UnitedHealth Group won’t pay brokers commissions on sales of individual health plans in most states where it participates in Obamacare exchanges, a move that will likely discourage market demand for its plans in those states. The News & Observer reports the Minnetonka-based insurance giant notified North Carolina brokers of the policy change Friday, not long after it announced plans to evaluate whether it would continue to serve the public exchange markets after 2016.
About 4,500 Medical University of South Carolina patients currently covered by Consumers’ Choice Health Plan need to pick a new policy by Tuesday to remain insured on Jan. 1. Medical University Hospital CEO Pat Cawley told the MUSC Board of Trustees on Thursday that the announcement created “an administrative nightmare.”
Only 35% of 67,000 Consumers’ Choice customers across the state have selected a new plan so far.
The lone health insurance cooperative to make money last year on the ObamaCare insurance exchanges is now losing millions and suspending individual enrollment for 2016. Maine’s Community Health Options lost more than $17 million in the first nine months of this year, after making $10.9 million in the same period last year. A spokesman said higher-than-expected medical costs have hurt the co-op. An Associated Press review of financial statements from 10 of the 11 surviving co-ops shows that they lost, on average, more than $21 million in the first nine months of this year.
Instead of more federal regulation and subsidies, what U.S. health care needs is adoption of market principles, starting with broad empowerment of the patient-consumer. The proposals advanced in this volume would replace many counterproductive and outdated federal policies with practical, market-based reforms that aim to provide all Americans with access to high-quality health care at affordable prices.
Community Health Options, a not-for-profit co-op insurance company based in Maine that also sells health plans in New Hampshire, will limit individual enrollments later this month because of “higher-than-expected claims costs.”
It’s an inauspicious sign for the company, which was one of the few successful co-ops created by the Affordable Care Act. Twelve of the ACA’s 23 co-ops have folded or are in the process of closing down, all of which occurred this year.
Those without health insurance have a lot to consider. On one hand, the fine for remaining uninsured steeply increases for next year. On the other, the cost of the individual mandate penalty is cheaper than buying the least expensive insurance plan for 7.1 million of the nearly 11 million uninsured eligible to enroll in health exchanges, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis released Wednesday.
The penalty for failing to have health insurance is going up next year, perhaps even higher than expected. Among uninsured individuals who are not exempt from the ObamaCare penalty, the average household fine for not having insurance in 2015 will be $661, rising to $969 per household in 2016, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.
Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its official estimates of the uninsured population and of health spending. In 2014, ObamaCare’s coverage expansion fell between 6 and 12 million short of expectations, while driving the growth of health spending to its highest rate in 7 years. ObamaCare has only reduced the percentage of U.S. residents without health insurance by about 2%: a remarkably small number, and far lower than what the law was supposed to achieve.
Democrats like to talk a lot about being the party of choice, but under Obamacare, individuals are finding their choices increasingly limited. At its core, Obamacare forces individuals to purchase government-approved insurance policies and precludes them from buying plans that might be more in line with their healthcare needs. Though Obamacare’s defenders argue that the requirements imposed on health insurance plans only serve to guarantee that individuals have better coverage, in reality, what’s happening is that the law is driving insurers to limit choices.
Cassandra Gekas, operations director for Vermont Health Connect, said staff members are working on a problem in which hundreds of people who paid their monthly premiums on time were canceled for nonpayment. Apparently, the cancellations were related to a five- to seven-day period it takes for the system to process end of the month payments. Vermont Health Connect was plagued with technical glitches and security problems after its launch Oct. 1, 2013.