The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday approved a GOP bill that responds to the failure of about two-thirds of the co-op insurers created under the Affordable Care Act.

The bill, which passed by a voice vote, would exempt people who lost insurance because the co-op through which they bought coverage folded mid-year from the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Roughly 750,000 families have had their coverage disrupted by the closure of 16 of the 23 co-ops created under the 2010 health care law, all citing financial problems, Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said during the hearing. The bill would exempt consumers from the individual mandate for the remainder of that year, and they would be required to sign up for coverage during the next enrollment period.

. . .

Five Senators are questioning Aetna’s decision to retreat from nearly a dozen Obamacare markets next year and how the decision is tied to the federal government’s attempt to block its proposed merger with Humana, which is being challenged by a Department of Justice antitrust lawsuit.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) sent a letter to Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini Thursday questioning the insurers’ change in perspective about its participation in the Obamacare exchanges this summer after the Department of Justice sued to block the proposed merger.

. . .

Just over 50 percent of Americans disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, according to a Gallup poll released Thursday.

Among people surveyed in the poll, 51 percent said they disapproved of the law, while 44 percent said they approved of it. It’s a slight increase in disapproval of the law since the spring, when a Gallup poll found 49 percent of people disapproved of the law and 47 percent of people approved of it. Overall, Gallup polls have found people have been more pessimistic than optimistic about the law for the past three years.

The Health Republican Insurance of New Jersey announced Monday plans to shut down, hours after Sen. Ben Sasse introduced the CO-OP Consumer Protection Act.

The Garden State’s Obamacare co-op plans to close at the end of the year, making it the 17th of 23 to fail and cost Americans their health plans.

“Families in New Jersey have just been gut-punched and the last thing that Washington should do is force these CO-OP victims to pay Obamacare’s individual mandate. This started in Nebraska and Iowa and has been a catastrophe for countless Americans,” Sasse said in a press release.

. . .

Health insurance executives went to the White House on Monday and called for changes to ObamaCare that they say are necessary to keep the healthcare exchanges working.

The executives discussed a series of their long-running complaints about ObamaCare including tightening up the rules for extra sign-up periods, shortening grace periods for people who fail to pay their premiums and easing restrictions on setting premiums based on someone’s age.

Insurers say these changes would help shore up their finances. Several large insurers have in recent months announced they are pulling back from ObamaCare, citing financial losses.

. . .


Significant spikes in premiums, insurer dropouts and persistently low enrollment numbers are combining to make this fall’s sign-up period a crossroads for the Obama administration’s signature health law. Federal officials characterize the turbulence as temporary. At the same time, the administration is making a push in its final months to shore up the law by trying to sign up healthy people who are critical to the law’s sustainability but have so far rejected insurance. That push will take place against a backdrop of elections that will shape the law’s future.

. . .

President Obama and his Democratic allies are seizing on the exodus of private insurers from ObamaCare markets to renew their push for a so-called “public option” — but Republicans say more “government intervention” is not the answer to the latest Affordable Care Act woes.

A public option — or insurance plan offered by the government — had been written into early versions of the bill but failed to make the final cut in the law signed by Obama in March 2010.

But with many states seeing private insurers exit ObamaCare markets amid concerns over cost and other factors, Democrats see a silver lining to what critics are calling another ObamaCare crisis — a reason to bring the option back.

. . .

In its quest to remake the nation’s health care system, the Obama administration has urged doctors and hospitals to band together to improve care and cut costs, using a model devised by researchers at Dartmouth College.

But Dartmouth itself, facing mounting financial losses in the federal program, has dropped out, raising questions about the future of the new entities known as accountable care organizations, created under the Affordable Care Act.

. . .


According to a recently-updated analysis conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation of 14 major cities, the lowest-cost and second-lowest cost silver plans are expected to rise by a weighted average of 9% in 2017. But residents in some states are going to have it far worse. Through last weekend, insurers in a dozen states had their rate requests for 2017 finalized. Residents in the vast majority of the approved states are looking at double-digit percentage increases. As aggregated by, four of the first 12 states to finalize their rate requests for 2017 are looking at weighted increases of at least 30%.

. . .


The Chicago Tribune editorial board lays out a succinct explanation of why the Affordable Care Act is failing: The law hasn’t tamed U.S. medical costs, the penalties for going uncovered are low compared to skyrocketing premiums, the law has straitjacketed insurers into providing soup-to-nuts policies, and too many carriers simply can’t cover expenses, let alone turn a profit, in such a rigidly controlled system. Is Obamacare plunging in a so-called insurance death spiral? Is the market so unstable that plans are doomed to get more and more expensive, driving more Americans and more insurers out of the market until Obamacare thuds to the pavement?  The next president and Congress need to reckon with Obamacare’s failures or wait for the thud.

. . .