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Home | Tag Archives: Affordable Care Act

Tag Archives: Affordable Care Act

Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional, Handing Texas an Early Win

In a ruling that could throw the nation’s health care system into chaos, Fort Worth-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor on Friday ruled that a major provision of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional — and that the rest of the landmark law must fall as well.

In February, a Texas-led coalition of 20 states sued the federal government to end the health care law in its entirety, arguing that after Congress in December 2017 gutted one of its major provisions, the rest of the law was unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the law because its individual mandate — a financial penalty for not having insurance — could be interpreted as a tax. But after Congress set that tax at $0, the Texas coalition claimed the rest of the law no longer had “constitutional cover.”

O’Connor sided with Texas, ruling that the individual mandate was rendered unconstitutional. That portion of the law, he argued, is not severable from other provisions, and so the rest of the law must fall.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton cheered the decision in a statement.

“All Americans will again have greater choice about what health coverage they need and who will be their doctor,” the Republican said.

O’Connor’s ruling comes a day before the deadline to enroll in a health plan through the insurance exchange created under the law.

That could cause unnecessary confusion for consumers, said Stacey Pogue, a health care expert with the left-leaning Center for Public Policy Priorities.

“But that confusion or anxiety shouldn’t stop people from signing up who need health care,” Pogue said. “This is just the very first step. The lawsuit will go on for a very long time. Open enrollment ends tomorrow.”

A White House statement said that the law will remain in place pending the appeals process.

A counter-coalition of states led by California, which stepped in to argue the case when the federal government sided partially with Texas, panned the decision.

A spokeswoman said the California Attorney General’s Office will immediately appeal.

“Today’s ruling is an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA’s consumer protections for healthcare, on America’s faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court. Today’s misguided ruling will not deter us: our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and wellbeing of all Americans.”

Rob Henneke, general counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation and an attorney on the Texas side of the case, described the ruling as “a historic win.”

“Obamacare’s been broken long before it was struck down by the court,” Henneke said in an interview Friday evening. “It’s time to now work toward solutions that can actually provide health care, doctor choice and affordability for Americans.”

Henneke added that the case is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The coalition’s suit was filed on behalf plaintiffs who said they were burdened by Obamacare

This is not Texas’ first lawsuit targeting Obama’s signature health care law, though it is the most sweeping. The lawsuit, which now involves most states in the country on one side or another, also has emerged as a political issue in dozens of states. If successful, the lawsuit would end Obamacare’s protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions like diabetes or asthma — a group of about 130 million people across the nation. Democrats have focused on that provision, arguing that their conservative foes are failing to protect the country’s most vulnerable.

Legal scholars — even some conservatives who oppose the law — have nonetheless called Texas’ argument unconvincing.

The argument that the whole law should be doomed by problems with one provision is “a massive stretch,” Ilya Somin, a constitutional scholar at George Mason University who filed an amicus brief in the case, told The Tribune in August.

Some have pointed to O’Connor as an advantageous decider for Texas. An appointee of President George W. Bush, O’Connor has ruled against Obamacare several times and is perhaps best known for for blocking Obama-era guidelines directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

Timothy Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University who has studied Obamacare and its legal battles extensively, called Friday’s ruling “an ideological opinion” that is “unmoored in law.”

“This is breathtaking in its sweep, and I think O’Connor has no idea what he’s doing,” Jost said Friday. “This is going to get thrown out. But I also think it’s timed to cause maximum chaos.”

Author: EMMA PLATOFF –  The Texas Tribune

Groups Rally to Help Texans Get Health Coverage Before Saturday Deadline

AUSTIN – To enroll for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, Texans must sign up at Healthcare.gov by no later than this Saturday.

Stacey Pogue, senior policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, said community organizations across the state have experts standing by to help people understand their options. She added that if you miss the deadline, you could have to wait another full year to sign up.

“Most people can go to the health-insurance marketplace and, when they enroll, they’ll pay $75 a month for coverage, or less,” she said. “It depends on your income, but most people are going to be able to find a plan that costs them less than their cell-phone bill.”

Pogue said 85 percent of Texans who signed up for ACA coverage in 2018 received financial assistance to help buffer the costs of premiums, deductibles and co-payments. Earlier this year, the Trump administration cleared the way for individuals to buy short-term plans, which can cost far less than traditional plans but also cover less.

Pogue said some short-term plans are cheaper up front, but could end up costing consumers more in the long term.

