The government last week "quietly excused millions of people from the requirement to purchase health insurance or else pay a tax penalty," the WSJdiscovers after being alerted to a change buried deep in a technical bulletin.
Americans whose coverage was cancelled because of Obamacare are allowed to "opt out of the (individual) mandate altogether" until 2016 under certain conditions that seem to be fairly lax. That opt out was only supposed to last a year.
However, these people would have to enroll in catastrophic coverage, which was initially designed for the under-30s and "the truly down and out."
The government has announced yet another delay to a crucial part of Obamacare, saying that businesses with 50-99 full-time workers won't have to provide health insurance to their workers until 2016. Some larger firms will have to cover at least 70% of employees by 2015 and 95% a year later.
The original plan was for companies to offer coverage this year, but in July, that was delayed until 2015.
The latest announcement was in response to pressure from firms and came after some businesses cut employee working hours to below 30 hours a week in order to avoid having to provide insurance.
Around 4.8M people aged 18-64 get no government help to buy medical insurance - because they earn too little to qualify for federal subsidies. However, they earn too much to receive benefits under state programs.
The gap is the result of 24 states deciding not to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
However, some states are revisiting their policies in order to cover the hole, which hospitals such as UAB Health System see as a threat to their revenues.
At least two thirds of the 2.2M people who purchased health insurance from exchanges under Obamacare through December 28 already had coverage, preliminary surveys indicate.
In a McKinsey study, just 11% of people didn't have insurance previously. Affordability and technical problems were among the reasons why people didn't buy plans.
Around 48M Americans didn't have health insurance in 2012; Obamacare is expected to reduce that figure by 25M.
Meanwhile, the government is delaying yet another provision of the Affordable Care Act - one that prevents employers from offering better health benefits to senior management than to other staff. The reason is that tax officials haven't yet issued the regulations that companies need to abide by.
Just 30% of the people who have bought insurance under Obamacare are aged 34 or younger, while a third are 55 or older, a government report says.
That's a problem because the success of the Affordable Care Act hinges on signing up enough "young invincibles," who would need less care, in order to pay for the sick and elderly. The White House was banking on 40% of signups being aged 34 or less.
If the numbers don't balance out as needed, premiums could rise. Moreover, health insurers have until May to decide whether they will keep providing exchange plans in 2015.
Around 2.2M people bought coverage in the three months through December, 79% of whom received a discount due to federal subsidies.
National healthcare spending grew less than 4% for the fourth year in a row in 2012, rising 3.7% to $2.8T, a report by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows.
As a proportion of the total economy, expenditure edged down to 17.2% from 17.3%.
The authors of the report said that the continued slow increase in spending was due to the lingering impact of the recession but that Obamacare has had a limited effect. However, the White House said the figures vindicated the President's signature policy.
The authors were also cautious about whether the trend will continue, or whether growth will return to the higher levels experienced prior to the recession.
The cost of hospital care rose 4.9% in 2012 and that for doctors' services and outpatient clinics 4.6%, although spending on prescription drugs increased just 0.4%, due to patent expiries.
Early reports from health providers and online medical booking service ZocDoc indicate that demand for care from those who bought insurance under Obamacare has been modest so far.
There have been fears that the technical problems of the government's HealthCare.gov Web site would cause a flood of patients who thought they had bought insurance to request care only to find that they weren't yet covered.
The actual pace of demand should give insurers more time to process the applications that they need to enter into their systems and issue membership cards.
More than 2.1M people have signed up for Obamacare-mandated health insurance, which has gone into effect today. That's an addition of 1.6M consumers in December, but somewhat below the 3.3M that was initially projected.
Administration officials also don't know how many people have paid, while insurers haven't received all the information they need about those who have bought plans. As a result, much confusion is expected when patients turn up for appointments, a situation the government is hoping to help alleviate with a toll-free call center.
Around 3.9M people are judged eligible for Medicaid and a related children's insurance program, although it's not known how many have signed up. Another 3M young Americans have coverage under their parents' plans.
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