The impact of ObamaCare on doctors and patients, companies inside and outside the health sector, and American workers and taxpayers
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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The Obama administration is moving to end duplicate coverage for tens of thousands of people who are enrolled in Medicaid and simultaneously receiving federal subsidies to help pay for private health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
In the last few days, consumers around the country have received letters warning, in big black type: “People in your household may lose financial help for their marketplace coverage.”
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Health insurance companies are bailing and co-ops are failing as Obamacare barrels down the road to collapse.
Grace-Marie Turner, president of the free-market Galen Institute, said Aetna’s decision is surprising because the company’s leadership has been so supportive of the Affordable Care Act. But she said the firm, like others, has found it difficult to stay profitable amid rising costs caused by regulations under the law and loopholes that allow customers to game the system.
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Aetna is pulling out of 11 of the 15 states it serves on the Obamacare exchanges. Longtime readers of this column will be unsurprised at the reason: It’s losing substantial amounts of money on its exchange policies.
That’s not necessarily the only reason, of course. Companies in heavily regulated industries — and health care is now probably our most heavily regulated sector outside of nuclear power plants — spend a lot of time engaging in n-dimensional chess games with the various government entities that have jurisdiction over their operations. Public statements and market moves may be exactly what they look like. Or they may be part of a complicated strategy involving some third, fourth or eighth factor that does not, at first glance, appear to be much related.
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Talk about climate deniers, just how much worse does it need to get before all of the Obamacare defenders are ready to concede this isn’t working.
This has been an awful summer for Obamacare.
Here are just a few of the headlines:
Aetna has been a stalwart of confidence for Obamacare. That confidence took an abrupt and sudden turn this week when it cited unsustainable losses as the reason it was cutting back from 15 states to only four. Aetna reported Obamacare losses of $200 million in just the second quarter and more than $430 million since January of 2014. They expect full-year exchange losses of $320 million in 2016 alone.
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