health insurers

Surprise! Obamacare’s crony health insurance company bailout could hit $1 billion in 2014

Remember when the Obamacare “risk corridors” bailout program wasn’t going to cost taxpayers anything? Well, that might not be true — surprise! At a House subcommittee hearing yesterday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) explained that the Obamacare bailout provision for health insurance companies could cost taxpayers as much as $1 billion in 2014:

An ObamaCare revenue-sharing program amounts to a taxpayer bailout of insurance companies, the chairman of a House Oversight subcommittee said Wednesday, adding the bill could run more than $1 billion just in 2014.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs panel, disputed a previous Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that the risk corridors would cost the government nothing.
Based on the committee’s own research of 15 traditional insurers and 23 ObamaCare co-op insurers, Jordan said companies expect to get nearly $730 million from the corridor.

“The information provided by the insurers suggests that the total taxpayer bailout could well exceed $1 billion this year alone,” he said.

The “risk corridors” provision — one of the “three “Rs” of Obamacare — guarantees payments from the federal government to insurers if the risk pool isn’t properly balanced with the young and healthy people who are intended to offset the costs of sick and unhealthy consumers.

Covered California’s ObamaCare Exchange Fail

Covered California fail

The San Jose Mercury News reported this weekend that two weeks after the now infamous debacle that was the ObamaCare exchange rollout, California’s new pride and joy still doesn’t offer a way to find out which doctors and hospitals are included in each health plan:

The website tool designed to help shoppers cross-reference tens of thousands of doctors and hundreds of hospitals that belong to the networks of Covered California’s 12 insurance providers finally launched last week after earlier promises that it would be available on Oct. 1, the day similar exchanges opened for business nationwide under the new federal health care law.

But when it finally appeared on Tuesday, a hard-to-find online tool was only in place about 48 hours before it was removed from the site because of what exchange officials called “uneven” performance.

Hmmm.  This is the same “Covered California” that cost $313 million to develop, funded almost entirely with federal taxpayer dollars (thank you, everyone not living in CA).  The same site that originally boasted of 5 million hits on launch day, only to later admit that the real number was actually 645,000.  The same folks who described the overstatement of nearly 4.5 million hits as an “error,” “the result of an internal miscommunication,” and the always golden “someone misspoke.”

Thanks, Obamacare!: Individual health insurance premiums skyrocketed in California, and young people were the hardest hit

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini acknowledged this week that Obamacare plans are “really not an affordable product for a lot of people.” He wasn’t kidding. The Los Angeles Times reports that individual health insurance premiums have skyrocketed in California, in some cases doubled, over last year’s rates:

For 2014, consumers purchasing individual policies paid between 22% and 88% more for health insurance than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived, [California Insurance Commissioner Dave] Jones said Tuesday.
For 2014, consumers purchasing individual policies paid between 22% and 88% more for health insurance than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived, Jones said Tuesday.

“The rate increase from 2013 to 2014, on average, was significantly higher than rate increases in the past,” Jones said in a news conference in Sacramento.

The hardest-hit were young people, he said. In one region of Los Angeles County, people age 25 paid 52% more for a silver plan than they had for a similar plan the year before, while someone age 55 paid 38% more, according to a report that Jones released Tuesday.

Obamacare train wreck continues: States are trying to figure out how to pay for their exchanges

States that opted to create their own Obamacare exchanges aren’t going to be able to rely on funding from the Obama administration to operate their health insurance websites in 2015 as well as future open enrollment periods, leaving them to looking for other ways to keep the costly systems up and running smoothly.

Sarah Kliff at Vox explains that the 15 states that plan to operate exchanges when the next open enrollment period opens later this fall will have to find a way to find the websites, including levying a tax on health insurers and/or dipping into their general funds:

Most state exchanges plan to rely, in least in part, on charging health insurers a fee for selling coverage. So far, the fees set for 2015 range from 1 percent of the monthly premium in the District of Columbia and Vermont to 3.5 percent in Minnesota. Some states also charged fees in 2014, in order to begin generating revenue further in advance, while others are implementing them for the first time.

Figuring out the right level for the fee is a difficult task that involves a lot of predictions about what Obamacare will look like in 2015.

“It’s not just anticipating how many people will enroll but also how much premiums are going to be,” Avalere’s Carpenter says. “The question of long-term sustainability is certainly going to take some time to figure out.”
Some states are turning to their legislature to help foot the bill for the new insurance exchange. New York State of Health, for example, will rely completely on appropriations from the state to finance its web portal.

Today in Liberty: NSA collecting photos for facial recognition, Senate GOP targets Obama EPA’s anti-coal regulations

“We all know from our own experience that a hallmark of bureaucracy is the waiting list. Waiting lists at the post office and the DMV are merely annoying and inconvenient. Waiting lists at our doctor’s offices and hospitals can be fatal.” — Congressman Tom McClintock

Americans to Obama: No, the Obamacare debate isn’t over

Obamacare may be off the frontpage, as yet another Obama administration scandal has dominated the headlines, but the law remains immensely unpopular with Americans, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll:

A new Associated Press-GfK poll finds that public opinion continues to run deeply negative on the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature effort to cover the uninsured. Forty-three percent oppose the law, compared with just 28 percent in support.
The poll does have a bright spot for the administration: Those who signed up for coverage aren’t reeling from sticker shock. Most said they found premiums in line with what they expected, or even lower.

