ObamaCare Watch Newsletter 3/30/18

  • Failed ACA Reinsurance Program Shows Government Subsidies Don’t Reduce Premiums –
  • Trump’s Health Secretary Wants to Transform Health Care. Can He? –
  • Inside the Collapse of a Bipartisan Obamacare Deal –
  • Thousands Mistakenly Enrolled During California’s Medicaid Expansion, Feds Find –
  • Iowa Bill Allowing Plans to Skirt Obama’s Affordable Care Mandates Sent to Gov. Reynolds –
  • Don’t Fall for Single-Payer’s False Promises –
  • Five Democratic Proposals on Healthcare That Aren’t ‘Medicare for All’ –
  • Under Pressure, California Assembly Pitches Alternatives to Single-Payer Health Care –
  • Why Some Americans Are Risking It and Skipping Health Insurance –
  • U.S. Concerns About Health Care High; Energy, Unemployment Low –

Obamacare Impact

Failed ACA Reinsurance Program Shows Government Subsidies Don’t Reduce Premiums
By Michael F. Cannon
Cato Institute, March 23, 2018

Obamacare’s reinsurance program gave participating insurers extra taxpayer subsidies from 2014 until the program expired at the end of 2016; the subsidies were designed to cover the claims of high-cost patients whom the law’s preexisting-conditions provisions require insurers to cover at a loss. The extra subsidies were supposed to keep premiums from skyrocketing, but it was an utter failure. Premiums increased 18-25% per year from 2013 through 2016, well above the trend of 3-4% from 2008 to 2013. By 2017, premiums had doubled from pre-Obamacare levels.

Trump’s Health Secretary Wants to Transform Health Care. Can He?
By Avik Roy
Forbes, March 26, 2018

Insensitivity to the cost and value of health care has created an American medical culture in which doctors and hospitals don’t publicize—and, in many cases, don’t even know—the prices of the services they provide to their patients. Changing that culture takes more than a great HHS secretary—it takes legislative changes by Congress. As HHS Secretary Alex Azar himself as admitted, moving to a more patient- and consumer-driven system “will require some degree of federal intervention, perhaps even an uncomfortable degree…but the status quo is far from a competitive free market…facilitating a competitive, value-based marketplace is going to be disruptive to existing actors.”

Inside the Collapse of a Bipartisan Obamacare Deal
By Adam Cancryn and Jennifer Haberkorn
Politico, March 26, 2018

Just seven months after Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) heralded the beginning of a new bipartisan era on health care following the collapse of Obamacare repeal efforts, their lofty ambitions ended. When Congress put its finishing touches on a $1.3 trillion spending bill earlier this month, there was one glaring omission: a proposal to “stabilize” insurance markets and head off premium spikes just before the November midterm elections. The unraveling of the senators’ health care partnership, which culminated in a dispute over abortion policy, effectively ended Congress’ last chance of shoring up Obamacare this year, while doubling as a fresh sign of just how far apart the two parties remain on health care.


States

Thousands Mistakenly Enrolled During California’s Medicaid Expansion, Feds Find
By Chad Terhune
Kaiser Health News, March 28, 2018

California signed up an estimated 450,000 people under its Medicaid expansion who may not have been eligible for coverage, according to a report by the U.S. Health and Human Services’ chief watchdog. The HHS’ inspector general estimated that California spent $738 million on 366,000 expansion beneficiaries who were ineligible. It spent an additional $417 million for 79,000 expansion enrollees who were “potentially” ineligible, auditors found. Auditors said nearly 90% of nearly $1.2 billion in questionable payments involved federal money, while the rest came from the state’s Medicaid program.

Iowa Bill Allowing Plans to Skirt Obama’s Affordable Care Mandates Sent to Gov. Reynolds
By William Petroski and Tony Leys
The Des Moines Register, March 27, 2018

The Iowa Senate gave final approval Tuesday to legislation exempting certain health plans from Obamacare mandates. The legislation combines two proposals that backers say would reduce health insurance costs, but critics worry they could undermine consumer protections. The legislation would give small employers more freedom to band together to buy health insurance for their workers through “association health plans.” Insurance carriers also could resume selling small-employer policies that don’t meet Obamacare rules, such as those requiring coverage for maternity care or addiction treatment. Senate File 2349 was approved 37-11, sending it to Gov. Kim Reynolds, whose spokeswoman said she was “eager” to sign it.


Single-Payer

Don’t Fall for Single-Payer’s False Promises
By Sally Pipes
Forbes, March 19, 2018

Support for single-payer health care has reached an all-time high, according to Gallup. Seven in 10 Democratic voters—and one in three Republicans—favor a government takeover of the health sector. They should be careful what they wish for. Americans who fall for single-payer’s promise of “universal health coverage” at lower cost will instead find themselves facing long waits for subpar care. Support for single-payer is rising in part because voters don’t understand how such a system would work. Forty-seven percent of Americans believe they’d be able to keep their current health plans if the United States adopted single-payer. They wouldn’t.

Five Democratic Proposals on Healthcare That Aren’t ‘Medicare for All’
By Kimberly Leonard
Washington Examiner, March 25, 2018

More Senate Democrats than ever have signed on to a proposal that would shift every U.S. resident onto Medicare, but a large proportion remain uncertain about heading into a completely government-run system as an immediate sequel to Obamacare. If Democrats were to take control of the Senate in November, they would face a divide over charting a path on health care. Here are five proposals Democrats have introduced, from adding funding to Obamacare to expanding the government’s role in carrying out coverage: 1) Create a public option; 2) Require insurers to sell Obamacare plans; 3) Extend subsidies to people with higher incomes; 4) Extend subsidies to young people; and 5) Fund reinsurance.

Under Pressure, California Assembly Pitches Alternatives to Single-Payer Health Care
By Angela Hart and Taryn Luna
Sacramento Bee, March 26, 2018

California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is refusing to advance this year a controversial single-payer health care bill that would dramatically reshape the state’s health care financing and delivery system. Instead, he’s orchestrating an alternative, narrower approach that seeks to achieve universal coverage. Five Assembly lawmakers have released 14 bills they’re expected to promote as a package this year. Together, they would offer financial assistance to people struggling to pay for soaring insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs, require health insurers to spend more on patient care instead of profits, create a public insurance option, and offer health coverage to undocumented immigrants.


Affordability

Why Some Americans Are Risking It and Skipping Health Insurance
By John Tozzi
Bloomberg, March 26, 2018

In tiny Marion, North Carolina, the Buchanan family decided that $1,800 a month was too much to pay for health insurance and are going without it for the first time in their lives. Across America, there are thousands of people like the Buchanans making the same hard decision to go without health insurance, despite the benefits. They’re risking it—betting that they’ve got enough savings, enough of a back-up plan, or enough luck to get them through a twisted knee, a cancer, or a car wreck. Bloomberg is following a dozen of these families this year in an effort to understand the trade-offs of their decisions.

U.S. Concerns About Health Care High; Energy, Unemployment Low
Gallup, March 26, 2018

Fifty-five percent of Americans worry “a great deal” about the availability and affordability of healthcare, topping concerns about 14 other issues Gallup tested. Slim majorities also worry about crime and violence, federal spending and the budget deficit, and the availability of guns. Unemployment and affordable energy rank last. Health care or the economy have typically been top worries since 2001.

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