Health insurers nabbed a victory in the $1 trillion spending bill unveiled late Tuesday night, earning a one-year freeze on the so-called premium tax. The tax has been strongly opposed by insurance companies and business groups, who argue that the cost of the tax is passed on to workers in the form of higher premiums.
There has been some interesting coverage lately about Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s successful effort to ensure that taxpayers were not on the hook for excess losses incurred by insurers participating in Obamacare’s exchanges. Today, however, two Associated Press reporters alleged that this victory against the law was one that Rubio “didn’t deliver.” But the facts show that Rubio is right, and the AP is wrong.
The House reached a deal late Tuesday on a $1.1 trillion spending bill and a huge package of tax breaks. Throughout Tuesday, major components of the spending legislation appeared to be falling into place, including an agreement to alter major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, delaying a planned tax on high-cost health insurance plans and suspending a tax on medical devices for two years. Lawmakers also agreed to delay the Cadillac tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans by two years, originally scheduled to take effect in 2018.
Consumers anxious to beat the midnight Tuesday deadline to enroll on the federal insurance exchange overwhelmed call center lines Monday, federal officials said. Some people were being asked to leave their names so they could be called back after the deadline to be enrolled. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said they would still be able to have coverage effective Jan. 1 if they left their contact information before the deadline.
Three of the nation’s largest insurance companies – Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealth – have let researchers have a look at the negotiated prices they pay for services and procedures like C-sections, MRIs and hospital stays. This includes claims data for 88 million customers and $682 billion of healthcare bills. For a long time, economists like Martin Gaynor have believed the more hospitals merge, the more their monopoly power helps them drive prices up. Until now though, the evidence has been limited to single states or hospitals that have merged and it often relied on the sticker price listed by hospitals. This analysis is different because it comes from hospitals coast to coast and uses the actual amount insurers paid.
HealthSpan, the insurance arm of Catholic health system Mercy Health, is getting rid of its medical group and halting sales of ObamaCare policies just two years after acquiring Kaiser Permanente’s Ohio subsidiary. Spokesman Chuck Heald said HealthSpan will stop selling individual and small-group health plans on the ObamaCare exchanges to focus more on Medicare and employer plans. HealthSpan jacked up premium rates for 2016 individual and small-group plans anywhere from 9% to 32% to account for the sicker-than-expected exchange population.
The Obama administration created a “risk corridor” program to help prop up insurers who lost money in the first three years of ObamaCare where profitable insurers would pay some of those profits into a pool to help insurers who lost money. If the amount insurers lost exceeded what the companies paid in, the government would step in and make up the difference. Calling this “a taxpayer-funded bailout for insurance companies,” Rubio last year quietly inserted language into the omnibus government spending bill that barred the Department of Health and Human Services from dipping into general funds to pay failing insurers. “While the Obama administration can still administer the risk-corridor program, for one year at least, they won’t be able to use taxpayer funds to bail out insurance companies,” Rubio said.
With the Affordable Care Act crumbling, progressive activists are all but guaranteed to grab the opportunity that this single-payer ballot measure represents. But if Coloradans truly want better health care at a lower cost for more people, they shouldn’t vote for another one-size-fits-all government program. They should vote for proposals—and politicians—that will give patients more choices.
Jeff Anderson argues that ObamaCare has an incurable preexisting condition: It eats away at the private insurance market on which it relies. That market cannot survive ObamaCare’s hubristic mandates, and ObamaCare cannot survive the collapse of that market. On their present course, both are doomed. The challenge for conservatives is to figure out how, upon the law’s repeal, to rescue private insurance. If conservatives don’t save that market, liberals will—only it will no longer be a market for private insurance, and there will no longer be millions of purchasers, but just one.
UnitedHealth Group won’t pay brokers commissions on sales of individual health plans in most states where it participates in Obamacare exchanges, a move that will likely discourage market demand for its plans in those states. The News & Observer reports the Minnetonka-based insurance giant notified North Carolina brokers of the policy change Friday, not long after it announced plans to evaluate whether it would continue to serve the public exchange markets after 2016.