KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Survey Credits Health Law For Lowered Uninsured Rate

News outlets report on implementation issues including the declining rate of uninsured people, confusion created by recent administrative changes and a union's assertion that the law will increase inequality.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Survey: Uninsured Rate Drops; Health Law Cited
With just three weeks left to sign up under President Barack Obama health care law, a major survey tracking the rollout finds that the uninsured rate keeps going down. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Monday, found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months — or calendar quarter— of 2013 (3/10).

The Washington Post: Slew Of Changes To Health-Care Law Creates More Confusion For Consumers
As the deadline approaches for most Americans to obtain health insurance, a flurry of changes by the Obama administration has led to a frenzied effort among employers, insurance companies, politicians and consumers to try and understand what they might mean. ... By allowing many people to keep their old plans for two years longer, the administration softened the blow for congressional Democrats up for reelection this fall. No longer do members have to fear a wave of cancellation letters right before the November midterm election (Somashekhar, 3/8).

The Washington Post: Timeline Of Major Change To The Affordable Care Act
As it has been implementing the 2010 law reshaping the U.S. health-care system, the Obama administration has instituted a series of delays and other changes to the way the statute works in practice. Some changes were prompted by the government’s technical and other difficulties in launching, the online insurance marketplace on which three dozen states rely. Other changes respond to complaints by specific groups of consumers or parts of the health-care industry. Major changes and the dates when they were announced (Goldstein, 3/8).

Fox News: ObamaCare Will Hasten Income Inequality, Union Report Says
A new report from a major U.S. union says ObamaCare will hasten income inequality. Although it defends the intent behind the Affordable Care Act, the report, entitled “The Irony of ObamaCare: Making inequality worse,” concludes that the law will transfer a billion dollars in wealth to insurance companies, uneven the playing field in the market, force employers to cut back on hours and result in pay decreases, Ralston Reports said. “The promise of Obamacare was the right one and the hope for extending healthcare coverage to the un-and under-insured a step in the right direction,” the report says. “Yet the unintended consequences will hit the average, hard-working American where it hurts: in the wallet” (3/10).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Penalty Will Surprise Many
For many households, the penalty for not having health insurance under the Affordable Care Act will "almost always" run more than the $95 figure often cited in news reports. That's according to the Tax Policy Center, which recently rolled its ACA Tax Penalty Calculator. It helps people figure out how large their tax penalty will be if they don't get required coverage by March 31 (Radnofsky, 3/8). 

Politico: The Obamacare Money Under The Couch
The Obama administration is dropping some new hints about how it has moved money around to fund Obamacare without Congress — but not nearly enough to put the controversy to rest. Forced to reveal more details under a provision tucked in this year’s bipartisan budget deal, the Department of Health and Human Services declared Friday how it used Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s authority to move about $1.6 billion in departmental funds around last year — the Cabinet secretary’s version of looking for change under the couch cushions and hitting the jackpot (Norman and Nather, 3/8).

Denver Post: Colorado Not Tracking Premiums For Canceled Health Plans 
As U.S. Sen. Mark Udall's office and the Colorado Division of Insurance clashed last fall over health policy cancellations and early renewals, Julie Dagnillo experienced the turmoil of health insurance changes firsthand. Anthem canceled the small-group policy at her work because it did not meet the minimum requirements of the Affordable Care Act. She said she earns too much to qualify for a subsidy on the state health insurance exchange (Kane, 3/10).

Asbury Park Press: Feds: New Medicaid Enrollees' Estates Shouldn't Be Billed 
Can someone newly eligible for Medicaid really have their home and other assets seized after their death to repay the state for the cost of their medical care? Technically, yes, under existing federal and New Jersey laws, though the rules apply only to costs incurred from age 55 on (Mullen, 3/9).

Modern Healthcare: CMS Issues ACA Basic Health Program Final Rules
Starting in 2015, states will have the option of establishing subsidized health insurance plans for individuals and families with incomes between 138% and 200% of the federal poverty level (Demko, 3/7).

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