schools, and have no means of transportation; or girls can’t afford to buy sanitary pads, so they’re unable to attend school during their periods, and they wind up falling behind and dropping out.

But often, the problem isn’t just about resources, it’s also about attitudes and beliefs. In some places, girls are viewed as less worthy of an education than boys, so when a family has limited funds, they’ll educate their sons instead of their daughters. Knowing the heartbreaking challenges so many girls in the world are facing, think about all the girls you know who don’t take their education seriously – girls who skip class, or don’t do their homework, or even drop out because they don’t see the point of school. To any girl – or any young person – who might be thinking this way, I have a simple message: you can do better – for yourself, your family and your country.

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On This Day

 President Obama delivers remarks on the economy from the Rose Garden, on Aug. 7, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs a bill in the Oval Office, on Aug. 7, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama talks with members of the 2012 Summer White House intern class before a group photo in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 7, 2012 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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 President Obama greets troops during a rally at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Aug. 7, 2013 ( Photo by Pete Souza)

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