Archive for the ‘Health care’ Category

Obamacare is proving just how super-efficient our federal government can be

Throughout the Obamacare debate — which ended just over three years ago — we heard a lot of talk about how the federal government was so much more efficient at delivering health insurance than private firms are. This argument required a willing suspension of disbelief for anyone who has ever even heard of the federal government, much less its innumerable examples of wasteful spending. But that’s what we were told.

And I was reminded of that line of argument when I read this blog post by health-insurance expert Bob Laszewski about the mounting costs of building the health-insurance exchanges that will be central to delivering Obamacare beginning next year.

In California alone, Laszewski reports, federal grants for building an exchange already total $910 million. In New York, it’s $340 million just for establishing an enrollment and eligibility process. All told, this year the feds have awarded $3.3 billion in grants to build and market exchanges — and that doesn’t include …

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Numbers for Medicaid expansion don’t add up

Obamacare supporters want to talk numbers when it comes to expanding Medicaid in Georgia. OK, let’s talk numbers:

When they returned last month, Georgia’s legislators already faced a $774 million hole for Medicaid through June 2014. That was before any expansion, and even after assuming renewal of the “bed tax” that brings in some $700 million a year for the program.

Medicaid is already the fastest-growing part of Georgia’s budget. Including PeachCare for kids, it will consume $1 of every $7 in state funds in fiscal 2014, up from $1 per $9 a decade ago.

That increased ratio means almost $616 million will go to Medicaid next year instead of transportation, tax cuts, whatever. State lawmakers can do precious little to arrest the trend.

Still, Obamacare supporters want Medicaid to grow faster.

Pressure is mounting on Nathan Deal to follow the path taken by some other Republican governors — Florida’s Rick Scott and New Jersey’s Chris Christie joined the list in the past eight days …

Continue reading Numbers for Medicaid expansion don’t add up »

Obamacare fallout: Part-time employees losing their health insurance

With Obamacare now about 10 months from taking effect, get used to more stories like this one from the Orlando Sentinel:

Universal Orlando plans to stop offering medical insurance to part-time employees beginning next year, a move the resort says has been forced by the federal government’s health-care overhaul.

The giant theme-park resort, which generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue, began informing employees this month that it will offer health-insurance to part-timers “only until December 31, 2013.”

The reason: Universal currently offers part-time workers a limited insurance plan that has low premiums but also caps the payout of benefits. For instance, Universal’s plan costs about $18 a week for employee-only coverage but covers only a maximum of $5,000 a year toward hospital stays. There are similar caps for other services.

Those types of insurance plans — sometimes referred to as “mini-med” plans — will no longer be permitted under the federal Affordable Care …

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Medicaid bed tax: Misnamed, unsustainable, divisive — and apparently irresistible

For an up-close view of the brokenness in our political and health-care systems, and especially of the way they make one another worse rather than better, you could hardly do better than watch the debate over Georgia’s hospital bed tax. It has it all.

First, there’s Medicaid. It’s the program states can’t live with — no matter how much money they pour into it one year, the cost only rises the next, in part because states have limited control over it — and can’t live without — the federal dollars involved are too numerous to pass up.

Medicaid funding is an inherent contradiction in fiscal responsibility: In order to balance their budgets, states look for ever more ways to get ever more money from a federal government that is ever more in debt. Meanwhile, even as Medicaid funding rises, Medicaid patients have ever more trouble finding doctors who will accept them because of the program’s low reimbursement rates.

So, Medicaid is so broken as to somehow render politicians …

Continue reading Medicaid bed tax: Misnamed, unsustainable, divisive — and apparently irresistible »

Grover’s right: Bed-tax bill is all about passing the buck

Say what you will about Grover Norquist — and I know many of you have had plenty to say about him in the past, none of it good. But I don’t think there’s any question his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, is right about one particular element of its statement regarding Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to have the Department of Community Health, rather than the Legislature, decide whether to continue imposing the hospital bed tax (or “hospital provider fee,” in the current Georgia political vernacular).

Here’s the statement, obtained by my AJC news-side colleagues. I’ve put the seemingly unobjectionable part in bold-face:

Gov. Deal’s decision to shift taxing authority from the legislature to the Department of Community Health does nothing to improve the hospital bed tax. Instead, it is a step in the wrong direction, attempting to absolve the governor and legislature of any potential blame for the looming tax increase.

