News that a CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield subsidiary will stop selling bronze level plans on the Virginia marketplace next year prompted some speculation that it could signal a developing movement by insurers to drop that level of coverage altogether. The reality may be more complicated and interesting, some experts said, based on an analysis of plan data.
Bronze plans provide the least generous coverage of the four metal tiers offered on the insurance marketplaces, paying 60 percent of benefits on average, compared to 70 percent for silver plans, which are far more popular. During the 2016 open enrollment period, 23 percent of marketplace customers signed up for a bronze plan, compared with 68 percent who chose silver, 6 percent who picked gold and 2 percent who chose a platinum plan.
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The House Oversight Committee released a report Wednesday detailing extreme misconduct surrounding Oregon’s failed $305 million taxpayer funded Obamacare exchange and is calling on the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation.
“The documents and testimony show Oregon State officials misused $305 million of federal funds and improperly coordinated with former Governor John Kitzhaber’s campaign advisers. Official decisions were made primarily for political purposes. Cover Oregon was established as an independent organization by the legislature, and was not intended to be a wholly controlled subsidiary of the Governor’s political apparatus,” House Oversight Committee Chairman wrote in a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.
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The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) has proposed a plan to “rebalance” Medicaid eligibility in the Sooner State. Although OHCA’s “plan” so far consists of only a single page of bullet points, what little that is already known makes clear that the plan would gut the existing Insure Oklahoma program and replace it with Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion by another name. Oklahoma policymakers should quickly reject OHCA’s latest proposal to expand Obamacare and refocus their efforts on improving the program for the most vulnerable.
Thousands of kids and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Oklahoma are already sitting on Medicaid waiting lists to get the home and community-based services that they desperately need.
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Health insurers have not had much to cheer about lately, when it comes to Obamacare. They have been losing money on exchanges, and there is little hope that will change. So, a large health plan in Pittsburgh has asked judges to give it Obamacare money the Administration promised, but Congress declined to appropriate.
As reported by Wes Venteicher and Brian Bowling of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Highmark lost $260 million on Obamacare exchanges in 2014, and claims it is owed $223 million by taxpayers. Unfortunately, it received only about $27 million. And things are getting worse. To date, Highmark has lost $773 million on Obamacare exchanges.
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Oracle has had enough of Oregon. The business technology giant has decided it will no longer take on new business with the state’s government amid an ongoing legal battle, Oracle senior vice president Ken Glueck told Fortune on Wednesday.
The decision follows a protracted legal tussle between the two parties over a disastrous state healthcare enrollment website that never came online. In 2011, Oregon enlisted Oracle to build a healthcare exchange website related to Obamacare after being impressed by the company’s sales pitch, according to a previous legal filing.
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Health insurance customers in a growing number of mostly rural regions will have just one insurer’s plans to choose from on the ObamaCare exchanges next year as some companies pull out of unprofitable markets. The entire states of Alaska and Alabama are expected to have only one insurer on the health law’s signature online marketplaces next year, according to state regulators. The same is expected to be true in parts of several other states, including Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arizona and Oklahoma, state regulators said.
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California’s health insurance exchange estimates that its Obamacare premiums may rise 8 percent on average next year, which would end two consecutive years of more modest 4 percent increases.
The projected rate increase in California, included in the exchange’s proposed annual budget, comes amid growing nationwide concern about insurers seeking double-digit premium hikes in the health law’s insurance marketplaces.
Any increases in California, a closely watched state in the health law rollout, are sure to draw intense scrutiny during a presidential election. Republicans are quick to seize on rate hikes as further proof that President Barack Obama’s signature law isn’t doing enough to hold down health care costs for the average consumer.
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The Obama administration could give states more power to manage the Affordable Care Act’s risk adjustment program, in a concession to critics who complained that the program unfairly penalized certain companies and threatened to destabilize the exchange system.
The new policy, which was issued late on May 6, encourages state insurance commissioners to seek “local approaches” to easing the impact of the risk adjustment process on small and high-growth health plans. That language appears to open the door to allowing states to artificially limit the amounts that companies might have to pay into the program each year.
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Using a combination of subsidized premiums for Marketplace coverage, an individual mandate, and expanded Medicaid eligibility, ObamaCare has increased insurance coverage rates. The authors of this study assess the relative contributions to insurance changes of these different provisions in the law’s first full year.
Their four key findings include:
- Insurance coverage was only moderately responsive to price subsidies, but the subsidies were still large enough to raise coverage by almost one percent of the population; the coverage gains were larger in states that operated their own health insurance exchanges (as opposed to using the federal exchange).
- The exemptions and tax penalty structure of the individual mandate had little impact on coverage decisions.
- The law increased Medicaid coverage both among newly eligible populations and those who were previously eligible for Medicaid (the “woodwork” effect), with the latter driven predominantly by states that expanded their programs prior to 2014.
- There was no “crowdout” effect of expanded Medicaid on private insurance. Overall, we conclude that exchange premium subsidies produced roughly 40% of the ACA’s 2014 coverage gains, and Medicaid the other 60%, of which 2/3 occurred among previously-eligible individuals.
Iowa’s insurance commissioner filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Tuesday, saying it is withholding $20 million in connection with the liquidation of not-for-profit insurer CoOportunity Health — which failed in December 2014.
“Through the wind down of CoOportunity, we’ve worked collaboratively with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the federal government on many issues,” said Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart in a news release. “In this instance, we tried diligently to settle our differences with the federal government in extensive discussions over several months, but were informed by the Department of Justice that further negotiations would be futile.”
Gerhart said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS have “tried to jump to the head of the creditor line,” and are not following Iowa or federal law.
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