The not-for-profit insurers that are planned to form the backbone of the Obamacare exchanges, including the Blues health plans, reported yesterday that they lost a lot of money in the first quarter of 2016. It was the same day that United Healthcare announced that it was pulling out entirely from the California exchanges–a state that many Obamacare acolytes held up as a model for the law’s successful execution.
In statutory filings that they posted this month, the not-for-profit health plans showed an average negative net margin of -2.5% during the first quarter of 2016. AIS Health Plan Week revealed the data on 41 not-for-profit plans. Credit Suisse reported on those results in a report issued yesterday. The total net losses among the 41 health plans approached a whopping $1.5 billion for the quarter.
. . .
Health insurance is about to bear a higher price tag. Experts at the Kaiser Family Foundation just warned that premiums are likely to jump in 2017 — after increasing an average of more than 12 percent this year.
High-deductible health plans paired with tax-advantaged Health Savings Accounts (HSA) have emerged as a source of a lower-cost refuge for patients, who accept the high deductible in exchange for lower premiums.
The Obama administration is trying to restrict access to HSAs. That’s a mistake. HSAs empower consumers to take control of their health care and reduce overall health spending in the process. Our leaders should be working to expand access to them, not narrow it.
. . .
Enrollment in individual health care plans, now dominated by the Affordable Care Act exchanges, fell 15.4 percent in the first quarter for the parent of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.
At the end of March, Chicago-based Health Care Service Corp. had 1.39 million individual members, compared with 1.64 million as of Dec. 31.
The decline in individual members is even greater when compared with the first quarter of 2015. A year ago, HCSC had nearly 1.9 million individual market members.
Despite the decline in individual enrollment, the insurer set aside $431.5 million in reserves during in the first quarter to account for losses expected in its 2016 ACA business, according to first-quarter financial statements filed this week with the Illinois Department of Insurance.
. . .
Obamacare has caused health insurance premiums to skyrocket. It has caused millions of Americans who liked their health plans to lose their health plans. It has caused doctor and hospital networks to narrow. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that the Obamacare exchanges in Alabama and Alaska will each have one—that’s right, one—insurer offering plans. We’re moving toward “single insurer” health care.
In short, Obamacare is wrecking the private health insurance market.
The Congressional Budget Office says that the Obamacare subsidies for private insurance will cost $43 billion this year alone. That’s an average of $5,375 per person for those who have been added to the private insurance rolls—or $21,500 per family of four. Meanwhile, the typical 36-year-old (or younger) who makes $36,000 a year (or more) gets $0 under Obamacare.
. . .
The Supreme Court unanimously remanded a case challenging the ACA’s contraceptive mandate back to the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fifth, Tenth and D.C. Circuits. The decision will give the parties an opportunity to reach a compromise that “accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise” while ensuring women covered by the petitioner’s health plans receive coverage that includes contraception. The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which brought the lawsuit one behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, called the ruling a win for the petitioners.
. . .
Health plans would likely feel the financial hit if the courts ultimately strike down Obamacare’s cost-sharing subsidies. That’s because those payments go directly to insurers to make up for lower payments from their poorest customers.
A federal court ruled today that the Obama administration has been improperly funding the cost-sharing subsidies. The ruling is stayed pending appeal, so there will be no immediate fallout for health plans.
But at stake is approximately $175 billion over a decade that insurers would receive to subsidize their Obamacare customers. Cost-sharing subsidies are available to enrollees with incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty level who enroll in silver plans. They’re designed to reduce out-of-pocket costs when those individuals access medical care.
. . .
Rising healthcare costs are Americans’ primary financial concern. In fact, a recent survey found that 76% of Americans are concerned about increasing health insurance costs with nearly two-thirds more concerned this year than they were last year. As is now clear, the Affordable Care Act is making the problem worse. A recent S&P Global Institute report (not publicly available) showed that healthcare spending per individual market enrollee increased by nearly 70% in the first two years after the key provisions of the ACA took effect.
A recent Mercatus working paper, authored by Brian Blase, along with Doug Badger of the Galen Institute and Ed Haislmaier of the Heritage Foundation, found that insurers made risk corridor claims of $273 per enrollee on individual market qualified health plans—plans that comply with the ACA and are certified to be sold on exchanges—in 2014. Risk corridors were designed to transfer money from insurers that made profits selling QHPs to insurers that incurred losses on QHPs. Assuming that a fully-funded risk corridor program would have subsidized about two-thirds of insurer losses, insurers likely lost around $400 per enrollee in 2014. Since insurers enrolled about 8 million people in 2014, they likely lost about $3.2 billion overall selling individual QHPs.
The desire for autonomy and work-life balance is driving more workers into freelance roles, but at the same time there are growing incentives for companies to employ workers via contracts rather than hire them full-time.
Chief among those incentives is the cost of providing (or not providing) health care to workers under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly three-quarters of companies said that they would contract with more freelancers this year because of Obamac\Care, according to a new survey by online work platform Field Nation and executive development firm Future Workplace.
. . .
UnitedHealthcare’s decision to not offer Affordable Care Act exchange plans next year in “at least 26 of the 34 states where it sold 2016 coverage” may soon be followed by similar announcements from other health care insurers.
At least that is one implication that can be drawn from the findings reported in a new paper analyzing the performance of insurers that offered exchange coverage in 2014.
The paper’s authors—Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ed Haislmaier, Mercatus Center senior research fellow Brian Blase, and Galen Institute senior fellow Doug Badger—examined enrollment and financial data for the 289 Qualified Health Plans sold on the exchanges in 2014.
They found that, in the aggregate, insurers incurred substantial losses offering exchange coverage. Furthermore, the poor results were despite insurers receiving substantial subsidies—indeed, more than they originally expected—through the Affordable Care Act’s “reinsurance” program.
. . .
When UnitedHealth, the nation’s largest health insurer, announced earlier this month that it would exit the Affordable Care Act exchange business in all but three states, the obvious question was, who’s next? After all, if the nation’s biggest health carrier can’t make the Obamacare exchanges profitable, who can? UnitedHealth announced it expects to lose $650 million on its ACA business in 2016, although its first-quarter earnings beat analyst expectations, thanks to the company’s highly profitable consulting and technology businesses.
. . .