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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Every Oregon health insurance company but one is proposing double-digit percentage rate hikes for the individual market in 2017, with two of the biggest players — Moda Health Plans and Providence Health Plans — both seeking to raise rates by nearly a third.
Seven of the 12 insurers in the small-group market are also seeking increases, albeit smaller than those in the individual market.
It marks the second straight year of sizable increases since implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
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For years, voters in this swing state have rejected tax increases and efforts to expand government. But now they are flirting with a radical transformation: whether to abandon President Obama’s health care policy and instead create a new, taxpayer-financed public health system that guarantees coverage for everyone.
The estimated $38-billion-a-year proposal, which will go before Colorado voters in November, will test whether people have an appetite for a new system that goes further than the Affordable Care Act. That question is also in play in the Democratic presidential primaries.
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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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A Crain’s investigation shows how Health Republic, the insurance company that was supposed to be about people, not profits, misled its customers and ran itself into the ground.
It’s been decades since a New York health insurer has cratered so dramatically. Providers told Crain’s they signed contracts to treat Health Republic members because they assumed the insurer had been fully vetted by the state. The Cuomo administration had even issued press releases in 2014 and 2015 crediting DFS’ oversight as evidence of the state’s role in keeping premiums affordable.
“We feel betrayed,” said Robert Glazer, chief executive of ENT and Allergy Associates, a large medical practice with 173 physicians. The only warning signs of trouble were early last year, when Health Republic delayed claim payments by three to four months.
“We have no idea if our doctors will be reimbursed,” said Glazer, whose practice is owed more than $650,000. Even if money is recovered, Oechsner said payments to providers “would likely be modest at best.”
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A potential shakeup in Arizona’s Affordable Care Act marketplaces is resurrecting President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care law as a political issue in this year’s U.S. Senate race.
The developments mean customers will have fewer subsidized plans to pick from next year, and in some rural counties, they could have no options at all. UnitedHealthcare, the national insurance giant, on Tuesday signaled that it intends to abandon Arizona’s Affordable Care Act marketplace in 2017. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, the only other insurer to offer plans in all of Arizona’s 15 counties, also is considering pulling out of some areas.
Arizona voters could face a stark choice on the issue in November.
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