Tag: "Health Reform"

Crowd-out Effect of CHIP Expansion 44 to 70 Percent

In 2009, Congress reauthorized the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), providing states added resources and options to insure children. About 15 states expanded CHIP eligibility to families with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (an income of $94,000 for a family of four) with a median upper limit for coverage at 250 percent of poverty, the highest since CHIP’s inception in 1997. Federal CHIP funding is up for reauthorization in 2015 and some argue that CHIP is unnecessary because of Obamacare’s subsidies, which kicked in this year.

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Source: “The Impact of Recent CHIP Eligibility Expansions on Children’s Insurance Coverage” from Health Affairs.

Where are the “Open Payments” from Government?

doctor-xray-2Well, now we know how much pharmaceutical companies and medical-device makers pay doctors for consulting and similar services. Paul Keckley aptly summarizes last week’s data dump from the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS):

  • In the last five months of 2013, drug manufacturers made 4.4 million payments totaling $3.5B to 546,000 physicians and 1,360 teaching hospitals to encourage acceptance and use of their drugs/devices: $1.49B for research, $1.02B for ownership interests, $380M for speaking/consulting fees, $302M for royalties/licensing, $93M for meals, $74M for travel, and $128M for “other.”

Healthcare Prices Jumped 50 Percent Year on Year from 12-Month Moving Average

The Altarum Institute is the go-to source for understanding healthcare prices and employment. According to its latest report:

Health care prices in May 2014 were 1.8% higher than in May 2013, well above the 12-month moving average of 1.3%. Hospital prices grew 2.1% while prescription drug prices rose 3.6%.  Physician and clinical services prices, which exhibited near-zero growth in the first quarter of 2014, grew by 0.6%. Health care gained 21,000 jobs in June 2014. Over the first half of 2014, the health sector grew by over 20,000 jobs per month, about 20 percent higher than in the first half of 2013.

Prices of prescription drugs jumped higher than prices of other healthcare goods and services. Further, healthcare prices continue to grow significantly faster than the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Exhibit 7 illustrates how ineffective Obamacare is at restraining costs: Per capita healthcare utilization increased at about 5.5 percent (year on year) in the first half of 2002, well before the December 2007 onset of recession, and dropped until the end of 2010. The growth of consumer-driven health care, including Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) remains the most plausible explanation for this effect.

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How Much Did ObamaCare Increase Your Premiums? A New County-By-County Calculator

The Manhattan Institute has published an interactive map that shows ObamaCare’s effect on premiums for individual health insurance in almost every U.S. county. On average, premiums have increased by 49 percent. However, there is huge variance:

Among men, the county with the greatest increase in insurance prices from 2013 to 2014 was Buchanan County, Missouri, about 45 miles north of Kansas City: 271 percent. Among women, the “winner” was Goodhue County, Minnesota, about an hour southwest of Minneapolis: 200 percent. Overall, the counties of Nevada, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Arkansas haven experienced the largest rate hikes under the law. (Avik Roy, Forbes)

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Reflections on Risk Adjustment, Reinsurance, and Risk Corridors in ObamaCare

fgdfgOn Wednesday, June 18, 2014, I had the pleasure of testifying at the House of Representatives’ Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation, and Regulatory Affairs. The subcommittee held a hearing it called “Poised to Profit: How ObamaCare Helps Insurance Companies Even If It Fails Patients.”

Much of my testimony was drawn from content in this blog. What struck me was the minority’s emphasis that these provisions, which protect insurers from losing money in ObamaCare, are designed to motivate insurers to offer coverage to sick people.

It is a well-worn talking point of ObamaCare’s supporters that insurers can no longer charge higher premiums or deny coverage to applicants who are expected to have higher health costs, or exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. Obviously, no insurer will seek to cover these people just because the government wants it to. The market has to be structured to achieve that objective.

Study: Half a Million More Uninsured by 2019, Four Million More by 2025

A new study by Professor Steve Parente and Professor Michael Ramlet estimates that the number of uninsured will increase under ObamaCare, from 36.5 million in 2015 to 40.5 million in 2025. It further estimates that the average cost of an ObamaCare Silver plan will increase by over $4,000 in five years.

