O-Care Premiums To Skyrocket – The Hill
Health industry officials say ObamaCare-related premiums will double in some parts of the country, countering claims recently made by the administration.
The expected rate hikes will be announced in the coming months amid an intense election year, when control of the Senate is up for grabs. The sticker shock would likely bolster the GOP’s prospects in November and hamper ObamaCare insurance enrollment efforts in 2015.
The industry complaints come less than a week after Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to downplay concerns about rising premiums in the healthcare sector. She told lawmakers rates would increase in 2015 but grow more slowly than in the past.
“The increases are far less significant than what they were prior to the Affordable Care Act,” the secretary said in testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee.
Her comment baffled insurance officials, who said it runs counter to the industry’s consensus about next year.
“It’s pretty shortsighted because I think everybody knows that the way the exchange has rolled out… is going to lead to higher costs,” said one senior insurance executive who requested anonymity.
The insurance official, who hails from a populous swing state, said his company expects to triple its rates next year on the ObamaCare exchange.
The hikes are expected to vary substantially by region, state and carrier.
Areas of the country with older, sicker or smaller populations are likely to be hit hardest, while others might not see substantial increases at all.
Several major companies have been bullish on the healthcare law as a growth opportunity. With investors, especially, the firms downplay the consequences of more older, sicker enrollees in the risk pool.
Much will depend on how firms are coping with the healthcare law’s raft of new fees and regulatory restrictions, according to another industry official.
Some insurers initially underpriced their policies to begin with, expecting to raise rates in the second year.
Others, especially in larger states, will continue to hold rates low in order to remain competitive.
After this story was published, the administration pointed to some independent analyses that have cast doubt on whether the current mix of enrollees will lead to premium hikes.
ObamaCare also includes several programs designed to ease the transition and stave off premium increases. Reinsurance, for example, will send payments to insurers to help shoulder the cost of covering sick patients.
But insurance officials are quick to emphasize that any spikes would be a consequence of delays and changes in ObamaCare’s rollout.
They point out that the administration, after a massive public outcry, eased their policies to allow people to keep their old health plans. That kept some healthy people in place, instead of making them jump into the new exchanges.
Federal health officials have also limited the amount of money the government can spend to help insurers cover the cost of new, sick patients.
Perhaps most important, insurers have been disappointed that young people only make up about one-quarter of the enrollees in plans through the insurance exchanges, according to public figures that were released earlier this year. That ratio might change in the weeks ahead because the administration anticipates many more people in their 20s and 30s will sign up close to the March 31 enrollment deadline. Many insurers, however, don’t share that optimism.
These factors will have the unintended consequence of raising rates, sources said.
“We’re exasperated,” said the senior insurance official. “All of these major delays on very significant portions of the law are going to change what it’s going to cost.”
“My gut tells me that, for some people, these increases will be significant,” said Bill Hoagland, a former executive at Cigna and current senior vice president at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Hoagland said Sebelius was seeking to “soften up the American public” to the likelihood that premiums will rise, despite promises to the contrary.
Republicans frequently highlight President Obama’s promise on the campaign trail to enact a healthcare law that would “cut the cost of a typical family’s premium by up to $2,500 a year.”
“They’re going to have to backpedal on that,” said Hoagland, who called Sebelius’s comment a “pre-emptive strike.”
“This was her way of getting out in front of it,” he added.
HHS didn’t comment for this article.
Insurers will begin the process this spring by filing their rate proposals with state officials.
Insurance commissioners will then release the rates sometime this summer, usually when they’re approved. Insurers could also leak their rates earlier as a political statement.
In some states, commissioners have the authority to deny certain rate increases, which could help prevent the most drastic hikes.
Either way, there will be a slew of bad headlines for the Obama administration just months before the election.
“It’s pretty bad timing,” said one insurance official.
Other health experts say predictions about premiums are premature.
David Cutler, who has been called an architect of Obama-Care, said, “Health premiums increase every year, so the odds are very good that they will increase next year as well. None of that is news. The question is whether it will be a lot or a little. That depends in part on how big the insurers think the exchanges will be.”
