This Week in Health Care Reform - January 10th, 2014
The GOP finds itself leading on health care issues; meanwhile, despite its inauspicious launch, life under the health care law gets off to a somewhat quiet start; the Administration releases latest enrollment numbers; a new lawsuit is filed challenging how the law applies to Congress; and, with the calendar having turned to 2014, experts raise the warning flag on the Affordable Care Act’s new taxes.
Health Care Reform
Polling Up: In what the more cynical amongst us might describe as a bit of a reversal, a new poll finds that Republicans now hold the edge over Democrats when it comes to health care issues. The survey, compiled by health care news aggregator The Morning Consult, shows Republicans with an eight-point advantage when it comes to health care among undecided likely voters. This same group also disapproves of the Affordable Care Act by a more than two-to-one margin, which could be trouble for vulnerable incumbent Democrats who supported the law. Whether this sentiment rings true heading into an election year will be put to the test as many anticipate the GOP making the health care law its priority campaign issue.
Rolling Thunder: For many of us, the New Year presents a chance to reflect on the year gone by. As it relates to changes in the health care landscape, we need only look back to this fall – and the rollout of the health insurance exchange marketplaces – to get a sense of what 2013 wrought. Given the myriad challenges left in the wake of the imperfect launch of HealthCare.gov, it’s not surprising that many were nervous leading up to January 1st, when coverage was to go into effect and millions of Americans would see what life under the Affordable Care Act really looked like. And, while experts caution that it’s still too early to diagnose the depth of the implementation issues brought about by so many last-minute changes to the health care law, the start of coverage has been described by some as quiet. Others, however, aren’t quite as sparing, choosing instead to place the implementation of the Affordable Care Act alongside the rollout of another comprehensive health program: Medicare. Historical context notwithstanding, having cleared its first major hurdle of 2014, there remains a handful of dates that experts would have us circle on the calendar. For their part, some health insurers have given consumers more time to pay their premiums, extending (again) the deadline for payment till later this month.
Enrollment Marker: Given the numerous obstacles consumers experienced this fall navigating the insurance exchange portal, the latest enrollment figures point to a vastly improved, not to mention, functioning experience. By the end of December, more than 2.1 million people had signed up for a health plan through either the federal or state websites. Despite being off their targeted pace, Administration officials are encouraged by the dramatic uptick in new sign-ups, but allow that there’s still a ways to go in order to reach the 7 million enrollees projected to sign up for coverage this year.
Senator's Suit: Citing his obligation to the checks and balances engineered into the Constitution by its authors, on Monday Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) filed a lawsuit against the Administration over the decision last year rendered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) allowing the government to continue subsidizing the health insurance for the 535 members of Congress and their staff. Arguing that the ruling constitutes an “abuse of executive authority”, Sen. Johnson’s suit charges that the decision violates the intent of the law, which was that Congress would participate in the insurance exchange marketplaces on the same terms as all Americans.
Looming Taxes: In recent years, a number of new taxes have hit Americans’ bottom lines, ostensibly to fund the Affordable Care Act. While the law’s less than smooth rollout has given critics plenty to complain about, some maintain that the worst is yet to come. Beginning this year, the health insurance tax (HIT), a new multibillion-dollar assessment levied against insurance companies, is slated to go into effect. In fact, in 2014 alone, the HIT is expected to cost insurers an estimated $8 billion, before eventually ballooning to $14.3 billion by 2018. Experts warn that these costs will ultimately lead to a dramatic increase in premiums: A 2011 study by management consulting firm Oliver Wyman pegs that increase at more than $2800 per person and $6800 per family over a ten-year period. However, the recently introduced bill by Reps. Ami Bera (D-California) and Charles Boustany (R-Louisiana) seeks to delay the HIT for two years, providing temporary relief for working families, small business owners, and vulnerable seniors. The proposed legislation continues to enjoy bipartisan support. Find out more.
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