ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

Last week I reported on a fascinating new Wharton School study of non-poor uninsured people [1]. Another revealing finding from that same study highlights a dilemma facing any would-be health reformer: even before Obamacare, less than one quarter of health costs for uninsured persons were paid for out of pocket, regardless of family income . Think about that. Third parties already covered more than three quarters of health spending for the average uninsured family–even those with incomes above 400% of poverty. In the jargon of Obamacare, uninsured people essentially already had coverage equivalent to an actuarial value (AV) of 75%! In contrast, a Bronze plan under Obamacare has an AV of 60%, while Silver plans have an AV of only 70%.

During the health reform debate in 2009 and 2010 that preceded the adoption of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), one of the prominent arguments used by advocates for national control of the health insurance market was that the existence of private market in health insurance led to “waste” in the form of advertising and marketing – costs of private health insurance that, it was claimed, raised premiums without benefiting consumers.

Mississippi will be ground zero for ObamaCare’s individual mandate to buy coverage or pay a tax penalty. The state already is near the bottom when it comes to the percentage of the subsidy-eligible individuals who are enrolled via HealthCare.gov — just 38%. Now Mississippi’s subsidized premiums are about to jump far more than any of the 36 other states using HealthCare.gov.

It isn’t just Obamacare premiums that are set to spike next year. The rates on commercial health plans that are sold off the Obamacare exchanges will also rise, by double digits in most states. Inflation in the health plan sector continues to grow. The latest data comes from a regular survey of commercial insurance brokers, conducted by the investment bank Morgan Stanley. The survey tracks how much the annual increases built into the price of insurance are rising or falling.

Consumers shopping for health insurance on healthcare.gov will see premiums increase by an average of 7.5 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday. Open enrollment begins on Sunday, Nov. 1.

Many health plans sold through the Affordable Care Act in 2015 are so limited they don’t offer patients access to some medical specialists such as endocrinologists, rheumatologists and psychiatrists, a new study suggests. That may be forcing some patients to pay thousands of dollars out of their own pockets for any care provided by these specialists.

The table below presents an update to our previous analysis of 2016 changes in premiums for the second-lowest cost (“benchmark”) silver marketplace plans in major cities in the 49 states and the District of Columbia, where we were able to find complete data on rates. Among these major cities, the percent change from last year in the benchmark premium ranges from -10.6% in Seattle, Washington to 38.4% in Nashville, TN. The simple average of these rate changes is 10.1% before accounting for the premium tax credit.

The next Open Enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace begins on November 1, 2015 for coverage starting on January 1, 2016. According to an HHS analysis, about 8 out of 10 returning consumers will be able to buy a plan with premiums less than $100 dollars a month after tax credits; and about 7 out of 10 will have a plan available for less than $75 a month. Highlights of the 2016 Marketplace Affordability Snapshot include:

About 70% of those who return to the federal insurance exchange when open enrollment starts Nov. 1 will pay less than $75 a month after they receive tax credits, a government analysis released Monday shows. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also reported that for this third open enrollment about 80% of consumers shopping again on Healthcare.gov will be able to pay less than $100 a month after tax credits.

The Affordable Care Act includes trillions of dollars in new spending on healthcare subsidies and programs. This new spending is financed by new taxes, tax increases, and reductions to Medicare’s budget. The creators of the ACA (ObamaCare) understood that the law’s benefits (subsidies, expansions of existing programs, and new programs) would be more popular with the public than its tax increases, so many of the tax increases did not take immediate effect. The implementation of the more than 20 tax increases in the law was spread out over several years. The latest of the taxes is scheduled to come into effect in 2018. – See more at: http://iwf.org/publications/2798527/Policy-Focus:-Tax-Burden-of-the-Affordable-Care-Act#sthash.JhlJkjzM.dpuf