One of the more interesting television commercials I see is an ad sponsored by Cancer Treatment Centers of America. The message: if you have cancer, we want you.

Welcome to a small glimpse of how the market for health care might be different.

If we had a genuinely free market for health care, ads like this would not be rare and unusual. There would be centers of excellence for heart disease and diabetes and dozens of other afflictions. Through television, radio, the Internet and other means, these centers would be seeking out people with problems and offering to solve them – just like in other markets.

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The Trump administration says it is willing to continue paying subsidies to health insurance companies under the Affordable Care Act even though House Republicans say the payments are illegal because Congress never authorized them. The statement sends a small but potentially significant signal to insurers, encouraging them to stay in the market. The future of the payments has been in doubt because of a lawsuit filed in 2014 by House Republicans, who said the Obama administration was paying the subsidies illegally.

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How many different ways are there to make a Domino’s pizza? The answer might interest you. It might also interest the Food and Drug Administration — at least, it should.

The nation’s franchise restaurants are about one month away from the imposition of new nutritional-labeling rules dreamed up by the Obama administration, another gift of the grievously misnamed Affordable Care Act. For outlets of brands with 20 or more locations, that means posting signs in the shop with calorie counts for every item on the menu and for every variation on that item.
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Anthem Inc. and other U.S. health insurers complained to the White House for more than a year that they were losing money on people who waited to sign up for Obamacare coverage until they were sick.

They pleaded with the Obama administration to stem their losses by tightening up on the enrollment rules. When their pleas went unmet, UnitedHealth Group Inc, Humana Inc, and Aetna Inc pulled out of most of the government subsidized health insurance market.

But now that the new Trump administration and Republican lawmakers control the future of healthcare, the industry is getting a new hearing.

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The Trump administration proposed new rules on Wednesday to stabilize health insurance markets roiled by efforts to repeal the ACA, by big increases in premiums and by the exodus of major insurers. The move came a day after Humana announced that, starting next year, it would completely withdraw from the public marketplaces created under the ACA. The proposed rules, backed by insurance companies, would tighten certain enrollment procedures and cut the health law’s open enrollment period in half, in hopes that a smaller but healthier consumer base will put the marketplaces on sounder financial footing and attract more insurance companies in states with limited choices.

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Molina Healthcare’s stock tumbled after hours Wednesday after the health insurer posted a fourth-quarter loss that was attributed to parts of Obamacare — a big problem for one of the health insurers that has had success in the program.

However, the company didn’t lose money because it had sicker-than-expected enrollees. In fact, medical costs for its Obamacare enrollees were $120 million lower than Molina thought. Instead, Molina got slammed because it had healthier members and had to pay $325 million into an Obamacare program called risk adjustment, which pools money from insurers in a given state and redistributes it to those who had higher-cost enrollees.

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While Republicans continue to grapple with plans to repeal and replace Obamacare and stabilize health insurance rates, Humana is the first major insurer to say it is dropping out of the individual market for 2018.

“Based on our initial analysis of data associated with the company’s health-care exchange membership following the 2017 open enrollment period, we continue to see further signs of an unbalanced risk pool,” said Humana CEO Bruce Broussard, on a conference call with analysts Tuesday. “Therefore, the company has decided that it cannot continue to offer this coverage for 2018.”

In the wake of the news, President Donald Trump tweeted that the insurer’s decision was another example of the failure of the Affordable Care Act, and he reiterated his plan to “repeal, replace & save healthcare for ALL Americans.”

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A major insurer on Wednesday reported a huge drop in the number of Obamacare customers it has.

Humana reported in its latest fourth quarter 2016 earnings Wednesday that total enrollment in the individual market, which includes Obamacare’s exchanges, declined by 69 percent in January 2017 compared to the month before.

The company said on Dec. 31 it had about 450,800 in the individual market, which includes Obamacare’s marketplaces. However, in January 2017 membership dropped by 69 percent to 204,000.

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Everywhere you turn, health markets are nearing collapse. It’s an unfortunate and catastrophic reality of too much federal intervention in our health care. From soaring deductibles and skyrocketing premiums to fleeing insurers, it’s no wonder patients are paying more out of pocket each year under the so-called “Affordable Care Act.”

Today, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health Subcommittee will examine four legislative solutions to help deliver relief. Together, the bills will play an important role in being among the first bricks placed in the rebuilding of our health care system. Collectively, they will give patients relief from the law’s soaring costs, tighten enrollment gaps, and protect taxpayers.

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One of the stated aims of the Affordable Care Act was to increase competition among health insurance companies. That goal has not been realized, and by several different measures the ACA’s exchanges offer less competition and choice in 2017 than ever before. Now in the fourth year of operation, the exchanges continue to be far less competitive than the individual health insurance market was before the ACA’s implementation. Moreover, insurer participation in the law’s government-run exchanges has declined over the past two years and is now at the lowest level yet. This lack of insurer participation leaves exchange customers in 70 percent of U.S. counties with no insurer choice, or a choice between merely two insurers.

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