There are just 13 days remaining until the arrival of October 1, a date when two significant events—one very good and one very bad—will take place. In less than two weeks, state health insurance shopping markets will open, enabling tens of millions of Americans who do not have health insurance because they can't afford it or because their job, if they have one, doesn't offer coverage can compare health plans for the first time.
And like a comet hurtling out of deep space on a trajectory that slams it into Planet Earth, another impact from a political comet that originates from doomsday zealots in Washington who want to rescind the Affordable Care Act could arrive on the same day.
Congressional Republicans will make yet another try to shut down Obamacare, the nickname the GOP has labeled the ACA, by shutting down the federal government. Unable to do it 41 times before, Congressional Republicans under the leadership of House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, are aiming to force the administration of President Obama and its allies in Congress to abandon his signature health care plan or face repercussions from stopping government dead in its tracks.
News Tuesday from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the size of the problem of uninsured Americans in stark terms. The rate of uninsured Americans dropped slightly in 2012, from 15.7 percent to 15.4 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau reported. The report found that more than 48 million Americans were uninsured during 2012, down from 48.6 million in 2011, a change the agency said is not statistically significant.
"It is encouraging that fewer people were uninsured in 2012 than in the previous year, but the huge number of Americans still without health insurance is a stark reminder of the important work that lies ahead," Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a consumer advocacy group, said in a statement, according to Kaiser Health News.
One of the most significant changes in the report was a decline in the rate of uninsured children, from 9.4 percent in 2011 to 8.9 percent, largely related to government efforts to make it easier for children to get coverage.
"Uninsurance is already low for children, and the fact that it still appears to be declining is an encouraging sign and shows when there is a concerted public policy focus on a problem it can pay off," Genevieve Kenney, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, told KHN report author Phil Galewitz.
Kenney said more kids were being covered under their parents’ workplace policies and that states and the federal government have made it easier to enroll in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and stay enrolled.
"This is the most positive news there is on uninsurance," she said. "For other age groups we did not see increases in uninsured, but we did not see drops either."
The bureau reported that the uninsured rates for all other age groups showed no statistically significant change. In 2012, the percentage of people covered by private health insurance continued to hover at 63.9 percent , with 54.9 percent covered through their employers.
The percentage of those enrolled in the state-federal program for the poor called Medicaid remained the same, but the percentage of those covered by Medicare rose from 15.2 percent in 2011 to 15.7 percent in 2012.
State health care insurance marketplaces will be open for business in less than two weeks and will end six months later in March. The major provisions of the ACA, though, will take effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Bloomberg News reports that Republicans return to Washington today and are still at loggerheads over how to thwart President Barack Obama’s healthcare law without shutting down the federal government on Oct. 1. House Republican leaders are looking for alternatives that would satisfy Majority Caucus Members who want to defund and delay the president’s signature domestic achievement.
One option under consideration, as reported by Politico, is an accelerated vote on the debt ceiling. It seems discussions are taking place in the House Republican leadership that focus on setting a debt ceiling vote before Sept. 30. "If Republican leaders show in the next few weeks how they will use the debt ceiling to delay Obamacare, it will display that the party's brass is serious about an all-or-nothing legislative brawl with Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama," Politico reporters Sherman and Bresnahan wrote Monday. Doing so could help ease the passage of the continuing resolution to fund the government.
Meanwhile, at the same time Republicans are considering new ways to scuttle the ACA, President Barack Obama warned congressional Republicans yesterday that they could trigger national "economic chaos" if they demand a delay of his health care law as the price for supporting continued spending for federal operations.
Obama said Republicans are effectively holding the government hostage by threatening to defund Obamacare, the Washington Post reported. "I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos when it doesn’t get everything it wants." President Obama said yesterday what he's said before, that Republicans have failed to end the sequester and are again thinking about holding the government hostage over Obamacare.
A report on the situation by The Hill said a leading House GOP effort to tie a defunding of ObamaCare to a bill funding the government after Oct. 1 has gained new support. The full-year continuing resolution authored by Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.) gained 17 new co-sponsors since it was introduced last week with 42 others on board.
In Ohio, a state run by Republicans that has yet to decide whether it will accept expansion of Medicad as provided by the ACA and ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, 62 percent of Ohio adults 19-64 have health insurance.
The increase in the number of uninsured adults happened over a period when job-based coverage declined by 7.5 percent and Medicaid coverage expanded for this group by 4.1 percent, the progressive economic think tank Policy Matters Ohio reported today. Analyzing the Censur Bureau's report, PMO observed that more than 1.3 million Ohio adults under the age of 65 were uninsured in 2012, a statistically significant increase of 3.4 percent, or 298,998 more adults, since the recession of 2006-07.
"Fewer and fewer employers offer insurance. When hard-working Ohioans lose their job-based coverage, most have nowhere to turn," Hannah Halbert, workforce researcher for Policy Matters Ohio said. "Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, that will change in 2014."
PMO reported employer-provided coverage of children fell by 16.1 percent over this period, and fewer children would have coverage today but for public health coverage programs. Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program increased coverage by 17.9 percent, keeping the number of Ohio children without insurance at 178,436, or about 6.7 percent, statistically on par with the rate in 2000.
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