Category: New Health Care Law

Obamacare Premiums Spiking in Iowa, Kansas

Obamacare Premiums Spiking in Iowa, Kansas

We’ve already learned about Obamacare’s 2016 premiums exploding in New Mexico, Tennessee, Maryland, and Oregon. More are being announced:

The Kansas Insurance Department projected that the state may see hikes as high as 38 percent in some plans. In Iowa, Coventry Health Care wants to raise rates by 18 percent. (Kaiser Health News Morning Briefing, May 27, 2015)

Obamacare Premiums Explode

The Wall Street Journal has reviewed health plans’ rate filings for 2016 in Obamacare exchanges:

In New Mexico, market leader Health Care Service Corp. is asking for an average jump of 51.6% in premiums for 2016. The biggest insurer in Tennessee, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has requested an average 36.3% increase. In Maryland, market leader CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield wants to raise rates 30.4% across its products. Moda Health, the largest insurer on the Oregon health exchange, seeks an average boost of around 25%.

All of them cite high medical costs incurred by people newly enrolled under the Affordable Care Act. (Louise Radnofsky, “Health Insurers Seek Healthy Rate Boosts,” May 21, 2015)

Families USA: One Third of Low-Income Obamacare Beneficiaries Cannot Afford Care

One of Obamacare’s biggest cheerleaders, Families USA, has published new research showing that one third of low-income Obamacare beneficiaries have not obtained medical care due to cost in 2014:

Lower- to middle-income adults who were insured for the full year were significantly more likely than those with higher incomes to forgo needed care because they could not afford it: Nearly one-third (32.3 percent) of lower- to middle-income adults didn’t get needed medical care (excluding dental care) because they could not afford it. (p. 14)

But don’t you worry, Families USA has not thrown in the towel on Obamacare yet:

Since its passage in 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made tremendous progress in improving access to health insurance and health care for millions of Americans. Approximately 14.1 million previously uninsured Americans gained health insurance between the beginning of open enrollment in October 2013 and March 4, 2015.

Well, not actually: Most of the Obamacare “insured” have actually fallen into welfare dependency (Medicaid), and the increase in privately insured is questionable.

Families USA recommends that even more taxpayer-funded healthcare dollars be channeled through health insurers. Investors in health insurers must love these policy prescriptions from progressive advocacy groups.

Hawaii’s Obamacare Exchange Closing After Spending $205 Million

If a tax credit falls from Washington, and no Obamacare exchange receives it, what subsidy does it make?

Despite over $205 million in federal taxpayer funding, Hawaii’s Obamacare exchange website will soon shut down.  Since its implementation, the exchange has somehow failed to become financially viable because of lower than expected Obamacare enrollment figures. With the state legislature rejecting a $28 million bailout, the website will now be unable to operate past this year. (Alexander Hendrie, Americans for Tax Reform)

This is kind of perfect storm: State-based exchanges have or will shut down, both because most of them rival the DMV for customer service and because there is no more federal money to pay for them.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court will soon issue its decision in King v. Burwell, which might terminate Obamacare tax credits in the federal Obamacare exchange, healthcare.gov.

By the end of the year, Obamacare tax credits might have nowhere to go, effectively bringing Obamacare to a halt. It will give Congress a great opportunity to re-open the health reform debate.

75 Percent of Emergency Docs Seeing More Patients Since Obamacare

Three quarters of specialists in Emergency Departments are seeing more patients since January 1, 2014, according to a survey released by the American College of Emergency Physicians:

ACEP

 

Obamacare’s Risk Corridors Are Back, And Bigger And Badder Than Ever!

Last December, I discussed with some relief that Congress had stopped the unlimited taxpayer liability of Obamacare’s risk corridors, which protect profits for health insurers by transferring money from insurers with extra profits to those whose profits from Obamacare are less than expected.

The CROmnibus, which funded the government for 2015, put a guardrail around the risk corridors by legislating that any payments beyond budget neutrality would have to be appropriated. (That is, if extra profitable insurers earned $100 “too much” and losing insurers lost $200 “too much”, the winners could pay the losers $100, but the U.S. Treasury could not just make up the balance without Congress appropriating the funds.)

Well, Standard & Poor’s has just concluded that payments from extra profitable insurers will only fund 10 percent of risk corridor payments:

State Health Insurance Exchanges Going Bust

From the Washington Post:

Nearly half of the 17 insurance marketplaces set up by the states and the District under President Obama’s health law are struggling financially, presenting state officials with an unexpected and serious challenge five years after the passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act.

Many of the online exchanges are wrestling with surging costs, especially for balky technology and expensive customer call centers — and tepid enrollment numbers. To ease the fiscal distress, officials are considering raising fees on insurers, sharing costs with other states and pressing state lawmakers for cash infusions. Some are weighing turning over part or all of their troubled marketplaces to the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, which now works smoothly.

Well, whether the federal exchange “works smoothly” or not is a discussion for another day. Although, I would beg to differ with the WaPo. A more appropriate description of healthcare.gov might be that it works illegally, because it pays tax credits to insurers without any legal basis for doing so.

That is the question in the Supreme Court case King v. Burwell. If the Supreme Court decides for the plaintiff, healthcare.gov will effectively wind down (because it won’t have any more access to taxpayers’ money). With state-based exchanges failing, the future of Obamacare is in great doubt.

 

Obamacare Cuts IRS Customer Service

According to the New York Times, Obamacare is to blame for the Internal Revenue Service’s decline in customer service:

The IRS’ overloaded phone system hung up on more than 8 million taxpayers this filing season as the agency cut millions of dollars from taxpayer services to help pay to enforce President Barack Obama’s health law.

What is sadly funny about this new disclosure is that when Obamacare opponents pointed out that Obamacare funded new IRS tax inspectors instead of doctors and nurses, its supporters alleged that the new bureaucrats were going to help ensure people who were owed tax credits got them.

Obamacare Increases Food Stamp Dependency

An investigation by the Associated Press has turned up an interesting outcome from Obamacare:

President Barack Obama’s health care law has had a surprising side effect: In some states, it appears to be enticing more Americans to apply for food stamps, even as the economy improves.

New, streamlined application systems built for the health care overhaul seem to be making it easier for people to enroll in government benefit programs, including insurance coverage and food stamps.

An Associated Press analysis finds unforeseen enrollment increases over two years in 11 states, including Illinois, California, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

This is really the only, unspoken, reason for having government exchanges. If it were only to enroll in health insurance, there was already an industry of brokers and agents, online and in person, who did that.

I have recently proposed that all federal safety-net funding be bundled into into Opportunity Grants for which states and civic organizations can apply. That’s a long way from just making it easier for people to become dependent on a hodge-podge of government programs.

 

Obamacare Exchanges Still A Bad Consumer Experience

The media have cheered the fact that Obamacare exchanges in 2015 operated better than 2014. It is one of the “achievements” that led them do declare “Mission Accomplished” for Obamacare.

Improvement over 2014 is a very low bar. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how the exchanges could possibly have performed worse this year. New research from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania concludes that the exchanges are still ineffective:

Wharton

…… when users were provided with non-standardized plans sorted by price, an overwhelming 60% relied on a simple rule of thumb for making their selection: choose the plan with the lowest monthly premium. This emphasis on premium cost defeats the entire purpose of the exchanges.

The portals also came up short in helping consumers understand what they were purchasing. Research has shown that health insurance consumers have only a limited understanding of technical aspects of how health insurance works. In a study by the Penn Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the Leonard Davis Institute, only 14% of consumers were able to correctly answer four multiple-choice questions about the most important terms in health care: deductibles, copays, premiums and maximum out of pocket costs