ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

“Last week, we finally learned the prices for the new benchmark plans for Obamacare. The good news: Prices are falling slightly. The bad news: Contrary to optimistic early reports, that doesn’t mean that everyone’s costs are falling; consumers will have to be attentive to make sure that their costs don’t go up. The worse news: We won’t actually know what effect the Affordable Care Act is having on insurance prices until 2017, when a bunch of temporary subsidies for insurers expire.
The important thing to keep in mind is that when the “benchmark rate” goes down, that doesn’t mean that the cost of the old benchmark plan has fallen. It just means that whatever plan is now the second-cheapest “silver” plan on the exchanges is cheaper than whatever was the second-cheapest plan last year.”

“There’s been a fierce debate over whether Obamacare has increased health insurance premiums. Progressives have argued Obamacare is working due to modest projected premium increases on the Exchanges for 2015. Conservatives have retorted that “there can be no doubt that health care today is more costly than it would have been without Obamacare.”
But this argument has focused on the health Exchanges, where only 7-8 million people bought their coverage in 2014. Readers would do well to remember that more than 20 times that number of people rely on employer-provided health benefits (Table C-1).
In the employer-based market, the adverse effects of Obamacare on premiums and affordability are strikingly obvious. The growing burden of employer-provided health care has accelerated under Obamacare. And yet the New York Times would have you believe everything is hunky-dory since “the growth in health insurance premiums was only 3 percent between 2013 and 2014. That’s tied for the lowest rate of increase since Kaiser started measuring (this is the 16th year of the survey).” This view is dead wrong: here’s why.”

“Some of Obamacare’s big supporters say the new law has already contributed to decreases in the rate of growth of health spending.
But a new report from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary says the rate slowed because of a slow economic recovery, increased cost-sharing for those enrolled in private plans and sequestration.
Indeed, the report does not even mention Obamacare when assessing the situation. “The recent period is marked by a four-year historically low rate of health spending growth, which is primarily attributable to the sluggish economic recovery and constrained state and local government budgets following the 2007-09 recession,” the report states.”

“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most private health insurance plans to provide coverage for a broad range of preventive services including Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved prescription contraceptives and services for women. Since the implementation of this provision in 2012, some nonprofit and for profit employers with religious objections to contraceptives have brought legal challenges to this rule. For many women today, their contraceptive coverage depends on their employer or when they purchased their individual insurance plan.”

“Doctors and hospitals treated more patients and collected more payments in the spring as millions gained insurance coverage under the health law, new figures from the government show.
But analysts called the second-quarter increases modest and said there is little evidence to suggest that wider coverage and a recovering economy are pushing health spending growth to the painful levels of a decade ago.”

“A flaw in the federal calculator for certifying that insurance meets the health law’s toughest standard is leading dozens of large employers to offer plans that lack basic benefits such as hospitalization coverage, according to brokers and consultants.
The calculator appears to allow companies enrolling workers for 2015 to offer inexpensive, substandard medical insurance while avoiding the Affordable Care Act’s penalties, consumer advocates say.
Insurance pros are also surprised such plans are permitted.
Employer insurance without hospital coverage “flies in the face of Obamacare,” said Liz Smith, president of employee benefits for Assurance, an Illinois-based insurance brokerage.”

“Employers have complained for years about their rising health-care costs. But over the past decade, as the chart above shows, premium increases for employer health insurance have moderated sharply and stabilized. Premiums for family policies in the group market grew 72% between 1999 and 2004; 34% between 2004 and 2009; and 26% between 2009 and 2014. Even as premium growth moderated, health insurance costs still outpaced inflation and wage growth. But this year premiums grew 3%, about the same rate as wages and inflation. Despite fears that premiums would rise in the group market because of the Affordable Care Act, they have remained stable.
Policy experts do not fully understand why health-care costs have moderated or when and how rapidly they might begin to again rise more quickly. And coverage is still very expensive: The average family policy costs $16,834 a year, with employers paying, on average, 71% of the expense and employees 29%.
Corporate benefits managers will continue to do what they can to tamp down annual premium increases, and companies will continue to raise deductibles and other forms of cost sharing to help constrain premium increases. But as long as these more modest increases in their health insurance premiums continue, corporate CEOs will see their health costs more like a chronic illness to be managed than an acute problem or crisis, and they will no doubt focus their energies on other problems.”

“A report out today puts numbers behind what hit many workers when they signed up for health insurance during open enrollment last year: deductible shock.
Premiums for employer-paid insurance are up 3% this year, but deductibles are up nearly 50% since 2009, the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows.
The average deductible this year is $1,217, up from $826 five years ago. Nearly 20% of workers overall have to pay at least $2,000 before their insurance kicks in, while workers at firms with 199 or fewer employees are feeling the pain of out-of-pocket costs even more: A third of these employees at small companies pay at least $2,000 deductibles.”

“Some of Obamacare’s big supporters say the new law has already contributed to decreases in the rate of growth of health spending.
But a new report from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary says the rate slowed because of a slow economic recovery, increased cost-sharing for those enrolled in private plans and sequestration.
Indeed, the report does not mention Obamacare when assessing the situation. “The recent period is marked by a four-year historically low rate of health spending growth, which is primarily attributable to the sluggish economic recovery and constrained state and local government budgets following the 2007-09 recession,” the report states.”

“TOPEKA — The three private insurance companies that administer the Kansas Medicaid program under KanCare lost $72.6 million in the first half of 2014, after losing $110 million in 2013.
Rep. Jim Ward, a member of a KanCare oversight committee who requested the fiscal information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, questioned Tuesday how long the three companies can sustain such losses.
“These companies can’t keep subsidizing Medicaid to the tune of $100 or $150 million per year, and that’s what’s happening,” said Ward, D-Wichita.
KanCare is the initiative launched by Gov. Sam Brownback on Jan. 1, 2013. It moved virtually all the state’s Medicaid enrollees into health plans run by Amerigroup, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan and Sunflower Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene.
The three managed care organizations, in information to be filed with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, reported a total of about $96 million in underwriting losses in the first half of this year. The claims they paid outstripped the $394 million to $483 million each received from the state based on how many Medicaid clients they have.”