Sunday, September 7, 2014

ACA/Obamacare: Weeks Go By Before Detects Hacker Breaching Security and Uploading Malware

‘A hacker broke into part of the insurance enrollment website in July and uploaded malicious software, according to federal officials.

Investigators found no evidence that consumers' personal data were taken or viewed during the breach, federal officials said. The hacker appears only to have gained access to a server used to test code for, the officials said.

The server was connected to more sensitive parts of the website that had better security protections, the officials said. That means it would have been possible, if difficult, for the intruder to move through the network and try to view more protected information, an official at the Department of Health and Human Services said. There is no indication that happened, and investigators suspect the hacker didn't intend to target a server.

The prospect nevertheless raised concerns among federal officials because of how easily the intruder gained access and how much damage could have occurred.’

‘Washington officials said they are concerned an intruder gained access to the network through a basic security flaw. The server had low security settings because it was never meant to be connected to the Internet, the HHS official said. When the hacker broke in, it was only guarded by a default password, which often is easy to crack.

"There was a door left open," the official said.

The department discovered the break-in weeks later on Aug. 25 during a daily security scan. Buried amid lines of computer log files were data showing the test server had been contacted by the outside Internet, which wasn't supposed to happen.

Lawmakers first raised security concerns about when it launched nearly a year ago. At the time, then-HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the department had a plan in the event of a security breach. Other hacking attempts reportedly have been made, but none appear to have been successful before this.

"It is full of data that criminals covet," said Rep. Joe Barton (R., Texas), who opposes the health-care law. "Handing private information over to the government is bad enough. People should at least know it won't fall into the hands of hackers."‘ - Hacker Breached Insurance Site, WSJ, 09/04/2014

The entire article appears in the link below:



Wednesday, September 3, 2014

ACA/Obamacare: When the Taxing Authority Taxes Itself

"When Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, it required health insurers, hospitals, device makers and pharmaceutical companies to share in the cost because they would get a windfall of new, paying customers.

But with an $8 billion tax on insurers due Sept. 30 — the first time the new tax is being collected — the industry is getting help from an unlikely source: taxpayers.

States and the federal government will spend at least $700 million this year to pay the tax for their Medicaid health plans. The three dozen states that use Medicaid managed-care plans will give those insurers more money to cover the new expense. Many of those states — such as Florida, Louisiana and Tennessee — did not expand Medicaid as the law allows, and in the process turned down billions in new federal dollars.

Other insurers are getting some help paying the tax as well. Private insurers are passing the tax onto policyholders in the form of higher premiums. Medicare health plans are getting the tax covered by the federal government via higher reimbursement.

State Medicaid agencies say they have little choice but to pay the tax for health plans they hire to insure their poorest residents. That's because the tax is part of the health plans' costs of doing business. Federal law requires states to pay the companies adequate rates.

"This situation results in the federal government taxing itself and taxing state governments to fund the higher Medicaid managed care payments required to fund the ACA health insurer fee," said a report by Medicaid Health Plans of America, a trade group." - Who's paying the new Obamacare tax? You, USA Today, 08/30/2014

The entire article appears in the link below:


Related: ACA/Obamacare: When the Taxing Authority Pays Its Own Imposed Tax. Huh? No Way! Way!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ACA/Obamacare: A Brief History of the Rise and Fall of Employer Sponsored Health Insurance

‘After the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate takes effect, Buchmueller expects most large employers to continue offering health insurance because tax subsidies and economies of scale remain substantial and because risk-pooling remains effective. “The individual health insurance market is still plagued by adverse selection,” he notes. “But with employer-sponsored coverage, you have a group of people who have been brought together for reasons other than purchasing insurance. You have a range of ages, and generally it’s a relatively healthy pool.”

Thomasson agrees, but she hedges her prediction with an alternative scenario: What if one high-profile firm dropped its coverage, paid the penalty, and raised wages by more than enough to cover the average cost of obtaining health insurance in an exchange? “That firm might lure the people who are less attracted by benefits — the healthier, younger, smarter people,” she says. Then other firms might start competing on the basis of higher wages instead of better health insurance.

Just as government loopholes for employer-sponsored health insurance have distorted the labor market, government mandates for employer-sponsored health insurance are likely to distort the labor market, too. “My guess is we will see changes on the margin in the short run,” Thomasson says. “For example, firms that are close to that 50 limit may act differently, but I think it’s going to take a few years for people to see how it all will work.”

Large companies that employ many low-wage workers will face the biggest challenge, Buchmueller predicts. “Those firms are toying with ideas of shifting workers to part-time schedules or just sucking it up and offering them benefits or paying the penalty. But for the bulk of large firms that are currently offering insurance, the calculation has not changed that much.” ‘ - From Loophole to Mandate, Econ Focus, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, first quarter 2014, released 08/2014

Link to the entire article appears below:



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ACA/Obamacare: Welcome to Form 1095A, The Health Insurance Market Place Statement

'Taxes? Who wants to think about taxes around Labor Day?

But if you count on your tax refund and you're one of the millions getting tax credits to help pay health insurance premiums under President Obama's law, it's not too early.

Here's why: If your income for 2014 is going to be higher than you estimated when you applied for health insurance, then complex connections between the health law and taxes can reduce or even eliminate your tax refund next year.’

‘The danger is that as your income grows, you don't qualify for as much of a tax credit. Any difference will come out of your tax refund, unless you have promptly reported the changes.

