Kaiser Health News Original Stories

Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. New Rule Eases Contraceptive Requirement For Businesses With Religious Objections

The Obama administration announced the final rule on Friday, which provides a framework for religious private companies or nonprofits to opt out of the Affordable Care Act's mandate that employers provide free birth control to women. However, female employees could still go through the company's insurance to receive the benefit.

The Wall Street Journal: Birth Control Coverage Rules Announced By Obama Administration
The Obama administration on Friday set final rules for contraception coverage in workers’ health insurance plans, putting in place rules that are unlikely to satisfy some religious employers who object to birth control. ... Federal officials said the arrangements also would be available to closely held for-profit companies such as Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. that last year won a Supreme Court case against the coverage requirement under the Affordable Care Act. ... Catholic bishops and other religious leaders have said the revised system is inadequate because it still uses the insurance plan they set up to provide something they believe to be wrong. They have challenged the alternative system in the courts. (Radnofsky, 7/10)

The New York Times: Health Law’s Contraceptive Rule Eased For Businesses With Religious Objections
The Obama administration issued new rules on Friday that allow closely held for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby Stores to opt out of providing women with insurance coverage for contraceptives if the companies have religious objections. Women enrolled in such health plans would still be able to get birth control at no cost, the administration said. Insurers would pay for contraceptive services, but the payments would be separate from the employer’s health plan. (Pear, 7/10)

The Associated Press: New Birth Control Rule For Employers With Religious Qualms
Hoping to put to rest one of the most difficult disputes over its health care law, the Obama administration Friday unveiled its latest plan to address employers' religious objections to providing free birth control for their female workers. ... To qualify for the opt-out, companies cannot be publicly traded on stock markets. Also, more than half the ownership must be in the hands of five or fewer individuals. For purposes of meeting the new rule, a family counts as a single individual. The administration's latest effort also attempts to address the objections of some religious nonprofits to an earlier accommodation. That previous plan called for the nonprofit to notify its insurance administrator of its objections to covering birth control. Some nonprofits said that would essentially involve them in arranging the coverage, albeit indirectly. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/10)

The HIll: Feds Set Final Rules For Birth Control Mandate
The Obama administration on Friday took the final step toward ensuring that women can keep their birth control coverage even if their employer refuses to provide it on religious grounds. Final regulations released Friday allow women to receive contraceptive services without co-payments over the objections of their employer. The much-anticipated rules also expand the definition of businesses that can seek exemptions from the controversial ObamaCare mandate. (Ferris, 7/10)

The New York Times: Courts Support Obama’s Contraceptive Policy, But Challenges Remain
Four federal appeals courts have upheld efforts by the Obama administration to guarantee access to free birth control for women, suggesting that the government may have found a way to circumvent religious organizations that refuse to provide coverage for some or all forms of contraception. While pleased with the rulings, administration officials are not celebrating. (Pear, 7/12)

5. Nation's Uninsured Rate Hits Its Lowest Level Since 2008

According to a Gallup poll released Friday, the uninsured rate is at its lowest point since the organization began tracking the statistic in 2008.

Business Insider: One Chart Shows Obamacare Is Working Exactly As Intended
The rate of uninsured people in the US is at its lowest level ever recorded by Gallup, continuing a theme that first appeared amid the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The uninsured rate among adults 18 and older in the US plunged to 11.4% in the second quarter of 2015, down from the 11.9% Gallup recorded in this year's first quarter. "The 2015 second-quarter uninsured rate is the lowest rate measured since Gallup and Healthways began tracking the metric at the start of 2008, raising the question of how low the rate can go," Gallup's Stephanie Kafka wrote. It is Gallup's first estimate of the uninsured rate since a special enrollment period that allowed people who hadn't yet filed a tax return to sign up for coverage through April 30. Gallup said the uninsured rate plummeted to 11.3% in March before staggering in April, May, and June. Ultimately, the simplest goal of the law — one that cuts through the spin of the sign-up numbers — is to reduce the number of uninsured in the US. (Logiurato, 7/10)

6. Health Law Politics Case Study: Kentucky

The state expanded Medicaid and created its own health insurance exchange, which will both likely play into a governor election there this year. Elsewhere, D.C. residents will have fewer options in the health exchange there next year, an emboldened Obama administration looks ahead on the law and Motley Fool looks at the health law "subsidy cliff."

The Wall Street Journal: Kentucky Is New Test Case Of Health Law’s Politics
For a Southern state where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular and Republicans dominate federal elections, Kentucky stands out for having created a well-regarded health exchange and having expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That dynamic will be put to the test in November’s gubernatorial election. (Campo-Flores, 7/12)

The Fiscal Times: Newly Confident On Obamacare, White House Brings Back ‘Death Panels’
Having survived what might well have been a mortal threat with a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court in the King v. Burwell case, the Obama administration’s signature legislative achievement got some more good news on Friday when the Gallup polling organization reported that the percentage of Americans lacking health insurance has hit the lowest level it has ever measured. (Garver, 7/10)

The Motley Fool: This Hidden Obamacare Quirk Can Make Thousands in Subsidies Disappear
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, continues to inspire heated debate between supporters and opponents, with plenty of disagreement even years after it initially became law. Yet even though Americans have become more familiar with Obamacare, there are still some little-known provisions that can snare the unwary. One particularly onerous hit can cost you thousands of dollars in Obamacare subsidies, and it can strike if you earn even a single dollar above a limit that the healthcare law imposes. Let's look more closely at what has become known as the Obamacare subsidy cliff and why it can cost you thousands of dollars if you don't take action to avoid it. (Caplinger, 7/12)

7. Cost Of Care For New Medicaid Enrollees Higher Than Expected, Federal Actuaries Report

The cost of covering people who qualified for Medicaid as it expanded under the federal health law is about $1,000 more than was anticipated, the office of the actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says. In other state Medicaid news, The Arizona Republic reports on the number of state legislators who fought Medicaid expansion while they opted to take state health benefits, and Montana officials say Xerox is far behind on setting up a new computer system to handle the state's Medicaid program.

The Wall Street Journal: Cost Of Covering New People Under ACA Significantly Higher Than Expected
The cost of covering people who qualified for Medicaid as part of the federal health law was significantly higher than expected in 2014, federal actuaries said Friday. Adults who became eligible for Medicaid as a result of the health law’s expansion of the program to include most low-income Americans incurred average medical costs of $5,517, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services office of the actuary said. That was about $1,000 higher than had initially been expected for the first full year of the expansion. (Radnofsky, 7/10)