ObamaCare Watch Newsletter 3/9/18

  • How Obamacare Raised Premiums –
  • Bailouts Will Not Bring Lasting Stability to the Health Insurance Market –
  • Did Hatch Call the Wrong Party ‘Stupid’ Over Obamacare? –
  • Alex Azar’s Promising Agenda for HHS –
  • Extending the Length of Short-Term Health Plans Is Good for Consumers –
  • Waiting for Help: The Medicaid Waiting List Crisis –
  • Trump Administration Blocks Idaho’s Plan to Circumvent Health Law –
  • Arkansas Becomes Third U.S. State to Add Medicaid Work Requirements –
  • Changes to Arkansas’ Medicaid Expansion Program Seen to Save $356M –
  • As Trump Ends Obamacare Individual Mandate, N.J.’s Stepping in to Reinstate It –

Obamacare Impact

How Obamacare Raised Premiums
By Edmund Haislmaier and Doug Badger
The Heritage Foundation, March 5, 2018

The seismic effects of the ACA on insurance markets continue to be felt nearly eight years after its enactment. Premiums for individual coverage more than doubled between 2013 and 2017. Much of that increase resulted from Obamacare’s new regulations, especially prohibiting medical underwriting, guaranteed issue, and banning pre-ex exclusions. The Trump Administration has taken some steps to help mitigate these challenges, but legislative action is the most effective approach. The Graham-Cassidy proposal offers a starting point for policymakers by providing a conceptual framework for empowering states to repair or ameliorate much of the market dislocation resulting from Obamacare.

Bailouts Will Not Bring Lasting Stability to the Health Insurance Market
By Nina Owcharenko Schaefer
The Heritage Foundation, March 7, 2018

Congress reportedly is contemplating appropriating more federal funding to prop up the ACA and its harmful policy regulations. The ACA’s radical and unnecessary changes in insurance regulations created much bigger problems in the insurance market by upending existing federal and state regulation of health insurance. This destabilized the individual health insurance market and resulted in higher costs and fewer choices. Ultimately, Congress can help Americans who are suffering by addressing the underlying cause by repealing and replacing Obamacare itself. Instead of a bailout, a good place to start would be to give states the flexibility to stabilize their markets.

Did Hatch Call the Wrong Party ‘Stupid’ Over Obamacare?
By Chris Jacobs
The Federalist, March 5, 2018

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch called Obamacare “the stupidest, dumbass bill” he’s ever seen at a recent American Enterprise Institute forum. “Some of you may have loved it,” he said. “And if you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met.” Hatch ended up apologizing for his comment, but the question remains: If the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee considers Obamacare the “stupidest, dumbass” law on earth, then why on earth are his fellow Republicans so desperate to bail it out?


Moving Forward

Alex Azar’s Promising Agenda for HHS
By James C. Capretta
American Enterprise Institute, March 8, 2018

In a speech to hospital executives earlier this week, new Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar outlined his agenda for improving the value of health services provided to patients. He clearly understands that the number one problem in U.S. health care is the prevalence of wasteful spending on services that drive up costs without improving the health of patients. The many previous efforts aimed at tackling this immense and complex problem have barely put a dent in it. Azar made it evident that, from his perspective, the solution is a market-driven system with informed and active consumers making cost-effective decisions about their own care.

Extending the Length of Short-Term Health Plans Is Good for Consumers
By Scott Flanders
Stat News, March 6, 2018

Short-term health insurance is sometimes scoffed at as “sham insurance.” But to those who turn to it in need, this kind of insurance offers vital protection from unexpected medical costs. The Trump administration’s plan to extend how long it lasts makes sense. Short-term plans offer temporary coverage for many of the same things standard health plans do. They don’t, however, cover things like preventive care, maternity care, or pre-existing medical conditions. Short-term plans do not meet the coverage requirements of the ACA, but they have long offered a meaningful measure of protection to people who need to fill a gap in health insurance coverage.


States

Waiting for Help: The Medicaid Waiting List Crisis
By Nicholas Horton
Foundation for Government Accountability, March 6, 2018

In 1981, Congress created the home and community-based (HCBS) waiver program. These waivers allow states, if they choose, to extend home- and community-based Medicaid services to individuals who would otherwise qualify for care in a nursing home or institution. Essentially, these waivers allow truly needy individuals on Medicaid to receive additional care they need without being institutionalized.
However, more than 650,000 truly needy individuals nationwide are languishing on Medicaid waiting lists. At least 21,904 individuals on Medicaid waiting lists have died in expansion states since Obamacare began.

Trump Administration Blocks Idaho’s Plan to Circumvent Health Law
By Robert Pear
The New York Times, March 8, 2018

The Trump administration rejected on Thursday Idaho’s plan to allow the sale of stripped-down, low-cost health insurance because it says it violates the ACA. The 2010 statute “remains the law, and we have a duty to enforce and uphold the law,” Seema Verma, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a letter to Idaho Gov. C.L. Otter. While rejecting Idaho’s plan in its current form, Ms. Verma encouraged the state to keep trying and suggested that, “with certain modifications,” its proposal might be acceptable.

Arkansas Becomes Third U.S. State to Add Medicaid Work Requirements
By Yasmeen Abutaleb
Reuters, March 5, 2018

Arkansas is the third U.S. state to require certain Medicaid recipients to work, volunteer, or participate in job training for at least 80 hours per month as a condition of receiving health insurance.  Those who fail to meet the requirements for three months a year will not be able to re-enroll until the following plan year.

Changes to Arkansas’ Medicaid Expansion Program Seen to Save $356M
By Andy Davis
Arkansas Online, March 5, 2018

Proposed changes to Arkansas’ Medicaid expansion program would reduce its cost by more than $356 million the coming fiscal year, according to HHS estimates. This include $307 million in federal and state funds saved by restricting eligibility to people with incomes of up to 100% of the poverty level, instead of 138%. Imposing a work requirement on many of those remaining on the program would save an additional $49.4 million, the department calculated.

As Trump Ends Obamacare Individual Mandate, N.J.’s Stepping in to Reinstate It
By Susan Livio
NJ.com, March 6, 2018

A state Senate panel Monday backed legislation that requires New Jerseyans to buy insurance or pay a fee — a mandate that ends in 2019.The state says the move is a step toward protecting the health insurance marketplace created by Obamacare.  New Jersey says reinstating the mandate would ensure younger and healthier people who might otherwise forgo insurance will participate in the insurance market and share costs. [They might want to look at the data that shows young people were driven away from participation in insurance because of excessively high costs of coverage.  New Jersey should fix that problem first it if wants to attract young people into the insurance market.  Otherwise, they will be reimposing another tax on young, healthy citizens.]