Nearly 7 million households have gotten health insurance tax credits, and major tax preparation companies say most of those consumers appear to be unaware of the risk.

"More than a third of tax credit recipients will owe some money back, and (that) can lead to some pretty hefty repayment liabilities," said George Brandes, vice president for health care programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

Two basic statistics bracket the potential exposure:

• The average tax credit for subsidized coverage on the new health insurance exchanges is $264 a month, or $3,168 for a full 12 months.

• The average tax refund is about $2,690.’

‘Concern about the complex connection between the health care law and taxes has increased recently, after the Internal Revenue Service released drafts of new forms to administer health insurance tax credits next filing season.

The forms set up a final accounting that ensures each household is getting the correct tax credit that the law provides. Various factors are involved, including income, family size, where you live and the premiums for a "benchmark" plan in your community.

Even experts find the forms highly complicated, requiring month-by-month computations for some taxpayers.

Note: The following is a link to the IRS draft of form 1095A:

Taxpayers accustomed to filing a simplified 1040EZ will not be able to do so if they received health insurance tax credits this year.’

Some highlights:

—You may have heard that the IRS cannot use liens and levies to collect the law's penalty on people who remain uninsured. But there is no limitation on collection efforts in cases where consumers got too big a tax credit. If your refund isn't large enough to cover the repayment, you will have to write the IRS a check. "They are not messing around," Brandes said.

—Health insurance is expensive, and with that in mind, the repayment amount the IRS can collect is capped for most people. For individuals making less than $22,980 the IRS can only collect up to $300 in repayments. That rises to $750 for individuals making between $22,980 and $34,470. For individuals making between $34,470 and $45,960, the cap is $1,250.

For families, the cap is double the amount that individuals can be charged, but the income thresholds vary according to household size. An IRS table may help simplify computation, which is based on the federal poverty levels for 2013.

—There is no collection cap for households making more than four times the federal poverty level. They face the greatest financial risk from repayments, because they would be liable for the entire amount of the tax credit they received.

Those income thresholds are $45,960 and above for an individual, $78,120 and above for a family of three, and $94,200 for a family of four. Ciaramitaro says people facing that predicament should try to minimize their taxable income through legal means, such as putting money into an IRA. The IRS says it will work with taxpayers who can't pay in full so they understand their options.’ - Tax refunds may get hit due to health law credits, USA Today, 08/24/2014

Link to the entire article appear below:




Friday, August 22, 2014

ACA/Obamacare: The Ongoing Saga of Cyber Security and the ACA Web Site

Make special note of 3:04 to 3:39 of the video regarding the description of the pathways along which one's sensitive personal information travels.

Monday, August 18, 2014

ACA/Obamacare: Just Like Shopping at Amazon

“The insurance industry responds that critics are confusing legitimate cost-control with bias. Some state regulators, however, say there's reason to be concerned about policies that shift costs to patients and narrow their choices of hospitals and doctors.

With open enrollment for 2015 three months away, the Obama administration is being pressed to enforce the Affordable Care Act's anti-discrimination provisions. Some regulations have been issued; others are pending after more than four years.

More than 300 patient advocacy groups recently wrote Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to complain about some insurer tactics that "are highly discriminatory against patients with chronic health conditions and may ... violate the (law's) nondiscrimination provisions."

Among the groups were the AIDS Institute, the American Lung Association, Easter Seals, the Epilepsy Foundation, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Kidney Foundation and United Cerebral Palsy. All supported the law.

Coverage of expensive drugs tops their concerns.

The advocates also say they are disappointed by how difficult it's proved for consumers to get a full picture of plans sold on the new insurance exchanges. Digging is often required to learn crucial details such as drugs covered, exact copayments and which doctors and hospitals are in the network.”

“Much of the concern is about coverage for prescription drugs. Also worrisome are the narrow networks of hospitals and doctors that insurers are using to keep premiums down. Healthy people generally shop for lower premiums, while people with health problems look for access to specialists and the best hospitals.”

“Some plans are requiring patients to pay 30 percent or more for drugs that go for several thousand dollars a month. HIV drugs, certain cancer medications, and multiple sclerosis drugs are among them.

Although the law sets an overall annual limit on what patients are required to pay, the initial medication cost can be a shock.”

“The insurance industry trade group America's Health Insurance Plans says there's no discrimination because patients have many options on the insurance exchanges. Gold and platinum plans feature lower cost-sharing, but have higher premiums. Standard silver plans generally require patients to pay a greater share of medical bills, but some have fairly robust drug coverage.

"There are plans on the exchanges that are right for people who have these health conditions," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the group.” - Groups claim insurance discrimination in new forms, MSNnews, 08/17/2014

Upon further review, the purchase of health insurance upon the ACA exchanges was advertised as being much like, if not exactly like, the experience consumers have when shopping at Amazon. Implicit in the advertised mantra was consumers with great knowledge in the field of health insurance. Stated alternatively, the implicit argument is that consumers when shopping at Amazon, with great knowledge of blue jeans, shoes, toasters and microwave ovens also have the same basic knowledge in health insurance.

Price really is a signal. Yep, that platinum colored microwave seems nice, but that silver microwave is less expensive. But the bronze microwave is cheap!

Total price as a signal, that is, premium outlay, maximum out-of-pocket (MOOP), doctor office co-pay, specialist co-pay, drug co-pay, network width and breath …..that was merely a shopping experience like Amazon. Total price was considered every time, all the time: Consumer knowledge was king!

Maybe not so much, huh?

Link to the entire MSN article appears below: