” Who’s up for the latest batch of bad Obamacare-related news?
(1) Consumers brace for the second full year of Obamacare implementation, as the average individual market premium hike clocks in at eight percent — with some rates spiking by as much as 30 percent.
(2) “Wide swings in prices,” with some experiencing “double digit increases.”(Remember what we were promised):
Insurance executives and managers of the online marketplaces are already girding for the coming open enrollment period, saying they fear it could be even more difficult than the last. One challenge facing consumers will be wide swings in prices. Some insurers are seeking double-digit price increases…”
“California’s health insurance exchange is vowing to fix enrollment delays and dropped coverage for about 30,000 consumers before the next sign-up period this fall..
Covered California said it failed to promptly send insurance applications for 20,000 people to health plans recently, causing delays and confusion over their coverage.
Another group of up to 10,000 people have had their insurance coverage canceled prematurely because they were deemed eligible for Medi-Cal based on a check of their income, officials said.”
“This week’s double-barreled release of government statistics on health insurance coverage leaves us with only one question: How many Americans are insured because of Obamacare? Remarkably, the two highly regarded government surveys released this week do not even agree whether the number of uninsured increased or decreased. The survey that received a great deal of attention said there were 3.8 million fewer uninsured. The other, which was hardly noticed, found that there were 1.3 million more uninsured.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported preliminary results on the expansion of health insurance coverage. Its National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) interviewed 27,000 people in the first three months of this year. The survey estimates that the number of uninsured dropped by 3.8 million since 2013. That represents a 1.3 percentage point decline in the uninsured rate, from 14.4 percent last year to 13.1 percent early this year.”
“A major innovation in health insurance plan design over the past several years has been the rapid growth of “narrow network” plans. Such plans either limit enrollee choices of providers, or place providers in differential cost tiers whereby individuals face higher cost in selecting some providers relative to others. This movement harkens back to the restrictions put in place during the U.S. initial infatuation with managed care in the mid-1990s. That episode ended badly for the limited choice model, as the “HMO backlash” induced regulatory restrictions on plans which handicapped choice limitations within the HMO model.
The latest growth of narrow network plans has been hastened by the introduction of health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). State exchanges have fostered strong insurer competition through both organizing the marketplace and through tying low income health insurance tax credits to the second-lowest cost plan in the silver tier. Insurers have responded to these competitive incentives in many ways, but perhaps the most notable is the expansion of narrow network insurance products. Such products are widespread on exchanges and appear to be growing rapidly.”
“We did not see big changes in employer-based coverage in the Kaiser-HRET annual Employer Health Benefit Survey released last week. Mostly this is good news, particularly on the cost side where premiums increased just 3%.
But one long-term trend that is not so good is how this market works for firms with relatively large shares of lower-wage workers (which we define as firms where at least 35% of employees earn less than $23,000). These low-wage firms often do not offer health benefits at all. And, as the chart below shows, when they do offer coverage, it has lower premiums on average (likely meaning skimpier coverage) and requires workers to pay more for it. Workers in low-wage firms pay an average of $6,472 for family coverage, compared with $4,693 for workers in higher wage firms.”
“Lawmakers told officials with the Department of Health and Hospitals on Wednesday they needed to provide more complete information going forward about Bayou Health, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Medicaid privatization program.
The Legislative Audit Advisory Council heard testimony from DHH and the Legislative Auditor’s Office about an audit that raised a number of questions about the program. Auditors testified 74 percent of the transparency report was based on self-reported data with no corroborating documentation.”
“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most private health insurance plans to provide coverage for a broad range of preventive services including Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved prescription contraceptives and services for women. Since the implementation of this provision in 2012, some nonprofit and for profit employers with religious objections to contraceptives have brought legal challenges to this rule. For many women today, their contraceptive coverage depends on their employer or when they purchased their individual insurance plan.”
“The uninsured rate for kids under age 18 hasn’t budged under the health law, according to a new study, even though they’re subject to the law’s requirement to have insurance just as their parents and older siblings are. Many of those children are likely eligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The Urban Institute’s health reform monitoring survey analyzed data on approximately 2,500 children, comparing the uninsured rate in June 2014 with the previous year, before the health insurance marketplaces opened and the individual mandate took effect. It found that rates remained statistically unchanged at just over 7 percent for both time periods.”
“As the image above shows, reporters and pundits–including some of the most respected ones I know–have different takes on the importance of Obamacare as an election issue now that implementation of the law is moving forward and some of the controversy around it has cooled. Observers are split: Some emphasize the law’s decline as a hot political issue, others its staying power as a rallying cry for the right, and a few suggest that the ACA may emerge as an issue Democrats want to run on.
Each of these positions may be at least partly right. Obamacare has cooled as an issue now that there isn’t an obvious controversy, such as last fall’s website debacle, to occupy the front pages. But the law, now a more conventional Republican talking point than an outsize rallying cry, is still useful to some Republican candidates as a tool to motivate their anti-Obama base. Less clear is whether many Democrats will choose to run on some of the ACA’s most popular provisions, such as its protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. This was the consensus of an event Tuesday the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Cook Political Report held in Washington about the ACA and the midterm elections; it featured people from both organizations and journalists covering tight Senate races for the Des Moines Register and the Charlotte Observer.”
“The federal government will wait until January to roll out its five-star rating system meant to help consumers compare quality at dialysis centers across the country.
Use of the system on the CMS’ dialysis centers compare website had been scheduled for October, but was met with angst by dialysis providers who questioned the methodology and said the program was likely to be more confusing than helpful.
In response, the federal agency announced Wednesday that it has moved the date by about three months.
The CMS began using the rating program on nursing homes in December 2008 and earlier this year applied a similar rubric to physician groups. In July, the agency announced plans to extend the program to dialysis facilities starting Oct. 9.”