Articles on the implementation of ObamaCare.
UnitedHealth Group Inc. will pull out of Kentucky’s individual marketplace for ObamaCare plans, bringing to 26 the number of states the health insurer is quitting next year.
The company plans to halt sales of individual plans in Kentucky for 2017, both inside and outside the state’s Affordable Care Act exchange, as well as the small-business exchange, UnitedHealth said in a letter to the state’s insurance department. The letter was obtained by Bloomberg through an open records request.
UnitedHealth’s exits from the state ObamaCare markets threatens to limit the number of options for consumers when they shop for coverage for next year.
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Here’s some bad news for the insurance industry: Unexpectedly generous corporate subsidies didn’t save companies selling ObamaCare policies from bleeding red ink. The worse news: Those subsidies are set to expire in 2017, meaning that insurers will have to make ends meet without billions in handouts.
Those are among the matters discussed in a study by the Mercatus Center, authored by Brian Blase, Edmund Haislmaier, and Doug Badger. Thestudy, based on detailed data derived from insurer regulatory filings for the 2014 benefit year, finds that companies that sold ObamaCare plans in the individual market lost more than $2.2 billion, despite receiving $6.7 billion (an average of $833 per enrollee) in “reinsurance” subsidies. Those reinsurance payments were 40 percent more generous on a per-enrollee basis than insurers had expected when they set their 2014 premiums.
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The ACA significantly altered the rules governing the individual insurance market, and the general effect was to lower premiums for older and less healthy people and raise premiums for younger and healthier people. To induce younger and healthier people to enroll, the law contained the individual mandate and subsidies for both buyers and, for the first few years of the program, sellers of insurance in the form of premium stabilization programs.
This study analyzes data from HHS from 2014, the first year of the ACA’s implementation, and finds that insurers suffered significant losses despite eventually receiving much larger payments from the law’s reinsurance program (one of the premium stabilization programs) than they expected when setting their 2014 premiums. Given the same population and same utilization of services from that population, insurers would have had to price average premiums more than 25 percent higher to avoid losses in the absence of the reinsurance program.
While insurers’ performance varied significantly across carriers and states, the large overall losses in 2014 raise questions about the long-term stability of the changes made by the ACA, particularly after 2016 when the reinsurance and risk corridor programs end and premium revenue must be sufficient to cover expenses.
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It’s not surprising that UnitedHealthcare is high-tailing it out of Arizona’s health-insurance marketplace. The exchanges — a major part of the Affordable Care Act — are money losers. Not enough young, healthy people have signed up in Arizona and elsewhere to use the plans. Some rural counties in Arizona may have no options on the exchange, which could complicate things for those who are required to have insurance but don’t qualify for coverage through an employer.
The exchanges have never been viable options for healthy, working people. They are not affordable for those who are in the middle class and patients have to be careful to choose a plan that offers decent doctor choices.
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The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services on Monday announced a massive update to managed care in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. In doing so, it attempts to bring the program in line with the changes Medicaid has undergone over the last decade. The new rule is the agency’s guideline for modernizing the low-income health care program and strengthen its quality of care.
Medicaid managed care services are offered by risk-based managed care organizations, which contract with state Medicaid programs to offer care to enrollees. Essentially, they are the private insurer alternative to traditional fee-for-service Medicaid.
CMS hasn’t issued any new regulations to the program since 2002, but a lot has changed since then. Not only has the Medicaid program itself grown under the Affordable Care Act, but now about 80 percent of Medicaid enrollees are served through managed care delivery systems, according to CMS.
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President Barack Obama is calling on taxpayers to shell out more money for his health reform law’s disastrous Medicaid expansion.
The president recently asked Congress to approve $106 billion in new Medicaid spending over the next 10 years. Nevermind that the Congressional Budget Office just concluded that, as is, Medicaid spending will add $1.3 trillion to the federal deficit by 2025. That’s $136 billion more than the agency projected last year.
And it’s not as if those dollars are being spent wisely. Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is sticking taxpayers with a huge bill while doing little to help low-income Americans actually gain access to high-quality healthcare.
One provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that has been delayed until 2017 is a federal mandate for standard menu items in restaurants and some other venues to contain nutrition labeling.
Drawing on nearly 300,000 respondents from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 30 large cities between 2003 and 2012, we explore the effects of menu mandates. We find that the impact of such labeling requirements on BMI, obesity, and other health-related outcomes is trivial, and, to the extent it exists, it fades out rapidly.
One of the reasons that ACA Exchange plans are losing money is their inability to attract enough healthy enrollees. Healthy people are, disproportionately, young people. And large numbers of young adults don’t have to enroll in ACA Exchange plans – because the ACA mandates that their parents’ employer provide them with coverage, and that coverage is almost invariably priced lower.
Anyone up to age 26 with a parent who has employer-based health coverage that includes dependents can enroll in the parent’s plan. This is called the “dependent care mandate,” and is a requirement of the ACA. There are no other requirements for this coverage option: the “child” does not have to live with the parent or be financially dependent or a dependent for tax purposes on the parent. The “child” could be employed and eligible for employer-based coverage on his/her own, but elect to take the parent’s coverage if it’s preferable.
Exchanges are being undermined, in part, by the ACA’s dependent care mandate.
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On Tuesday UnitedHealth Group reported a terrific first quarter, with strong performance across nearly all business lines. There was one exception: The conglomerate’s insurance exchange unit raised its projected Affordable Care Act losses for 2016 to $650 million from $525 million, after booking $475 million in red ink last year.
CEO Stephen Hemsley said ObamaCare’s instability, small market size and costly patient population “continue to suggest we cannot broadly serve it on an effective and sustained basis.” He said UnitedHealth will withdraw to “only a handful of states” in 2017.
Normally sedate insurance markets have been roiled by everything from the federally chartered co-op failures to enrollment well below projections. ObamaCare’s architecture also makes it economically rational for consumers to wait until they are about to incur major medical expenses to get covered, and administratively created “special enrollment periods” encourage such gaming.
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United Healthcare’s announcement that it is pulling out of most of the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act is one of many indications of the law’s continuing instability.
There are many other insurance plans in the same boat. Blue Cross Blue Shield plans have dominated the individual and small-group markets in most states for decades. If they were to abandon this market, they would have less ability than United does to grow their business elsewhere. But many of these plans are nonetheless contemplating such a move.
ObamaCare isn’t likely to enter an insurance death spiral; there’s too much federal money propping the whole thing up. But it isn’t on track to become a stable, self-sustaining insurance pool either, because very few middle-class families want to get their insurance through the exchanges. Which means the law is not only unstable financially, it is politically unstable as well.
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