The hospital bed tax remains a job-killing tax hike that will …

Continue reading Grover’s right: Bed-tax bill is all about passing the buck »

A tentative win for religious liberty in Obamacare lawsuit

A federal appeals court said Tuesday it will hold the Obama administration to its promises to change Obamacare’s controversial contraceptives mandate for certain religiously affiliated employers such as colleges. I guess the judges are now part of the “war on women.”

If so, they are joined by the Obama administration itself — which, as the court noted in its Tuesday order:

represented to the court that it would never enforce [the rule] in its current form against the appellants [Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey College] or those similarly situated as regards contraceptive services. … There will, the government said, be a different rule for entities like the appellants …

But promises aren’t enough. The court said it took the administration’s pledge during oral arguments to create a different rule for the colleges and similar organizations to be “a binding commitment,” and it ordered the administration to provides updates about progress made toward the creation of the new rule …

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Will wonders never cease: Democrats discover taxes hurt businesses!

How cute: Fifteen Democratic senators who voted for Obamacare back in 2009 are asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to see that the excise tax on medical devices is not implemented for now.

Read their letter here. It ticks all the usual boxes for the kind of anti-tax arguments that Democrats typically reject out of hand:

  • The industry “directly employs over 400,000 people in the United States and is responsible for a total of two million high-skilled manufacturing jobs.”
  • The industry “is also one of the few that enjoys a net trade surplus…”
  • Our economy has a need for “increasing exports, promoting small businesses, and growing high-tech manufacturing jobs for the future…”
  • The slapdash way in which Obamacare was constructed, with major decisions punted to an unaccountable bureaucracy to make (OK, that’s not exactly how the senators put it), has caused “significant uncertainty and confusion for businesses.”
  • Rather than moving forward with another punitive tax on a particular …

Continue reading Will wonders never cease: Democrats discover taxes hurt businesses! »

WSJ: Bed tax in states such as Georgia is ‘fraud’

Note to Georgia Republicans: Not everyone on the right is convinced that saying “But, the hospitals asked us to tax, er, fee them!” justifies the Medicaid bed tax, er, assessment fee passed two years ago and possibly up for renewal in next year’s legislative session.

In fact, the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal suggests this bed tax, er, assessment fee is ripe for elimination if President Obama and Congress are serious about even modest reforms to entitlement programs. From an editorial today:

A deal also ought to end the long-running “bed tax” scam in which states charge hospitals a fee to increase health-care spending and thus their federal matching rate. Then they launder some of the money back to the hospitals to offset the fee. This is real waste, fraud and abuse, not the talking-point version.

Who in the General Assembly will carry the bill to renew the tax, er, fee and explain why it’s not a “scam” that’s “real waste, fraud and abuse, not the talking-point …

Continue reading WSJ: Bed tax in states such as Georgia is ‘fraud’ »

Sorting out the ‘we’ in Medicaid expansionists’ claims

When someone tells me I can get something of value for “free,” I raise an eyebrow. When that “free” thing is coming from the government — and worth billions — I reach for my wallet.

So it goes with the question of whether Georgia should opt into Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid.

In upholding most of the health reform law this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court did allow one concession to the states that sued to overturn it. The court ruled Washington could not threaten to take away states’ existing Medicaid funding if they declined to expand Medicaid. Each state must now decide whether to take part in the expansion and make anyone earning 138 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for Medicaid.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal in August said he would decline the offer on two grounds. First, the state can’t afford its share of the expansion’s cost. Second, Deal doesn’t believe a heavily indebted Washington will uphold its end of the bargain, possibly putting the state on the hook …

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A question for those who say expanding Medicaid is a no-brainer

Liberal think tanks and columnists have been cranking out the arguments about why a state like Georgia would be foolish to reject Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid. The expansion, which was made optional for states in the Supreme Court’s June ruling upholding the bulk of the law, would cost Georgia an estimated $2.5 billion over 10 years, according to state officials. Gov. Nathan Deal has said our state will not participate, but Obamacare supporters are trying to pressure him to change his mind.

Proponents of the expansion say hospitals and doctors in the state would receive an additional $33 billion in federal funds during that time frame. To hear them tell it, this is tantamount to finding $33 billion in between the couch cushions; they never mention whose pockets it’s falling from.

“The economics of this are very strongly in favor of adopting the expansion,” said John Holahan, study co-author and director of health policy research at the Urban Institute, in a recent AJC …

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