Steve Banke employs 40 people at 3-Points, a small IT outsourcing company he founded almost 15 years ago. And he wants those workers and their families to have strong health insurance options.

Employees at the firm, based in Oak Brook, Ill., can choose between two types of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois plans: a PPO with a broader network of hospitals and doctors or a cheaper HMO network. Banke’s company covers a percentage of the premiums, and those costs have risen rapidly over the past several years, often more than 12% annually, he said.

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Along with “stakeholders” (campaign donors), “investments” (government spending) and “obstruction” (Congress), one of our favorite political euphemisms is “improper payments.” That’s how Washington airbrushes away the taxpayer money that flows each year to someone who is not eligible, or to the right beneficiary in the wrong amount, or that disappears to fraud or federal accounting ineptitude. Now thanks to ObamaCare, improper payments are soaring.

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Seven years after the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act, health care costs are still going up at a robust rate for many in the region, according to a new survey of Washington area companies. Health insurance costs at a broad sample of local companies are projected to increase by 7.3 percent in 2016, the Human Resource Association of the National Capital Area reported.

The association, which represents area human resource executives, said the survey found more local employers are offering higher-deductible plans and putting new restrictions on expensive prescription drugs. The percent of the organization’s membership offering so-called “consumer-directed” health care plans jumped from only 15 percent in 2008 to 50 percent in 2016.

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Nearly a third of the nation’s counties look likely to have just a single insurer offering health plans on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges next year, according to a new analysis, an industry pullback that adds to the challenges facing the law.

The new study, by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, suggests there could be just one option for coverage in 31% of counties in 2017, and there might be only two in another 31%. That would give exchange customers in large swaths of the U.S. far less choice than they had this year, when 7% of counties had one insurer and 29% had two.

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The tanning salon industry is feeling burned by “Obamacare.”

Business owners around the country say the little-noticed 10 percent tax on tanning in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has crippled the industry, forcing the closing of nearly 10,000 of the more than 18,000 tanning salons in the U.S.

Experts say the industry is overstating the effects of the “tan tax” and that it has been hurt by other factors, too, including public health warnings about the dangers of tanning and the passage of laws in dozens of states restricting the use of tanning salons by minors.

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Health insurance startup Oscar Insurance Corp. will reevaluate its approach to Obamacare after suffering significant losses under the U.S. program and will pull out of two markets next year.

Oscar, which pitches itself as a tech-savvy alternative to traditional health insurers, plans to end sales of Affordable Care Act plans in Dallas, a market it entered this year, and New Jersey. It’s part of a more conservative approach by the New York-based company as it plans to introduce insurance products for businesses next year.

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Barack Obama’s signature health-care law is struggling for one overriding reason: Selling mispriced insurance is a precarious business model.

Aetna Inc. dealt the Affordable Care Act a severe setback by announcing Monday it would drastically reduce its participation in its insurance exchanges. Its reason: The company was attracting much sicker patients than expected. Indeed, all five of the largest national insurers say they are losing money on their ACA policies and three, including Aetna, are pulling back from the exchanges as a result.

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An Arizona county is poised to become an Obamacare ghost town because no insurer wants to sell exchange plans there.

Aetna’s recent announcement that it would exit most of the states where it offers Obamacare plans leaves residents of Pinal County, Arizona, without any options to get subsidized health coverage next year, unless regulators scramble to find a carrier to fill the void between now and early October.

About 9,700 people in Pinal signed up for Obamacare plans this year, according to administration data.

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Last November, when UnitedHealth Group said it expected to post big losses on its Obamacare policies in 2016, rivals such as Anthem and Aetna signaled their Affordable Care Act businesses were doing fine. The Obama administration used that as evidence to refute claims that systemic problems were brewing in its landmark insurance program.

Now, there’s no denying it. The four biggest U.S. health insurers admit they’re each losing hundreds of millions of dollars on their Obamacare plans. Rather than expand coverage, many are pulling out of the exchanges that were set up by the ACA so people can shop for insurance plans, often with the help of government subsidies.

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Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, announced Monday it is pulling out of all but four state exchanges in 2017. It is currently offering exchange plans in 15 states.

Aetna is only the latest insurer to reduce its marketplace presence, citing losses. The news also comes amid reports of double-digit premium hikes next year, another sign of financial trouble for insurers. Most of the nonprofit co-op plans created under the health care law have also shuttered.

“Following a thorough business review and in light of a second-quarter pretax loss of $200 million and total pretax losses of more than $430 million since January 2014 in our individual products, we have decided to reduce our individual public exchange presence in 2017, which will limit our financial exposure moving forward,” said Aetna chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini in a statement.

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