Alaska, one of the reddest states in the country, is essentially bailing out its insurance market to prevent Obamacare from collapsing.
A bill passed by the heavily GOP state Legislature to shore up its lone surviving Obamacare insurer is awaiting the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a Republican-turned-independent who was endorsed two years ago by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The legislation, originally proposed by Walker, sets up a $55 million fund — financed through an existing tax on all insurance companies — to subsidize enrollees’ costs as the state struggles with Obamacare price spikes and an exodus by all except one insurance company.
. . .
While it will be months before insurers and regulators agree to final rates for the coming year, a new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis confirms the signals we have seen from industry and government experts — that consumers and the federal government are likely to see much higher prices in many markets. Clearly, insurers are struggling to figure out how much to charge so they can cover their costs but still attract customers.
As health care reporters, we’ve been debating exactly how worried one should be about the fate of the Affordable Care Act, known informally as Obamacare, in the face of steep rate increases next year.
. . .
The White House is urging states to be more aggressive against health insurance companies as it looks to prevent expected and widespread premium hikes of 10 percent or more this year.
The federal health department announced Wednesday that it will dole out about $22 million to boost state-level “rate reviews,” considered one of the strongest weapons against premium increases.
Under the system, health insurers are required to justify rate increases to state insurance departments, some of which have the power to reject “unreasonable” increases. With the new funding, federal health officials hope states can hire outside insurance experts to dig deeper into the proposed rates and prove the hikes are unjustified.
. . .
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) released a letter to the Obama administration on Thursday asking what it will do to help Ohioans who received coverage from a failed Obamacare co-op.
Last month the nonprofit co-op InHealth announced that it would be liquidated and taken over by the state. It provided health coverage to about 22,000 state residents. In his letter, Portman said those enrollees now must choose between getting new insurance and starting over paying a new deductible, or paying the tax penalty for not having health insurance.
. . .
Premiums for health plans sold through the federal insurance exchange could jump substantially next year, perhaps more than at any point since the Affordable Care Act marketplaces began in 2013.
An early analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that proposed rates for benchmark silver plans — the plans in that popular tier of coverage that determine enrollees’ tax subsidies — are projected to go up an average of 10 percent across 14 major metropolitan areas.
The analysis, released Wednesday, is based on insurers’ initial filings in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
. . .
Next year’s premiums for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act could rise more than in past years in most markets and declines might be rare, according to a preliminary analysis of insurers’ plans.
Overall, premiums for a popular type of plan — the second-lowest silver plan — could rise 10 percent on average next year in 14 major metropolitan areas, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser based its projections on insurers’ preliminary rates filed with state regulators, which remain subject to state or federal review. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)
Last year, premiums for the second-lowest silver plan in those metro areas rose 5 percent after state insurance departments signed off, Kaiser said.
. . .
More than half of the states have disclosed just how much higher their health care premiums could be next year under the Affordable Care Act, and some of the potential increases are jaw-dropping.
But Illinois residents won’t get their first look at proposed 2017 premiums until Aug. 1, and that has consumer advocates frustrated.
Insurance companies had to submit rate plans for Illinois in April, but the state doesn’t require the proposals to be made public upon filing, according to the Department of Insurance. In addition, the director of the department considers health plan filings confidential and exempt from Freedom of Information requests.
. . .
Maryland’s health cooperative filed a lawsuit Monday seeking to block the federal government from requiring it to pay more than $22 million in fees for a program designed to cover insurance company shortfalls.
The lawsuit by Evergreen Health Cooperative Inc. is the latest twist in the saga of health insurance co-ops set up under the Affordable Care Act to compete against larger, established insurers.
The co-ops were supposed to help keep premiums down by injecting competition into the industry. Instead, 13 of 23 startups that launched successfully have since collapsed, forcing more than 700,000 consumers to seek new insurance. A number of co-op officials have said they were hurt by the federal program because of a formula it used to spread out risk, which they say hurts them while benefiting large, already established insurance companies.
. . .
California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law allowing unauthorized immigrants to buy health insurance on a state exchange created under the U.S. Affordable Care Act, making the state the first in the country to offer that kind of coverage.
The law lets the state request a waiver from the federal government that will be needed to allow unauthorized immigrants to purchase unsubsidized insurance through Covered California, the state’s healthcare exchange.
. . .
Many people contend that we should not worry about the premium rate shock because the ACA insulates most people from gross premiums. The oft-repeated idea is that the ACA basically requires only that people pay a percentage of their income in premiums. So, unless income goes up, a person’s net premium stays the same.
Reporters, pundits and bloggers should stop accepting or repeating this contention. Gross premium increases can matter a lot.
It is true that if you earn less than 400% of the applicable federal poverty level AND you purchased the second lowest silver plan the year before AND you continue to purchase the second lowest silver plan the following year, then your net premiums don’t go up even if the gross premium rises astronomically.
. . .