Barred from restaurants, banned on airplanes and unwelcome in workplaces across America, smokers have become accustomed to hiding their habits. So it’s no surprise many may now also be denying their habit when they buy health coverage from the federal health law’s insurance exchanges.
Insurers — who can charge higher rates in most states to admitted smokers — are steamed.
They say the cheating that smokers do to escape tobacco surcharges on their monthly premiums means higher rates for everyone else.
. . .
The desire for autonomy and work-life balance is driving more workers into freelance roles, but at the same time there are growing incentives for companies to employ workers via contracts rather than hire them full-time.
Chief among those incentives is the cost of providing (or not providing) health care to workers under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly three-quarters of companies said that they would contract with more freelancers this year because of Obamac\Care, according to a new survey by online work platform Field Nation and executive development firm Future Workplace.
. . .
In the face of losses in the Affordable Care Act marketplace, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois is looking for new ways to cut spending.
Starting June 1, the Chicago-based health insurer will no longer accept credit cards as a form of payment for members who buy their own health insurance on or off the Illinois marketplace. The company began notifying customers of the change last month. Blue Cross will still accept other forms of payment, including debit cards.
. . .
UnitedHealthcare’s decision to not offer Affordable Care Act exchange plans next year in “at least 26 of the 34 states where it sold 2016 coverage” may soon be followed by similar announcements from other health care insurers.
At least that is one implication that can be drawn from the findings reported in a new paper analyzing the performance of insurers that offered exchange coverage in 2014.
The paper’s authors—Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ed Haislmaier, Mercatus Center senior research fellow Brian Blase, and Galen Institute senior fellow Doug Badger—examined enrollment and financial data for the 289 Qualified Health Plans sold on the exchanges in 2014.
They found that, in the aggregate, insurers incurred substantial losses offering exchange coverage. Furthermore, the poor results were despite insurers receiving substantial subsidies—indeed, more than they originally expected—through the Affordable Care Act’s “reinsurance” program.
. . .
U.S. health insurer Humana Inc, which plans to be bought by larger Aetna Inc, is considering ending the sale of ObamaCare individual plans in some states in 2017 to stem losses there.
Humana’s individual business, which sells plans under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, has been a drag on results, and the company still expects to lose money this year. Humana sells plans in 15 states.
The company said on Wednesday that first-quarter earnings fell 46 percent due to higher costs in individual plans, including ObamaCare, and its direct-to-customer Medicare Advantage plans.
. . .
The biggest victory for taxpayers in the Obamacare fight so far was the enactment in late 2014 of language prohibiting the Risk Corridor program from being transformed into an open-ended bailout for big insurance companies. Unfortunately that language is now being sidestepped by a scheme in which the Obama administration invited the big insurance companies to sue the government, which in turn is likely to take a dive on the lawsuit and then make the bailout payments anyway. It’s outrageous and must be stopped.
At the time Congress debated the funding restriction, both the Congressional Budget Office and the White House Office of Management and Budget agreed that the provision neither spent nor saved any taxpayer money. That was because the administration maintained the program would, as Obamacare supporters had always claimed, be run in a budget-neutral fashion, paying out to insurance companies only what the program itself had already collected from other insurance companies.
. . .
While the Affordable Care Act managed to bring basic health insurance to almost everyone in the country — about 90 percent of Americans are covered — for many people it’s not enough.
Rising deductibles and copayments can mean people don’t get much benefit from paying monthly premiums. A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows deductibles rose about eight times faster than wages in the past 10 years.
“The nature of insurance has been changing over the last decade, to the point where people’s out-of-pocket costs are becoming a real struggle,” said Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “More people are insured, but in many ways people are not insured enough.”
. . .
Among the most hotly debated of the issues Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have taken on in the Democratic primary contest is how best to get to universal health insurance coverage. The former secretary of state favors incremental steps, and the senator calls for a single-payer system. That debate, and their focus on universal coverage as their goal, appears to have had a modest and perhaps surprising effect on attitudes toward the Affordable Care Act. The health-care law is an issue about which public attitudes seldom shift, yet the share of Democrats who want to expand the Affordable Care Act rose over the past year.
. . .
- 15% of Americans say healthcare costs are family’s top financial concern
- Those without money to live comfortably concerned with immediate living costs
- About one in 10 Americans say their family faces no financial problems
With the nation’s largest health insurer exiting all but a few Affordable Care Act exchanges next year, some Americans may be left with fewer choices and some might see higher monthly premiums.
Experts say that will be the upshot of UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s recent announcement that it will pull out of most of the 34 states where it offers health plans on the public health insurance exchanges.
The public health insurance exchanges are online marketplaces where people can shop for and enroll in a health plan. This is the third year of operation for the exchanges, a key component of ObamaCare.
Meanwhile, health insurers stung by the high cost of covering public health exchange enrollees, are expected to request sharply higher rates for 2017.
. . .