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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Blue Shield of California is shutting down for the four days after Labor Day to reduce its payroll-related liabilities, citing losses in California’s Covered California Obamacare exchange and other commercial and individual lines of business.

The move will affect most of its 6,000 employees in California, except about 1,000 who work for Care1st, which it acquired last fall for $1.2 billion, and some staffers in customer service and related areas who will remain on the job. The exact number of workers involved hasn’t yet been tabulated, according to the San Francisco-based insurer.

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A government report finds that the cost of expanding Medicaid to millions more low-income people is increasing faster than expected, raising questions about a vital part of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

The law provided for the federal government to pay the entire cost of the Medicaid expansion from 2014 through the end of this year.

Obama has proposed an extra incentive for states that have not yet expanded Medicaid: three years of full federal financing no matter when they start. But the new cost estimates could complicate things.

In a recent report to Congress, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the cost of expansion was $6,366 per person for 2015, about 49 percent higher than previously estimated.

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The health insurance exchanges that are the beating heart of Obamacare are on the edge of collapse, with premiums rising sharply for ever narrower provider networks, non-profit health co-ops shuttering their doors, and even the biggest insurance companies heading for the exits amid mounting losses.  Even the liberal Capitol Hill newspaper is warning of a possible “Obamacare meltdown” this fall.

Three states – Alaska, Alabama, and Wyoming – are already down to just a single insurance company, as are large parts of several other states, totaling at least 664 counties.

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In an effort to prevent more insurers from abandoning the Obamacare exchange in Tennessee, the state’s insurance regulator is allowing health insurers refile 2017 rate requests by Aug. 12 after Cigna and Humana said their previously requested premium hikes were too low.

Cigna and Humana filed to increase last year’s premiums an average of 23 and 29 percent, respectively, on June 10. But in the interim, both insurance companies have told state regulators that the requests would not cover the expected claims, said Kevin Walters, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance.

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Moving beyond “Obamacare,” political activists are looking to state ballot questions to refocus the nation’s long-running debate over government’s role in health care.

This fall, California voters will decide whether to lower some prescription drug prices, while Coloradans will vote on a state version of a “single-payer” government-run health system, similar to what Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed in his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders supports both the California and Colorado initiatives, said spokesman Michael Briggs.

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The push is on in Colorado for a universal health care system. But can the state afford it?

Amendment 69, which will be on the Nov. 8 ballot this fall, would “replace most private health insurance in the state — including Colorado’s Obamacare exchange — with universal coverage overseen by an elected 21-member board,” according to a report in The Denver Post.

Sure sounds like sunshine and roses, and there are a lot of people fighting for it. But a new analysis shows the system would be in the red to the tune of as much as $8 billion — by the 10th year of the program.

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As college students and their parents finalize their enrollment and pay tuition and fees for fall, many face one fewer headache than in years past: no more worrying about whether they’ve waived the optional health-insurance coverage in time to avoid being charged for it.

In large part because of changes brought by the federal Affordable Care Act, a number of colleges have stopped providing student health insurance.

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama is seeking an average rate increase of 39 percent on individual plans offered through the Obamacare marketplace, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The proposed rate hikes will affect more than 160,000 people in Alabama who purchase insurance through the federal exchange, or about 5 percent of Blue Cross membership.

Rate increases range from 26 to 41 percent, depending on the type of plan. Proposed increases are lowest for bronze plans, which offer the least amount of coverage, and greatest for the most popular silver plans.

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Weeks after announcing a new “relationship-based” health insurance plan that would provide patients unlimited access to health coaches and primary doctors with no co-pay, Harken Health Insurance withdrew its application to open in South Florida in 2017.

Harken’s withdrawal further narrows the number of health insurance choices for customers who qualify for federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act exchanges. Just seven companies or their affiliates have plans pending state approval, according to the federal site healthcare.gov. The nation’s largest health insurer, Harken parent company UnitedHealth, has pulled out of ACA exchanges in 31 states, including Florida.

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