The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has produced massive consolidation among health care providers, largely the result of hospitals merging and large hospital systems taking over private doctor practices. In response and in an apparent attempt to improve their negotiating position with the consolidated providers, four of the five major for-profit health insurance companies have proposed mergers: Aetna with Humana and Cigna with Anthem. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has moved to block the mergers, citing a growing threat to health care market competition.
Before making that decision, the DOJ asked Aetna, and likely the other insurers as well, how DOJ action to challenge the merger would affect the insurer’s decision to participate in the ACA exchanges.
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Democrats claimed for years that ObamaCare is working splendidly, though anybody acquainted with reality could see the entitlement is dysfunctional. Now as the law breaks down in an election year, they’ve decided to blame private insurers for their own failures.
Their target this week is Aetna, which has announced it is withdrawing two-thirds of its ObamaCare coverage, pulling out of 536 of 778 counties where it does business. The third-largest U.S. insurer has lost about $430 million on the exchanges since 2014, and this carnage is typical. More than 40 other companies are also fleeing ObamaCare.
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Could it be that the highly compensated insurance-company actuaries are lousy at math? For months, we’ve been reading stories about how big medical bills incurred by Obamacare enrollees are driving publicly traded insurance companies from the exchanges. Some affiliates of the venerable Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBS), reeling from the costs of paying medical claims for a population that is unhealthier than expected, have joined the stampede to the Obamacare exits, while others seek premium increases of as much as 60 percent or sue the government for corporate handouts to offset their losses.
The apparent desperation of insurance-company CEOs might lead you to believe that Obamacare was failing. Not a chance, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
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There are a lot of people in the U.S. who dream of single-payer health care. And what a dream it is! Government as the only entity paying for care, able to drive down costs while ensuring universal coverage. There are not a lot such dreamers who think that the transition to such a system is imminent here.
Politically, it may be easier to get a single-payer system on the ballot in a blue state than it is to get it onto the floor of the U.S. Congress. But practically, it’s even harder to implement one that doesn’t bankrupt the government and enrage the citizenry. Such an experiment would certainly have effects on health-care policy for the rest of the nation — presumably a swing away from single payer.
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After last year’s 4% rate increase, California’s Obamacare insurance exchange rates appear to be catching up to the rest of the country.
The two biggest carriers are raising rates by much more than the average 13.2% increase. Blue Shield said its average increase was 19.9% and Anthem said it would increase rates an average of 17.2%
According to the LA Times, Covered California officials blamed the big increase on the “rising costs of medical care, including specialty drugs, and the end of the mechanism that held down rates for the first three years of Obamacare.”
Well, once again when it comes to Covered California’s explanations, not exactly.
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It is all about the price.
Millions of people buying insurance in the marketplaces created by the federal health care law have one feature in mind. It is not finding a favorite doctor, or even a trusted company. It is how much — or, more precisely, how little — they can pay in premiums each month.
And for many of them, especially those who are healthy, all the prices are too high.
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Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, announced Monday it is pulling out of all but four state exchanges in 2017. It is currently offering exchange plans in 15 states.
Aetna is only the latest insurer to reduce its marketplace presence, citing losses. The news also comes amid reports of double-digit premium hikes next year, another sign of financial trouble for insurers. Most of the nonprofit co-op plans created under the health care law have also shuttered.
“Following a thorough business review and in light of a second-quarter pretax loss of $200 million and total pretax losses of more than $430 million since January 2014 in our individual products, we have decided to reduce our individual public exchange presence in 2017, which will limit our financial exposure moving forward,” said Aetna chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini in a statement.
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A new report in Health Affairs has found that the smoking penalties imposed by the Obamacare health plans have not succeeded in getting smokers to quit. Even worse, the penalties have deterred some smokers from obtaining health insurance in the first place.
The health insurance plans offered on the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) cover smoking cessation treatment with no cost sharing. As a further “nudge” to quit smoking, the insurance plans charge tobacco users up to 50 percent more in premiums than non-users. For purposes of the surcharge, a Department of Health and Human Services regulation defines tobacco use as self-reported consumption of “any tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, and pipe tobacco, four or more times a week within the past 6 months.”
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Most health policy experts knew, and many warned, that the Affordable Care Act would lead to massive consolidation in the health care industry, including hospitals, physicians’ practices, and especially health insurers. Now the Justice Department is pushing back by opposing the mergers of four large health insurers—Aetna with Humana and Anthem with Cigna—as they try to survive the Obamacare wasteland.
The Obama administration defended its opposition by claiming the mergers would reduce competition.Attorney General Loretta Lynch explained, “If allowed to proceed, these mergers would fundamentally reshape the health insurance industry.” That’s rich, since nothing has reshaped the health insurance industry more than Obamacare—and by design.
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Washington experts have been frequently wrong about the Affordable Care Act.
They projected far more enrollees in ACA exchanges than materialized. They also projected that the individual insurance market would stabilize in 2016 with robust competition. Instead, the country is grappling with enormous premium hikes and fewer choices.
A new government report reveals perhaps the largest mistake yet: Medicaid enrollees who gained coverage through the ACA cost almost 50 percent more, on average, than the government projected just one year ago.
ACA supporters often point to Medicaid expansion as the law’s greatest success since it reduced the overall uninsurance rate. We now know that result comes with a gigantic price tag.
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