With insurers struggling to make money and access to plans severely limited, top South Carolina health officials warn the Obamacare health insurance marketplace is on the verge of collapse.

Obamacare was supposed to create a competitive platform for customers to shop for coverage. But in most South Carolina counties, HealthCare.gov more closely resembles a monopoly dominated by the largest private health insurance company in the state — BlueCross BlueShield.

Next year, access to Obamacare in South Carolina will likely become even more limited. United Healthcare, which sells Affordable Care Act plans in five counties and in several other states, has announced it will leave most markets in 2017. The company estimates it lost $475 million on Obamacare customers across the country last year.

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Connecticut’s financially “unstable” Obamacare health-insurance co-op was placed under state supervision on Tuesday, as regulators said 40,000 people covered by the company will ultimately have to find new plans for the coming year.

HealthyCT is the 14th of 23 original Obamacare co-ops to fail since they began selling health plans on government-run Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges. Several of the other remaining co-ops, at least, are believed to be on shaky financial ground.

Until last week, the nonprofit HealthyCT had “adequate capital and sustainable liquidity” — but that fell apart Thursday with a federal requirement that hit HealthyCT with a $13.4 million bill, according to the Connecticut Insurance Department.

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A while back, I explained how the ACA’s Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) uses Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to encourage healthcare providers to deny healthcare to seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries. To summarize: ACOs are paid bonuses if they “reduce costs” in the fee-for-service system, which they can do only by providing fewer services. The system encourages hospitals, physicians and potentially other providers to merge, to make it easier to “make sure” that patients don’t get “extra” healthcare from unaffiliated providers.

This week, in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper with the clever title, “Moneyball in Medicare,” authors Edward C. Norton, Jun Li, Anup Das and Lena M. Chen reveal yet another ACA Medicare provision which encourages providers to merge in order to reduce healthcare services provided to patients.

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Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit released two opinions in Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) cases.  In one case, the federal government prevailed. In the other, it did not.

In the first case, West Virginia v. Department of Health and Human Services, a unanimous panel concluded that the state of West Virginia lacks Article III standing to challenge the Obama administration’s decision to waive some of the PPACA’s requirements governing minimum coverage requirements. This litigation responds to the Obama administration’s response to outrage over insurance plan cancellations — cancellations that were politically problematic because they revealed that the president’s promise that “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it” was a lie. (Indeed, it was Politifact’s “Lie of the Year” for 2013.)

In a second case decided Friday, the administration did not fare so well.  In Central United Life Insurance, Co. v. Burwell, another unanimous panel invalidated an HHS regulation for exceeding the scope of its delegated powers under the Public Health Service Act (PHSA), as amended by the PPACA. Specifically, HHS had adopted regulations seeking to prevent consumers from obtaining fixed indemnity policies that fail to satisfy the PPACA’s minimum essential coverage requirements, despite the PHSA’s exemption of such plans from such requirements.

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ObamaCare enrollment dropped to about 11.1 million people at the end of March, according to new figures released by the administration.

 The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said enrollment fell to about 11.1 million, down from the 12.7 million who signed up for coverage before the Jan. 31 deadline.

A dropoff was expected, and has occurred in previous years as well, given that some people who sign up do not pay their premiums.

The CMS said 87 percent of enrollees remained signed up, within the expected range of 80 percent to 90 percent retention.

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Two major health insurers in Arizona are discontinuing Obamacare plans in part of the state next year.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona and Health Net will stop selling plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in the city of Maricopa and Pinal County, dropping coverage for tens of thousands of enrollees, according to new state filings reported by the Arizona Republic.

Additionally, Health Net is scaling back its Obamacare offerings in Pima County, selling only mid-level silver and gold marketplace plans.

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Nearly 22,000 Ohioans — more than one-third of whom live in the Columbus area — have until Thursday to find a new health insurance plan or face being uninsured for most of July.

The Ohio Department of Insurance took over InHealth Mutual, a subsidiary of Coordinated Health Mutual, in May. The health insurance cooperative based in Westerville was set up in 2014 to be a lower-cost option for Ohioans who shop the federally run health insurance marketplace. The state agency is liquidating the company because it ceased to meet the federal requirements for minimum essential coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

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Insurers from Oregon to Pennsylvania, including a failed health-care co-operative and two long-established Blues plans have lost billions of dollars selling Obamacare policies. Now they are suing the federal government to recoup their losses. In a testament to industry desperation, insurers are asking federal judges to simply ignore a congressional ban on the payment of these corporate subsidies.

The regulatory atrocity that is Obamacare inspired this race to the courthouse. Despite billions in subsidies — to both low-income individuals and well-capitalized insurance companies — the industry has incurred big losses in the individual market.

In a paper published June 28 by the Mercatus Center, Brian Blase (Mercatus), Ed Haislmaier (Heritage Foundation), Seth Chandler (University of Houston), and Doug Badger (Galen Institute) used data derived from insurance-company regulatory filings to determine the extent and source of those losses. The study examined the performance of 174 insurers that sold qualified health plans (QHPs) in 2014 to both individuals and small groups (generally companies with 50 or fewer workers).

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Minnesota’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, has decided to stop selling health plans to individuals and families in Minnesota starting next year.

The insurance carrier’s parent company, which goes by the same name, will continue to sell a much more limited offering on the individual market through its Blue Plus HMO.

The insurer explained extraordinary financial losses drove the decision.

“Based on current medical claim trends, Blue Cross is projecting a total loss of more than $500 million in the individual [health plan] segment over three years,” BCBSM said in a statement.

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ObamaCare officials are partnering with the IRS to help drive down uninsured rates among young people.

For the first time, the federal tax agency is working with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reach out directly to taxpayers who paid the required fee last year because they lacked coverage.

About 45 percent of people who paid the fee — or claimed an exemption, like financial hardship — were under 35, according to HHS.
The planned mailings will lay out options for coverage and include details about how to qualify for federal subsidies. HHS will also again partner with the ride-hailing service Lyft, which will offer discounts to customers who attend open enrollment sessions.

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