Tag: "health insurance"

One State Leads the Fight for Health Freedom

AZWhen it comes to no-holds-barred, patient-centered health reform, one state is absolutely crushing it: Arizona.

Governor Doug Ducey, a businessman with no direct healthcare experience, has recently signed (at least) three path breaking pieces of legislation.

We’ve already discussed Arizona’s law that will allow patients to order diagnostic tests without a physician’s order.

Who’s To Blame For Doctors’ Cash Flow Crisis?

Doctors never cease from complaining about insurers’ bureaucracy. It’s one reason why they cannot stand the repeated Medicare “doc fixes” that have occurred at least once a year for over a decade: When Congress does not increase the physician fee schedule before the previous fix runs out, they fear that Medicare contractors will slow roll their claims, creating a big cash flow problem.

(That’s one reason why the lobbyists supporting today’s fiscally irresponsible “doc fix” waited until March 19 to let us know it was coming to the House of Representatives. Last year’s fix expired on March 31. Delaying until the last minute means the lobbyists can more easily drive politicians into a panicked herd and head them off a fiscal cliff.)

The cash flows can be observed by patients, who receive physicians’ invoices and insurers’ Explanation of Benefits (EOBs). One reader went to the doctor on July 31, 2014. As shown in the graphic below, the health plan processed the claim on August 25 and mailed it to the beneficiary on August 29.

Access to Health Care Unchanged After Obamacare’s First Year

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released early estimates of health insurance and access to health care for January through September 2014. The National Health Insurance Survey (NHIS) is (in my opinion) the most effective survey of health insurance, because it asks people three different but important questions: Are they uninsured at the time of the survey? Have they been uninsured for at least part of the year? Have they been uninsured for more than a year?

As shown in Figure 2, the proportion of long-term uninsured is about the same as it was circa 2000. The proportion of short-term uninsured has shrink a little in Obamacare’s first year.

F2

Health Insurers Just Fine Under Obamacare

New research from the Commonwealth Fund, a pro-Obamacare think tank, shows that health insurers are doing just fine under Obamacare.

Well, the stock market has been telling us that for years. The report’s purpose is to cheer the rebates that insurers which made too much money paid to consumers. Obamacare regulates the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR). If an insurer does not spend enough premium on medical claims, it has to pay a rebate to its beneficiaries.

Rebates have collapsed from over $1 billion in 2011 to $325 million in 2013. The report concludes that Obamacare caused insurers to reduce their overhead expenses and profits. Actually, there is less to this story than meets the eye. Exhibit 5 shows that there has been very little change in insurers’ income statements over the three years.

T5

(Source: Michael J. McCue & Michael A. Hall, The Federal Medical Loss Ratio Rule: Implications for Consumers in Year 3, New York, NY: Commonwealth Fund, March 2015, page 6.)

Obamacare is Driving Up Medicare Premiums

Obamacare includes a “health insurance providers fee” that is significantly increasing premiums. The fee is a fixed-dollar amount that is divvied up among insurers according to the amount of premium they write.

People who are really getting hit by this fee include Medicare Advantage beneficiaries who are enrolled in through retiree benefits. Because their former employers pay a share of their premium, the insurance fee has a disproportionate impact.

One reader sent me correspondence from his former employer’s HR department explaining why premiums are going up. In 2011, he paid $32.81 per month for both himself and his wife. In 2012 and 2013, the premium was $42.93. In 2014, it jumped up to $121.03, and $138.93 this year.

According the HR department, $40 (per person) of the 2014 increase was due to the fee, and $8-$10 of the 2015 increase:

CAM00132

Well, the total increase in premium for 2014 was $78.10. So, we can conclude that the increase was entirely accounted for by the fee. Indeed, their premium would have gone down a couple of bucks, if not for the fee. The same is true for the 2015 increase.

Premiums almost tripled, for the sole purpose of funding Obamacare. No wonder seniors want this repealed and replaced.

Congressional Budget Resolutions Shoot for the Sky; Miss Low-Hanging Fruit

The House Budget Committee and the Senate Budget Committee have passed budget resolutions that shoot for the sky with respect to health reform. Their proposals recommit the Republican majorities to patient-centered health reform and show a path forward for the next president. However, they do not harvest some low-hanging fruit offered by President Obama. Failure to do so might doom patient-centered health reform to the forever future.

Obamacare is Expensive and Difficult or Impossible to Afford

Obamacare is crushing agents and brokers, according to industry sources:

Amid the national debate over raising the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour, Scott Leavitt of Boise says he and his fellow advisors have been enrolling clients in their state’s health insurance exchange for an hourly wage that works out to about $4.50 – and sometimes even less. (Susan Rupe, InsuranceNewsNet)

And that is just the advisors. The same article also reports results from neutral or pro-Obamacare organizations like HealthPocket, Kaiser Family Foundation, and the Commonwealth Fund to show how much pain Obamacare is causing patients: Deductibles too high, premiums too expensive, and he whole shebang unaffordable.

 

Health Wonk Review

The latest Health Wonk Review (“Spring Forward Edition”) curated by Professor Brad Wright is posted at HealthWorks Collective. There are a lot of items about King vs. Burwell, the case against Obamacare’s subsidies to insurers in states that do not have their own exchanges.

Referring to my article, Professor Bradley writes that “Graham…… anticipates that the Court will find for the plaintiffs…..”, which is not quite the impression I wanted to give. I think that the plaintiffs are correct. However, I make no prediction whatsoever as to the Court’s decision.

Senate Dems: Get Pregnant, Then Get Health Insurance

Women joggingWhile everyone else is wondering whether the Supreme Court will replace Obamacare in 37 states with the actual Affordable Care Act as written, some Democratic U.S. Senators are urging women to dive deeper into Obamacare’s perverse incentives by encouraging them to delay getting health insurance until after they become pregnant.

As reported by Lydia Wheeler in The Hill, Senator Patty Murray has round up 36 signatures on a letter addressed to U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell urging her to pull yet another “special enrollment period” out of her bag of tricks.

In a statement, Christina Postolowski, health policy manager of Young Invincibles, said she’s thrilled to see a growing chorus of leaders calling on the administration to create a special open enrollment period to make maternity coverage available to pregnant women year-round.

According to Postolowski’s December 2014 report “Without Maternity Coverage” maternity care and delivery ranges from $10,000 to $20,000 without complications.

The Kline-Ryan-Upton Republican Off-Ramp from Obamacare

Tomorrow is the day the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in King vs. Burwell, and all the talk is about what Congress will do if the Supreme Court directs the Administration to obey the law by not paying subsidies in the majority of states, which have declined to establish their own Obamacare exchanges and defaulted to the federal one.

The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed (available by subscription) by John Kline, Paul Ryan, and Fred Upton, who chair committees of jurisdiction in the House of Representatives that will be tasked with proposing a Congressional response to this decision. Here’s what they write:

Let people buy insurance across state lines. Stop frivolous lawsuits by enacting medical-liability reform. Let small businesses band together so they get a fair deal from insurance companies.