“But they’re cheaper for a reason,” she said. “You get what you pay for with those plans; the consumer should be really cautious. And those plans have a bunch of ‘gotchas’ and loopholes, that mean care that you might need next year won’t be covered.”

For many people who qualify for financial assistance under the Affordable Care Act, she said, monthly premiums for full-coverage plans could end up costing less than short-term plans. Pogue said it’s important to shop around to get the best deal.

“I don’t mean go site to site to site, like check Amazon and Walmart and Target,” she said. “I mean, go to one website, and on it, there will be several plans. Healthcare.gov has several plans, but it’s the only place you can go and get that subsidy.”

After Saturday, Pogue said, a person only can get coverage if they experience a “qualifying life event,” such as getting married or losing their current health insurance. Help is available at Covertexasnow.org

Author: Eric Galatas – Public News Service 

Video: Cornyn – Democrats Refuse to Help Fix Health Care Mess They Created

Wednesday on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) invited his Democratic colleagues to join the effort to provide relief for the millions of Americans hurt by the Affordable Care Act.

Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video of his remarks can be found above.

“Yesterday, we took a giant step toward delivering on our promise to the American people to provide relief from the failures of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

“Over the last seven years, we have discussed what our solution would look like. And everybody who has been willing to participate in that conversation – sadly, not our Democratic colleagues who simply refused to do so – but every member of our conference is engaged in discussions and had input on how best to accomplish the goal of providing people affordable coverage, increased access, market stability, and better care.

“You know, we can talk about all of the details, but basically, what this boils down to is how do we provide people with access to quality, affordable health care?”

“What we’ve tried to do on this side of the aisle, and we’ve repeatedly invited our Democratic colleagues to join us because, optimally, this would be a bipartisan effort, but so far they’ve refused to participate whatsoever and really are focused solely on trying to blow up the current process.”

“I know members have a lot of ideas about how to fix the mess that Obamacare has left us, but that was precisely why it was so important for us to get on the bill yesterday, so members on both sides of the aisle can offer amendments and share their ideas.”

“Last night we began the process of considering amendments, including one from my colleague in Texas, Senator Cruz, who has a plan to provide people who choose a lower-cost premium insurance product the opportunity to do so as long as the state also requires a comprehensive plan as well. This is something ideal for many people who want an insurance safety net but don’t necessarily want their health insurance to pay for their regular medical expenses or doctor visits.”

“People keep talking about a secret process. Well, this is about as open and transparent as it gets, and everybody will have an opportunity to offer an amendment, to discuss what’s in the amendment, and to vote on it.”

Amistad Not Impacted by Trump Decision to End ACA Enrollment Assistance in 18 U.S. Cities

Amistad’s Consumer Health Insurance Marketplace Enrollment Services (CHIMES) will not be impacted by a Trump Administration decision to end health insurance enrollment assistance under provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2013 in 18 U.S. cities including El Paso.

“We will continue to provide the same enrollment services that we’ve been providing since the health care law was implemented in 2013,” said Marisol Vela, Amistad’s CHIMES Lead Navigator. “Persons who wish to access health insurance plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace may continue to count on us to provide enrollment help for the foreseeable future,” she said.

Under its contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Amistad will continue to provide enrollment assistance, public outreach and education services through 2018 to 23 counties in Far West Texas including El Paso County.

The termination of assistance services applies to assister programs administered by private companies including Cognosante, LLC and CRSA, Inc.

Amistad, a non-profit social services and transportation agency, is a Navigator Program that is not included in the Trump Administration’s move to terminate enrollment assistance services across the U.S.

Open enrollment for 2018 coverage will commence on November 1, 2017 and conclude on December 15, 2017.

For information, consumers may contact Amistad at 915-298-7307.

Millions of Texans Could Lose Coverage if ACA Repealed

AUSTIN, Texas — Congress has set in motion what it says is a plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But what could happen in Texas if the plan is only repealed?

One study projects that ending Obamacare without immediately enacting an equivalent plan would result in 2.6 million Texans losing health coverage by 2019. Anne Dunkelberg, associate director at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, which produced the study, said a repeal of the plan would hit the state’s working families hardest.

“Close to 85 percent of them are getting subsidies. The average subsidy is 75 percent of the premium,” Dunkelberg said. “So, if those subsidies go away, the vast majority would not be able to afford to just pick up the other 75 percent of the premium.”

The study also found that Texas stands to lose about $62 billion in federal healthcare funding over the next decade if the ACA is repealed, and it would pay out billions more to doctors and hospitals to cover the cost of uncompensated care.

