ObamaCare Continues to “Work Better Than Intended”—to Destroy American Medicine

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This week’s health policy news roundup curated by Jane Orient, M.D.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the total number of uninsured dropped from 45.2 million in 2013 to 36.7 million in 2014—a net of 8.5 million gained coverage. That is well below previously released figures and about 29% below official government projections of the number of uninsured benefiting from ObamaCare, writes Chris Conover. http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2015/09/16/census-bureau-confirms-how-badly-obamacare-is-underperforming/

The difference in tax treatment of health insurance and other purchases results in two types of distortions, explains Robert Book: a marginal distortion in the employee’s choice of health care as compared to other types of consumption, and an inequity between those able to obtain health care through their employer, compared to those who have to buy it on their own with after-tax income. The “Cadillac Tax” slated to take effect in 2018 reverses these distortions for “excess” health coverage: The 40% tax is higher than the tax anybody at any income level pays on normal income, and the tax doesn’t apply to non-employer-sponsored coverage, regardless of the premium. It still favors more highly paid employees.

Ironically, Candidate Obama argued against the McCain tax-credit proposal on the grounds that he would be “taxing health benefits for the first time ever.” With the Cadillac tax, Obama is getting that “presidential first” for himself. http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2015/09/11/decrypting-the-cadillac-tax-part-2/

ObamaCare, by passing new rules for insurers, raised the cost of insurance by 29% over what it would have been without the law, according to a 2014 analysis by a Yale University economist. And the federal government is pumping $2 billion into the pockets of health insurers in Indiana alone this year. http://www.ibj.com/articles/print/54859-obamacare-pumping-more-than-2-billion-to-hoosier-health-insurers-this-year

Obama’s Department of HHS attempted to destroy fixed-indemnity insurance plans, and Central United Life Insurance Co. and Senior Security Benefits Inc. filed suit against HHS, claiming that restrictions on the supplemental plans are unconstitutional and arbitrary. The government argued that the companies could not challenge the rule because it did not hurt them any more than the original rule governing fixed indemnity plans. Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District in D.C. ruled against the government. He said its argument provided “a recipe for eluding judicial review” in which an agency could issue a rule that puts companies out of business, not enforce it to avoid any challenges, and then replace the rule with a new one that still keeps companies out of business. “But defendants are wrong, and the government cannot strip a litigant of standing by chaining one harm to another in an Escheresque loop,” Lamberth wrote. http://www.courthousenews.com/2015/09/11/insurers-defeat-obamacare-provision.htm

ObamaCare’s “quality” rule that penalizes hospitals by not paying for readmissions is harming safety-net hospitals that serve sicker patients more likely to need readmission. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/study-obamacare-hurting-vulnerable-hospitals/article/2572027#.Vfe4o5av7s8.twitter

The Government Accountability Office reported in July that there are still no mechanisms to combat fraud on Healthcare.gov, although some 400,000 immigrants may lose their coverage. Most of the ones losing coverage may be legal U.S. residents and citizens snared in a complicated, inefficient system for checking documents. http://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2015/09/14/more-than-400000-immigrants-lose-health-care-coverage-due-to-citizenship-questions-n2052182?utm_source=thdaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nl&newsletterad=

The first-ever exemption from the ObamaCare contraception mandate for moral rather than religious reasons was granted to March for Life by Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. HHS is expected to appeal. Apparently, forcing its moral views on everyone outside a narrow religious sphere is more important to the government than care of the sick. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/01/us/politics/judge-allows-moral-not-just-religious-contraception-exemptions.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=3&mc_cid=38fb0e1215&mc_eid=cfafdebde6

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