Health Reform: So much for the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act. Looks like ObamaCare premiums will rocket next year while sky-high deductibles make it too costly for many to see the doctor.

Last Monday, IBD’s Jed Graham broke the news that big insurers in six states “are seeking to raise rates an average 18.6% next year.”

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee — which currently accounts for 70% of the ObamaCare enrollees in that state — is looking to increase premiums a whopping 36.3%.

CareFirst — which has 80% of the ObamaCare enrollees in Maryland — is pushing for a 30% increase.

Oregon’s Moda Health wants a 25.6% increase, on average, for the roughly half of ObamaCare enrollees it covers in the state.

The Wall Street Journal followed up on Graham’s reporting later in the week, noting that New Mexico’s market leader, Health Care Service, wants an average 51.6% boost in premiums.

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“A different health care issue has emerged for Democrats, in sync with the party’s pitch to … middle-class voters … high out-of-pocket costs for people already covered. Democrats call it ‘underinsurance.’ After paying premiums, many low- and middle-income patients still face high costs when trying to use their coverage. … [T]he value of a health insurance card is being eaten away by rising deductibles … Several liberal-leaning organizations have recently focused on the issue.”

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Community Health Alliance, a Knoxville-based health insurance cooperative, is looking to increase monthly premiums by double digits in 2016 for those who enroll in plans on the federally run exchange as the newly established company tries to find an equilibrium.

The co-op’s plans — ranging from $68.22 to $1,062.05 per month — were the least expensive while they were available for purchase on the exchange.

The co-op is asking the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance for an average 32.6 percent increase for 2016 plans. The minimum a plan will increase is 16.2 percent, while the maximum increase is 65.2 percent.

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Though supporters of President Obama’s healthcare program tout its success in providing insurance to millions of Americans, recent rate filings from large insurers have revealed that the law is built on a shaky foundation.

In recent weeks, large insurers selling coverage through Obamacare have proposed massive rate increases for 2016 – even exceeding 40 percent – because they haven’t been able to sign up enough young and healthy customers.

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Obamacare has enmeshed many Americans in a bureaucratic nightmare. True, the law has helped some uninsured people obtain coverage. But millions of people have seen their health-insurance plans canceled, because the plans did not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Others, particularly young Americans, have seen premiums rise to pay for the roster of newly added benefits. Tommy Groves (not his real name), a young professional working at a small firm in Washington, D.C., was among the nearly 5 million Americans who received termination-of-coverage letters from their health-insurance providers because their plans did not comply with the ACA’s requirements. While about half the states offered to extend canceled plans for another year, later increased to two years, the District of Columbia required its residents to get new insurance.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/418322/obamacare-horror-story-young-americans-diana-furchtgott-roth-jared-meyer

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The collapse of Hawaii’s state-run health exchange has observers wondering which of the other beleaguered exchanges could be next to fail.

Hawaii dumped its Obamacare exchange last week after state lawmakers refused to pump an additional $28 million into what they saw as a failed experiment.

Despite using up $135 million of an appropriated $205 million, Hawaii Health Connector fell well short of goals, enrolling just 37,000 Hawaiians since 2013.

The program ceased taking new enrollees on Friday, and health officials will end outreach services at the end of the month. The exchange’s 70-plus employees, temps and contractors will go home for good on Feb. 28, 2016.

The decision by lawmakers to abandon the exchange came after the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services restricted the state’s grant money. Earlier this year, the group warned Hawaii Health Connector would lose funding for not integrating with Medicaid or reaching target enrollment goals.

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is charged with administering many key provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). One might expect the IRS to follow the law when doing so. In drafting regulations to implement the PPACA’s tax credit provisions, however, the IRS seems to have a habit of ignoring the statutory text where the IRS does not like the result.

University of Iowa law professor Andy Grewal has found multiple instances of the IRS expanding tax credit eligibility beyond that provided for by the text of the PPACA and, in the process, increasing potential employer exposure to penalties under the Act. I discussed two of professor Grewal’s finds in a prior post. (See also this forthcoming article.)

In a new post on the Yale Journal on Regulation blog, “Notice & Comment,” professor Grewal identifies another IRS departure from the statutory text.

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It’s time now for your monthly reminder that Obamacare neither “working in the real world,” “proving its critics wrong,” nor “blowing away expectations:”

Colorado (higher taxes): “The Connect for Health Colorado board of directors voted unanimously Thursday to raise the fees it charges on health insurance policies to bolster its finances as federal grants run out later this year. The state health insurance exchange raised the fee on 2016 plans purchased through its marketplace from the current 1.4 percent of premiums to 3.5 percent, the same rate charged on the federal exchange…Although insurance carriers pay the fees to the exchange, they acknowledge fees are passed on to consumers in one form or another…The fee increases are projected to help bring revenues to about $40 million in fiscal year 2015-16. It would cover operational expenses, but not capital costs, such as improving the computer system…”

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The Obama administration has spent billions of taxpayer dollars implementing the Affordable Care Act, often taking vast liberties with statutory language. The administration’s actions were the subject of a House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, chaired by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL).

Roskam is calling for a Special Inspector General to investigate the administration’s actions and track how tens of billions of dollars have been spent. Implementation of the sweeping and complex law stretches across eight separate federal agencies so no one agency IG can see the patterns and possible abuses taking place.

Rep. Roskam’s SIGMA Act (Special Inspector General for Monitoring the Affordable Care Act) would create an ObamaCare watchdog to conduct much-needed audits of the ACA to guard against further waste of tax dollars, such as the extraordinarily expensive and problem-prone exchange websites.

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I might be accused of picking at low-hanging fruit, but I’d nonetheless like to devote another blog post to more IRS regulations that expand and contradict Section 36B. My prior blog posts, which I’ve adapted into an essay upcoming in Bloomberg BNA, discuss regulations that improperly extend ACA premium tax credits to persons in the Medicare coverage gap and to some unlawful aliens. In this post, I want to highlight regulations that improperly penalize employers and that give credits to taxpayers already enrolled in employer-sponsored minimum essential coverage.

Broadly speaking, Section 36B offers premium tax credits, on a month-by-month basis, to taxpayers who purchase Exchange policies only when they can’t otherwise obtain minimum essential coverage. However, the mere offering of minimum essential coverage by an employer to a taxpayer will not disqualify her from tax credits. Instead, the employer coverage must be affordable and provide minimum value.

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