Friday Night Short Cuts: Retro Edition

Hat Tip To: 
Arthur N.

The following are, again, ACA/healthcare stories which I simply never had time to do write-ups on. Some of these are several weeks old, so please forgive any outdated-ness:

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a 2-year-old legal challenge to a central provision of ObamaCare from a conservative doctors group.

The case, which was led by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, sought to strike down the law’s individual mandate, which fines individuals who fail to purchase health insurance.

The plaintiffs’ argument had been rejected twice before: first by a district court judge in 2012 and then by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2014.

For a bill that passed without a single Republican vote, Obamacare sure treats red states well. The law takes more money from blue states than from red states and it spends more money in red states than in blue states. It is, as Alec MacGillis wrote in the Washington Post at the time, "a rare triumph of principle over parochialism."

But before you think Democrats the only ones capable of putting principle before party, consider what has happened since the law's passage. Republicans have been busily remaking Obamacare into a subsidy from red states to blue ones.

Thousands of Medicaid doctors are bracing for a tough start to 2015: a42 percent pay cut.

The Affordable Care Act temporarily boosted payment rates for primary care doctors who see Medicaid patients in 2013 and 2014. The idea was to make sure doctors kept participating in Medicaid — which typically has low reimbursement rates — even as the program expanded to cover millions more Americans this year.

When historians look back on the United States’ Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama’s controversial 2010 health-care reform, we predict that they will not devote much attention to its regulations, its troubled insurance exchanges or its website’s flawed launch.

Instead, we think that they will focus on how “Obamacare” encouraged a wave of innovation that gradually tamed the spiraling costs of a dysfunctional system, even as millions of previously excluded Americans gained access to health insurance.

Obamacare enrollees who got subsidies to help pay for health-insurance coverage will soon have to reconcile how much they earned in 2014 with how much they estimated when they first applied. This will likely lead to some very unhappy Americans, as CNN puts it. That’s because those who underestimated their income will either get smaller tax refunds or owe the IRS money. Subsidies, as the report explains, are tax credits based on actual income. But enrollees got their 2014 subsidy before knowing exactly what they’d make that year. They’ll have to reconcile the two with the IRS during the upcoming tax filing season.

...The health-care industry was another big winner. The sector, one of the fastest growing over the past decade, hired 311,000 people in 2014. While most of these positions are well paid, more than one-third of new health-related jobs involved social workers who get paid less than the average U.S. wage.

...Companies not only added more workers in 2014, they gave their existing workers more hours of work, boosting their take-home pay. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory workers (about 83% of all workers) jumped to 33.9 hours at the end of the year, matching the highest level since 2002.

Note that this increase in the average workweek is the opposite of the prediction of critics of the Affordable Care Act, who argued that employers are cutting back workers’ hours to avoid having to provide them with health insurance.

Incoming Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is raising some eyebrows among conservatives by appearingto be open to the idea of finding a way to expand Medicaid under Obamacare. Texas alone accounts for one-quarter of the U.S. population in the Medicaid gap—those people in the non-expansion states who make too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid and too little to qualify for subsidies to buy insurance on the exchanges. That dubious distinction has led a task force made up of healthcare providers, researchers, business leaders and advisers from across the state, to recommend in a just-released report that lawmakers negotiate with the federal government on expansion to cover the one million people left out. That pressure is possibly influencing Abbott.