Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois will be the only insurer offering PPO health insurance plans on the state’s Obamacare exchange next year, according to information released Friday by the state Department of Insurance.

That’s down from five insurers that offered individual PPO plans on the exchange this year. Many consumers prefer PPO health plans because, unlike HMO plans, they allow patients to see specialist doctors without a referral and see physicians who are out-of-network, albeit at higher costs.

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Hillary Clinton surely is hoping health reform remains a side issue the presidential campaign as bleak news of its failures have propelled Obamacare back into the spotlight.  Clinton owns Obamacare after telling Iowa voters: “I will defend the Affordable Care Act, but as president I want to go further.”  She actually wants to double down, even after seeing public support for the health law tumble. She wants to create another big government “public option” that would have unlimited calls on taxpayer dollars and government force and would quickly drive remaining private insurers out of the market, leaving people with only the “choice” of a government-run health plan.  We can and must do better than Obamacare, and the voters know it.

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The Chicago Tribune editorial board lays out a succinct explanation of why the Affordable Care Act is failing: The law hasn’t tamed U.S. medical costs, the penalties for going uncovered are low compared to skyrocketing premiums, the law has straitjacketed insurers into providing soup-to-nuts policies, and too many carriers simply can’t cover expenses, let alone turn a profit, in such a rigidly controlled system. Is Obamacare plunging in a so-called insurance death spiral? Is the market so unstable that plans are doomed to get more and more expensive, driving more Americans and more insurers out of the market until Obamacare thuds to the pavement?  The next president and Congress need to reckon with Obamacare’s failures or wait for the thud.

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Hospital emergency department visits increased in Illinois after the Affordable Care Act took effect — the opposite of what many hoped would happen under the landmark health care law, according to a new study.

“Emergency departments are already overcrowded, and bringing more patients in will continue to make that worse,” said Dr. Scott Dresden, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and the lead author of the study.

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The Affordable Care Act enrollment period doesn’t begin until November, but the recent departure of several health insurance providers from federal and state marketplaces is raising concerns of fewer choices and higher premiums.

But federal officials emphasized that consumers will still have affordable coverage options during a Wednesday conference call. Even if insurance premiums increase by 25 percent, 60 percent of Indiana consumers would be able to purchase coverage for less than $75 per month, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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On Monday, Illinois citizens were jolted by a piercing pain in the wallet as federal officials unveiled proposed Obamacare insurance premium rates for 2017. Insurers plan to dial up rates as much as a heart-stopping 45 percent for those who buy plans on the Obamacare marketplace when open enrollment starts Nov. 1.

That means thousands of people will scramble for affordable insurance … and won’t find it.

Is this rate shock unforeseen? Not really. Rocketing Obamacare rate requests have become an annual rite of summer, as welcome as sunstroke.

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Insurers want to crank up the cost of health insurance premiums by as much as 45 percent for Illinois residents who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, the most popular insurer on the state’s Obamacare exchange, is proposing increases ranging from 23 percent to 45 percent in premiums for its individual health-care plans, according to proposed 2017 premiums that were made public Monday. The insurer blamed the sought-after hikes mainly on changes in the costs of medical services.

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Thousands of Illinoisans heeded federal law and bought health insurance last year via the state’s Obamacare exchange. They signed up with Land of Lincoln Health, a state-approved insurer. They paid their premiums and deductibles. Many counted on that coverage to manage chronic illnesses or other long-term treatment.

Now, a kick in the teeth: Land of Lincoln has collapsed. Its customers must scramble for new coverage in an upcoming “special enrollment” period. They will have 60 days to find another plan on the Illinois exchange to cover the last three months of the year.

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The Illinois Insurance Department moved Tuesday to shut down Land of Lincoln because of its unstable financial health, leaving about 49,000 policyholders in a lurch. They will lose coverage in the coming months, but neither regulators nor the company have said exactly when.

Policyholders will be able to buy insurance from a different carrier to cover them for the rest of 2016, according to the state Insurance Department. But switching plans is going to cost them.

The co-pays and deductibles enrollees have been paying since January will not transfer to new plans. A new plan will reset deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums paid by consumers.

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Illinois moved Tuesday to take control of Land of Lincoln Health to begin an orderly shutdown of the insurance company, meaning about 49,000 people will lose their health coverage in the coming months.

The state said it will allow policyholders to buy coverage from a different insurer before their Land of Lincoln plans are terminated, but it’s unclear when the policies will lapse.

“It’s a bad day for the marketplace in Illinois and our consumers,” said Jason Montrie, president and interim CEO of Chicago-based Land of Lincoln. “This is the end.”

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