ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

“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.”

“On both ends of the Capitol, the parties controlling Congress are happily showcasing futility.
Less than two months before pivotal congressional elections, Republicans muscled legislation through the House Thursday letting insurers continue selling health coverage that falls short of standards required by President Barack Obama’s health care law. The measure passed on a 247-167 vote but is sure to die in the Democratic-run Senate, and the White House promised a veto in any event.
Even so, the vote let Republicans highlight their repeated efforts to debilitate the health care law. With 25 Democrats voting “no,” it gave Republicans a chance to accuse them of opposing the idea of letting people keep insurance they already have — an Obama promise that proved untrue for some consumers.
On a showdown vote that surprised no one, the Senate derailed a constitutional amendment by Democrats that would have allowed lawmakers to limit money-raising and spending by corporations and other big donors in election campaigns.”

“Arkansas’ “Private Option” ObamaCare Medicaid expansion has been rough. Costs have run over budget every single month. The Medicaid director who spearheaded the program abruptly resigned to “pursue other opportunities.” The program’s chief legislative architect, a three-term Republican state representative, lost his primary for an open Senate seat to a political newcomer. And the Private Option is already prioritizing coverage for able-bodied adults over care for truly needy patients like Chloe Jones. News is so bad that Governor Beebe’s office is secretly trying to silence negative press about this failed ObamaCare experiment.
Understandably, the Governor is pretty desperate for some good news. Unable to find any, it seems he decided instead to make it up. Beebe’s office sent out a self-congratulatory press release about next year’s Private Option premiums, hoping to salvage the program’s deteriorating image. But a careful review of the facts makes one thing clear: any promise of Arkansas’ ObamaCare expansion costing taxpayers less money next year is just as empty as the empty promises Beebe and other ObamaCare cheerleaders made to get the program passed in the first place.”

“The key findings from the survey, conducted from January through May 2014, include a modest increase in the average premiums for family coverage (3%). Single coverage premiums are 2% higher than in 2013, but the difference is not statistically significant. Covered workers generally face similar premium contributions and cost-sharing requirements in 2014 as they did in 2013. The percentage of firms (55%) which offer health benefits to at least some of their employees and the percentage of workers covered at those firms (62%) are statistically unchanged from 2013. The percentage of covered workers enrolled in grandfathered health plans – those plans exempt from many provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – declined to 26% of covered workers from 36% in 2013. Perhaps in response to new provisions of the ACA, the average length of the waiting period decreased for those with a waiting period and the percentage with an out-of-pocket limit increased. Although employers continue to offer coverage to spouses, dependents and domestic partners, some employers are instituting incentives to influence workers’ enrollment decisions, including nine percent of employers who attach restrictions for spouses’ eligibility if they are offered coverage at another source, or nine percent of firms who provide additional compensation if employees do not enroll in health benefits.”