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Dec. 20, 2018: Obamacare battle now before a Baltimore judge picked by Obama

Obamacare battle now before a Baltimore judge picked by Obama

Days after a Texas judge declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, Obamacare supporters are back in court in a bid to save it. A lawsuit filed in September as a hedge against just the sort of ruling U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth issued Dec. 14 is the new front in the nearly nine-year war over President Barack Obama's signature achievement and could force the issue back before the U.S. Supreme Court. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is seeking a judge's declaration that Obamacare remains legally viable even without a tax penalty the Supreme Court called key to its legitimacy in 2012, to create a split between competing courts.

As Colorado's insurance market stabilizes, officials expect premium increases to be lower than years' past Denver Post
Uncertainty may be flooding the health care market after a Texas judge's ruling on the Affordable Care Act, but in Colorado there is some good news: There's another sign pointing to the individual market stabilizing. Insurers didn't lose as much money on the individual market last year as they did in 2016 and 2015, according to a new report by the Colorado Division of Insurance. As for consumers, officials offered good news: They're likely to see lower increases in their health insurance premiums than in previous years.

White House, Congress focus on improving access to dental care PEW Charitable Trusts
Efforts to improve Americans' access to oral health care, particularly in underserved rural and urban areas, have been in the news recently, with a flurry of developments at the federal level in the final months of 2018. On Dec. 3, the White House released a report on health reform that includes a call for states to consider authorizing dental therapy and to remove restrictive supervision requirements on dental hygiene. Both steps could help more people get access to routine dental care.

New York City considering health care program that would cover undocumented immigrants Documented
New York City policymakers are mulling a wide-ranging proposal to provide subsidized health care to people who cannot qualify for federal or state-managed health insurance — primarily undocumented immigrants. If it comes to fruition, it would be the country's largest municipal health care plan for the uninsurable, following those in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Officials know it would work because they've tried it. The principles were tested in a pilot study the city conducted from May 2016 to June 2017, called ActionHealthNYC.

Ohio small businesses may get more access to employee health data Dayton Daily News
A proposed Ohio law could help small businesses shop for affordable health insurance by letting them see details on expensive health insurance claims, though critics say it would violate employee medical privacy. For employees with a claim that's $30,000 or more, Senate Bill 227 will allow insurers to provide companies the amount paid toward that claim and the health condition being treated.

Minnesota AG Swanson seeks law on for-profit health plan deals Star Tribune
Attorney General Lori Swanson is reminding lawmakers that a moratorium blocking nonprofit health plans from becoming for-profit companies is set to expire next year, and therefore requires follow-on legislation. Swanson is highlighting the issue in a letter to governor-elect Tim Walz and legislative leaders that was obtained by the Star Tribune. The attorney general, who is leaving office next year, pushed for the current moratorium on for-profit conversions following 2017 legislation that struck down a 40-year ban on for-profit HMOs in Minnesota.

Medicare, Medicaid exclude 200 percent more docs for healthcare fraud Revcycle Intelligence
Efforts to combat healthcare fraud, waste, abuse by Medicare, Medicaid, and public insurance programs may be paying off, according to a new study from the University of Southern California and Harvard Medical School. The study recently published in JAMA Network Open revealed that the number of physicians excluded from Medicare, Medicaid, and other public healthcare programs increased by about 200 percent from 2007 to 2017. The physicians had to exit the programs because of healthcare fraud schemes, health crimes, or unlawful prescribing of controlled substances.

Is workers' compensation insurance ripe for disruption? Insurance Business Magazine
The workers' compensation industry is currently enduring sustained soft market conditions. Premiums are dropping across the country as claim frequency and severity continue their downward spiral. As market conditions trend in this way, is the workers’ compensation market becoming ripe for disruption? "When it comes to market disruption, there are lots of outside threats coming at the insurance industry as a whole," said Jeremiah Bentley, vice president of marketing and customer engagement at Texas Mutual.

Amazon's vision for the future of health care is becoming clear CNBC
Amazon might take its time getting into new industries. But whether it's online retail, cloud computing or groceries, its vision is typically ambitious. Now, it's health care's turn. This year, the company made a few early strides in the $3.5 trillion sector. Here are some of the highlights.

Jeff Sopko