Congress has vowed to replace Obamacare but has yet to reveal the details of any plan it is considering.

Dunkelberg said that if Congress only repeals the plan, the significant gains made in the state’s uninsured rate by Obamacare would likely be reversed.

“Even though Texas still has the worst uninsured rate, and the highest uninsured number in the country, and didn’t do the Medicaid expansion along with 18 other states, we still had a big, major reduction in our uninsured rate as a result of it,” Dunkelberg said.

She said she’s also concerned that any new plan could reverse basic requirements, allowing insurers to sell policies that don’t cover key expenses such as prescription drugs, mental health or maternity care.

“Being able to have a talking point that says that the price of the premium went down when in fact the reason it went down is that it’s no longer covering anything that you actually need, and it leaves you open to medical bankruptcy,” Dunkelberg said.

The report warned that a repeal of the ACA without an adequate replacement would mean that almost 30 million Americans could lose access to affordable health care.

Author – Mark Richardson, Public News Service

Analysis: Repeal of Healthcare Law Likely to Cause Chaos

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Repeal of the Affordable Care Act without immediate replacement would throw the U.S. healthcare system into turmoil for the next three years, according to economists.

The Urban Institute projected that the most likely plan for repeal would leave nearly 30 million Americans uninsured by 2019, send insurance markets into chaos and threaten the economic viability of hospitals around the country.

Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, predicts insurers will start canceling coverage in the face of billions of dollars in losses if there is no longer a mandate for consumers to buy insurance. But, Park said, the largest impacts may come in two years, when the repeal of the Medicaid expansion and the insurance subsidies that help people pay for coverage will likely kick in.

“More than doubling the number of uninsured that otherwise would occur,” Park said. “And that would be a higher number than was in place pre-Affordable Care Act, because of the virtual collapse of the individual market that would result.”

President-elect Trump and Republicans in Congress have criticized Obamacare for its rising premiums and reduced choice of doctors and insurance options. They campaigned on the promise of immediate repeal, even though the program has just finished its largest signup period ever.

First up for repeal are the taxes, mostly on high-income households, that pay for much of the program. Park said they found that more than half of these tax cuts would go to the rich – millionaires or richer – according to Congressional Budget Office figures.

Without that revenue, he said replacing the ACA would be difficult, or could require taking funds from Medicare or Medicaid. Park said that could explain the delay.

“The most critical aspect is that there is no replacement plan,” Park said, “that replacement would happen at some subsequent point, assuming there even is a replacement plan.”

The Urban Institute projects that, by 2019, healthcare providers will have to give four times the amount of uncompensated care they do now. Park said in that year, they will also lose $146 billion in revenue because they have fewer patients with insurance – which will be a threat to many hospitals.

“Rural hospitals in states that have seen improvements because of adoption of the Medicaid expansion in their states – that would all be reversed, and more, under ACA repeal,” Park said.

More information is available at cbpp.org

Dan Heyman, Public News Service

New Mexico Cuts Number of Uninsured Kids by Almost Half

SANTA FE, N.M. — About 26,000 more children in New Mexico were covered by health insurance in 2015 than in 2013, largely because of the Affordable Care Act, a new report says.

Researchers from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families found that the rate of uninsured kids fell from 8.5 percent to 4.5 percent – which is just below the national average of 4.8 percent. Sireesha Manne, supervising attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said the fact that more than 95 percent of kids in the state now have insurance can be credited to the expansion of Medicaid under the ACA.

“We had some of the highest gains of the country in getting children insured because we expanded Medicaid,” Manne said. “What that did was, it got more parents enrolled into Medicaid, which then brought a lot more children into the program and we saw huge gains of tens of thousands of children.”

The ACA included millions of dollars for outreach, which is being used by community groups to reach the 22,000 children who remain uninsured – many of whom are eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, also known as CHIP.

Joan Alker, executive director at the center at Georgetown and co-author of the report, said much of that outreach is tailored to reach communities that need it most.

“The racial and ethnic groups that have the highest level of uninsurance are, American Indian/Alaskan Native children – who have the highest – and then Hispanic children have the next highest,” Alker said. “But Hispanic children, because they are a growing part of our population, are disproportionately uninsured.”

Back in 2008, before CHIP was reauthorized by Congress, the problem was much worse, with 13.3 percent of children in New Mexico going without health insurance.

Author: Suzanne Potter, Public News Service (NM)

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