“Last week, we finally learned the prices for the new benchmark plans for Obamacare. The good news: Prices are falling slightly. The bad news: Contrary to optimistic early reports, that doesn’t mean that everyone’s costs are falling; consumers will have to be attentive to make sure that their costs don’t go up. The worse news: We won’t actually know what effect the Affordable Care Act is having on insurance prices until 2017, when a bunch of temporary subsidies for insurers expire.
The important thing to keep in mind is that when the “benchmark rate” goes down, that doesn’t mean that the cost of the old benchmark plan has fallen. It just means that whatever plan is now the second-cheapest “silver” plan on the exchanges is cheaper than whatever was the second-cheapest plan last year.”
“Potential complications await consumers as President Barack Obama’s health care law approaches its second open enrollment season, just two months away.
Don’t expect a repeat of last year’s website meltdown, but the new sign-up period could expose underlying problems with the law itself that are less easily fixed than a computer system.
Getting those who signed up this year enrolled again for 2015 won’t be as easy as it might seem. And the law’s interaction between insurance and taxes looks like a sure-fire formula for confusion.”
“There’s been a fierce debate over whether Obamacare has increased health insurance premiums. Progressives have argued Obamacare is working due to modest projected premium increases on the Exchanges for 2015. Conservatives have retorted that “there can be no doubt that health care today is more costly than it would have been without Obamacare.”
But this argument has focused on the health Exchanges, where only 7-8 million people bought their coverage in 2014. Readers would do well to remember that more than 20 times that number of people rely on employer-provided health benefits (Table C-1).
In the employer-based market, the adverse effects of Obamacare on premiums and affordability are strikingly obvious. The growing burden of employer-provided health care has accelerated under Obamacare. And yet the New York Times would have you believe everything is hunky-dory since “the growth in health insurance premiums was only 3 percent between 2013 and 2014. That’s tied for the lowest rate of increase since Kaiser started measuring (this is the 16th year of the survey).” This view is dead wrong: here’s why.”
“CVS Health is investigating a potential glitch in its drug pricing system that appears to have charged women copayments for prescription birth control – though the scope of the error is unclear.
The problem came to the attention of Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., after one of her staffers attempted to buy generic prescription birth control in Washington D.C. and was charged a $20 copay.
The retailer’s error, highlighted in a letter to the company from Speier, runs counter to a provision of the federal health law that mandates insurance coverage of women’s preventive care – a category including generic prescription birth control – without cost sharing.”
“House Republicans on Thursday returned to the Obamacare well for another vote against the law, this time to allow consumers to stay on once-canceled plans until 2019.
The House approved the bill, 247-167, with the support of all Republicans and 25 Democrats. It was the first vote on the health care law since April.
The bill, targeted at President Barack Obama’s promise that consumers would be able to keep their health plans under his signature health law, was sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is in a tight race to unseat Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana.”
“A flaw in the federal calculator for certifying that insurance meets the health law’s toughest standard is leading dozens of large employers to offer plans that lack basic benefits such as hospitalization coverage, according to brokers and consultants.
The calculator appears to allow companies enrolling workers for 2015 to offer inexpensive, substandard medical insurance while avoiding the Affordable Care Act’s penalties, consumer advocates say.
Insurance pros are also surprised such plans are permitted.
Employer insurance without hospital coverage “flies in the face of Obamacare,” said Liz Smith, president of employee benefits for Assurance, an Illinois-based insurance brokerage.”
“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.”
“Employers have complained for years about their rising health-care costs. But over the past decade, as the chart above shows, premium increases for employer health insurance have moderated sharply and stabilized. Premiums for family policies in the group market grew 72% between 1999 and 2004; 34% between 2004 and 2009; and 26% between 2009 and 2014. Even as premium growth moderated, health insurance costs still outpaced inflation and wage growth. But this year premiums grew 3%, about the same rate as wages and inflation. Despite fears that premiums would rise in the group market because of the Affordable Care Act, they have remained stable.
Policy experts do not fully understand why health-care costs have moderated or when and how rapidly they might begin to again rise more quickly. And coverage is still very expensive: The average family policy costs $16,834 a year, with employers paying, on average, 71% of the expense and employees 29%.
Corporate benefits managers will continue to do what they can to tamp down annual premium increases, and companies will continue to raise deductibles and other forms of cost sharing to help constrain premium increases. But as long as these more modest increases in their health insurance premiums continue, corporate CEOs will see their health costs more like a chronic illness to be managed than an acute problem or crisis, and they will no doubt focus their energies on other problems.”
“A report out today puts numbers behind what hit many workers when they signed up for health insurance during open enrollment last year: deductible shock.
Premiums for employer-paid insurance are up 3% this year, but deductibles are up nearly 50% since 2009, the report by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows.
The average deductible this year is $1,217, up from $826 five years ago. Nearly 20% of workers overall have to pay at least $2,000 before their insurance kicks in, while workers at firms with 199 or fewer employees are feeling the pain of out-of-pocket costs even more: A third of these employees at small companies pay at least $2,000 deductibles.”
“An NBC affiliate in Virginia reports that nearly 250,000 people in that state will lose their health care plans due to Obamacare:
“Nearly a quarter million Virginians will have their current insurance plans cut this fall,” said the local anchor. “That is because many of them did not–are not following new Affordable Care Act rules, so a chunk of the companies that offer those individuals their policies will make the individuals choose new policies.”
Says the reporter, “This goes back to that now heavily-criticized line we heared before Obamacare was put in place: ‘If you like your plan, you can keep it.’ Ultimately, that turned out not to be true for thousands of Virginians and companies in the commonwealth. … Wednesday Virginia lawmakers on the health insurance reform commission met for the first time this year. Turns out, a staggering number of Virginians will need new plans this fall.””