The impact of ObamaCare on doctors and patients, companies inside and outside the health sector, and American workers and taxpayers

Nearly a third of the nation’s counties look likely to have just a single insurer offering health plans on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges next year, according to a new analysis, an industry pullback that adds to the challenges facing the law.

The new study, by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, suggests there could be just one option for coverage in 31% of counties in 2017, and there might be only two in another 31%. That would give exchange customers in large swaths of the U.S. far less choice than they had this year, when 7% of counties had one insurer and 29% had two.

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The tanning salon industry is feeling burned by “Obamacare.”

Business owners around the country say the little-noticed 10 percent tax on tanning in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul has crippled the industry, forcing the closing of nearly 10,000 of the more than 18,000 tanning salons in the U.S.

Experts say the industry is overstating the effects of the “tan tax” and that it has been hurt by other factors, too, including public health warnings about the dangers of tanning and the passage of laws in dozens of states restricting the use of tanning salons by minors.

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Since I last wrote about it, Aetna’s withdrawal from the Obamacare exchanges has ginned up even more drama.

Jeff Young and Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post published a letter in which Aetna told the Justice Department that it would reduce its exchange participation unless Justice allowed the merger with Humana to go through. This has naturally triggered a firestorm of accusations about “extortion” and renewed calls for a public option that can protect people against the threat of insurance-less insurance exchanges.

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Election Day 2016 will raise the curtain on the final act in the nation’s long-running political drama over President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

If Republican Donald Trump wins, the unraveling begins.

“We have an obligation to the people who voted for us to proceed with ‘repeal and replace,'” said Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican.

If Democrat Hillary Clinton goes to the White House, it gets very difficult for Republicans to keep a straight face about repealing “Obamacare.”

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As insurers push large premium increases for 2017 Obamacare plans, some of the steepest hikes have been requested by insurers in crucial swing states that could determine control of the Senate.

In nine of 11 states with competitive Senate races, at least one insurer seeks to hike rates for Obamacare customers by at least 30 percent next year: Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pennsylvania wants to jack up average premiums by more than 40 percent. In Wisconsin, three insurers have asked for rate hikes of more than 30 percent. In New Hampshire, two of the five carriers want to sell plans with rate increase above 30 percent.

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They say you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. So House Speaker Paul Ryan did, and got damned on both the left and right—and all but ignored by his own party’s presidential candidate—when he unveiled his caucus’s outline for a replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

Which raises the question: How serious can this ACA alternative be? Maybe not very. The centerpiece of Ryan’s proposal—tax credits for everyone who needs to purchase individual policies regardless of income—may not go far enough to prevent people from losing coverage while creating new spending that would benefit high-income earners who can already buy their own health insurance.

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wants to crack down on rising prescription drug costs. She has made it a pillar of her campaign, the stuff of TV ads and stump speeches. She also has ambitious plans for Alzheimer’s research and other medical science initiatives.

But, even if she wins the White House, Clinton might have to put all that on hold.

A series of setbacks to Obamacare in recent months has raised real questions about the viability of the Affordable Care Act, with three major insurers announcing that they will leave many of the law’s marketplaces next year and others requesting substantial premium increases.

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“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” was President Barack Obama’s signature catchphrase he used to sell the Affordable Care Act to the American people. Now Obamacare’s flagship website, healthcare.gov, no longer even addresses the issue.

Ironically, the section in question was the first public (if indirect) admission by the Obama administration that the president’s promise was less than a “guarantee.” As THE WEEKLY STANDARD first reported in July 2013, the website told consumers that they “may be able to keep your current doctor,” in contrast to the president’s unequivocal statement: “Here is a guarantee that I’ve made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance. If you’ve got a doctor that you like, you will be able to keep your doctor.”

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Long-time Obamacare advocate and Aetna chief executive Mark Bertolini created a political earthquake when he announced his company will drastically reduce its individual public exchange participation next year. Similar announcements by United Healthcare, Humana and even some Blues plans show that Obamacare is failing.

Those who designed this disastrous government intervention into the marketplace now want more disastrous government intervention. Their solution is more taxpayer money for subsidies to individuals and insurance companies and a “public option” government health plan.

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When Aetna decided last week to drop 70% of its health plans in the Affordable Care Act markets, CEO Mark Bertolini publicly blamed the exits on the poor risk pool, as well as “the current inadequate risk-adjustment mechanism.”

The federal government’s decision to block Aetna’s acquisition of Humana also factored heavily into Aetna’s exchange exodus, as Bertolini warned in a July letter that was obtained by the Huffington Post.

 

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