RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 01/04/2016

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Many Choose IRS Penalties over Health Insurance
Abby Goodnough, NYT
Many holdouts have made their decisions after meticulously comparing the cost of insurance premiums and deductibles with paying for doctor appointments, lab tests and prescriptions themselves. For some healthy people, the combined cost of premiums and deductibles, which can exceed $10,000, makes the penalty seem a better deal.

More Turn to Faith-Based Groups for Coverage
Stephanie Armour, WSJ
A growing number of people are turning to health-care ministries to cover their medical expenses instead of buying traditional insurance, a trend that could challenge the stability of the Affordable Care Act.

ACA Insurers Sweeten Plans With Free Doctor Visits
Phil Galewitz, KHN
Insurers say they hope encouraging visits to doctors will benefit members and their bottom lines by catching illnesses early before they become harder and more expensive to treat.

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are leading improvements to the nation's healthcare system, community by community, with coordinated, high-quality care. Learn more here.

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Stronger Obamacare Faces New Fights in 2016
Peter Sullivan, The Hill
Obamacare left 2015 in a stronger position than it began, though the threats of rising premiums, skittish insurers and challenges from Washington loom for the president’s signature health law during his final year in office.

GOP Promises 'Replace' Bill after 'Repeal' Vote
Chad Pergram, Fox News
For all of the GOP’s sturm und drang about Obamacare, neither the House nor the Senate has ever debated a bill that attempts to succeed the law. The reason is that nobody has crafted a plan that would pass in either chamber.

Ky. Can't Reform Medicaid with Waiver
Josh Archambault, Apothecary
On Wednesday, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin announced that he was planning to keep Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, but would seek federal waivers to “transform” the program. But Bevin’s plan is already hitting an a snag: he wants to use a Section 1332 waiver to “transform Medicaid.” The snag: Section 1332 doesn’t provide any authority for Medicaid reform.

N.J. Factory Turns To Medicaid to Insure Employees
Fred Mogul, NPR
Employers have not historically played a significant role in helping workers enroll in Medicaid. But Gillingham's insurance broker told him about a startup called BeneStream, which is based in New York City and facilitates enrollment in the government program.

Why Denmark Dumped Medical Malpractice
Pierce & Allen, ProPublica
The Danish system offers lessons for policymakers in the United States, where medical harm remains widespread and the mechanisms for addressing it are often cumbersome and adversarial. The Danes’ primary focus is on helping patients who have been hurt by the health care system.

Health Care M&A Activity Likely to Stay Strong
Beth Kutscher, Mod. HC
Healthcare merger and acquisition activity is likely to remain strong in 2016, driven by the growth of value-based payment models.

Merged Insurers Have No Reason To Reduce Prices
If the mega-mergers among health insurers are allowed to go through, it will create insurers with more bargaining power that can hold the line on prices paid to doctors and hospitals. At least that’s been the standard rationale given in the business press for why Anthem Inc. is trying to buy Cigna Corp. and Aetna Inc. is trying to buy Humana Inc.

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