Kaiser Health News Original Stories

5. Political Cartoon: 'Bitter Cube To Swallow'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Bitter Cube To Swallow'" by Chris Wildt .

Here's today's health policy haiku:

MONSTER MASH

Doctors in training
See teachers as monsters. That’s
Not good for patients.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. U.S. Government Recovers Millions In Funds From States Where Exchanges Faltered

The Wall Street Journal reports that more than $200 million has been recouped, and officials hope to collect more of the original grant funding. Meanwhile, an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that consumers who don't buy health insurance in 2016 will face bigger tax penalties. Also, the Congressional Budget Office predicts the health law will likely have an impact on the American workforce.

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Recoups Funds From States That Faltered On Health Exchanges
The Obama administration on Tuesday said it has recouped more than $200 million in funding given to states that faltered in setting up their own health-insurance exchanges. Government officials are seeking to collect more of the original grant funding, an effort that they said shows they are closely monitoring taxpayer dollars that state-run exchanges received under the Affordable Care Act. (Armour, 12/8)

The New York Times: Americans Who Don’t Buy Health Coverage Face Heftier Fine In ’16, Analysis Finds
Americans who remain uninsured in 2016 despite having the option of buying health coverage through an Affordable Care Act marketplace will owe an average tax penalty of $969 per household, a new analysis has found. That amount is substantially higher than the average estimated penalty of $661 for those who went uninsured in 2015, according to the analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. But it remains to be seen how effective the rising fine will be in persuading the roughly 10.5 million uninsured Americans who are eligible for marketplace coverage to buy it. (Goodnough, 12/9)

Kaiser Health News: Uninsured People Eligible For Obamacare Face Average $969 Penalty In 2016
The penalty for failing to have health insurance is going up, perhaps even higher than you expected. Among uninsured individuals who are not exempt from the Affordable Care Act penalty, the average household fine for not having insurance in 2015 will be $661, rising to $969 per household in 2016, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis. Individuals will pay the penalty when they complete their federal taxes the following spring. (Galewitz, 12/9)

Kaiser Health News: State Obamacare Exchanges ‘Sustainable’ Without Federal Aid, Official Tells Congress
State insurance exchanges are healthy financially even without the federal funding that ran out this year, a top Obama administration official told a House subcommittee Tuesday. “All states are sustainable today,” said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. He refused to predict if any of the remaining 13 state exchanges would eventually need to shift to the federal exchange. (Galewitz, 12/9)

NBC News: No Obamacare Break This Year, Government Warns
People who don't have health insurance yet for next year need to hurry up and get it or risk a fine, the federal government warns. And the fine's going up this year. Although the Health and Human Services Department offered a special extension last year to sign up, because many people may not yet have fully understood the requirements, there will be no such break this coming year. (Fox, 12/8)

The Fiscal Times: Obamacare Won’t Really Cost The U.S. 2 Million Jobs
The Congressional Budget Office released a new working paper this week predicting that the Affordable Care Act will have a negative effect on the size of the U.S. labor supply over the coming decade. ... But the CBO isn’t looking specifically at job loss. It’s making projections about aggregate hours worked and the total number of workers who choose to stay in the workforce: “The labor force is projected to be about 2 million full-time-equivalent workers smaller in 2025 under the ACA than it would have been otherwise,” the agency wrote. That is, fewer work hours will be logged and paid for, the rough equivalent of 2 million jobs. But those two things — reduced hours across the economy and total jobs — are different things. (Pianin, 12/8)

Health News Florida: What Happens When Marriage Makes Health Insurance Affordable
Not long after Sherry Poulin married her husband Louis last year, the newlyweds sat in their kitchen with health insurance information laid out in front of them. Before getting married, Poulin paid $50 a month for a subsidized plan through Obamacare. Now, for a plan offered through her husband’s employer, she was looking at about $500 a month. Poulin married into what’s known as the “family glitch”: when she got married, she lost her subsidy to buy insurance in the individual marketplace. (Mack, 12/8)

The Associated Press: Important Deadline Ahead For Health Insurance Marketplace
Less than a week remains for Illinois consumers to buy private health insurance for coverage starting Jan. 1 on the marketplace created by President Barack Obama's health care law. Tuesday is an important enrollment deadline. Consumers who want their coverage to start at the first of the year need to choose a health plan by that date. (12/9)