Jon Gruber, who also helped design the Affordable Care Act, said, “The bottom line is that we just don’t know. Premiums were rising 7 to 10 percent a year before the law. So the question is whether we will see a continuation of that sort of single digit increase, as Sebelius said, or whether it will be larger.”
The White House and its allies have launched a full-court press to encourage healthy millennials to purchase coverage on the marketplaces.
HHS announced this week that sign-ups have exceeded 5 million, a marked increase since March 1.
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday claimed the administration has picked up the pace considerably, saying months ago reporters would have laughed if he “had said there would be 5 million enrollees by March 18.”
It remains unclear how many of those enrollees lost their insurance last year because of the law’s mandates. Critics have also raised questions about how the administration is counting people who signed up for insurance plans.
Political operatives will be watching premium increases this summer, most notably in states where there are contested Senate races.
In Iowa, which hosts the first presidential caucus in the nation and has a competitive Senate race this year, rates are expected to rise 100 percent on the exchange and by double digits on the larger, employer-based market, according to a recent article in the Business Record.
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AP: Best Cancer Hospitals ‘Off-Limits’ To O-Care – Sweetness & Light
From a suddenly ‘concerned’ Associated Press:
Concerns about cancer centers under health law
By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR | March 18, 2014
WASHINGTON (AP) – Some of America’s best cancer hospitals are off-limits to many of the people now signing up for coverage under the nation’s new health care program. Doctors and administrators say they’re concerned. So are some state insurance regulators.
With that missing Malaysian airliner getting all of the news media’s attention, the AP must think it is safe to finally get around to reporting on how the better hospitals are refusing to take Obama-Care.
An Associated Press survey found examples coast to coast. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is excluded by five out of eight insurers in Washington’s insurance exchange. MD Anderson Cancer Center says it’s in less than half of the plans in the Houston area. Memorial Sloan-Kettering is included by two of nine insurers in New York City and has out-of-network agreements with two more.
In all, only four of 19 nationally recognized comprehensive cancer centers that responded to AP’s survey said patients have access through all the insurance companies in their states’ exchanges…
Those patients may not be able get the most advanced treatment, including clinical trials of new medications…
Tough toe nails. This is social justice. Not real justice, or even fairness.
To keep premiums low, insurers have designed narrow networks of hospitals and doctors. The government-subsidized private plans on the exchanges typically offer less choice than Medicare or employer plans.
Less choice than Medicare? How wonderful. But choice only matters when it comes to getting an abortion, anyway.
By not including a top cancer center an insurer can cut costs. It may also shield itself from risk, delivering an implicit message to cancer survivors or people with a strong family history of the disease that they should look elsewhere…
Still, look on the bright side. Thanks to Obama-Care you can get a ‘free’ sex change operation. And ‘free’ birth control pills.
After all, it’s not like people buy health insurance to get cancer treatment.
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Obama Making Last Ditch Effort To Shame Youth Into Obamacare – Big Government
Obamacare does not have enough young people paying into the system to keep it all from collapsing. So President Obama is making a last ditch effort to shame America’s youth into signing up for Obamacare in these last weeks before the deadline hits.
The President appeared on Ryan Seacrest’s radio show to urge young people to hurry up and get signed on with Obamacare before the March 31 deadline. Fittingly, the very next day after the deadline is April 1, known across the nation as April Fools Day.
On Seacrest’s show, Obama scolded young people for not signing up in sufficient numbers and warned them that if they don’t come out and support him, he’ll have to fine them.
“If you can afford it–you just decide you don’t want to get it because your attitude is ‘nothing’s ever going to happen to me’–then you’ll be charged a penalty,” he told Seacrest.
The President is desperate to get more people under 35 years of age to sign up because it is that age group who will be footing the bills for Obamacare. Millions of young, healthy people who won’t be using the coverage any time soon are need to pay into the system so that the older generation can pull money out without bankrupting the whole thing.
The Obama administration has estimated that it needs some 38 percent of those enrolled and paying premiums to be made up of the important age demographic. Unfortunately for Obama, only about 27 percent of those signed up thus far fit into that age demo.
Experts warn that unless more young people sign up, the current premiums will have to go up for everyone in order to compensate for the lopsided statistics.
