Affordable Care Act

The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act preserves federal tax subsidies that nearly 270,000 consumers in Kansas and Missouri used to help them purchase health insurance.

If the decision handed down Thursday had gone the other way, those consumers, many of whom were previously uninsured, might have been forced to drop their coverage.

RELATED: High Court Upholds Health Law Subsidies 

Reactions to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a key pillar of the Affordable Care Act – the federal tax subsidies made available through the federal insurance marketplace:

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.): “The Supreme Court has said it again and again: The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Today’s decision saves lives. The ACA is helping millions of Americans focus on their families, jobs, and quality of life, instead of worrying about what will happen if they and their family members get hurt or sick. Now I am no lawyer—I am simply a United Methodist preacher. 

High Court Upholds Health Law Subsidies

Jun 25, 2015
Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

The Affordable Care Act survived its second Supreme Court test in three years, raising odds for its survival but by no means ending the legal and political assaults on it five years after it became law.

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

Early on a Monday morning, percussionist and music teacher Amy Hearting of Kansas City reads a newspaper outside a coffee shop before going off to teach an elementary school workshop.

She loves her work but says she’s not in it for the benefits and certainly not for the big salary.

“I feel like I’m doing what I want to be doing in life,” Hearting says. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with health insurance, and it doesn’t really come with an annual income where that is an easy reality for me.”

Attorneys general in 10 states, including Kansas, have asked a congressional committee to investigate efforts by the Obama administration to “coerce” states to expand their Medicaid programs by withholding unrelated healthcare funds.

With a U.S. Supreme Court decision on Affordable Care Act subsidies looming, state preparations again have exposed deep political divides over the federal health care law.

Democratic governors in Pennsylvania and Delaware moved to protect their residents’ federal health insurance subsidies in advance of a ruling in the King v. Burwell case, which could come before the end of the week.

NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg talks about two impending supreme court decisions that will determine the future of the Affordable Care Act, and same-sex marriage itself. 

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It’s shaping up as a make-or-break moment for the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule in a week or two on a challenge to Obamacare subsidies that could affect 6.4 million Americans. That’s roughly how many people obtained tax credits through health insurance exchanges operated by the federal government.

Thirty-four states chose not to set up their own marketplaces, or exchanges, and the lawsuit before the court contends the Affordable Care Act only provides for subsidies through state-operated exchanges.  

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Two of the three companies that sell individual-market policies for Kansans on the federally administered health insurance marketplace are proposing significant premium increases for 2016.

Rate increases proposed by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, the state’s largest insurer, range from 35 percent to 39 percent. Aetna and Coventry Health Company, which merged in 2013, requested rate increases of 20 percent to 35 percent.

The Kansas Insurance Department on Tuesday said that premiums for some individual and small-group health plans are likely to increase by as much as 38 percent for 2016.

The projection is based on an early review of health insurance companies’ requests for raising rates.

The proposed increases, which are not yet public, were filed with the department on or before May 1.

“It’s safe to say that most — but not all — of the major carriers in the state are proposing double-digit rate increases,” said Clark Shultz, the department’s director of governmental affairs.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican from Shawnee, said the fee would generate between $18 million and $24 million annually.

The money, she said, would be deposited in a fund that would be used to offset costs associated with the state’s Medicaid program and its implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“We are doing this not because of the budget hole,” Pilcher-Cook said Wednesday, referring to the Legislature’s ongoing debate over how to fill a more than $400 million gap in the state’s budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Kaiser Family Foundation

Some state legislatures are moving to shield residents’ federal health insurance subsidies in advance of a U.S. Supreme Court decision regarding the Affordable Care Act.

The Kansas Legislature is not among them.

As Kansas lawmakers work toward a tax plan to end the 2015 session, they have not had any briefings on the King v. Burwell case, the verdict expected in June or its implications for the nearly 100,000 Kansans who purchased insurance from healthcare.gov, the online insurance exchange.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

 

Accountability. It means taking responsibility for an action or result.

Lately, it’s taken on a new connotation in the field of health care. The Affordable Care Act provides a way for health care networks to get bonus payments by providing better care, and keeping Medicare patients healthier.

These Accountable Care Organizations are about to have a larger presence in Kansas.

Kansas has been slow to adopt Accountable Care Organizations, or ACOs. Fewer than 4 percent of the population is enrolled in some form of alternative payment model, like ACOs.

The stakes for Kansas to expand Medicaid have been raised.

The state received notice from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week that if it doesn’t expand its Medicaid program, it would lose federal funding for uncompensated health care, according to officials from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The federal government provides money for the state’s uncompensated care pool to reimburse health care providers who serve the uninsured.

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

Sherri Calderwood’s Obamacare story isn’t unique.

It’s probably similar to those that could be told by many of the nearly 100,000 Kansans who have so far purchased coverage in the Affordable Care Act marketplace known as healthcare.gov.

Calderwood looked into signing up for an Obamacare plan during the first enrollment period but concluded she and her husband couldn’t afford it. 

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

States that opted to use the federal health insurance marketplace instead of establishing one of their own can’t restrict the ability of certified navigators to help consumers, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals largely affirms an earlier ruling by a federal district court that blocked implementation of a Missouri law.

