President Obama announced Thursday that eight million people have signed up for private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. That number beats the administration’s original goal by one million enrollees. It is also the third piece of good news for the embattled healthcare law, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, to come out this month.
The president hailed the new numbers as a victory.
“This thing is working,” he told reporters in the White House press briefing room, according to the New York Times. “The Affordable Care Act is covering more people at less cost than most people would have predicted a few months ago.”
That announcement referenced a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Time magazine reported earlier this week that the CBO expected Obamacare to cost $104 billion less over the next decade than it had previously expected.
That news followed the announcement from the first of the month that the administration had met its 7-million-enrollee goal in the private healthcare exchanges by the March 31 deadline.
That is all good news for congressional Democrats who are facing stiff opposition in midterm elections later this year. Republicans have been planning for months to use the troubled healthcare rollout against their opponents. The chance to do so may be slipping away with each positive announcement.
"I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that is has always been. They still can't bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working," the president was quoted as saying in a Huffington Post story.
Republicans have previously argued that it is unclear whether the enrollment numbers, touted by the White House, are new enrollments or if they are simply enrollments by people who had lost their previous plans under the new laws.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Oh., said the new announcement was just the president continuing to “obscure the full impact of Obamacare.”
Nevertheless, having the president be the first to make the recent announcement suggests that the administration is willing to meet Republicans head-on in a debate over Obamacare.
“We’ve got a sizable part of the U.S. population, for the first time, that are in a position to enjoy the financial security of health insurance,” the president said.
That will be a powerful message for Democrats to carry into the midterm elections.
11Brain Surgery Patient Lost All Her Doctors, Can’t Pay Prescriptions After Signing Up For Obamacare
A Staten Island, N.Y. woman says since signing up for new health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, she has lost all her doctors, and her insurance card has been repeatedly denied for prescriptions.
Margaret Figueroa, 49, of Arden Heights, suffers from two chronic illnesses, a rare neurological disorder called Arnold Chiari malformation and syringomyelia. She takes five different medications several times a day, some of which help to slow nerve damage.
She signed up for health insurance through the state marketplace in January, and although she has an insurance card, pharmacies keep telling her it's denied. Emblem Health says she’s covered and her policy is in force, but the internal paperwork appears to be unfiled.
In the last three months she’s been suffering excruciating pain, withdrawal and immobility.
She also lost her long-term doctors, who don’t accept her new insurance plan. She says only six doctors in the borough accept her new plan.
"It's hard," Figueroa said tearfully.
"I have been in pain. I've been vomiting. I lost 22 pounds. The pain is unbearable. My medication helps me function during the day," she said at a press conference at Rep. Michael Grimm's, R-Staten Island/Brooklyn, office on Wednesday.
Grimm’s office was able to intervene and get Figueroa refills for some of her medications on April 1.
"Even though the insurance company cashed your check, it doesn't mean it (the policy) has been implemented," said Grimm. "That's the problem – that the back end of Obamacare hasn't been fully built. You can go on the front end of an application and look at a list of plans, but what they don't tell you is that many of those plans don't have doctors yet."
"We didn't solve anything [with Obamacare]; all we did was destroy a good thing," Grimm added. "Obamacare wasn't ready for prime time."
The cost of expanding health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act will be $104 billion less than previously expected.
Time magazine reports that a new analysis from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that the cost of the ACA, sometimes referred to as Obamacare, will cost the federal government less than it had predicted in its previous study, performed in February.
The reason for the downward revision, according to the CBO, is that health insurance premiums cost less on the new insurance “exchanges” than it was projected they would. The exchanges — what the Obama administration calls “marketplaces” — are open markets where people who do not have employer-based health-care plans can shop for insurance.
According to a story from The New Republic, it was previously thought that young, healthy people would have to pay more for health insurance in order to subsidize policies for older members of the population. It was also suspected that parts of the law that required policies to include essential benefits, like maternity coverage and mental health treatment, would drive up costs. To counteract those rising costs, the federal government agreed, under Obamacare, to pay out generous subsidies to make insurance affordable to people who couldn’t pay for it.