But even that was diminished by another finding: More than one-third of those who said they or someone in their household tried to enroll, were ultimately unable to do so. For the White House, it’s an uncomfortable reminder of the technical problems that paralyzed the website for weeks after it went live last fall.

The numbers are roughly consistent with the past three Associated Press-GfK polls on the law dating back to December. Overall, more than 50 percent of Americans oppose Obamacare, according polling data compiled by Real Clear Politics, making President Obama’s declaration that the Obamacare “debate is and should be over” look laughably absurd.

Kathleen Sebelius may have lied about paid Obamacare enrollments

Not only is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius under fire for yet another Obamacare delay — this time an extension of the open enrollment period — when she said there wouldn’t be anymore delays, she may have lied about her department’s ability to shine light on paid enrollees.

When she appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee last week, Sebelius told members that the administration could not produce the number of paid Obamacare enrollees. But Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) believe that she may have not been telling the truth:

Administration officials have repeatedly said they’re not able to break down enrollees by who has made a payment because they only have access to information about those selecting plans on the website, as consumers are expected to pay the insurers directly after enrolling.

Sebelius reiterated that claim in her March 12 testimony to the House panel.

But Camp (R-Mich.) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) say they have uncovered “new evidence” that “strongly suggests that the administration knows who has enrolled and paid their first month’s premium.”

Moody’s downgrades health insurers, lack of youth enrollment cited

Nearly a month after expressing concern about the financial health of insurers participating in the Obamacare exchanges, Moody’s announced this morning that it is downgrading the outlook for insurers because of the uncertainty surrounding Obamacare.

In addition to the shifting regulatory climate, the Moody’s also cited the poor mix of young and healthy people who’ve selected plans through the exchanges as reasons for its action (emphasis added):

The credit rating agency cited an unstable environment because of the healthcare law’s difficult rollout, and projected that insurers would earn two percent less than forecast in 2014.

“While we’ve had industry risks from regulatory changes on our radar for a while, the ongoing unstable and evolving environment is a key factor for our outlook change,” Moody’s Senior Vice President Stephen Zaharuk said in a statement. “The past few months have seen new regulations and announcements that impose operational changes well after product and pricing decisions were finalized.”

The Moody’s report also cites the slow enrollment of young people into ObamaCare as a reason for the downgrade.

Uncertainty over the demographics of those enrolling in individual products through the exchanges is a key factor in Moody’s outlook change,” the ratings agency said.

Happy 2014, America! Have some more Obamacare taxes

It’s not just the Obamacare minimum coverage mandates that have caused health insurance premiums to soar. The litany of new taxes that were included in the law haven’t received a lot of attention, despite a $1 trillion price tag, but the New York Post noted this week that insurers are, predictably, passing them on to consumers:

Most insurers aren’t advertising the ObamaCare taxes that are added on to premiums, opting instead to discretely pass them on to customers while quietly lobbying lawmakers for a break.

But one insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, laid bare the taxes on its bills with a separate line item for “Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes.”

The new taxes on one customer’s bill added up to $23.14 a month, or $277.68 annually, according to Kaiser Health News. It boosted the monthly premium from $322.26 to $345.40 for that individual.

The focus on the disastrous rollout of the federal Obamacare exchange website and the millions of health insurance cancellations are important, but they’ve also distracted from other parts of the law — including the tax hikes — that are a bad deal for Americans.

Sure, expanding access to health insurance is a laudable goal. But, ultimately, that’s not what Obamacare is about. It gives the federal government more control over the already heavily regulated health insurance industry. It’s also income redistribution on a massive scale.

Here’s a rundown of the new Obamacare taxes that Americans will be forced to pay in their health insurance premiums at the beginning of the year:

Obamacare is the new Medicaid

At several points over the last few months, President Barack Obama and administration officials have encouraged Republican governors to expand access to Medicaid, a government insurance program for low-income Americans.

Most Republican governors have resisted to this point. Though the federal government pays 100% of Medicaid expansion between 2014 and 2016, taxpayers will be on the hook for the 10% of the costs by 2020. By 2022, expansion would cost states some $41 billion.

But the cost angle isn’t the only reason why many Republican governors have decided not to expand Medicaid. Despite the hype about expanded access to healthcare, the program isn’t known for producing better health outcomes.

For example, a study by the New England Journal of Medicine on Oregon’s 2008 expansion of the program found that there was no difference in health outcomes between those who were covered by Medicaid expansion and those who remained uninsured.

That finding came despite Oregon spending $1,172 more per Medicaid recipient. Other studies have shown similar, if not worse, results, including a higher cancer morality rate for Medicaid participants.

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