The CMS unveiled an interim final rule late Friday that could help the Affordable Care Act’s struggling co-op plans. The rule also responds to insurers’ complaints that people are abusing special enrollments in the exchanges.

The CMS tightened the use of special enrollments, specifically making the rules around moving to a new home more restrictive to avoid any gaming of the system. Co-ops also can seek outside funding from investors to build up their capital, something that was outlawed previously.

Humana became the latest health insurer to serve notice that it might leave some Affordable Care Act exchanges next year, creating more uncertainty for customers ahead of this fall’s enrollment window and presidential campaign, during which the law is sure to remain a hot debate topic.

The insurer, which is being acquired by rival Aetna, said Wednesday that it expects to make a number of changes to its business for 2017, and that may include leaving some markets both on and off the exchanges or changing prices. Humana Inc. sold coverage in 15 states this year.

. . .

UnitedHealthcare’s decision to not offer Affordable Care Act exchange plans next year in “at least 26 of the 34 states where it sold 2016 coverage” may soon be followed by similar announcements from other health care insurers.

At least that is one implication that can be drawn from the findings reported in a new paper analyzing the performance of insurers that offered exchange coverage in 2014.

The paper’s authors—Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ed Haislmaier, Mercatus Center senior research fellow Brian Blase, and Galen Institute senior fellow Doug Badger—examined enrollment and financial data for the 289 Qualified Health Plans sold on the exchanges in 2014.

They found that, in the aggregate, insurers incurred substantial losses offering exchange coverage. Furthermore, the poor results were despite insurers receiving substantial subsidies—indeed, more than they originally expected—through the Affordable Care Act’s “reinsurance” program.

. . .

When UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurer, announced earlier this month that it would exit the Affordable Care Act exchange business in all but three states, the obvious question was, who’s next? After all, if the nation’s biggest health carrier can’t make the Obamacare exchanges profitable, who can? UnitedHealth announced it expects to lose $650 million on its ACA business in 2016, although its first-quarter earnings beat analyst expectations, thanks to the company’s highly profitable consulting and technology businesses.

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UnitedHealthcare’s decision to quit insurance exchanges in about 30 states next year has patient advocates concerned that fewer options could force consumers to pay more for coverage and have a smaller choice of network providers.

The company’s departure could be felt most acutely in several counties in Florida, Oklahoma, Kansas, North Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee that could be left with only one insurer, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

To sell policies next year on the health law’s exchanges, also called marketplaces, insurers must apply within the next few weeks and get state approval this summer.

. . .

California legislators are attempting to clear the way for undocumented immigrants to buy health insurance through the state’s insurance exchange — potentially setting a national precedent.

The fusion of illegal immigration and the Affordable Care Act, two of the most highly charged elements on the periodic table of U.S. politics, could engender a combustible reaction, especially in an election year.

Immigrants living in the country illegally are excluded from the insurance-expanding provisions of ObamaCare. They are not eligible for Medicaid (called Medi-Cal in California), and they are not allowed to purchase a health plan from the federal marketplace or any of the state exchanges.

. . .

UnitedHealth Group Inc. will pull out of Kentucky’s individual marketplace for ObamaCare plans, bringing to 26 the number of states the health insurer is quitting next year.

The company plans to halt sales of individual plans in Kentucky for 2017, both inside and outside the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange, as well as the small-business exchange, UnitedHealth said in a letter to the state’s insurance department. The letter was obtained by Bloomberg through an open records request.

UnitedHealth’s exits from the state ObamaCare markets threatens to limit the number of options for consumers when they shop for coverage for next year.

. . .

A potential shakeup in Arizona’s Affordable Care Act marketplaces is resurrecting President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law as a political issue in this year’s U.S. Senate race.

The developments mean customers will have fewer subsidized plans to pick from next year, and in some rural counties, they could have no options at all. UnitedHealthcare, the national insurance giant, on Tuesday signaled that it intends to abandon Arizona’s Affordable Care Act marketplace in 2017. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, the only other insurer to offer plans in all of Arizona’s 15 counties, also is considering pulling out of some areas.

Arizona voters could face a stark choice on the issue in November.

. . .

UnitedHealth is withdrawing from most of the 34 ObamaCare Exchanges in which it currently sells, citing losses of $650 million in 2016. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report indicates UnitedHealth’s departure will leave consumers on Oklahoma’s Exchange with only one choice of insurance carriers.

Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute explains five results of UnitedHealth’s withdrawal from the exchanges:

1. UnitedHealth’s departure shows ObamaCare is suffering from self-induced adverse selection.

2. UnitedHealth’s departure is bad news for other carriers.

3. UnitedHealth’s departure shows ObamaCare premiums will continue to rise.

4. There will be more exits.

5. UnitedHealth’s departure shows quality of coverage under ObamaCare will continue to fall.

. . .

 

Health jobs grew more than two thirds faster than non-health jobs in March, they comprised 37,000 (17 percent) of nonfarm civilian jobs added (215,000).

There is significant increase in health services jobs under Obamacare. It is unlikely we will bend the curve of health spending as long as we keep adding relatively unproductive health services jobs.