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News Archives

Health Care Law’s Beneficiaries Reflect Its Strengths, and Its Faults

October 14, 2016, The New York Times , Abby Goodnough and Reed Abelson- Cara Suzannah Latil is living proof that the Affordable Care Act works - but also of why a central piece of the law is in turmoil. Ms. Latil, 49, who works at a homeless shelter in Santa Fe, N.M., is one of millions of Americans who once found it difficult or impossible to get health insurance because they already had serious illnesses. Hepatitis C was ravaging her liver when she learned in 2014 that she also had breast cancer. Through the health care law, she was able to buy subsidized insurance that paid for all but $800 of her cancer surgery and radiation, she said, as well as tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of medications that cured her hepatitis.

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How Narrow Is It? Gov’t Begins Test Of Comparison Tool For Health Plan Networks

October 14, 2016, Kaiser Health News, Michelle Andrews- The incredible shrinking provider network is nothing new in marketplace plans. One way insurers have kept premiums in check on the individual market is by reducing the number of providers available in a plan’s network. Earlier this year, the federal government said that it would introduce a tool this fall to help consumers who are shopping on gauge how narrow a plan’s provider network is compared with others in the area. But most consumers who want that information will have to wait at least another year. The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that the pilot project to test the network breadth tool just got a little, well, narrower.

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Reports of Obamacare’s demise are greatly exaggerated

October 13, 2016, The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell- Everybody knows the Affordable Care Act has been a massive, expensive failure, with prices and spending spiraling out of control. We heard this on Wednesday, from Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton: “The reality is the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable.” And earlier this month from Bill Clinton, who characterized Obamacare price hikes as “the craziest thing in the world.” And of course from Donald Trump, in the second presidential debate: “Obamacare is a disaster. You know it. We all know it. It’s going up at numbers that nobody’s ever seen worldwide. Nobody’s ever seen numbers like this for health care.” It’s true that nobody’s ever seen (or, at least, not in a good long while) numbers like this for health care - because, in fact, the price increases have been so small.

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President of American Academy of Pediatrics on Mississippi Children’s Health

October 14, 2016, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, Sid Scott- Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate in the country—comparable to Botswana and Sri Lanka. Too many children in the state are also under nourished and don’t get the immunizations they need. Remedies to the crisis are being taken—and some progress has been made. But are they enough? We spoke with Dr. Bernard Dreyer—president of American Academy of Pediatrics. He says improving health care for Mississippi children will have to take place on multiple fronts.

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Drug Coupons: Helping a Few at the Expense of Everyone

October 12, 2016, The New York Times, Margot Sanger-Katz- When a furor erupted over the rapidly rising price of EpiPens this summer, the drugmaker Mylan offered a solution: a coupon for the expensive drug. People who need the EpiPens to protect themselves from life-threatening allergic reactions could use the coupon to get up to $300 off at the pharmacy counter if their insurance plan has a deductible or a co-payment. It is a good deal for those people. But these seemingly generous coupons may be making drug costs higher for everyone. New research suggests that co-payment coupons can actually increase total health care spending by encouraging patients to choose more expensive drugs when there are lower-priced substitutes available.

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Medicaid eyeing NMHS-United Healthcare issue

October 8, 2016, The Daily Journal, Michaela Morris- The Mississippi Division of Medicaid is watching the dispute between North Mississippi Health Services and United Healthcare closely. “We are waiting to see what happens and hope they can come to a resolution,” said Erin Barham, Mississippi Medicaid deputy administrator for communications. The Tupelo-based health care system has informed the health care insurer that it will terminate its provider agreement in 2017 because United Healthcare has failed to pay the system accurately and fairly. In April, the hospital system discovered that United Healthcare was sending them electronic reimbursements for $0; it appears the problem may go back several years.

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The Affordable Care Act is covering people, holding down costs and not killing jobs

October 11, 2016, The Washington Post, Jared Bernstein- I’m on a panel this morning talking about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the broader economy. My rap starts from the perspective that the ACA, while not perfect, is working remarkably well. The ACA debate, on the other hand, has become inseparable from intense partisan politics and this has led to incessant hand-waving and smoke-blowing such that it’s impossible to get the straight dope on its impact. Supporters aren’t blameless, as we should have expected (and warned people) that a complex policy dealing with a sector that’s 17 percent of GDP is going to get some things wrong out of the gate. To this day, the ACA needs recalibration (e.g., “thin” individual markets with too few providers). But the idea that it should be repealed flies in the face of these facts:

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Yes, Obamacare needs tweaks - but it’s been a policy triumph

October 7, 2016, Vox , Bob Kocher and Ezekiel Emanuel- With the “exit” of United and now Aetna from the Obamacare health exchanges, many people are proclaiming the end of those exchanges and thus the end of Obamacare itself. This is wildly premature. There is no doubt the exchanges are having some growing pains, but they have succeeded in granting millions of Americans access to high-quality, more-affordable health insurance. And there are relatively simple adjustments that can stabilize the exchanges and allow them to work better for both consumers and insurance companies.

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Study: ObamaCare enrollees more likely to have checkups

October 5, 2016, The Hill, Peter Sullivan- People who gained ObamaCare coverage in 2014 were more likely to have a regular doctor and an annual checkup than people who remained uninsured, a new study finds. The study, published in Health Affairs, finds that 27 percent of people who were uninsured in 2013 and gained coverage through ObamaCare’s marketplaces in 2014 went from not having a usual source of care to having one. That is significantly higher than the 11 percent of people who remained uninsured who gained a regular doctor.

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In Medicaid Expansion States, Uninsured Adults’ Share Of Physician And ED Visits Has Declined

October 5, 2016, Health Affairs, Thomas Selden, Salam Abdus, and Patricia Keenan- There is growing evidence that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped to reduce the number of uninsured adults, particularly in States that implemented the ACA’s Medicaid expansions. Research has also begun to show how the ACA’s changes in coverage are altering the way U.S. health care is financed. In a recent Health Affairs article, for example, Sayeh Nikpay and coauthors use data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Hospital Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) to show declines in the share of hospitalizations that are uninsured, and increases in the Medicaid share, in states that expanded Medicaid.

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