Looking Ahead At Health Law Milestones

With open enrollment for 2014 set to formally close today, analysts note that it will take years to assess whether the health law succeeds at creating stable markets for those without employer-sponsored insurance. Several look at likely victories and hurdles.

Kaiser Health News: What Happens Next On The Health Law?
Just because open enrollment for people who buy their own health insurance formally closes March 31 doesn't mean debate over the health law will take a hiatus. After more than four years of strident rhetoric, evidence about how the law is actually working is starting to trickle in. Here are seven things to watch before the next enrollment period begins in November (Appleby, Carey, and Galewitz, 3/31).

Reuters: Obamacare Hits Milestone, But Detours Ahead For Health Law
[A]s the White House and its allies declare victory, major hurdles remain. And it will take years to determine whether the law will accomplish its mission of creating stable insurance markets that can help a significant number of America's nearly 50 million uninsured gain health coverage, experts say. Republicans are counting on that uncertainty to play into their strategy for the midterm congressional elections in November  (Morgan, 3/30).

The New York Times: In New Health Care Era, Blessings And Hurdles
In a plain brown health clinic on a busy boulevard [in Louisville, Ky.], the growing pains of the Affordable Care Act are already being felt — almost too sharply for the harried staff trying to keep up with the flow of patients. ... The law still faces steep challenges in Kentucky and nationwide, not only from energized political opponents who plan to attack it until Election Day, but also from skeptical consumers who think the cost of many new plans is too high, and the choice of doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs too limited. ... Yet beneath the loud debate, the law is quietly starting to change the health care landscape (Goodnough, 3/30).

Los Angeles Times: Insurers Already Calculating 2015 Premiums As Obamacare Kicks In
Even before enrollment closes Monday, California has far exceeded its initial goals for signing up people under the Affordable Care Act. Although the sheer volume of 1.1 million policyholders is impressive for a brand new government program, the number of sicker patients is what's likely to draw the most attention. How sick they are and the size of their medical bills will be front and center in the weeks to come as insurers begin drawing up next year's insurance rates, which will become public this summer (Terhune, 3/30).

Politico Pro: Off-Exchange Enrollment Could Shore Up Risk Pools
The Obama administration’s tally of sign-ups for the federal health care law doesn’t include a key group that is likely to boost the total number of people — and the share of younger and healthier people — with Obamacare coverage. These are the people who are getting covered in new plans that live up to the new Affordable Care Act rules, but aren’t sold on the exchanges. The people buying them don’t qualify for the premium subsidies in the exchange, so they go directly to insurance companies or online brokers. ... federal health officials, insurers and health policy experts say that it’s likely to be a sizable group that tends to be more affluent and younger than the people in the exchanges (Norman, 3/29).

The Hill: ObamaCare's 4-Year Checkup 
The deadline for ObamaCare’s first-year enrollment has arrived, four years after one of the most far-reaching and divisive pieces of domestic legislation became law. It’s a historic moment and a time to take stock of a measure proponents said would provide health insurance to people who lacked it, drive down costs, take a bite out of the deficit, boost the economy and lower the amount ordinary people had to pay (Viebeck and Easley, 3/31).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Despite Concerns About Obamacare, Big Employers Not Abandoning Health Benefits
Patrick Hansen, the chief financial officer of Strattec Security Corp., has no pretensions of knowing how the Affordable Care Act will affect employers years from now. But for now, Strattec, based in Glendale, has no plans to stop offering health benefits to its employees. "We'd have a hard time recruiting," Hansen said. Opponents of the Affordable Care Act — among them Wisconsin Republicans Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson — have contended that the law will result in employers no longer offering health benefits. Now Ezekiel Emanuel, a physician and former adviser in the Obama administration when the law was making its tortuous way through Congress, is contending the same ... Most supporters of the law — and some policy analysts and economists ambivalent about it — don't see that happening (Boulton, 3/29).

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