Insurers from Oregon to Pennsylvania, including a failed health-care co-operative and two long-established Blues plans have lost billions of dollars selling Obamacare policies. Now they are suing the federal government to recoup their losses. In a testament to industry desperation, insurers are asking federal judges to simply ignore a congressional ban on the payment of these corporate subsidies.
The regulatory atrocity that is Obamacare inspired this race to the courthouse. Despite billions in subsidies — to both low-income individuals and well-capitalized insurance companies — the industry has incurred big losses in the individual market.
In a paper published June 28 by the Mercatus Center, Brian Blase (Mercatus), Ed Haislmaier (Heritage Foundation), Seth Chandler (University of Houston), and Doug Badger (Galen Institute) used data derived from insurance-company regulatory filings to determine the extent and source of those losses. The study examined the performance of 174 insurers that sold qualified health plans (QHPs) in 2014 to both individuals and small groups (generally companies with 50 or fewer workers).
. . .
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) placed numerous requirements on insurance offered in both the individual and small group markets. This study presents data from the 174 insurers that offered qualified health plans (QHPs)—plans that satisfy the ACA requirements and are certified to be sold on exchanges—in both the individual and small group markets in 2014. QHPs in both markets are essentially the same and are governed by nearly identical regulations, making possible a better-controlled analysis of the performance of insurers participating in the two markets. Average medical claims for individual QHP enrollees were 24 percent higher than average medical claims for group QHP enrollees. Moreover, average medical claims for individual QHP enrollees were 93 percent higher than average medical claims for individual non-QHP enrollees. As a result, insurers made large losses on individual QHPs despite receiving premium income that was 45 percent higher for individual QHP enrollees than for individual non-QHP enrollees. These higher medical claims resulted in loss ratios for individual QHPs nearly 30 percentage points higher than loss ratios in other markets. Given that insurer performance selling individual QHPs worsened in 2015, these findings suggest that the ACA rules and regulations governing QHPs may be incompatible with a well-functioning insurance market even with subsidies to insurers and incentives for individuals to enroll in QHPs.
. . .
Rather than stabilizing in 2016 as many experts predicted, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is leading to large premium hikes and less choice and competition in the individual insurance market as plans prove unattractive to relatively young, healthy, and middle-class people. In order to achieve a better understanding of the ACA’s impact, a new Mercatus Center working paper compared insurers’ performance selling individual Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) with three other markets: the individual non-QHP market, the small group QHP market, and the small group non-QHP market.
My co-authors, Doug Badger of the Galen Institute, Ed Haislmaier of the Heritage Foundation, Seth Chandler of the University of Houston, and I make two key empirical findings. First, individual market QHP enrollees had average medical claims nearly double the average claims for individual non-QHP market enrollees in 2014. Second, individual market QHP enrollees were about 25% more expensive than enrollees in small group QHPs.
. . .
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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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.
. . .
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.
. . .