Federal officials said Monday that if uninsured people don’t obtain coverage within the health law’s official enrollment period, which ends Jan. 31, they won’t get an extension to avoid the law’s penalty for going without insurance this time around. Earlier this year, the Obama administration offered uninsured people a reprieve if they missed the sign-up deadline for 2015 coverage, originally set at Feb. 15. People were given through April to sign up if they said they had learned about the penalty for going uninsured only when they filed their taxes.

Cigna CEO David Cordani says the individual market created by the 2010 health law would be better off if insurers were given more flexibility in designing coverage, as well as a more compressed, focused open enrollment period. Just days after UnitedHealth Group’s CEO said their move into the new marketplace was a mistake, Cordani reaffirmed that Cigna remains committed for 2016, although the firm is so far losing money on that business.

 

Everyone knows ObamaCare subsidizes low-income individuals, but few are aware it also subsidizes big insurance companies. Corporate welfare payments to insurers under the risk corridor and reinsurance programs (both of which are slated to expire in 2017) amounted to $10.4 billion for the 2014 benefit year. In ObamaCare’s first year, “excess” losses outpaced “excess” gains by $2.5 billion. The White House wants taxpayers to make up the difference.

The ObamaCare program for small business in Illinois—known as SHOP—has been troubled from the start. Only two insurers sold health plans on the online marketplace to Chicago small businesses: startup Land of Lincoln Health and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois. Now there’s just one. Facing massive financial losses, Chicago-based Land of Lincoln has stopped signing up new small-business customers.

An increasing number of preferred provider plans (PPOs) offered under the health care law have no ceiling for out-of-network costs, leaving policyholders facing unlimited financial exposure. Forty-five percent of the silver level PPO plans coming to the market for the first time in 2016 provide no annual cap for policyholders’ out-of-network costs, an analysis by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds.

Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its official estimates of the uninsured population and of health spending. In 2014, ObamaCare’s coverage expansion fell between 6 and 12 million short of expectations, while driving the growth of health spending to its highest rate in 7 years. ObamaCare has only reduced the percentage of U.S. residents without health insurance by about 2%: a remarkably small number, and far lower than what the law was supposed to achieve.

Democrats like to talk a lot about being the party of choice, but under Obamacare, individuals are finding their choices increasingly limited. At its core, Obamacare forces individuals to purchase government-approved insurance policies and precludes them from buying plans that might be more in line with their healthcare needs. Though Obamacare’s defenders argue that the requirements imposed on health insurance plans only serve to guarantee that individuals have better coverage, in reality, what’s happening is that the law is driving insurers to limit choices.

Cassandra Gekas, operations director for Vermont Health Connect, said staff members are working on a problem in which hundreds of people who paid their monthly premiums on time were canceled for nonpayment. Apparently, the cancellations were related to a five- to seven-day period it takes for the system to process end of the month payments. Vermont Health Connect was plagued with technical glitches and security problems after its launch Oct. 1, 2013.

While the average premium for the least expensive closed network silver plan — principally HMOs — rose from $274 to $299, a 9 percent increase, the average premium for the least expensive PPO or other silver-level open access plan grew from $291 to $339, an 17 percent jump. Consumers seeking health policies with the most freedom in choosing doctors and hospitals are finding far fewer of those plans offered on the insurance marketplaces next year. And the premiums are rising faster than for other types of coverage.

When Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed suit against Oracle last year, she claimed the contractor “repeatedly lied and defrauded the state” during the course of its work on the failed Cover Oregon health exchange. The defunct health exchange website cost $300 million in federal grants, which could mean that even if Oregon prevails in court and wins a judgment for the billions it is seeking, the state might not be able to keep any of it.