Usually it’s a good thing that everything’s bigger in Texas, but that isn’t true when it comes to health-insurance premiums for Obamacare. Recent federal data show that Texas’ largest insurer on the Obamacare exchanges is seeking average premium increases of nearly 60 percent for 2017- among the highest hikes in the entire country.
As a result, at least 600,000 policyholders with Blue Cross Blue Shield may quickly find their insurance coverage is unaffordable.
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Banning resident Jim Bailey and his wife went in recently for their annual physicals. They came away with hundreds of dollars in charges for co-pays and tests.
Bailey, 78, told me that he feels duped.
“The Affordable Care Act dictates that all annual physicals be provided at no cost to the policyholders — no deductibles or co-pays,” he said. “But that wasn’t the case with us.”
Nor will it be the case with anyone else — even though many Americans believe otherwise.
“There’s nothing in the ACA that guarantees a free checkup,” said Bradley Herring, an associate professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s surprising how many people think it’s part of the law.”
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Insurers want to crank up the cost of health insurance premiums by as much as 45 percent for Illinois residents who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the most popular insurer on the state’s Obamacare exchange, is proposing increases ranging from 23 percent to 45 percent in premiums for its individual health-care plans, according to proposed 2017 premiums that were made public Monday. The insurer blamed the sought-after hikes mainly on changes in the costs of medical services.
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Two more health cooperatives have filed lawsuits against the Obama administration over a program in which insurers compensate each other for taking on sicker customers under the Affordable Care Act, following a similar lawsuit in June from another startup company.
New Mexico Health Connections and Minuteman Health of Massachusetts filed their cases on Friday afternoon, arguing the Obama administration mismanaged the program known as “risk adjustment” by creating an inaccurate formula that overly rewarded big insurers.
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The implementation of major legislation such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) often results in fiscal outcomes that differ significantly from prior projections. Whenever this happens it leads to many questions, much confusion, and several claims and counter-claims. Rarely is it immediately clear whether the law is working differently than envisioned, or whether the unexpected outcomes are due to inevitable projection errors having nothing to do with the law.
On rare occasion, however, a prior projection proves so far off that its significance must be noted. Two weeks ago my colleague Brian Blase uncovered such a development with respect to the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. Recall that the ACA considerably expanded Medicaid eligibility – an expansion made optional for the states in a later Supreme Court ruling. It turns out that the 2015 per-capita cost of this Medicaid expansion is a whopping 49% higher than projections made just one year before.
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In a Health Affairs article, Loren Adler and Paul Ginsburg from the Center for Health Policy at the Brookings Institution make the claim that Obamacare has lowered health insurance premiums. Adler and Ginsburg claim that, in 2014, premiums for the second-lowest cost “silver” plan were “between 10 and 21% lower than average individual market premiums in 2013,” the year before Obamacare went into effect. Yet the Government Accountability Office has found that, in early 2013, the median plan in the median state for a healthy 30-year-old man had an annual premium of just $1,558. By comparison, according to the Kaiser Health Calculator, the nationwide average annual premium for the second-lowest cost “silver” plan for a 30-year-old man is now $3,186—more than twice as much.
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Aetna Inc, the nation’s third largest health insurer, said on Tuesday that it no longer plans to expand its Obamacare business next year. The insurer, which is losing money on the plans it sells in 15 states to individuals on exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act, said it also was looking at whether it should continue to offer the contracts. Aetna said its exchange-based plans for individuals had a pretax operating loss of $200 million in the second quarter, and it projected the loss from that business would exceed $300 million by year-end. It had initially expected to break even on the plans.
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Health plans sold on Michigan’s insurance exchange could see an average 17.3% increase next year, and if recent history is any guide, state regulators could approve the insurance companies’ rate hike requests without many — if any — changes.
The rate increases would mean a financial hit for taxpayers in general and the 345,000 Michiganders who buy their health insurance on the Healthcare.gov exchange, created under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
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A sampling of the 2017 proposed rate increases:
Blue Care Network of Michigan is seeking an average 14.8% rate increase for its plans.
Blue Cross Blue Shield wants an 18.7% increase.
Priority Health has asked for a 13.9% rate hike.
The biggest rate request is from Humana — a 39.2% rise.
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Former adviser to the president for health policy explains why he was wrong about how the change in the delivery of health care would, and should, happen: “I believed then that the consolidation of doctors into larger physician groups was inevitable and desirable under the ACA. . . . I still believe that organizing medicine into networks that can share information, coordinate care for patients and manage risk is critical for delivering higher-quality care, generating cost savings and improving the experience for patients. What I know now, though, is that having every provider in health care “owned” by a single organization is more likely to be a barrier to better care.”
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