The recent report from the CBO, though, shows that premium costs aren’t going to rise as sharply as analysts had predicted. Since the exchanges appear to be keeping prices down, the federal government won’t have to pay out as much in subsidies.
“It is good news that premiums have come in lower than expected, meaning lower costs for the federal government and for families as well," said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation. ”It’s a sign that the ACA may be working to hold premiums down by forcing insurers to compete over price rather than by cherry-picking healthy people.”
This is the second piece of recent good news for Democrats who supported the controversial healthcare law. The Obama administration announced earlier this month that the goal of 7 million enrollees for private health insurance on the exchanges had been met by the March 31 deadline.
Obamacare promises to be a contentious issue in the midterm elections later this year. USA Today reported last week that a new poll showed it remains an important topic to those who oppose the law.
"If you think Obamacare is good, it's not a big issue for you. But if you think it's bad, it's an intense one,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.
Good news, like the CBO report, may help reduce the number of those who think the legislation was a mistake, and that would certainly be good for Democrats who overwhelmingly supported Obamacare.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning from the Obama administration. The embattled official oversaw the rollout of the Affordable Care Act — sometimes referred to as Obamacare — for the administration. She was also at the center of the controversy surrounding the botched launch of the healthcare law’s insurance exchange website, according to Fox News.
Republicans had been calling for her resignation for months following the technical problems of the website. According to White House officials, though, Sebelius waited until early March to notify the president of her plans to leave.
A New York Times story indicates that Sebelius felt that following the March 31 deadline for the public to enroll in the healthcare exchanges would provide an opportunity to resign. She told the president at that time that rising enrollment numbers would likely mean the administration would hit its goal of 7 million enrollees. Following that success, she felt, would be a good time to allow for a transition to new leadership.
“What was clear is that she thought that it was time to transition the leadership to somebody else,” White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said. “She’s made clear in other comments publicly that she recognizes that she takes a lot of the incoming. She does hope — all of us hope — that we can get beyond the partisan sniping.”
USA Today reports President Obama will formally announce the resignation at 11 a.m. Friday at the White House. At that announcement he is expected to name Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell as his nominee to replace Sebelius.
“The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia,” McDonough said.
Burwell’s nomination will have to be confirmed by the Senate.
It seems the resignation and new nomination will do little to silence Republican hatred for the healthcare law. Following the news of Sebelius’ resignation many took the opportunity to heap on more criticism.
"Secretary Sebelius oversaw a disastrous rollout of Obamacare, but anyone can see that there are more problems on the way," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said. "The next HHS Secretary will inherit a mess -- Americans facing rising costs, families losing their doctors, and an economy weighed down by intrusive regulations. No matter who is in charge of HHS, Obamacare will continue to be a disaster and will continue to hurt hardworking Americans."
That’s the kind of talk Sebelius hoped her departure would end for the country. She told the New York Times she hoped her leaving would usher in a more cooperative period.
“If I could take something along with me,” she said, it would be “all the animosity.”
Charlene Dill, a 32-year-old mother of three, collapsed and died in March because she was uninsured and could not afford the treatment for her chronic health condition.
President Obama’s Medicaid program was expanded so that low-income citizens would have access to a public health plan; however, the Supreme Court ruled that states have the option to turn down the expanded health coverage program. Florida is one of the states that refused to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
Thus, people who make too much money to qualify for a public Medicaid plan, but too little to qualify for the federal subsidies to buy a plan on Obamacare’s private exchanges have been left in a coverage gap.
Dill, a Florida resident, was left working three part-jobs to make ends meet – and without health insurance.
When she used the online calculator to sign up for Obamacare on HealthCare.gov, she found that she fell within the coverage gap. In March, she was selling a vacuum cleaner at a stranger’s apartment when she died of the documented heart condition that she could not afford to treat.
In the past, Dill’s best friend, Kathleen Voss Woolrich, had occasionally turned to crowdfunding sites on the internet to raise money to pay for Dill’s heart medication. In March, Woolrich again turned to crowdfunding, this time to pay for Dill’s funeral.
