Health

Main Takeaways From Gallup’s Poll on the Uninsured

Jason Millman gives the main takeaways from Gallup’s recent poll on the decline in the uninsured rate.

Young people are getting covered.  The uninsured rate for the 18-34 year-old demographic is slowly dropping. It’s now 23% for 18-25 year-olds, down from 23.5%, and the rate for 26 to 34 year-olds dropped from 28.2% to 26.6%. Young adults make up 25% of sign-ups, still far off from the administration’s goal of 40%.

Medicaid enrollment ticks up. The  poll “shows that the rate of people who say they’re primarily covered by Medicaid increased from 6.6% to 7.4% since the end of 2013. Gallup says the law’s Medicaid expansion, adopted by about half the states, is likely driving the increase.”

Rate of employer coverage drops. The employer coverage rate “dropped from 45.5% to 43.4% from the end of 2013. Meanwhile, the rate of people who say they’re covered by a plan paid for by themselves or a family member increased from 17.2% to 18.1% over the same time.”

People with lower incomes signing up at faster rate. “It’s not surprising that lower-income people have had the largest drop … The group includes people who are signing up for Medicaid at no or very little cost, as well as those receiving the most generous subsidies for private plans on Obamacare exchanges.”

White House Medicare Proposal Dies

A White House cost-saving proposal dies amid criticism from interest groups and lawmakers from both parties.

The Hill: “Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner alerted lawmakers Monday that her agency would not go forward with a proposal to give insurers more leeway to limit the number of drugs they cover for Medicare beneficiaries.”

Democrats worried the issue would hurt them in the midterm elections, and House Republicans had scheduled a vote this week on a bill blocking the regulation from going forward.

New York Times: “Medicare officials had said the proposal would have saved money and reduced the overuse of drugs. But it created political problems for the White House, with some Democrats joining Republicans in denouncing the changes, saying they would harm Medicare beneficiaries.”

Who Is Most Likely to Hate Obamacare?

Olga Khazan reports on an new Urban Institute survey that reveals how views of Obamacare correlate with income levels.

“Americans most likely to have an unfavorable view of the ACA are in the middle- and higher- income groups, have private insurance, are in very good/excellent health, are white, and live in rural areas.”

Below is the breakdown of adults age 18-64 who have an unfavorable view by demographic, from the 2013 Health Reform Monitoring Survey.

More surprising is the finding that people who have benefited from at least one Obamacare provision are still more likely to view the law negatively: “The uninsured most likely to benefit from the ACA (e.g., lower- and middle-income adults, including nonwhites and Hispanics) expressed only weak support for it and were more likely to have no opinion than to have a favorable view.”

Uninsured Rate Continues to Fall

The uninsured rate dropped to 15.9% so far in 2014, with the decline most among lower-income and black Americans.

Gallup: “The uninsured rate for almost every major demographic group has dropped in 2014 so far [and] across all age groups … except for those aged 65 and older.”

“The percentage of Americans who get insurance through a current or former employer fell nearly two points so far in the first quarter of 2014 to 43.4%.”

Percentage Uninsured in U.S.

Organic Farmers Muscle Into Farm Bill

The recently passed farm bill reflects the shifting eating habits among the nation’s population, with a growing presence of new types of farmers represented in the bill.

New York Times: “Organic farmers, fruit growers and hemp producers all did well in the new bill. An emphasis on locally grown, healthful foods appeals to a broad base of their constituents.”

Royal CBD: “These developments in the Farm Bill are critical for the advancement of medicinal research of cannabinoids and their impact on wellness. The Farm Bill allows for industrial hemp, rich in CBD, but low in the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, to be leveraged by CBD companies like ours.” says Justin Hamilton, head of research & development at Royal CBD.

“While traditional commodities subsidies were cut by more than 30 percent to $23 billion over 10 years, funding for fruits and vegetables and organic programs increased by more than 50 percent over the same period, to about $3 billion.”

“Money to help growers make the transition from conventional to organic farming rose to $57.5 million from $22 million. Money for oversight of the nation’s organic food program nearly doubled to $75 million over five years.”

“The new attention and government money devoted to healthy foods stem from the growing market power of those segments of the food business, as well as profound shifts in nutrition policy and eating habits across the country.”

“While still in the shadows of traditional farming, organics are the fastest-growing sector of the food business. Support for that movement has traditionally come from Democrats in Congress, but the organic farming provisions in the bill had broad support from both parties.”

Obamacare Extension as Political Gambit

The Obama administration’s latest Obamacare extension is intended to give Democrats political cover during election season.

New York Times Editorial Board: “The last date for renewing the old policies has been pushed past the 2014 midterm elections, reducing the likelihood of complaints on the eve of voting.”

“This policy change had the immediate, unfortunate effect of giving Republicans another convenient excuse to bash the Affordable Care Act as a failure that should be repealed. In truth, it poses no threat to health care reform and will have no impact on the vast majority of Americans, who are covered by employer plans or public programs.”

