Articles on the implementation of ObamaCare.

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.

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.

About 4,500 Medical University of South Carolina patients currently covered by Consumers’ Choice Health Plan need to pick a new policy by Tuesday to remain insured on Jan. 1. Medical University Hospital CEO Pat Cawley told the MUSC Board of Trustees on Thursday that the announcement created “an administrative nightmare.”

Only 35% of 67,000 Consumers’ Choice customers across the state have selected a new plan so far.

Community Health Options, a not-for-profit co-op insurance company based in Maine that also sells health plans in New Hampshire, will limit individual enrollments later this month because of “higher-than-expected claims costs.”

It’s an inauspicious sign for the company, which was one of the few successful co-ops created by the Affordable Care Act. Twelve of the ACA’s 23 co-ops have folded or are in the process of closing down, all of which occurred this year.

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.

This week, as part of the reconciliation bill, Congress may vote on bailing out health-insurance companies losing money from their participation in the Affordable Care Act exchanges. With an $18 trillion national debt, Congress should stand firm and say no to the bailouts.

Insurance companies were relying on payments from the federal government to constrain their losses as part of a device known as “risk corridors.” Risk corridors allow the government to bear a portion of the costs if they become too high. Section 1342 of the Affordable Care Act states that the secretary of HHS can reimburse insurance companies if the costs of covering sick people exceed the premiums received. However, the act did not provide an appropriation for these funds. In order for risk-corridor funds to be distributed, Congress has to appropriate them.

Land of Lincoln Health, an insurance co-op created under ObamaCare, is no longer taking new small-business customers. The health insurer announced in October that it would severely cap enrollment on the exchange, HealthCare.gov, and limited new small-business clients in particular to help the co-op survive long term. More than half of the co-ops nationwide have failed.