ObamaCare’s impact on health costs.

“A few weeks ago the Obama Administration reported that enrollment in the new insurance marketplaces topped four million through the end of February, then five million by mid- March, showing steady progress since the website woes of October. News organizations jumped on the numbers. Would they get to six million enrollees this year, a target many use for the law? If they do, do they have enough young adults to balance the risk pool? If they don’t, won’t premiums skyrocket? The scorecards were out.”

“The Obama administration’s decision to let some consumers enroll in health plans beyond Monday’s deadline sparked concern among insurers and prompted fresh attacks from opponents of the health law.

A surge of consumers is expected to hit HealthCare.gov before Monday’s deadline to sign up for insurance and avoid a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. In the past, heavy traffic has stalled the federal site.”

“U.S. consumers eligible for Obamacare health plans could see double-digit price hikes next year in states that fail to draw large numbers of enrollees for 2014, including some states that have been hostile to the healthcare law, according to insurance industry officials and analysts.”

“The Obama administration announced they hit their revised goal of 6 million enrollees on the Affordable Care Act exchanges this week, several days before enrollment closes tomorrow. Politically, hitting this benchmark is an important symbol for the administration, as it has struggled to recover from the disastrous rollout of the insurance exchange websites this fall. But policy-wise, it doesn’t mean nearly as much. And it may take until 2016 to really see if the law is successful at consistently getting lots of Americans affordable health insurance.”

“Obamacare is still struggling to sign up young people. In order to offset the high cost of the older, and probably less healthy people who are joining Obamacare plans, the White House must coerce a sufficient number of thirty-somethings to also join. Problem is, the health plans are too pricey to make economic sense for many young adults.”

“Many supporters of ObamaCare insisted that the health insurance exchanges created by the law would result in consumers having a greater choice among insurance policies and lower prices.

This study tests those claims by examining policies on the exchanges in metropolitan areas across 45 states for a single 27-year-old and a 57-year-old couple. It then compares those with the policies available in those same areas on eHealthInsurance.com (eHealth) and Finder.healthcare.gov (Finder) in 2013.”

“An estimated 30 million Americans are expected to gain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and a healthy and sizable workforce will be needed to meet the increased demand. The health care workforce is already facing a critical shortfall of health professionals over the next decade. The ACA breaks the promises of access and quality of care for all Americans by escalating the shortage and increasing the burden and stress on the already fragile system. The ACA’s attempts to address the shortage are unproven and limited in scope, and the significant financial investment will not produce results for years due to the training pipeline. With the ACA’s estimated 190 million hours of paperwork annually imposed on businesses and the health care industry, combined with shortages of workers, patients will be facing increasing wait times, limited access to providers, shortened time with caregivers, and decreased satisfaction. The health care workforce is facing increased stress and instability, and a major redesign of the workforce is needed to extend care to millions of Americans.”

“Earlier today, Marilyn Tavenner of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that “more than 6 million Americans have signed up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplaces since October 1, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.” Given all of the technical problems that dogged healthcare.gov last October, this is an impressive turnaround. But it sheds little light onto the two questions most analysts are focused on. First, how many of those signing up have paid their first month’s premium, thereby activating coverage? And second: How many of those with coverage were previously uninsured? At this point, we have no definitive answers.”

[T]he MLR caps will also limit innovation. Right now, expenses that are on a pre-approved, government list of “activities that improve health care quality” are not included in the cost of administration and so don’t count against the 20 percent cap on what plans get to spend on overhead. If a health plan comes up with a new business approach that it believes improves quality and outcomes, it will be forced to count the costs against its allowable profits. It can’t incorporate the cost into the total money it spends on healthcare if the new scheme isn’t on the government list.”

“In recent weeks, I’ve talked to a handful of large healthcare firms and medical practices that offer specialty medical services. I asked them what kinds of prices they’re soliciting from the new health plans now taking shape under Obamacare. These providers said that they’re demanding, and in some cases securing, pretty rich reimbursement rates from the new, Obamacare health plans.”