“Ideally, President Obama would not have extended the period for retaining the less-comprehensive policies, but in the current political environment, he opted to take a step to protect health care reform against a Republican takeover in the Senate.”

New Hampshire Senate Votes for Medicaid Expansion

New York Times: “The state’s Republican-dominated Senate voted Thursday to expand health care coverage to an estimated 50,000 adults using Medicaid funding made available through the Affordable Care Act.”

“New Hampshire would join a small group of states, including Arkansas and Iowa, that have opted to  [use] federal Medicaid money to buy private health insurance.”

“The program would end in 2016, when the federal government’s required contribution to the plan drops below 100 percent, unless it was reauthorized …The measure’s sunset clause was intended to address concerns about paying for the program when federal contributions to it decreased.”

Negative Public Opinion of Obamacare Inches Upward

Gallup: “Despite the extraordinary emphasis on fixing problems with the healthcare exchanges that marred the initial rollout of the law, and a national campaign to enroll more Americans through the exchanges, most Americans remain unconvinced that the law will be beneficial to their families in the long run. By 40% to 21%, Americans say the law is more likely to make their families’ healthcare situations worse rather than better, with the rest saying it will make little difference.”

Trend: Americans' Views of the ACA's Ability to Improve Families' Healthcare Situations

In addition: “What may be more disappointing is the growing percentage of Americans who feel the law has already hurt them and their families, though, at 23%, this remains relatively small in absolute terms.”

Restricting Health-Care Choices Isn’t the Problem

Ezekiel Emanuel notes: “Despite the fact that so many Americans are already in selective networks, they are nervous that the Affordable Care Act … will further restrict their choice of doctors or make them pay higher out-of-network charges.”

But narrow insurance networks aren’t the problem. It’s the fact that “not all networks are of consistently high quality.”

As more people enter the A.C.A.’s new insurance exchanges, they will get to choose between a bronze plan with a narrow network and lower premiums and a platinum plan with a broader network and higher premiums. Inevitably, some insurance plans will offer narrow networks with poor-quality providers.

Ezekiel suggests a few ways to “reassure Americans that they are getting high-quality care despite choosing a narrow network.” These include: requiring networks to “meet a minimum level of adequacy,” more “transparency,” reliable quality measurements of networks and their medical staff.

CBO Projects Lower Obamacare Costs

The latest Obamacare analysis by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the health care law’s coverage provisions will cost roughly $1.5 trillion over the next decade, $9 billion less than expected.

National Journal: The CBO report “doesn’t cover the whole law, and CBO reiterated that it expects the law to reduce the federal deficit. Tuesday’s analysis … didn’t include Medicare savings or new taxes on drug and medical-device companies, which offset the costs of expanding coverage.”

The revised projection is due in part to lower than projected enrollment: “roughly 1 million fewer people will obtain health insurance on the exchanges and 1 million fewer people will sign up for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan.”

And “that insurance companies priced exchange premiums lower than the agency had anticipated.”

If You’re Poor, Don’t Call In Sick

The Atlantic highlights a new Institute for Women’s Policy Research report that found “in 2012 it was primarily poor, Hispanic workers who were most likely to go without paid sick days.”

76 percent of food service workers, who are responsible for handling food, currently aren’t offered paid sick days.

“Ten states have passed laws prohibiting local governments from establishing sick-leave laws.”

“Small-business advocacy groups are staunchly opposed to sick-day legislation, arguing it would cause a drop-off in hiring. But other research reports show that after California’s leave law was established, most employers saw either no effect or a positive impact.”

Obama Grants Health Plans Two-Year Reprieve

“The Obama administration said consumers can keep insurance plans that don’t comply with the federal health law for another two years, pushing a potential firestorm over cancellations until after midterm elections,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Previously, some consumers could keep insurance plans that didn’t comply with the Affordable Care Act until roughly the end of this year, as long as their state regulators and insurance company allowed it. Now, consumers will have up to an additional two years to do so, putting their plans in place until roughly 2016.”

New York Times: “The action helps Democrats in tight midterm election races because it avoids the cancellation of insurance policies that would otherwise have occurred at the height of the political campaign season this fall.”

Roll Call: “In a move that was pre-emptively attacked by House Republican leaders, the administration said plans that were grandfathered for one year after millions received cancellation notices in the individual market will now be able to continue, but will not be able to be renewed after Oct. 1, 2016. The announcement means an estimated 500,000 people in those plans won’t get cancellation notices right before the midterm elections, but does set up a situation where some could get cut off right before the next presidential election.”

Another Obamacare Extension

Washington Post: “The Obama administration is preparing to announce Wednesday that Americans who want to keep their old health plans may do so for two years longer than they expected, even if the policies don’t comply with the law.”

“The decision marks the second time in four months that administration officials have adjusted their rules about health plans that do not include benefits required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.”