Rep. Alan Grayson, who heard about this incident, said this of Dill's story:
“I memorialized Charlene’s life and death in the Congressional Record, because the Republicans want to pretend that none of this is happening. That Charlene didn’t die as a result of their callous neglect — that no Floridians will die as a result of their willful refusal to expand Medicaid at no cost,” he explained. “But I’m not going to let them forget. I’m not going to let them pretend. This is not a game; this is very real. This is life and death.”
A recent study conducted by Harvard researchers showed that Dill’s tragic death may soon become a widespread problem: the study estimated that as many as 17,000 people will die directly as a result of their state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.
In Florida, which has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation, this means that Dill’s death is only one of about six such deaths every single day.
Photo Sources: http://thinkprogress.org
Photo Sources: http://thinkprogress.org
President Barack Obama celebrated a victory for his signature health-care legislation, the Affordable Care Act, during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday. The president lauded the accomplishment of 7.1 million enrollees who signed up on the new health-care exchanges by the March 31 deadline. The 7-million number was the administration’s goal, and reaching it would be proof, they claimed, that the system was working, according to a blog post from The New Yorker.
While the number of signups will likely be contested by politicians opposed to the controversial plan, others are claiming that the president was disingenuous in some of his other remarks from Tuesday.
“We didn’t make a hard sell,” Obama said. “We didn’t have billions of dollars of commercials like some critics did.”
Maybe not billions, but a story from The Washington Free Beacon reports that the administration did spend nearly $700 million in promoting the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare. The story cites an Associated Press report from last summer that estimated the administration’s marketing campaign would cost at least $684 million.
The Free Beacon story indicates that taxpayer funding went to all 50 states to encourage people to enroll in the private insurance exchanges. The story lists some of the more lavish and controversial expenditures, including $28 million to the Washington State Health Benefit Exchange.
Oregon took in $10 million and used the money to fund an advertising campaign, called “Cover Oregon,” that did not mention the word “insurance.” The campaign made it into the “Wastebook,” an annual report put out by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that lists examples of wasteful federal spending. According to the Wastebook, one commercial featured “what appears to be Gumby riding on the Beatles’ yellow submarine.”
Illinois topped the list of recipients, taking in $33.3 million, yet only signed up 13 percent of the state’s uninsured.
Getting people signed up was the goal; many believed the system could not support itself without healthy, young people purchasing insurance.
“Whatever it takes to get them there, so whether it’s, y’know, a woman strumming a guitar, or whether it’s a rap, hopefully that message is there,” said Cover Oregon COO, Triz de la Rosa.
Since the 7-million-enrollee goal was reached, the nationwide campaign appears to have been a success. The wasteful claim may, then, be disputed. But the aggressive advertising campaign and its huge budget do make it seem like it took a “hard sell” to get there.
700 Club host Pat Robertson warned his viewers about Obamacare today, but also revealed he doesn't understand it.
During his show today, an uninsured 50-year-old viewer asked Robertson what she should do about Obamacare.
The viewer expressed fear about putting her "information on the Internet" and what the "government will do with that information," noted RightwingWatch.org (video below).
Of course, Obamacare doesn't actually hold private medical information, but rather directs users to various health care plans offered by private insurance companies.
“The government is requiring doctors to put their various records electronically as opposed to in paper and then they will in turn probably be made available on the Internet, it’s terrible to think that they’re doing, these bureaucrats are killing people,” claimed Robertson. “But there are ways out, there’s a number you can call, it’s 1-800-318-2596.”
Robertson failed to mention that his friend President George W. Bush signed the Patriot Act in 2001, which gave the federal government access to everyone's medical records without a warrant, reported the ACLU way back in 2003.
“I’m sure you can find a private insurer that isn’t associated with Obamacare," added Robertson. "This thing is a disaster, I want to tell everybody, it is a disaster, they have disrupted the entire health care delivery system of the United States of America and they’re getting in exchange for that 2-3 million uninsured people who are signing up and there are hundreds of millions of people at risk, it’s a horrible thing.”
In reality, Obamacare has signed up 7.1 million people and allows another 3 million young people to stay on their parents' insurance, noted Mediaite.com.
Robertson provided no evidence that "hundreds of millions of people" are at risk.
