Aetna became the latest health insurer to cast doubt upon its future in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges after it called off a planned expansion Tuesday and suggested it could abandon that market completely.
A departure by Aetna, the nations’ third-largest insurer, could further reduce the number of choices for customers and eventually push insurance prices higher. Competition by insurers is a key feature of the exchanges, designed to keep a lid on prices, but several insurers are abandoning them because they are losing enormous amounts of money.
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A company that offers health insurance plans in New Hampshire under the Affordable Care Act is suing the federal government over a part of the health care law.
The lawsuit from Minuteman Health aims to block the current form of the federal Risk Adjustment program, which aims to stabilize the health care market by spreading the costs that come from covering sicker people among insurers with healthier clients.
CEO Tom Policelli says what’s actually happened is that health care co-ops like Minuteman pay millions to their larger competitors that offer more expensive plans.
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Health insurers have been taking a financial beating for the ages on ObamaCare, but Aetna was always more bullish than the rest of the industry—until now. The entitlement’s keenest corporate patron announced Tuesday that it is cancelling its ObamaCare expansion plans for 2017 and may withdraw altogether.
Aetna posted fabulous second-quarter earnings, though the exception is its Affordable Care Act line of business that the company expects will lose more than $300 million this year. Aetna runs ObamaCare plans in 15 states and planned to join another five exchanges.
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Aetna Inc., facing more than $300 million in losses from Affordable Care Act health plans this year, may exit Obamacare markets in some states as challenges to the health-care overhaul pile up.
While the health insurer has yet to leave any states in which it now sells Obamacare programs, Chief Executive Officer Mark Bertolini said Aetna is evaluating its participation by market and will start making decisions in coming weeks. The company, which covers 838,000 people through Obamacare, is halting a planned expansion of those offerings in new states for next year.
“We’ve got to be able to cover the costs associated with providing the care,” Bertolini said in an interview.
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Two more health cooperatives have filed lawsuits against the Obama administration over a program in which insurers compensate each other for taking on sicker customers under the Affordable Care Act, following a similar lawsuit in June from another startup company.
New Mexico Health Connections and Minuteman Health of Massachusetts filed their cases on Friday afternoon, arguing the Obama administration mismanaged the program known as “risk adjustment” by creating an inaccurate formula that overly rewarded big insurers.
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Aetna Inc, the nation’s third largest health insurer, said on Tuesday that it no longer plans to expand its Obamacare business next year. The insurer, which is losing money on the plans it sells in 15 states to individuals on exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act, said it also was looking at whether it should continue to offer the contracts. Aetna said its exchange-based plans for individuals had a pretax operating loss of $200 million in the second quarter, and it projected the loss from that business would exceed $300 million by year-end. It had initially expected to break even on the plans.
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Former adviser to the president for health policy explains why he was wrong about how the change in the delivery of health care would, and should, happen: “I believed then that the consolidation of doctors into larger physician groups was inevitable and desirable under the ACA. . . . I still believe that organizing medicine into networks that can share information, coordinate care for patients and manage risk is critical for delivering higher-quality care, generating cost savings and improving the experience for patients. What I know now, though, is that having every provider in health care “owned” by a single organization is more likely to be a barrier to better care.”
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The Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent Employer Health Benefits Survey found that among firms with 50 or more full-time-equivalent workers (i.e., the one’s subject to Obamacare’s employer mandate):
“four percent of these firms reported changing some job classifications from full-time to part-time so employees in those jobs would not be eligible for health benefits”
“four percent of these firms reported that they reduced the number of employees they intended to hire because of the cost of providing health benefits” . , and 10% of firms reported doing just the opposite and converting part-time jobs to full-time jobs”
This is unequivocal empirical evidence that Obamacare has had some of the adverse effects on employment predicted for years by Obamacare critics: a shift towards part-time work and even a reduction in hiring. But according to the same survey, the latter impact was offset due to the 10% of employers who converted part-time jobs to full-time jobs in order to make them eligible for health benefits.
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Small businesses have been pumping the brakes on offering health benefits to their employees since 2009, according to new data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
“The fact is that small employers were less likely to offer these benefits to begin with,” Paul Fronstin, EBRI’s director of health research and education program and author of the report, told Bloomberg BNA July 28. “While the ACA was designed to try to get more small employers to” offer health insurance, “it hasn’t.”
The proportion of employers offering health benefits fell between 2008 and 2015 for all three categories of small employer, EBRI found: by 36 percent for those with fewer than 10 employees, by 26 percent for those with 10 to 24 workers and by 10 percent for those with 25 to 99 workers.
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Anthem fought back against an Obama administration antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday by conditioning its expansion in the struggling Obamacare market to approval of its acquisition of Cigna. The company plans to add nine states to its Obamacare participation if the deal goes through, company officials said on a call with investors. Last week, the Department of Justice sued to block Anthem’s proposed $54 billion acquisition of Cigna and also filed suit against Aetna’s planned $37 billion takeover of Humana.
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