Nationally, we estimate an initial decrease in the uninsured with greater use of the private health insurance subsidies, but over time health plan prices are likely to increase faster than the value of the insurance subsidy. As a result of the declining purchasing power of the insurance subsidy, the implementation of the qualified health plan requirements and the end of the reinsurance and risk corridor programs we estimate a significant reduction in the private insurance market in 2017 with steady declines continuing for the rest of the decade. The Medicaid population is estimated to grow substantially in 2015 as more individuals are enrolled in states who have chosen to expand the program. Medicaid enrollment is estimated to slow down to between 2% to 3% each year from 2016 to 2024.

I guess they had not heard the President’s declaration that the debate over ObamaCare is over.

Health Insurers Continue To Grow Under ObamaCare

Although health insurers’ profit margins shrank a little in 2013, enrollment amongst the largest for-profit insurers jumped by eight million over 2012, according to a new analysis by Mark Farrah Associates. The report concludes that “leaders in the health insurance sector have good reason to remain optimistic”.

Although all major insurers succeeded in enrolling members in the new ObamaCare health insurance exchanges, this is still a small fraction of their business.

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How Many Signed Up for ObamaCare? Time to Bury That Story

health-insuranceThe most transparent administration in history has decided to discontinue the monthly Affordable Care Act enrollment reports now that open enrollment is closed.

But while the official open enrollment period is closed, that doesn’t mean that activity on the health insurance exchanges has shut down. People who have experienced a “qualifying life event” — getting a job, having a baby or moving to another state, among others — are still eligible to enroll in an exchange policy.

Meanwhile, other people will be exiting the system — they will get a job that has benefits, marry someone with benefits, or just stop making their payments and go without insurance.

And, of course, voters need to know these numbers in order to evaluate the signature legislative achievement of this administration and the many members of Congress who will be standing for re-election come November.

(Megan McArdle, Bloomberg View)

Tax Credits Cure Food Sales Tax Complexity. Why Not Use Them in ObamaCare Reform?

California’s tax treatment of food and ObamaCare’s tax treatment of health insurance have something in common. Both sets of regulation are so bad that people buying the same product can be taxed or subsidized differently in ways that are almost impossible to decipher.

As Joe Eskenazi of SF Weekly explains, California taxes the same bunch of carrots differently depending on whether the “buyer is a homeless shelter (no), a racetrack (yes), an ostrich farm (no), or a zoo (maybe).”

Sold in combination, a cup of coffee and a cup of gazpacho are a taxable meal. Sold separately, they are not. Cream-filled donuts are not taxable, but a croissant sandwich is. A cold sandwich with hot gravy poured on it is taxable even if it is cooled to room temperature. So is a previously hot, but currently cold, soup.

At first, the state held that movie popcorn was heated food. The movie theaters disagreed. They claimed that the lights over the popcorn were dehumidifier lamps, not heating lamps. They hired popcorn experts to measure the internal heat of the popcorn piles. Multiple hearings and many dollars later, the California Board of Equalization ruled that the heat in the popcorn was indeed a by-product of those dehumidifier lamps. Movie popcorn became a tax exempt food.

For Opponents, ObamaCare’s “Bailout” of Insurers is a Richer Target than Ever

UntitledghgThe Administration continues to move the goalposts on its so-called “bailout” of insurers which lose money in ObamaCare’s exchanges. Formally, this is labelled “risk corridors”, and describes a process by which the Administration will take money from insurers which profit more than expected in the exchanges, and transfer it to those insurers which lose more money than expected.

Unfortunately, taxpayers are at risk because the revenue coming into the risk corridors is determined by premiums, whereas the payouts are determined by medical claims. If, overall, the insurers charged premium that are too low, the risk corridors will suffer deficits. This blog has covered the risk corridors thoroughly, and we expect that there will be a significant deficit. Our latest entry on the topic questioned the Administration’s assertion that the risk corridors would be budget neutral.