Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is cutting back its participation in the state’s Affordable Care Act insurance exchange next year after losing nearly $300 million in the individual market in 2015.
However, the large Blues insurer is not completely exiting the state-based marketplace. Fully withdrawing has its consequences: Federal law bars insurers from re-entering the marketplaces for five years, assuming they discontinue all types of individual policies.
Instead, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota is dropping health plans with the broadest networks sold on and off the exchange and will push people toward its narrower HMO option called Blue Plus, according to the Star Tribune.
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The billboards went up quickly. The customers came in droves.
Then, in October, Arches collapsed as suddenly as it went up.
Now eight months after it was announced that the state’s only nonprofit insurance co-op would be dissolved, Utah hospitals are still waiting on about $33 million in outstanding claims that the Utah Department of Insurance says it likely cannot pay until 2017.
Officials with the insurance department say they are doing the best they can to create a “soft landing” for Arches after the federal government reneged on what was supposed to be a $11 million payment this summer.
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A struggling Illinois health insurance co-op is suing the federal government, claiming it is being shortchanged $72.8 million in promised payments under the Affordable Care Act.
Chicago-based Land of Lincoln Health filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. At least four other insurers have filed similar claims over the so-called risk corridor payments, a temporary provision of the health care law meant to help unprofitable insurers and stabilize consumer prices during the first three years of the law’s new insurance exchanges.
Land of Lincoln’s balance sheet has been deteriorating rapidly. The 3-year-old startup lost $90 million in 2015 and $7 million in the first quarter of 2016.
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In presidential politics, party professionals on both sides of the aisle live in fear of the dreaded “October surprise” that can compromise their candidates’ chances.
In 2016, the joker in the deck may come the first week of November — and it won’t be a surprise, just a shock: Fueled by the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, Americans’ health insurance premiums are likely to spike.
The policy debates that preoccupy Beltway insiders are often far removed from the concerns of most American voters. The Export-Import Bank, the intricacies of the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory requirements, quantitative easing, and rules promulgated in obscure administrative agencies — this is not the stuff of middle-class anxiety. While such policy and regulatory decisions do affect citizens nationwide, it’s not always immediately obvious how. Not so jobs, wages, schools, and health care — these issues hit home.
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Minnesota’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, has decided to stop selling health plans to individuals and families in Minnesota starting next year.
The insurance carrier’s parent company, which goes by the same name, will continue to sell a much more limited offering on the individual market through its Blue Plus HMO.
The insurer explained extraordinary financial losses drove the decision.
“Based on current medical claim trends, Blue Cross is projecting a total loss of more than $500 million in the individual [health plan] segment over three years,” BCBSM said in a statement.
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A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation says the cost of the “benchmark” plan (the second-lowest-cost silver plan in a market, which is the price used to calculate subsidies) will go up 10 percent this year, double the rate at which prices increased last year. The lowest-cost silver plans are also seeing substantial hikes. This matters because these are the most frequently purchased plans.
The usual caveat applies to these preliminary requests: Regulators might not approve them. But that caveat was hauled out last year by the law’s supporters, who seemed to think that this was simply the opening stage of a negotiation in which insurers asked for the stars in the hope of settling on the moon. In fact, regulators approved large rate hikes, and the state of Oregon actually made some insurers raise rates by more than they’d planned.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan’s policy plan for health care, as expected, leans heavily on market forces, more so than the current system created by Obamacare. The proposal contains a host of previously proposed Republican ideas on health care, many of which are designed to drive people to private insurance markets.
Importantly for conservatives, as part of a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the current law’s mandates for individuals and insurers would disappear under the GOP plan. It would overhaul Medicare by transitioning to a premium support system under which beneficiaries would receive a set amount to pay for coverage. The plan also would alter Medicaid by implementing either per capita caps or block grants, based on a state’s preference.
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Oscar Health was going to be a new kind of insurance company. Started in 2012, just in time to offer plans to people buying insurance under the new federal health care law, the business promised to use technology to push less costly care and more consumer-friendly coverage.
“We’re trying to build something that’s going to turn the industry on its head,” Joshua Kushner, one of the company’s founders, said in 2014, as Oscar began to enroll its first customers.
These days, though, Oscar is more of a case study in how brutally tough it is to keep a business above water in the state marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act. And its struggles highlight a critical question about the act: Can insurance companies run a viable business in the individual market?
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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.
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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.
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