A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Uninsured"

Anthem Blue Cross sued again over narrow-network health plans

Chad Terhune, Los Angeles Times
Wed, 2014-08-20
"Health insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross faces another lawsuit over switching consumers to narrow-network health plans — with limited selections of doctors — during the rollout of Obamacare.. These types of complaints have already sparked an ongoing investigation by California regulators and other lawsuits seeking class-action status against Anthem and rival Blue Shield of California. A group of 33 Anthem customers filed suit Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court against the health insurer, which is a unit of WellPoint Inc. Anthem is California's largest for-profit health insurer and had the biggest enrollment this year in individual policies in the Covered California exchange. In the latest suit, Anthem members accuse the company of misrepresenting the size of its physician networks and the insurance benefits provided in new plans offered under the Affordable Care Act."

Most Insurance Exchanges Just Got Bigger. Covered California Is Getting Smaller.

Dan Diamond
California Health Line
Thu, 2014-08-14
"When Covered California unveiled its initial slate of 13 carriers last year, their low rates got some attention -- but so did their mix. While Covered California couldn't boast Aetna or UnitedHealthcare, which instead elected to leave the state's individual market, four major insurers were on board: Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Health Net and Kaiser Permanente. And the exchange also had drawn in several smaller health plans, like Ventura County Health Plan, which were going to compete for share on the individual market for the first time. "For me, the story is [these] new participants," Micah Weinberg of the Bay Area Council told California Healthline last summer. "Who exactly they are, and how they are being offered in these marketplaces, is worth watching." But Ventura County quietly pulled out. A second small carrier, Alameda Alliance, was kicked out.

Accuracy of survey showing spike in Kansas uninsured rate questioned

Jim McLean, Kansas Health Institute News Service
Wed, 2014-08-13
"TOPEKA — Remember that headline-grabbing report last week that said Kansas was the only state in the nation to see a significant increase in its uninsured rate? Well, it’s looking more and more suspect. Some officials were immediately skeptical when the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey results were released, showing that the adult uninsured rate in Kansas had increased by 5.1 percentage points, jumping from 12.5 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent by mid-year 2014. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger was among the doubters. She said the number appeared to be “an anomaly” because a spike of that magnitude from one year to the next “would be unprecedented.” But others seized on the numbers to score political points. Some said Kansas’ decision to join 23 other states in not expanding Medicaid contributed to the increase.

Millions of uninsured Americans exempt from ObamaCare penalties in 2016, report finds

Fox News
Thu, 2014-08-07
"A new congressional report has estimated that more than 25 million Americans without health insurance will not be made to pay a penalty in 2016 due to an exploding number of ObamaCare exemptions. The Wall Street Journal, citing an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, reported that the number of people expected to pay the fine in 2016 has dwindled to four million people from the report's previous projection of six million. Approximately 30 million Americans are believed to be without health insurance. The latest report is likely to spark fresh concerns among insurers, who have maintained that the number of exemptions to the law's individual mandate are resulting in fewer young, healthy people signing up for health insurance. An insurance pool skewed toward older, comparatively unhealthy people is likely to result in premiums rising.

What's behind jump in rate of uninsured Kansans?

Dan Margolies, KCUR
Thu, 2014-08-07
"Kansas was one of just three states that saw their rates of people without health insurance go up since last year, according to a new survey. And, if the poll results are accurate, Kansas was the one whose rates went up the most. The data, collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, show that the uninsured population in Kansas rose from 12.5 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent by midyear 2014 — a whopping increase of 5.1 percentage points. Even Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger confesses she’s surprised, although she says there may be several possible explanations for the data.

Small Firms Hit by Big Changes in Health Coverage

Angus Loten, Wall Street Journal
Thu, 2014-08-07
"Businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempt from the most stringent requirements for larger employers under the federal health-care law. But that doesn't mean they're off the hook entirely. Smaller employers aren't required under the Affordable Care Act to offer coverage for their full-time workers—as larger firms must by 2016 or face penalties, for instance. But many owners of small ventures and startup entrepreneurs are nonetheless facing big changes to how they obtain their own health coverage, as well as to the benefits they're able to offer employees. "It's a myth that smaller firms aren't being hit" by the health law, albeit in less obvious ways, says James Schutzer, president of the New York State Association of Health Underwriters, referring to employers with fewer than 50 workers. Several thousand of the nation's smallest business owners—sole proprietors and the self-employed—were kicked off their small-business plans by carriers earlier this year.

Small employers dumping plans faster than expected, WellPoint says

J.K. Wall, The Dose
Wed, 2014-08-06
"A year ago, investors worried that WellPoint Inc. would lose more of its small business customers than it could offset by signing up individuals in the Obamacare exchanges. The first half of those concerns were justified—and then some. Indianapolis-based WellPoint is seeing its small business customers dump their group health plans and move their workers to the Obamacare exchanges at a faster clip this year than it expected. Already in 2014, WellPoint has watched 218,000 members of its health plans disappear because their employers have ended their group health plans. That’s a 12-percent drop in WellPoint’s overall small group membership. As I have reported before, the Obamacare tax credits for individuals have proven quite attractive for many employers with fewer than 30 workers. That's not to say all are taking this route.

Study: States Embracing Obamacare See Biggest Drops in Uninsured

Stephanie Armour
Wed, 2014-08-06
"Some states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and set up all or part of their own insurance exchanges have seen a marked drop in the number of uninsured adults. The uninsured rates in states that opted to expand Medicaid, a health program primarily for low-income residents, and set up their own exchanges declined more in the first half of 2014 than in the states that didn’t take that approach, according to a study released Tuesday by Gallup. The survey was based on a random sample of adults through June 30. Arkansas saw the percentage of uninsured drop from 22.5% in 2013 to 12.4% through midyear 2014, according to the survey. Kentucky followed, with its percentage of uninsured dropping from 20.4% to 11.9% during the same time span. The other states with the largest drop in the percentage of uninsured were Delaware, Washington, Colorado, West Virginia, Oregon, California, New Mexico and Connecticut."

A Tennessee Insurer Uses Its Monopoly To Deliver Bargain Premiums

Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News
Wed, 2014-08-06
"CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The dominion of Tennessee’s largest health insurer is reflected in its headquarters’ lofty perch above the city, atop a hill that during the Civil War was lined with Union cannons to repel Confederate troops. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has used its position to establish a similarly firm foothold in the first year of the marketplaces created by the health law. The company sold 88 percent of the plans for Tennessee individuals and families. Only one other insurer, Cigna, bothered to offer policies in Chattanooga, and the premiums were substantially higher than those offered by BlueCross. Though insurers have been regularly vilified in debates over health care prices, BlueCross’ near monopoly here has been unusually good financially for consumers. Its cut-rate exclusive deal with one of three area health systems turned Chattanooga into one of the 10 least expensive insurance markets in the country, as judged by the lowest price mid-level, or silver, plan.

Health Law Calls For Some Workers To Be Automatically Enrolled In Coverage

Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News
Tue, 2014-08-05
"Newly hired employees who don’t sign up for health insurance on the job could have it done for them under a health law provision that may take effect as early as next year. But the controversial provision is raising questions: Does automatic enrollment help employees help themselves, or does it force them into coverage they don’t want and may not need? A group of employers, many of them retail and hospitality businesses, want the provisions repealed, but some experts say the practice has advantages and is consistent with the aims of the health law. By enrolling people unless they opt out, "you're changing the default option," says Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health, a research and consulting firm.

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