A few weeks ago, the administration issued new regulations in a last-ditch attempt to save the few remaining CO-OP organizations.
The American people have become familiar with ObamaCare’s failings: higher premiums, fewer choices and a more powerful federal health bureaucracy. Yet another important piece of health-care legislation, signed into law last year, has gone almost unnoticed.
The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, known simply as Macra, was enacted to replace the outdated and dysfunctional system for paying doctors under Medicare. The old system, based on the universally despised sustainable-growth rate formula, perennially threatened to impose unsustainable cuts in physicians’ fees.
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UnitedHealth Group Inc. is leaving California’s insurance exchange at the end of this year, state officials confirmed Tuesday.
The nation’s largest health insurer announced in April it was dropping out of all but a handful of 34 health insurance marketplaces it participated in. But the company had not discussed its plans in California.
UnitedHealth’s pullout also affects individual policies sold outside the Covered California exchange, which will remain in effect until the end of December.
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Two recently filed lawsuits illustrate continuing difficulties the administration faces in implementing the Affordable Care Act, particularly under the constraints imposed upon it recently by Congress. Specifically, the suits illustrate the legal difficulties for the administration created by Congress’ limiting of “risk corridor” payments—made to insurers with high claims costs—to amounts contributed to the risk corridor program by insurers with low costs. Last year, CMS announced that it would have only $362 million in contributions to pay out $2.87 billion in requested payments, and so would only pay out 12.6 cents on the dollar for payment claims.
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Ohio’s co-op will become the thirteenth of the 23 co-ops created under the Affordable Care Act to fold.
The Ohio Department of Insurance requested to liquidate the state’s health insurance co-op, InHealth Mutual, the state announced Thursday. Nearly 22,000 Ohio residents will have 60 days to replace their InHealth policy with another company’s on the federal exchange.
“Our examination of the company’s financials made it clear that the company’s losses would prevent it from paying future claims should its operations continue,” Mary Taylor, the Ohio Director of Insurance and the state’s lieutenant governor, said in a statement.
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On Jan. 13, 2014, a team of Internal Revenue Service financial managers piled into government vans and headed to the Old Executive Office Building for what would turn out to be a very unusual meeting.
The clandestine nature of the session underscores the intense conflict over Obamacare spending, which is the subject of a federal lawsuit in which House Republicans have so far prevailed, as well as a continuing investigation by the Ways and Means and the Energy and Commerce Committees. It also shows that more than six years after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, Republican opposition has not waned.
After failing to win congressional approval for the funds, the Obama administration spent the money anyway and has now distributed about $7 billion to insurance companies to offset out-of-pocket costs for eligible consumers. The administration asserts that the health care legislation provided permanent, continuing authority to do so, and that no further appropriation was necessary.
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Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, facing massive losses for its ObamaCare plans, has requested a 58% premium hike for 603,000 customers.
The company is pricing in the claims experience of customers that’s been far higher than expected after suffering a $770 million loss on its exchange plans in 2015, equal to 26% of premiums.
Overall, individual market insurers requested a 35% ObamaCare premium hike for about 1.3 million customers, calculated ACASignups.net, based on the full range of insurer filings available.
BCBS of Texas also is seeking an 18% increase for 353,000 members who buy plans via the small group market that caters to businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
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News that a CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield subsidiary will stop selling bronze level plans on the Virginia marketplace next year prompted some speculation that it could signal a developing movement by insurers to drop that level of coverage altogether. The reality may be more complicated and interesting, some experts said, based on an analysis of plan data.
Bronze plans provide the least generous coverage of the four metal tiers offered on the insurance marketplaces, paying 60 percent of benefits on average, compared to 70 percent for silver plans, which are far more popular. During the 2016 open enrollment period, 23 percent of marketplace customers signed up for a bronze plan, compared with 68 percent who chose silver, 6 percent who picked gold and 2 percent who chose a platinum plan.
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The first change would limit the restriction on people with health insurance experience to those who have been “an officer, director, or trustee,” and it limits “pre-existing insurer” to those to who were active in the individual or small-group markets prior to July 16, 2009. This would open up the field of potential CO-OP board members to people who had (a) worked for health insurers active only in the large-group market, or (b) worked for any insurer, but in a lower-level capacity.
The House Oversight Committee released a report Wednesday detailing extreme misconduct surrounding Oregon’s failed $305 million taxpayer funded Obamacare exchange and is calling on the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation.
“The documents and testimony show Oregon State officials misused $305 million of federal funds and improperly coordinated with former Governor John Kitzhaber’s campaign advisers. Official decisions were made primarily for political purposes. Cover Oregon was established as an independent organization by the legislature, and was not intended to be a wholly controlled subsidiary of the Governor’s political apparatus,” House Oversight Committee Chairman wrote in a letter sent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.
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According to a legal opinion letter by former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray, the answer is YES.
In this recording of a May 26, 2016 media conference call, experts describe the Obama administration’s decision to pay health insurers generous reinsurance subsidies while stiffing taxpayers, despite a statutory requirement that fixed sums must go to the U.S. Treasury.
Mr. Gray’s letter reinforces the conclusion of experts at the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, who also found that the administration’s actions “would appear to be in conflict with the plain text” of the ACA regarding the Transitional Reinsurance Program.
Speakers on the call:
- Doug Badger, Senior Fellow, Galen Institute
- Derek Lyons, Counsel, Boyden Gray & Associates
- Tom Miller, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
For more on this issue, read our column at Forbes. The media call was sponsored by the Galen Institute, which also commissioned the legal opinion letter from Mr. Gray. (The recording starts about two minutes into the call with Doug Badger speaking.)