The conceit that the five major commercial health insurers will consolidate to three seems to be dissolving, as four of those insurers called off a pair of mega-mergers on Tuesday. After 18 months of courtship among the Big Five starting in 2015, the outgoing Obama Justice Department’s antitrust division sued to block the $34 billion Aetna- Humana tie-up as well as Anthem’s $48 billion acquisition of Cigna. Federal judges blocked both transactions earlier this year. Anthem had planned to appeal but on Tuesday Cigna pulled the plug after Aetna and Humana did the same.
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In his first post, Conover argued that drawing inferences from observational studies about whether covering the uninsured will save lives is a fool’s errand . Quasi-experimental studies hypothetically provide a better tool for figuring out whether insurance coverage reduces mortality risks. Unfortunately, the two studies we have available are very unreliable instruments for figuring this out.
That said, based on the two studies reviewed, Conover cannot rule out the possibility of “excess deaths” in the event some people lost coverage as a result of repeal-and-replace efforts. Ironically, because the lion’s share of coverage gains under Obamacare has been through Medicaid, the New York study arguably is the most appropriate one to use to determine the effects of repeal. However, it is less credible than the Massachusetts study in terms of how much confidence anyone should have in its results.
In short, beware of anyone who claims we will lose 1 life for every 435 newly uninsured. 1 life for every 830 people is more believable, but even that is exaggerated and is far more likely to apply to those gaining private coverage than those enrolling in Medicaid. Unfortunately, the current state of science does not provide a very solid basis for guessing how much this estimate is inflated.
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Obamacare proponents have been increasingly shameless in trotting out scare statistics to convince people that the GOP wants to “make America sick again:”
Two Harvard professors–who, not uncoincidently, are diehard single payer advocates–are lamenting that “repealing the Affordable Care Act will kill more than 43,000 people annually”
False claims about the adverse effects of repealing Obamacare on mortality that are grounded in observational studies result from:
- Grossly exaggerating the number of people who would actually lose coverage. This exaggeration of lost coverage occurs even in the worst-case scenario that Obamacare is not replaced.
- “Excess” mortality estimates related to lack of coverage that are both upward-biased and unreliable by nature due to the inability of researchers to account for unmeasured influences.
- Inappropriate extrapolation of results to populations (e.g., Medicaid) not included in the original study.
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The Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges have become too risky for major health insurers, and that’s creating further doubt about coverage options consumers might have next year.
Anthem CEO Joseph Swedish said Wednesday his company is waiting to see whether the government makes some short-term fixes to the shaky exchanges before it decides how much it will participate next year. The Blue Cross-Blue Shield carrier is the nation’s second largest insurer and sells coverage on exchanges in 14 states.
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Uninsured rates in low-income families have fallen under the Affordable Care Act, yet more than a third of Americans continued to face difficulties paying their medical bills in 2016, a survey found.
Adults in poor families were among the greatest beneficiaries of the ACA, with uninsured rates falling as much as 17 percentage points since it became law in 2010, according to a study from the Commonwealth Fund.
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Many Obamacare supporters claim the law has expanded health coverage to upwards of 20 million Americans, but new data shows that isn’t accurate.
As part of Congress’ continued push to repeal Obamacare, the House Budget Committee held a hearing this week titled “The Failures of Obamacare: Harmful Effects and Broken Promises.”
Heritage Foundation expert Ed Haislmaier was one of four expert witnesses who testified.
Haislmaier presented new data regarding gains in health coverage since the full implementation of Obamacare began in 2014.
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While the final figures will be somewhat different once the more complete end of year data is available, at this point it is reasonable to expect that for the three-year period of 2014 through 2016, the net increase in health insurance enrollment was 16.5 million individuals. Of that figure, 13.8 million were added to Medicaid and 2.7 million were the net increase in private-sector coverage enrollment.
In general, enrollment data indicate that the implementation of the ACA appears to have had three effects on health insurance coverage: (1) a substantial increase in individual-market enrollment; (2) an offsetting decline in fully insured employer-group plan enrollment; and (3) a significant increase in Medicaid enrollment in states that adopted the ACA Medicaid expansion.
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About 27 percent of people under 65 are thought to have some sort of pre-existing condition that will most likely leave them without individual insurance if the law is repealed, according to a recent study. The guarantee of coverage has already become a rallying cry for people who want to keep the law.
The issue “is the third rail” for the Republicans, said Michael Turpin, a longtime health industry executive.
Before the law, a fairly typical life event — like a divorce or the loss of a job — and a relatively minor medical condition could upend a person’s health coverage options. Stories of sick people unable to get coverage when they needed it most were legion.
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“What about the 20 million people who got coverage?”
Republicans are naturally concerned. Liberals have weaponized this number to stop repeal of the ACA. But should 20 million people keep a bad law on the books? To answer this question, Congress must ask two different questions.
First, is the number real? In March 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimated that 20 million uninsured adults gained coverage under the ACA: 17.7 million non-elderly adults (ages 18 to 64) since October 2013, and 2.3 million young adults (ages 19-25) between 2010 and 2013.
The estimates are based on data from the National Health Interview Survey and the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The estimates are “adjusted to account for changes in general economic conditions (via employment status), geographic location, demographics and other secular trends.” Thus, the 20 million is an estimate, not a rock-solid fact.
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While the average estimate shows nearly 21 million people have benefitted from Obamacare, it’s important to note that some people currently enrolled in Medicaid could have enrolled in Exchange coverage with nearly full subsidization had their state not expanded Medicaid, and would likely be eligible for whatever new subsidy structure might replace the current system. Regarding those in the Individual Market, not all of these individuals are receiving subsidies and would therefore not be financially impacted by the repeal. Making reasonable assumptions and accounting for those who lost insurance because of the ACA, and setting aside any assistance that would be provided by ACA replacement policies, the number of people who, on net, are potentially at risk of being negatively impacted is likely closer to 13-14 million.
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