In other news, The New York Times reports on the impact of a small legislative provision slipped into a major piece of legislation last year by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a GOP presidential hopeful -

The New York Times: Marco Rubio Quietly Undermines Affordable Care Act
A little-noticed health care provision that Senator Marco Rubio of Florida slipped into a giant spending law last year has tangled up the Obama administration, sent tremors through health insurance markets and rattled confidence in the durability of President Obama’s signature health law. So for all the Republican talk about dismantling the Affordable Care Act, one Republican presidential hopeful has actually done something toward achieving that goal. (Pear, 12/9)

7. Kansas' Medicaid Expansion Plan Could Be Budget Neutral, Study Finds

News outlets also report on developments related to the low-income health insurance program in South Dakota and Arkansas.

Wichita Eagle: Study: Medicaid Expansion Would Be Budget Neutral, Possibly A Moneymaker
A study released Tuesday shows Medicaid expansion could not only be budget neutral but could potentially turn into a moneymaker for the state. The study runs contrary to popular belief by some Kansas politicians who say expansion is too expensive and therefore not possible given the state’s budget problems. ... Six Kansas health foundations – including the Wichita-based Kansas Health Foundation – commissioned Manatt Health Solutions to study the financial impact of Medicaid expansion in Kansas. Manatt evaluates Medicaid expansion for states and foundations across the country. (Dunn, 12/8)

Kansas City Star: Consultants Think Kansas Could Expand Medicaid Without Additional Cost; GOP Lawmaker Claims Bias
Kansas could expand Medicaid coverage in the state through 2020 without spending any additional state money, a new study concludes. The study was conducted by Manatt Health, a consulting firm. It says the costs of expanding Medicaid would be covered by reduced state spending on mental health treatment, prisoners’ care, and other savings. ... House Speaker Ray Merrick said in a statement that the survey was conducted by a “left wing” law firm. “The ‘study’ is not objective or a scholarly effort; it (is) designed to lobby an agenda and should be treated as such,” the statement said. (Helling, 12/8)

SDPB Radio: Daugaard Proposes Medicaid Expansion In $4.8-Billion Budget
For the first time in three years, Governor Dennis Daugaard says South Dakota’s budget may be able to handle additional Medicaid patients. He says if things work out, he would look at including eligible state residents into Medicaid, if they make too much for traditional help, but still don’t have access to health care. “My budget proposes $373-million in additional federal fund expenditure authority, and 55 full-time equivalencies to handle the new eligible. No state general funds are proposed. I also want to be clear this is not a done deal. Our talks with the federal government have been promising, but there’s still work to be done, and there’s still the potential for this to fall through. Expansion costs must be covered by our current general fund budget or I will not support it." (Bultena, Ellenbolt, Hetland and Ray, 12/8)

Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader: Daugaard Encourages Medicaid Expansion
Tens of thousands of low-income South Dakotans could gain access to subsidized health care plans if the federal government agrees to a plan by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Daugaard announced a plan to expand Medicaid in the state Tuesday during an address to unveil the Republican governor's $4.8 billion budget plan. ... Daugaard said he wouldn't move forward with expansion if it required additional state general fund dollars. And he said the state's Native American tribes and South Dakota legislators would also have to agree to the deal. (Ferguson, 12/8)

Arkansas News: Hutchinson Says He Favors Assets Test, Other Restrictions On Medicaid Expansion
Any new version of Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion should include an assets test, among other restrictions, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday. In a speech at the 2015 Arkansas Medicaid Education Conference in Little Rock, Hutchinson gave an updated list of items he wants to see included if Arkansas is to continue accepting federal money for Medicaid expansion. The state’s current Medicaid expansion program, known as the private option, is slated to end Dec. 31, 2016. (Lyon, 12/8)

Arkansas Online: In Plan, No Care For Nonpayers; Governor Also Wants Review Of Private-Option User Assets
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that he wants Arkansas to impose "lockout" periods for private-option participants who fail to pay their insurance premiums. The state also should "fight" to gain federal approval to consider applicants' assets, as well as income, in determining eligibility for coverage, the governor said. And he expressed support for offering vision and dental benefits to certain enrollees to encourage work or healthy behavior and for charging premiums or copayments to enrollees with incomes below the poverty level. (Davis, 12/9)

Capitol Hill Watch

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