Is Obamacare working? Here’s what we know so far

by Rob Cullen on April 10, 2014 - 2:13 PM

When President Obama announced last Tuesday that 7.1 million people had enrolled in plans through Obamacare’s online marketplaces, it took a while for the applause and cheering from supporters to die down. They had reason to be excited. Seven million– based on the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of how many people would sign up in the first year– was their original target for enrollments. After the disastrous launch of, the CBO said enrollment would likely be more like six million, but at the end of February it looked like they’d fall short of even that.

But while hitting 7 million signups is an important symbolic milestone, it doesn’t answer the most important questions surrounding the new law:

  1. Is Obamacare reducing the number of uninsured?
  2. Did enough healthy people sign up to keep premiums stable?

It is however, one of many good signs we’ve seen so far.   [click to continue reading...]


How to get covered now that the Obamacare deadline has passed

by Rob Cullen on April 3, 2014 - 1:59 PM

While Monday marked the end of Obamacare’s first open enrollment period, it doesn’t mean that it’s the end of all Obamacare enrollment this year. There are a few ways you can still get covered, even though it’s past the deadline.   [click to continue reading...]


obamacare brochures

By now hopefully you’ve heard that Monday, March 31 is the deadline to buy Obamacare coverage for 2014 (with a little flexibility– if you start before the deadline and get stuck, you can finish after March 31. More info on that below). If you’re uninsured and waiting until the very last minute, here’s everything we’ve written about how to get Obamacare coverage all in one place.   [click to continue reading...]


A closer look at Obamacare’s new rules for insurance plans

by Rob Cullen on March 20, 2014 - 5:56 PM

gottlieb and mccardle

Lately we’ve been watching some debates between conservative and liberal healthcare experts, and we’ve noticed that they’ve started using different words for the same thing. What Obamacare supporters have always called “consumer protections,” opponents are now calling “expensive benefits consumers don’t want.” For example here’s Forbes’ Scott Gottlieb in a debate on NPR:

What’s inherently wrong with this law is the way that the law tries to prescribe a uniform federal standard for what needs to be in everyone’s insurance policy. And so these decisions get made in a political context, and you end up with policies that are exceedingly expensive, laden down with mandates that don’t meet what consumers want.

Forbes’ Avik Roy, a former healthcare advisor to Mitt Romney made the same point in a recent conversation with The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn, saying that the “ACA went too far with the micromanaging and that’s why the plans are more expensive than they needed to be.”

So which description makes more sense: “consumer protections” or “expensive federal micromanaging”? The best way to decide is to look at the regulations they’re actually describing.   [click to continue reading...]


obamacare insurance store

The first open enrollment period for Obamacare ends on March 31, just over two weeks from now, and the White House says it will not be extending the deadline. We’ve talked to a number of people who tell us they won’t be filling out the Obamacare application this time around: some figure their incomes are too low, and they live in a state that hasn’t expanded Medicaid; others just assume they won’t find anything affordable and would rather pay the $95 penalty; and others say they didn’t see any options that looked good. Here are three reasons they might want to reconsider.   [click to continue reading...]


president obama

By now you know the drill. The White House announces it’s delaying part of Obamacare, Republicans freak out and say it proves the entire law is a failure, but in the end the change really doesn’t make all that much difference either way. The latest example: on Wednesday, the Obama administration said it will let consumers renew health policies that don’t comply with the new law for another two years. It’s a decision that’s important politically, but has little impact on how the law will actually work.   [click to continue reading...]


obamcare deadline screen

With over four million people now enrolled in private coverage through the Obamacare marketplaces, not everybody is going to be happy with the first plan they chose. So can you switch to a different plan or insurer if you’ve already enrolled through your state’s online marketplace? The answer– like most things under the new law– is complicated. [click to continue reading...]


Medicaid expansion protest

Thanks to the Supreme Court decision making the Medicaid expansion optional for states, the federal poverty line (FPL) has become enormously important. Before the decision, the FPL simply determined what kind of coverage you were eligible for: Medicaid for those below, and subsidized private coverage for those above (with some overlap– people making between 100% and 133% of the FPL could get Medicaid or private coverage). But now, in states that have chosen to opt out of the Medicaid expansion, the poverty line will mean the difference between subsidized private coverage and no coverage at all.

So it’s important to know what exactly the income cut off is, particularly if your income is right around that line. However, we’ve heard that some people who have called the hotline for clarification have been told two different numbers: $11,490 and $11,670 for single people. But here’s the really confusing part: they’re both accurate.   [click to continue reading...]


doctor and patient

For months now we’ve only been covering Obamacare, but turns out that’s not the only thing happening in the world of healthcare. In fact, while we’ve all been focused on the new marketplaces, members of both parties have been working together(!) on a permanent solution(!!) to a problem Congress has been avoiding for over a decade: a seriously flawed Medicare payment formula that– if it ever took effect– would mean such a large pay cut it could drive doctors out of the program (if not out of business altogether).

Don’t celebrate just yet though, because they still haven’t figured out the hardest part: how to pay for it. They have options– the Congressional Budget Office has released a list of health-related ways Congress could reduce the deficit– and there was one that jumped out at us. The cost of repealing the flawed formula is almost exactly the same amount that a public option for Obamacare would save.   [click to continue reading...]


A Republican plan to replace Obamacare

by Rob Cullen on February 19, 2014 - 6:40 PM


In our last post we complained that the healthcare debate is starting to remind us of the movie Groundhog Day, but we forgot… there has been one new development! Republicans have long promised to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, but for they’ve focused almost exclusively on “repeal,” while mostly ignoring the “replace” part. Now finally, three Republican Senators–Tom Coburn, Richard Burr, and Orrin Hatch– have unveiled an actual alternative, which they call the Patient Choice, Affordability, Responsibility, and Empowerment Act (Patient CARE Act).

We almost skipped talking about it because (1) it has no chance of passing (we’re not sure who would be quicker to vote against it- Democrats or tea party Republicans), and (2) it’s not very good. Still, given all the complaining Republicans have done about Obamacare, it’s worth checking out what they suggest.  [click to continue reading...]