Obama is already under fire for his years of claiming that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) will actually be affordable. He continually said that premiums would be cheaper than a cell phone bill, but those promises have turned out to be false. And now, if the already high premiums have to go up to compensate for a lack of young enrollees, that lie will only grow in stature.
Speaking of his faltering “cell phone bill” analogy, recently, the President drew criticism when he told a Latino audience at a Spanish language townhall that they should cancel their cell phones and cable bills so that they could pay their expensive new Obamacare premiums.
Finally, Healthcare.gov launched its own scolding campaign with a new ad featuring a stern looking mother figure warning kids that they’d better get covered – or else!
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Consumer Reports Warns: “Stay Away From Healthcare.gov” – Daily Sheeple
One of America’s most well known and trusted organizations has given potential health care seekers yet another concern over the Patient Affordable Care Act.
According to Consumer Reports the government’s healthcare.gov web site, which is the primary entry point for millions of people needing to sign up for health care plans, is a “mess.”
Citing numerous issues including login problems, non functioning activation emails and a near 97% failure rate for account creation, the consumer watchdog has warned that people should stay away from the site for at least another month.
Frustrated by trying to register on HealthCare.gov? You’re hardly alone. Of the 9.47 million people who tried to register in the first week, only 271,00 were able to create an account, according to one analysis. That’s about 1 in 35. Many people couldn’t even create user names and passwords.
If all this is too much for you to absorb, follow our previous advice: Stay away from Healthcare.gov for at least another month if you can. Hopefully that will be long enough for its software vendors to clean up the mess they’ve made. The coverage available through the marketplaces won’t begin until Jan. 1, 2014, at the earliest, and you have until Dec. 15 to enroll if you need insurance that starts promptly.
Historically, when Consumer Reports issues product warnings manufacturers, distributors and retailers may initiate a product recall, advising consumers of the dangers involved. In a free market involving the free exchange of goods and service Consumer Reports’ warnings are often heeded in an effort to prevent a public relations nightmare and the potential for class-action lawsuits.
In this case, however, the warning involves government mandated services, so the normal rules don’t apply because, frankly, government officials could care less.
In a perfect world we could just issue a recall, take the product of the shelves, and send the promoters to prison for false advertising and consumer endangerment.
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McKinsey: Only 14% Of Obamacare Exchange Sign-Ups Are Previously Uninsured Enrollees – Forbes
The Obama administration has, for months now, been peddling nice-sounding numbers as to how many people are gaining health coverage due to Obamacare. But their numbers have been inflated on two fronts. First, not everyone who has “selected a marketplace plan” under Obamacare has actually paid the required premiums, payment being required to actually gain coverage. Second, only a fraction of people on the exchanges were previously uninsured. A new survey from McKinsey gives us a better view into the real numbers. Of the 3.3 million people that the White House has touted as Obamacare exchange “sign-ups,” less than 500,000 are actual uninsured people who have actually gained health coverage.
Many Obamacare ‘enrollees’ aren’t actually enrolled
McKinsey, the leading management consulting firm, has been conducting monthly surveys of the exchange-eligible population under the auspices of its Center for U.S. Health System Reform. McKinsey’s most recent survey, conducted in February with 2,096 eligible respondents, found that only 48 percent had thus far signed up for a 2014 health plan. Within that 48 percent, three-fifths were previously insured people who liked their old plans and were able to keep them. The remaining two-fifths were the ones who signed up for coverage on the Obamacare exchanges.
Of the Obamacare sign-ups, only 27 percent had been previously uninsured in 2013. And of the 27 percent, nearly half had yet to pay a premium. (By contrast, among the 73 percent who had been previously insured, 86 percent had paid.)
Put all those percentages together, and you get two key stats. Only 19 percent of those who have paid a premium were previously uninsured. Among those that the administration is touting as sign-ups, only 14 percent are previously uninsured enrollees: approximately 472,000 people as of February 1.
