The third open-enrollment season for health plans under the Affordable Care Act moved into its final hours Sunday night with little fanfare from Obama administration officials who had been urging consumers to buy insurance.
It was unclear whether the close of the three-month enrollment window drew any stampede of last-minute shoppers on HealthCare.gov, as was the case during the first two sign-up years. In each of those, federal health officials trumpeted a late surge of people choosing health plans as evidence of Americans’ eagerness for coverage.
But on Sunday, the officials provided no figures about the final weekend’s volume of traffic on the federal insurance website.
This one weird trick can help even rich people buy ObamaCare at sharply reduced prices. Really.
A number of wealthy individuals, some of whom were “disgusted” with ObamaCare when it first went into effect, nonetheless are now taking advantage of federal financial aid available under that health-care law to help significantly reduce their monthly insurance premiums.
Carolyn McClanahan, a Jacksonville, Florida-based financial advisor and medical doctor, told CNBC that she’s steered at least five such clients, whose individual net worths range between $1 million and $3 million, toward buying ObamaCare health plans because of the federal subsidies available due to their taxable income levels.
Anthem Inc., the second-largest U.S. health insurer by membership, said premiums for ObamaCare insurance probably will go up next year.
Anthem is eking out a small profit from selling policies to individuals under the Affordable Care Act. Many of its rivals aren’t, though, which means prices have to go up, the company told investors and analysts on Wednesday.
Other insurers are charging premiums that are “still well below what we think appropriate rates are for a sustainable environment,” Chief Financial Officer Wayne DeVeydt said on a conference call with analysts.
One of the many factors that can cause a health insurance system to fail is “adverse selection,” a phenomenon in which those who know they will make higher-than-average claims are disproportionately likely to enroll and pay premiums. The inevitable results is a rapid increase in premiums, which encourages even more marginal consumers to forgo insurance, leaving average claims, and therefore premiums, to increase even further.
One approach to limit this problem is to limit the time frame during which enrollment is permitted. Why have limited open enrollment periods? The idea is that without them – that is, if anyone could enroll in health plans whenever they want – people could “game the system,” enrolling when they need health care, and disenrolling when they don’t.
Oklahoma declined to set up an insurance exchange or to expand its Medicaid program, which has some of the nation’s most restrictive eligibility criteria. State officials say the number of private insurers participating on the federal insurance exchange here has fallen, and the premiums of the insurance plans on offer have increased.
The public’s attitude can also be an obstacle: Supporters of the Affordable Care Act often encounter stony skepticism here.
“‘Obamacare’ is a cuss word in this state,” said former Gov. David Walters, a Democrat.
Yesterday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its annual ten-year Budget and Economic Outlook. The document contains the CBO’s updated estimates for economic growth, employment, and the nation’s fiscal health. The most notable change was to enrollment in Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges. The CBO, bowing to reality, slashed their 2016 estimates of exchange enrollment from 21 million to 13 million. Furthermore, the CBO implied that it expects exchange enrollment to peak at 16 million: a far cry from the 24 million it predicted last March.
In her confrontation with Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton always promises to “build on the successes” of ObamaCare, so allow us to recommend a follow-up question: What would those be, precisely? The entitlement is becoming less stable and less entrenched, not more, as it gets older.
The latest jolt is the $475 million loss UnitedHealth Group booked on the insurance exchanges in 2015, which the largest U.S. mega-insurer by membership expects to rise this year to another $500 million.
Now, two years into the law, it’s clear that progress is going to be slower. The Obama administration acknowledged as much in late 2014, and again in October, when it presented its own modest predictions. Monday, the budget office also agreed, slashing its 2016 estimate by close to 40%.
Does the American public know that, buried deep in the Healthcare.gov website, the health insurance coverage available to a family gets worse as their income rises? Do people know that a family expecting to earn $51,000 in 2016 is not even allowed to buy the same coverage as a family that expects to earn $49,000?
UnitedHealth Group Inc. said its projected losses on the Affordable Care Act exchanges for 2016 deepened as enrollment grew despite the company’s efforts to reduce sign-ups.
The biggest U.S. health insurer said it is expecting losses of more than $500 million on its 2016 ACA plans, compared with previous projections that amounted to $400 million to $425 million in losses.
UnitedHealth had taken steps to pull back on its exchange business in anticipation of losses, including reducing marketing and slashing commissions to health-insurance agents.