KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Appeals Court To Weigh Challenge To Health Law Subsidies

Opponents of the health law argue that the legislative language never says subsidies can be used to defray premium costs for low- and moderate-income people who live in states that did not set up their own online marketplaces and are served instead by the federal exchange. Also, in news about how the law is being implemented, a look at who is exempted from the mandate to get insurance.

Bloomberg: Obamacare Subsidies Seen As Illegal On State Exchanges
If President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law unravels, it could be for want of a single number in crucial passages of the 2,409-page statute. The missing number, 1321, refers to a section of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that directs the federal government to establish an insurance marketplace in states that decline to create the exchanges, where low- and moderate-income people can buy health insurance and get subsidies for it. Key passages of the law, including who's eligible for a subsidy, are missing that reference. That’s provided an opening for Obamacare opponents to argue today to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington that millions of otherwise qualified people in the 36 states that haven't set up marketplaces are ineligible to receive the subsidies (Zajac, 3/25).

Politico: Honey, I Shrunk The Mandate
Filed for bankruptcy in the past six months? Had medical bills you couldn't pay in the past two years? Been a victim of domestic violence? Received a shut-off notice from a utility company? If you don't want to buy insurance under Obamacare, you don't have to. No penalty. The individual mandate may be the most despised part of Obamacare, but the reality is that it's much smaller than people think. It's riddled with exemptions, hardships and other loopholes that allow millions of people off the hook for enrollment by March 31 (Norman, 3/25).

And in other news -

Propublica: Smoking Mad: Tobacco Users Caught Up In Insurer's Obamacare 'Glitch'
[Retired nurse Terry] Wetherby was among about 100 smokers in New Hampshire caught up in a "technical glitch" that caused them to lose their new health insurance policies because they had been mistakenly charged non-smoking rates, according to the New Hampshire Department of Insurance. It is unclear if the error affected smokers in other states served by Anthem (Ornstein, 3/24).

The San Francisco Chronicle: Health Care Law Opens Opportunities For Tech Startups
The Affordable Care Act's website started out as a technological disappointment, but digital startups see plenty of opportunities to capitalize on the legislation on the eve of the enrollment deadline. The law has prompted entrepreneurs to launch websites and mobile apps designed to help people sign up. The Obama administration, which took heated criticism for the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov last fall, will enroll as many people as it can by the March 31 deadline. "Before the ACA, you really didn't have a centralized and large influence to push the industry toward these kinds of innovations," said Judd Hollas, CEO of EquityNet, who has seen an increase in health care-related ventures on his crowdfunding site that helps companies raise money from private investors (Lee, /24).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.