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said yesterday that government marketplace health-care enrollment numbers saw a “Galifianakis bump” after President Barack Obama appeared on Galifianakis’ "Between Two Ferns" show in March.
The President appeared on the show for a shameless – and apparently successful – plug encouraging young people to sign up for healthcare coverage by yesterday’s March 31 deadline.
"The website traffic surged once the 'Between Two Ferns' interview went on," Sebelius told the Huffington Post. "But more importantly, what we're trying to do is reach people in the language that they most understand. Certainly Zach reaches a certain audience."
Sebelius said the "Between Two Ferns" spot was one of many enrollment efforts put forth by the administration in recent weeks.
“We’ve had Lebron James talking to sports fans during March Madness and Kevin Durant and others echoing that,” she said. “We’ve had moms reaching out to their peers ... We’re just trying to meet people where they are and give them real-life examples and in some cases, make them laugh.”
The administration’s efforts look to have paid off. The Obama administration announced yesterday that a late surge in enrollments had the program “on track” to reach its original goal of 7 million enrollees by the March 31 deadline.
Obama is scheduled to speak about heath-care enrollment numbers today at 4:15 p.m. EST.
With the Monday night deadline looming for people to buy private insurance in the healthcare exchanges made possible under the Affordable Care Act, Maryland officials are looking to scrap their troubled website. According to Fox News, the state’s system has been plagued with computer problems since it went live on Oct. 1. Officials hope to replace the website, which has cost the state $125.5 million, with a new site before the exchanges open again in November.
Under the Affordable Care Act — sometimes referred to as Obamacare — states were allowed to either use the federal website, Healthcare.gov, or build their own exchanges. Maryland was one of several states that opted to build its own. State officials had hoped that the website could handle the goal of 150,000 private enrollments by the March 31 deadline. Problems with the technology have made that impossible. Only 49,293 have been able to enroll in Maryland.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, said on Friday that state officials will announce plans for a new system later this week. He admitted there were still problems with the current system going into the final days of the current open enrollment period.
“We still have stuck applications. We still wrestle with it every day,” O'Malley said. “The clock was ticking, and we have been changing the flat tires on this rolling car for the last five, going on six months now. And it has gotten better with every new fix applied to it, [but it is] still not working as it was supposed to work.”
The Washington Post reports that the state board in charge of the exchange is expected to vote on Tuesday to replace the current system with technology that has been used more successfully in nearby Connecticut. Maryland’s 49,293 enrollees represent a 9 percent enrollment rate of those eligible. By contrast Connecticut has enrolled more than 26 percent, making it among the most successful in the country.
Peter Beilenson, the founder of Evergreen Health Co-op, has explored Connecticut’s website.
“It’s really fast,” he said. “It seems to work really smoothly.”
The Obama administration has announced another deadline extension for the Affordable Care Act, known to some as “Obamacare,” according to Fox News. The extension will apply to Americans who may have tried to comply with the original March 31 deadline but had technical problems during the application process. The new deadline, should it be needed, will extend to the middle of April.
“Open enrollment ends March 31,” said Aaron Albright of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal insurance exchange. He added, “We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment, either online or over the phone.”
The New York Times reports that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said glitches in the enrollment website have been fixed, and it is ready to handle the expected last-minute surge of applications.
The extension is seen by some as a hedge by the administration should the website falter due to the increased traffic. Such a crash could be a political liability for the president and Democrats as they head into midterm elections this year.
Republicans were quick to point out that such a delay was becoming the norm for the White House and offered it as proof that the president’s signature domestic policy is a failure.
“Another day, another Obamacare delay from the same Obama administration that won’t work with Republicans to help Americans suffering from the unintended consequences of the Democrats’ failed health care law,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement quoted by Fox News.
"Democrats in leadership may say they are doubling down on Obamacare, but you have to wonder how many more unilateral delays their candidates running in 2014 can withstand,” he added.
The White House has launched a nationwide campaign to boost enrollment in recent weeks, according to USA Today. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and Sebelius have all made public appearances urging families to enroll in health-care plans. It is reported that some states have as many as 150 events planned for the final week of enrollment.
According to White House numbers, 5.2 million people have signed up for private plans as of March 1.