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Reuters (5/3/13) reports that on Thursday, a group of businesses and individuals filed a suit against the Obama Administration designed to stop implementation of the Affordable Care Act in states that have opted into Federally-run insurance exchanges. The suit challenges rules issued last year by the Internal Revenue Service, which it claims only explicitly state that the IRS can distribute tax credits through state-run exchanges. As such, the suit argues the government could not give these subsidies in the 33 states that chose the Federally-run option. A lawyer representing the challengers explained, “The IRS rule we are challenging is at war with the act’s plain language and completely rewrites the deal that Congress made with the states on running these insurance exchanges.”
The Hill (5/2/13) “Healthwatch” blog reports that the Republican National Committee (RNC) is “doubling down” against the Affordable Care Act, with “a new petition drive against the law.” The party is planning “to deliver signatures of people who want ObamaCare ‘exemptions’ to federal Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.” In a statement, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said, “As public support for this law nears an all time low, it’s time for the President’s administration to realize that everyone deserves an exemption from ObamaCare – not just his Washington allies.”
The Hill (5/3/13) “Healthwatch” blog reports that Representative Ami Bera (D-CA) has become the “latest potentially vulnerable Democrat” to speak out against the Affordable Care Act, saying he’s “concerned” about implementation. In addition to the “senior Democrat” who told The Hill “this week that a botched ObamaCare rollout would be a threat to the party in 2014,” Bera “is clearly worried about the effects of a messy implementation process.” As he told the Sacramento Bee editorial Board, “I’m moderately to very concerned. I have been consistently concerned about the cost of care going up.”
And in continuing coverage, the Washington Times (5/2/13) reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that he “agrees” with Sen. Max Baucus’ recent comment that there is a “huge train wreck coming down” if the ACA is not properly implemented. However, Reid added that the commitment of additional Federal funds to help explain the law to the public would help avert such a “wreck.”
In an analysis piece, Reuters (5/3/13) reports on the lack of interest shown by the nation’s largest insurers to join the Affordable Care Act’s new exchanges, set to begin enrolling people in October. According to the article, this means that in many states, there will be no added competition, a central tenet of the President’s law. Recently, the four largest US insurers have signaled that they are unlikely to move beyond the areas in which they already offer coverage, meaning they will sell on fewer than one third of the exchanges. Still, HHS remains confident in the ability of the exchanges to encourage competition and lower prices. Spokeswoman Erin Shields Britt said, “Many people will receive up-front financial assistance to make insurance more affordable, plus many will be new or first time customers for insurance companies.”
As Implementation Approaches, Exchange Officials Fear Lack Of Outreach. CQ (5/3/13) reports on the discussion held by experts gathered at the National Health Insurance Exchange Summit in Crystal City, Virginia, Thursday. There, state officials agreed that “the 33 states that have left it to federal officials to operate part or all of their health law insurance marketplaces in 2014 are unlikely to change their minds in 2015 or soon after.” And, one analyst added, “if they wait too long to step in and run their own exchanges, they may find it difficult to budge the feds from calling the shots.”
CQ (5/3/13) reports that at the same conference, Kevin J. Counihan, the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange’s CEO, voiced his concern about the “communication and outreach” surrounding enrollment, “calling the issue ‘quite challenging.’” Indeed, he told his colleagues, “I am more worried about that [outreach] now than I am about the technology piece.”
Though President Obama had planned to unveil the new, shorter Affordable Care Act application form during his press conference Tuesday, other comments he made about the law receive much more attention in the national papers Wednesday. In response to questions about whether implementation of the ACA will turn into a “train wreck,” as Senator Max Baucus predicted recently, Obama acknowledged that the next year will no doubt see “glitches and bumps.” However, most sources note that he ultimately was optimistic about the rollout, saying, “We’ve got a great team in place. We are pushing very hard to make sure we are hitting the deadlines and the benchmarks.”
The Wall Street Journal (5/1/13) reports President Barack Obama admitted on Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislation of his first term, may face “bumps” in its implementation. The article explains that two main provisions of the law, intended to extend insurance to those Americans without it, have hit snags that have presented problems to the Administration. First, over half the states have thus far opted out of Medicaid expansion, meaning millions of low-income Americans who were supposed to be covered by 2014 will not be. Second, 33 states chose not to run their own insurance exchange, adding to the Federal government’s implementation burden. As Obama said Tuesday, “Even if we do everything perfectly, there will still be glitches and bumps.”
The New York Times (5/1/13) reports that the President said “that his health care law was ‘working fine,’ and played down concerns that the law could disrupt coverage or lead to higher premiums for people who already had health insurance.”
Timothy Sandefur, a principal attorney with Pacific Legal Foundation, who is representing small business owner Matt Sissel in challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate “tax,” explicates his case in an op-ed for the Christian Science Monitor (5/1/13).
He writes that by calling the insurance mandate a “tax,” the Supreme Court “did more than trigger new debates about semantics. It created a potentially fatal constitutional glitch in the law.” Indeed, Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution says that tax bills – “all bills for raising revenue” – must “originate in the House of Representatives.”
A new poll released Tuesday is covered by a few national sources, mainly because its implications underscore the Obama Administration’s struggles with implementing the Affordable Care Act. The poll found widespread confusion and misinformation about the law across the US. For example, over 40% of those surveyed believed the ACA was no longer law.
The Washington Post (5/1/13) “Wonkblog” reports on the new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, released Tuesday, demonstrates “what a challenge the Obama administration faces in implementing its signature health-care law.” Specifically, the survey found that “fewer than six in 10 Americans know that the Obamacare law is still on the books. Seven percent think the Supreme Court struck it down; 12 percent say Congress repealed Obamacare.” To sum it up, the blog says that “before a deluge of public outreach, set to begin this summer, kicks off,” Americans “do not know a lot” about the law.
Reuters (5/1/13) reports that HHS has extended the deadline for health insurers to apply to sell plans on Federally-run exchanges, from Wednesday to Friday. As Alicia Hartinger, a CMS spokeswoman said in an email, “Health insurance issuers have asked us to provide them with more time to submit their applications to offer Qualified Health Plans and we are accommodating that request.”
The Hill (4/27/13) “Healthwatch” blog reported that “Republicans introduced a bill Friday in response to allegations that top congressional officials are seeking to exempt Capitol Hill from ObamaCare’s health insurance exchanges.” Introduced by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), the measure “would require that all federal employees – including the president, vice president and Cabinet members – purchase coverage through the marketplaces.”
In a segment titled “Obamacare Unravels,” FOX News Weekend Report (4/2913) looked into claims that lawmakers from both parties were looking into exempting themselves from buying coverage under the Affordable Care Act, asking, “Who could blame them?” The piece also mentions the recent comments from Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), who recently warned HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the possibility of an ACA “train-wreck.”
In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal (4/29/13) looks into Congress’ recent closed-door attempts to exempt themselves from buying insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Although this attempt was botched by it leaking to the press, the Journal argues that it shows that the same Democrats who passed the law don’t believe in it, and that Americans will see the ACA’s main weakness in the move: that under the law, you may not be able to keep insurance that you like.