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

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent Employer Health Benefits Survey found that among firms with 50 or more full-time-equivalent workers (i.e., the one’s subject to Obamacare’s employer mandate):

“four percent of these firms reported changing some job classifications from full-time to part-time so employees in those jobs would not be eligible for health benefits”

and

“four percent of these firms reported that they reduced the number of employees they intended to hire because of the cost of providing health benefits” . , and 10% of firms reported doing just the opposite and converting part-time jobs to full-time jobs”

This is unequivocal empirical evidence that Obamacare has had some of the adverse effects on employment predicted for years by Obamacare critics: a shift towards part-time work and even a reduction in hiring.  But according to the same survey, the latter impact was offset due to the 10% of employers who converted part-time jobs to full-time jobs in order to make them eligible for health benefits.

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Small businesses have been pumping the brakes on offering health benefits to their employees since 2009, according to new data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

“The fact is that small employers were less likely to offer these benefits to begin with,” Paul Fronstin, EBRI’s director of health research and education program and author of the report, told Bloomberg BNA July 28. “While the ACA was designed to try to get more small employers to” offer health insurance, “it hasn’t.”

The proportion of employers offering health benefits fell between 2008 and 2015 for all three categories of small employer, EBRI found: by 36 percent for those with fewer than 10 employees, by 26 percent for those with 10 to 24 workers and by 10 percent for those with 25 to 99 workers.

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Democratic and Republican governors know that rising health care costs are increasingly restricting spending on other state priorities. Paul Howard, Director of Health Policy at the Manhattan Institute, outlines five strategies that innovative governors can use to help transform state health care markets: 1. Incorporate reference pricing for common procedures and tests into state benefit designs, 2. Ban anti-tiering provisions, 3. Drive price transparency by setting up an all-payer claims database, 4. Expand access to direct primary care, and 5. Repeal regulations that hamstring competition, such as certificate of need laws and prohibitions on the corporate practice of medicine.

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Healthcare policy got remarkably little discussion during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, despite repeated nods to the issue from Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders. Here’s why.

No one wanted to talk about the costs, regulations, and other tough tradeoffs that would be involved in further expanding insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, improving affordability for consumers, curbing medical spending growth, and reducing prescription drug costs.

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Anthem fought back against an Obama administration antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday by conditioning its expansion in the struggling Obamacare market to approval of its acquisition of Cigna. The company plans to add nine states to its Obamacare participation if the deal goes through, company officials said on a call with investors. Last week, the Department of Justice sued to block Anthem’s proposed $54 billion acquisition of Cigna and also filed suit against Aetna’s planned $37 billion takeover of Humana.

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Anthem Inc., the No. 2 U.S. health insurer by membership, said medical spending rose in the second quarter, driven by higher costs from the insurer’s Affordable Care Act plans and Medicaid business.

The shares dropped as much as 4.1 percent, the biggest intraday decline since April 27, and were down 0.5 percent to $136.95 at 9:55 a.m. Anthem said it spent 84.2 cents of every premium dollar on medical care, up from 82.1 cents a year earlier.

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Anthem Inc. said it is now projecting losses on its Affordable Care Act plans this year, a turnaround for a major insurer that had maintained a relatively optimistic tone about that business.

Anthem said it now believed it would see a “mid-single-digit” operating margin loss on its ACA plans in 2016, due to higher-than-expected medical costs. It expects better results next year, because it is seeking substantial premium increases.

Anthem’s financial performance on ACA plans had previously been a relative bright spot among major insurers, many of which continue to struggle.

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Health insurer Anthem Inc on Wednesday vowed to fight U.S. government efforts to block its planned acquisition of Cigna Corp and said it expects to lose money this year on its business selling individual health coverage under President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.

Anthem has argued that its planned $45-billion purchase of Cigna will give it greater leverage to negotiate better prices from healthcare providers and pass on those savings to consumers, including those signing up for “Obamacare” plans on public insurance exchanges.

“To be clear, our board and executive leadership team at Anthem is fully committed to challenging the (U.S. Department of Justice’s) decision in court,” Chief Executive Joseph Swedish told analysts on a conference call.

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Bernie Sanders said Monday night that the Democratic party’s platform — and this election — is about universal healthcare and giving the citizenry a public option.

Other Democrats including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and First Lady Michelle Obama also touted the importance of healthcare in the election.

“I am happy to tell you that at the Democratic Platform Committee there was a significant coming together between the two campaigns and we produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party,” Sanders said.

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Bernie Sanders celebrated the health care concessions he won from Hillary Clinton Monday night as he gave a rousing endorsement to his former presidential rival.

In a Democratic convention speech that revisited the agenda of his surprisingly competitive campaign for the nomination, Sanders reminded the audience that while he may have lost the race, he did succeed in convincing Clinton to support three important proposals: a “public option” for Obamacare, letting people join Medicare early, and a big funding increase for community health centers.

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