Rising healthcare costs are Americans’ primary financial concern. In fact, a recent survey found that 76% of Americans are concerned about increasing health insurance costs with nearly two-thirds more concerned this year than they were last year. As is now clear, the Affordable Care Act is making the problem worse. A recent S&P Global Institute report (not publicly available) showed that healthcare spending per individual market enrollee increased by nearly 70% in the first two years after the key provisions of the ACA took effect.
A recent Mercatus working paper, authored by Brian Blase, along with Doug Badger of the Galen Institute and Ed Haislmaier of the Heritage Foundation, found that insurers made risk corridor claims of $273 per enrollee on individual market qualified health plans—plans that comply with the ACA and are certified to be sold on exchanges—in 2014. Risk corridors were designed to transfer money from insurers that made profits selling QHPs to insurers that incurred losses on QHPs. Assuming that a fully-funded risk corridor program would have subsidized about two-thirds of insurer losses, insurers likely lost around $400 per enrollee in 2014. Since insurers enrolled about 8 million people in 2014, they likely lost about $3.2 billion overall selling individual QHPs.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee Republicans can’t find most of the $200 million that the Obama administration claims it recouped from state-based health care exchanges as part of a federal grant program to help them set up shop, according to a new report obtained by Morning Consult.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt told the committee in December that “over $200 million” had been returned to federal coffers from the state exchanges since the grant program went into effect.
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The Obama administration could give states more power to manage the Affordable Care Act’s risk adjustment program, in a concession to critics who complained that the program unfairly penalized certain companies and threatened to destabilize the exchange system.
The new policy, which was issued late on May 6, encourages state insurance commissioners to seek “local approaches” to easing the impact of the risk adjustment process on small and high-growth health plans. That language appears to open the door to allowing states to artificially limit the amounts that companies might have to pay into the program each year.
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Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed paying for his policies that transform large sectors of the government and the economy mainly through increased taxes on wealthy Americans. A pair of new studies published Monday suggests Sanders would not come up with enough money using this approach, and that the poor and the middle class would have to pay more than Sanders has projected in order to fund his ideas.
The studies, published jointly by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center and the Urban Institute in Washington, concludes that Sanders’s plans are short a total of more than $18 trillion over a decade. His programs would cost the federal government about $33 trillion over that period, almost all of which would go toward Sanders’s proposed system of national health insurance. Yet the Democratic presidential candidate has put forward just $15 trillion in new taxes, the authors concluded.
The Obama administration on Friday announced changes to ObamaCare sign-up rules that are intended to cut down on people gaming the system and address a complaint from insurance companies that they say is causing them to lose money.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it is tightening the rules for enrolling in one of ObamaCare’s extra sign-up periods.
The CMS unveiled an interim final rule late Friday that could help the Affordable Care Act’s struggling co-op plans. The rule also responds to insurers’ complaints that people are abusing special enrollments in the exchanges.
The CMS tightened the use of special enrollments, specifically making the rules around moving to a new home more restrictive to avoid any gaming of the system. Co-ops also can seek outside funding from investors to build up their capital, something that was outlawed previously.
Using a combination of subsidized premiums for Marketplace coverage, an individual mandate, and expanded Medicaid eligibility, ObamaCare has increased insurance coverage rates. The authors of this study assess the relative contributions to insurance changes of these different provisions in the law’s first full year.
Their four key findings include:
- Insurance coverage was only moderately responsive to price subsidies, but the subsidies were still large enough to raise coverage by almost one percent of the population; the coverage gains were larger in states that operated their own health insurance exchanges (as opposed to using the federal exchange).
- The exemptions and tax penalty structure of the individual mandate had little impact on coverage decisions.
- The law increased Medicaid coverage both among newly eligible populations and those who were previously eligible for Medicaid (the “woodwork” effect), with the latter driven predominantly by states that expanded their programs prior to 2014.
- There was no “crowdout” effect of expanded Medicaid on private insurance. Overall, we conclude that exchange premium subsidies produced roughly 40% of the ACA’s 2014 coverage gains, and Medicaid the other 60%, of which 2/3 occurred among previously-eligible individuals.
Insurers — who might not be allowed the huge rate increases they need to stay solvent — are looking to save money by eliminating so-called Bronze-level plans.
One problem, according to the article, is risk adjustment–as CMS data indicate bronze is the only metal level for which insurers of all sizes in the individual and group markets had to pay into the program. Federal officials are considering some changes to the risk adjustment program, which some say unfairly penalizes smaller insurers.Already, filings show a CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield subsidiary in Virginia will transform its bronze plans into silver-level plans for 2017, according to Inside Health Policy, and experts tell the publication this could set a troubling precedent for the industry.
Iowa’s insurance commissioner filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Tuesday, saying it is withholding $20 million in connection with the liquidation of not-for-profit insurer CoOportunity Health — which failed in December 2014.
“Through the wind down of CoOportunity, we’ve worked collaboratively with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the federal government on many issues,” said Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart in a news release. “In this instance, we tried diligently to settle our differences with the federal government in extensive discussions over several months, but were informed by the Department of Justice that further negotiations would be futile.”
Gerhart said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS have “tried to jump to the head of the creditor line,” and are not following Iowa or federal law.
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More Democrats seem to be having doubts about the federal health care law, a contentious issue for most of President Barack Obama’s tenure and one of the defining elements of his legacy.
With the administration counting down its final year, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ call for “Medicare for all” appears to have rekindled aspirations for more ambitious changes beyond “Obamacare.”
That poses a challenge for Hillary Clinton, who has argued that the health care law is working and the nation should build on it, not start over.
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