Twice as many Kansans and Missourians signed up for health insurance this year under the Affordable Care Act compared with the first enrollment period last year, new figures released Tuesday show.

More than 250,000 Missourians and nearly 100,000 Kansans selected plans on the federal insurance exchange, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The data reflects complete enrollment numbers for the period from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015, and includes additional special enrollment activity through Feb. 22.

More than 300,000 consumers in Kansas and Missouri have a stake in the case argued Wednesday in the U.S. Supreme Court over a provision in the Affordable Care Act.

The vast majority of people who purchased Affordable Care Act coverage in both states qualified for federal tax credits. But they could lose those credits if the court rules that only consumers using state-based marketplaces are entitled to them.

Gallup is out with a new poll showing falling uninsured rates in every state but one: Kansas.

Although not statistically significant, the Sunflower State’s 1.9 point increase makes it the only state in the country to witness an uptick.

Philip Taylor / Creative Commons-Flickr

So you file your income tax return, and find you owe Uncle Sam $500—not for taxes, but for not having health insurance last year. The penalty is $95 per adult, or 1 percent of income—whichever is greater. Fifty-thousand dollars of income works out to a $500 penalty.

As many as 6 million individuals and families may have to pay this year. If you don’t have insurance for 2015, your penalty next year will rise to $325 per adult, or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater. But the enrollment period ended Feb. 15.

Jane Stevens / Creative Commons-Flickr

Obamacare enrollment grew by nearly 70 percent in both Kansas and Missouri during the most recent sign-up period, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The number of Kansans enrolled in plans offered through the Affordable Care Act marketplace increased to 96,226 from 57,013. Missouri enrollment jumped to 253,969 from 152,335.

The new totals include those who purchased coverage for the first time as well as those who switched plans or re-enrolled in the coverage they chose during the first sign-up period.

Philip Taylor / Creative Commons-Flickr

 

In addition to big changes in health care, the Affordable Care Act has also brought changes to income tax filings. And as April 15 approaches, many taxpayers will look for help from people like Aimee Sanita. She’s the owner of Circle Tax and Accounting, and for the next two months she’s figuring on 60-80 hour workweeks. Sanita recently took a few minutes out of her busy day to help Heartland Health Monitor’s Alex Smith understand how the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, affects people’s taxes.

Thousands of Kansans and Missourians signed up for insurance on the federal exchange last week, though the pace has slowed since the first several robust weeks of the second Affordable Care Act open enrollment period.

New figures released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services show that during the week ending Jan. 16, 11,797 new or renewing enrollees in Missouri brought the state total to 209,336.

The total in Kansas reached 80,064 with the addition of 4,228 signing up.

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, talks honestly with Steve Kraske about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and offers her opinion on Governor Brownback's vision for Kansas.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration outlined a sweeping budget plan Friday that includes changes to Medicaid and increases in the state’s tobacco and alcohol taxes.

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said closing a $650 million budget gap will require new tax revenue and slowed expenses in the state’s “three major cost drivers”: public schools, public employee pensions and Medicaid.

“It is time to make additional changes to both better the care coordination of 400,000-plus members in Medicaid and, second, to further bend down the cost curve in Medicaid,” Sullivan said.

The number of Missourians and Kansans signing up for private health insurance in the federal marketplace has surpassed last year’s numbers, and enrollment continues at a steady clip.

Figures released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show that nearly 76,000 Kansans and nearly 198,000 Missourians chose a health plan or re-enrolled on HealthCare.gov between the start of open enrollment on Nov. 15 and Jan. 9.

Enrollment in both states has surged about 94 percent in the last month.

At roughly the midpoint of the second Affordable Care Act open-enrollment period, health advocates say they’re happy with the number of people signing up in Missouri.

Ryan Barker, vice president of health policy at the Missouri Foundation for Health, said that more than 102,000 people enrolled in health plans in the first month alone. In the entire first open enrollment period, 152,000 people signed up.

“We are very confident that we will exceed the numbers from last year,” Barker said in a teleconference Thursday with reporters.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

A Maryland company that has reaped millions of dollars in federal health-reform grants for work around the country is drawing fire for its performance in the Kansas City area.

Critics say that Advanced Patient Advocacy (APA), a privately held company, has been slow off the mark in its role as a “navigator” organization, charged with helping consumers find coverage through the health insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act.

At least half of Kansans and Missourians who signed up for 2015 health insurance through the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces are new consumers, data released Tuesday show.

Of the 102,087 Missourians who chose a marketplace plan from Nov. 15 through Dec. 15, 50 percent are new and 50 percent have reenrolled, according to the figures from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Of the 39,023 Kansans who enrolled in the same period, 53 percent are new and 47 percent have reenrolled.

Consumers in Kansas and Missouri are among those who could be most affected if the U.S. Supreme Court eliminates federal subsidies in states that didn’t set up their own health insurance marketplaces.

The court announced on Monday that it will hear arguments in the case — King v. Burwell — on March 4, 2015. 

At issue is whether the Affordable Care Act authorizes federal subsidies only in state-operated marketplaces and not in the federal marketplace being used by consumers in Kansas, Missouri and up to 35 other states.

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