Those not signing up cited affordability of plans as biggest issue
Here’s an important finding from McKinsey. The authors of the study – Amit Bhardwaj, Erica Coe, Jenny Cordina, and Mahi Rayasam – asked those who decided not to enroll in a plan what their reasons were for doing so. The most frequent reason – cited by 50 percent of respondents – was that “I could not afford to pay the premium.” Only 27 percent cited technical challenges; 14 percent said they couldn’t find a plan that met their needs. 21 percent said they were still deciding.
This is the biggest problem with the way the “Affordable Care Act” approached coverage expansion. The reason why so many Americans are uninsured is because health insurance in this country is too expensive. Obamacare increases the underlying cost of health insurance, and then uses taxpayer-funded subsidies to offset those costs for some.
AP: 4.7 million Americans have had their plans canceled
Keep in mind another fact: According to the Associated Press, at least 4.7 million Americans who shop for coverage on their own have had their plans canceled because they don’t conform to Obamacare’s regulations. So Obamacare has disrupted the coverage of millions of Americans, requiring many to purchase costlier policies with higher deductibles and narrower doctor networks, for a fairly modest expansion of coverage.
According to the administration, total sign-ups now exceed 4 million. But on a recent HHS conference call, Obamacare implementation point man Gary Cohen was asked the key question: how many of the people who have signed up for Obamacare were previously insured? His response: “That’s not a data point that we are really collecting in any sort of systematic way.”
So. The whole point of Obamacare was to expand coverage to the uninsured. But for the tens of thousands of regulations that the law has imposed on the country, its authors never bothered to try to measure the one thing that they were actually trying to achieve. That about sums it all up.
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Obama To Hispanics: We Won’t Deport Relatives Because You Enroll In ObamaCare – The Hill
President Obama on Tuesday sought to assure legal immigrants that they can sign up for ObamaCare without worrying that “the immigration people” will come for family members who are in the country illegally.
In an interview with Univision Deportes, a Spanish-language sports radio show, Obama said immigration officials won’t have access to the personal information that consumers provide when signing up for healthcare on the new exchanges.
“Well, the main thing for people to know is that any information you get, you know, asked with respect to buying insurance, does not have anything to do with… the rules governing immigration,” Obama said. “And you know, you can qualify if you’re a legal resident, if you are… legally present in the United States.
“You know, if you have a family where some people are citizens or legally here, and others are not documented, the immigration people will never get that information.”
Adolf Falcon, the senior vice president of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, told The Hill that Hispanic families are wary of Obama’s assurances because of his record on deportations.
“It is a big concern of mixed status families – they hear [the president’s] assurance, but because of the level of deportations that have happened, there’s a lot of families that don’t know whether they can trust that assurance,” he said. “It creates an atmosphere of concern.”
In Obama’s first four years in office, his administration deported people at a faster rate than any of the four previous administrations.
Falcon said his group fields about 4,000 calls a week from potential Hispanic consumers seeking information about the exchanges. He said that a good deal of the callers are asking about mixed-status families, seeking to make sure their applications can’t be used against family members.
For example, a family with a parent who is in the country illegally, and thus not eligible for ObamaCare, will still have to enroll his or her child who is eligible. This provokes fears in the parent that they are leaving themselves exposed.
Obama on Tuesday sought to allay those fears.
“You know, you will qualify, you know, regardless of what your family’s status is,” Obama said. “So, you know, people should not hold back just because they’re in a mixed-family status.”
The White House has said there are 10.2 million uninsured Hispanics eligible for ObamaCare in the country, and about 8.1 million are likely eligible for tax credits. Hispanics have the highest rate of uninsured of any ethnic group in the country.
The federal government doesn’t require consumers to identify their ethnicity when applying for healthcare coverage, but data from some state health exchanges suggest Hispanics are lagging.
The administration has focused intensely on Hispanics in its final enrollment push through initiatives like the Latino Enrollment Week of Action, and in partnership with a broad array of Spanish-language media outlets.
There are a host of other reasons that Hispanics have been slow to enroll – many are gaining coverage for the first time and worry the costs are prohibitive.
Falcon said the enrollment push depended too much on the technology, rather than in-person assistance. The administration has been criticized for the long delay in releasing the Spanish-language ObamaCare website, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, and some have said the final product was sloppy.
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