The Obama administration cannot force a Missouri lawmaker and his family to carry health insurance that includes contraception coverage despite the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurers cover birth control, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Jean C. Hamilton said Thursday that HHS may not compel Republican state lawmaker Paul Joseph Wieland, his wife Teresa Jane Wieland or their insurer to include contraception coverage in their health plan. The ACA’s contraception mandate otherwise requires group health plans and insurers to cover contraceptives and sterilization procedures.
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The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) annual report on Medicaid’s finances contains a stunning update: the average cost of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion enrollees was nearly 50% higher in fiscal year (FY) 2015 than HHS had projected just one year prior. Specifically, HHS found that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion enrollees cost an average of $6,366 in FY 2015—49% higher than the $4,281 amount that the agency projected in last year’s report.
The government’s chief financial experts appear not to have anticipated how states would respond to the federal government’s 100% financing of the cost of people made eligible for Medicaid by the ACA. It appears that the enhanced federal funding for the ACA expansion population has led states to set outrageously high capitation rates—the amount government pays insurers—for the ACA Medicaid expansion population. The rates are much higher than the amounts for previously eligible Medicaid adult enrollees and suggest that states are inappropriately funneling federal taxpayer money to insurers, hospitals, and other health care interests through the ACA Medicaid expansion.
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California’s Obamacare premiums will jump 13.2 percent on average next year, a sharp increase that is likely to reverberate nationwide in an election year.
The Covered California exchange had won plaudits by negotiating 4 percent average rate increases in its first two years. But that feat couldn’t be repeated for 2017, as overall medical costs continue to climb and two federal programs that help insurers with expensive claims are set to expire this year.
The increase announced Tuesday comes as major insurers around the country seek even bigger rate hikes for open enrollment this fall, and the presidential candidates clash over the future of President Barack Obama’s landmark health law.
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Humana will exit eight of the 19 individual health insurance markets where it has sold Obamacare plans this year, the insurer announced Thursday.
The company is still struggling to make a profit on the exchanges, according to its second quarter earnings guidance released Thursday. The company expects to offer individual plans in 156 counties across 11 states compared to the 1,351 counties in 19 states it has offered plans in the year, according to a release.
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More than six years of efforts by Republican and other right-of-center opponents to repeal, replace, or substantially reshape Obamacare have fallen short.
The strategic options ahead for Obamacare critics on the right are:
- Rinse and repeat: more of the same
- Gamble on a more ambitious long-shot strategy
- Adapt tactically in the near term, to minimize future damage
House Republicans released their latest plan – “A Better Way” – to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last month. It blends all three of the strategies above, but its lite brew for reform remarkably manages to be both too cautious and too unrealistic all at once.
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The platform approved Monday at the Republican National Convention suggests that a future Republican administration could dismantle Obamacare using regulatory authority. A Republican president could not waive portions of the law, but he could act to stop controversial payments that are being made to insurers.
In its section on health care, the platform pledged of Obamacare: “a Republican president, on the first day in office, will use legitimate waiver authority under the law to halt its advance and then, with the unanimous support of Congressional Republicans, will sign its repeal.” The waiver concept echoes language used by 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who pledged that “If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states.”
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House Speaker Paul Ryan says he has heard personally from actuaries for a major health insurer that Obamacare is “failing.” Speaking at a Wednesday breakfast for Ohio delegates to the Republican National Convention, Ryan said that actuaries for Blue Cross Blue Shield have told him the Affordable Care Act is going downhill faster than they expected.
“As I said in the beginning, this healthcare law is going to collapse under its own weight,” Ryan said. “I met with all these actuaries from Blue Cross Blue Shield a little while ago, and they said ‘Well, congressman, the law is failing two years ahead of schedule,'” he added. “Meaning, basically, they saw it coming, but they didn’t think it would be this bad so fast.”
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Things have gone from bad to worse for the Affordable Care Act’s health-care co-op experiment.
Maryland’s co-op, Evergreen Health, filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in June against the federal government claiming that private insurers have gamed the system to avoid making “risk adjustment payments.” Under the ACA, insurers with healthier members must make these payments to insurers with unhealthier members. But Evergreen CEO Peter Beilenson argues that his co-op was unfairly labeled as healthier because private insurers encouraged their less healthy members to go to the doctor so their patient pools would appear less healthy. Evergreen is now expected to owe between $18 million and $22 million in risk adjustment payments.
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Only about one-third of health insurers came out ahead in their first year in the ObamaCare marketplace, according to a study by the Commonwealth Fund released Wednesday.
While insurers made nearly twice as much money from healthcare premiums in 2014, overall profits “diminished noticeably” because of higher payouts, according to the expansive new analysis on companies participating in the exchanges.
Overall, health insurers underestimated their total medical costs by about 5.7 percent in their first year.
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The Republican platform seems to have taken its cue from Speaker Paul Ryan’s A Better Way, at least when it comes to health policy. Not surprisingly, health care did not get top billing in the 66 page document. The economy, jobs, and taxes led off, with the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid relegated to later chapters. Although there is not much text, those words are important.\
Significantly, the platform takes up Medicare and Medicaid in the chapter on government reform. The document points out that Medicare’s long-term debt is in the trillions, and does not shrink from recommending actions that could set the program on a fiscally sound path. That requires change that will not be welcomed by everyone, so the platform pushes off that change for a decade in the hope of not alienating the senior vote. Nonetheless, the Republican Party has now officially endorsed Ryan’s premium support plan that can promote competition and more efficient health care.
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