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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A spokesman for Donald Trump sought Monday to elaborate on the president-elect’s plans to replace the Affordable Care Act, vowing that the new administration would lower health-care costs by infusing more competition into the marketplace, including by allowing insurers to sell health plans across state lines.
Trump’s goal is “to get insurance for everybody through marketplace solutions, through bringing costs down, through negotiating with pharmaceutical companies, allowing competition over state lines,” Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, said during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.
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Hundreds of insurers selling health plans in Affordable Care Act marketplaces are being paid less than 2 percent of nearly $6 billion the government owes them for covering customers last year with unexpectedly high medical expenses.
The $96 million that insurers will get is just one-fourth of the sum that provoked an industry outcry a year ago, when federal health officials announced that they had enough money to pay health plans only 12.6 percent of what the law entitles them to receive.
This time, the Obama administration made no public announcement.
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Tennessee taxpayers, beware. President Obama’s administration is quietly implementing one last massive taxpayer-funded bailout for special interests.
This bailout would prop up the Affordable Care Act only months before the law will likely be repealed.
So which special interests are getting your money? Health-insurance companies. Six years ago, health insurers were some of the Affordable Care Act’s biggest fans. They lobbied for the law because they thought it would be a financial windfall — it literally forces Tennesseans to buy their product.
But instead of finding gushers of cash, they’re drowning in red ink. Health insurers in Tennessee and across the country lost $3.2 billion in 2014 and over $10 billion in 2015. This year’s losses will be even higher.
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President Obama will be leaving office with the Affordable Care Act, his signature policy initiative, in deep peril. An incoming Republican president and Congress, concerned with the cost of ACA exchange plans jumping by an average 25 percent next year and employee health care costs rising, have pledged to repeal the law. For his part, the President sought to shift the blame for rising out-of-pocket cost from the ACA’s flaws to employers and insurers. During a recent speech defending the law, he said the ACA has had no impact on the affordability of employer-provided health care benefits “except to make it a better value.” As the President put it, “if your premium is going up, it’s not because of Obamacare. It’s because of your employer or your insurer — even though sometimes they try to blame Obamacare for why the rates go up. It’s not because of any policy of the Affordable Care Act that the rates are going up.”
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Oscar Insurance Corp., the Silicon Valley-backed health-care startup, continued to lose tens of millions of dollars in the third quarter as the company exits some markets and works to diversify away from of its Obamacare business.
The New York-based company sells health insurance to individuals in new markets set up by the Affordable Care Act. Its attempt to reinvent the insurance business has been marked by large losses — in the third quarter, closely held Oscar lost $45 million in New York, Texas and California, according to filings with regulators. That follows losses of $83 million in those states during the first six months of this year.
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The health insurer Cigna is planning for a loss on the Obamacare market next year, its CEO said Thursday.
“We are going to expect to see some revenue growth but we are continuing to plan for a loss,” CEO David Cordani said on the company’s third quarter earnings call.
The insurer’s strategy to slowly expand into the new marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act has “proven to be more right than wrong,” he said, noting that was unfortunate.
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Anthem Inc. said it may join other major U.S. health insurers in largely pulling out of Obamacare’s markets in 2018 if its financial results under the program don’t improve next year.
Anthem retreating from the Affordable Care Act would mean that almost all of the major American for-profit health insurers have substantially pulled back from the law. The other big insurers — UnitedHealth Group Inc., Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. — have already scaled back, after posting massive losses. The retreats threaten to further destabilize coverage in the markets for individual coverage, known as exchanges, that provide insurance to millions of Americans.
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In July analyst Paul Westra of the brokerage firm Stifel Nicolaus warned of a looming “restaurant recession,” noting that it might be the first sign of a more widespread U.S. recession in 2017. He said this in a bearish report that downgraded 11 restaurant stocks.
The facts on the ground support his gloomy forecast. Restaurant traffic has declined 2.8% from the start of the year through September, according to the Restaurant Industry Snapshot, a survey of some 25,000 restaurants by research firm TDn2K. At this pace, the firm said, “2016 would be the weakest annual performance since 2009, when the industry was recovering from the recession.”
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In 2008, the year that Barack Obama was elected as president, the combined annual profits of America’s ten largest health insurance companies were $8 billion. Under Obamacare, the ten largest health insurers’ annual profits have risen to $15 billion. This is another fine example of the natural alliance between Big Government and Big Business, which flourishes at the expense of Main Street Americans.
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