Obamacare Likely to Stick on the Books Until 2020

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, is hanging on by the skin of its teeth. So far, the act has proven resilient against Republican efforts to repeal it and the Trump administration’s attempts to defund it – but with premiums projected to soar by an average of 15% in 2019, the future of the ACA looks very dark.

Nothing drastic is likely to happen to the ACA before the midterm elections on November 06, according to Eric Wilson, principal of Wilson Associates, a company that specializes in healthcare insurance. Obamacare is likely to stick on the books until 2020 because “Congress needs time to get things done,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the plan is almost repealing itself in a lot of ways. Rates are increasing, deductibles are getting higher, and more and more people are opting out of the system. What’s happening now is that healthy people are opting out, leaving primarily sick people in the pool, which means rates are reacting like crazy,” Wilson told Insurance Business… Read More at Business Insurance Magazine

Poll: Majority Says They Will Hold Trump Accountable for ObamaCare Failings

A majority of the public says they hold the Trump administration and Congress accountable for any problems with ObamaCare because they have made changes to the law, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll found that a majority of those surveyed — 58 percent — said they hold the administration and Republican members of Congress responsible for any problems with the ACA since they have made a number of changes to the law.

According to the survey, most of the public also say they think President Trump and his administration are trying to make the Affordable Care Act fail.

Fifty-six percent of respondents believe the administration is trying to make the law fail, while 32 percent say they think it’s trying to make it work… Read More at The Hill

The Trump Administration Just Did Something Unambiguously Good for Obamacare

When the Trump administration announced a few weeks ago that it would freeze important Obamacare payments to health insurers, it wasn’t clear whether it was once again trying to sabotage the law, or needlessly introducing uncertainty to the law’s insurance markets, or both, or maybe neither.

Whatever it was, the Health and Human Services Department took action Tuesday to fix the problem, get the money flowing again, and remove any unnecessary doubt for insurers over billions of dollars in payments they were expecting.

At stake was Obamacare’s “risk adjustment” program. In brief, the program tries to help balance the medical risk in the law’s insurance markets. Health insurers that are found to have healthier customers (according to a federal formula) pay money into the program, and then insurers who have sicker customers receive money out of it… Read More at Vox

McCaughey: Dems Resort to Scare Tactics on Health Care

Democrats are so desperate to torpedo Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court that they’re resorting to scare tactics, telling Americans that his confirmation would put 130 million people at risk of losing their health insurance.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says Democrats can sink Kavanaugh by showing how his appointment will lead to a court majority that “repeals ACA with its protections for pre-­existing conditions.” It’s demagoguery. And it’s working, as demagoguery too often does. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a frequent Trump opponent, is already moaning that the SCOTUS appointment will determine if “West Virginians with pre-existing conditions will lose their health care.”

Not true. Even if the Supreme Court does strike down the Affordable Care Act someday, the era of insurance companies turning down applicants with health problems is over. Across the country, Republican and Democratic state lawmakers agree on that. They are busy devising smarter ways to protect people with pre-existing conditions and keep insurance affordable, with or without Obamacare. Not one of these plans throws people with health problems under the bus. Democrats’ rhetoric about losing coverage for pre-existing conditions is hysteria… Read More at Boston Herald

Bill Would Give Young People More Obamacare Subsidies

Young adults would receive more government help to pay for Obamacare plans under a House bill introduced Wednesday.

The Advancing Youth Enrollment Act, by Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Va., would aim to bring more people between the ages of 18 to 34 into the Obamacare marketplaces by increasing the amount of tax credits they receive to pay for health insurance premiums.

Under the proposal, the maximum percentage of income that young adults would have to pay toward health insurance under Obamacare would decrease by 2.5 percentage points for people between the ages of 18 to 30. Each year after, until the age of 34, they would see a gradual phaseout of 0.5 percentage points a year… Read More at Washington Examiner

Obamacare Finds Stability Under Siege

Republicans who have been thwarted in their attempts to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care law appear instead to have settled on a strategy of dismantling the law piece by piece. But despite a series of seemingly crippling blows since Donald Trump took office, Obamacare has proved hard to kill.

As recently as this month, the Trump administration announced it would temporarily halt what are called “risk-adjustment payments” in the wake of a March federal court order that questioned the formula by which the payments were calculated. The payments required providers with fewer sick patients to transfer some funds to providers that have higher numbers of patients needing more expensive care, spreading out the cost of covering sicker patients as they obtained insurance. One of a series of moves designed to protect insurers participating in Obamacare, it was widely seen as a way to prevent providers from seeking out only the healthiest patients as customers.

Some fear that the move, involving billions of dollars in payments, could lead providers to raise premiums to offset the added risks if it were made permanent – the latest in what seem to be frequent disruptions of the market that show no sign of abating… Read More at US News & World Report

Next Year’s Obamacare: More Insurers but Steeper Prices

Health insurers are planning to expand in Obamacare amid rising profits, but the trend is coming at the expense of higher premiums for certain customers.

Premiums are expected to rise by an average of 15 percent for customers whose incomes aren’t low enough to qualify them for subsidies, according to early estimates from Avalere Health.

Still, the entrance by insurers into Obamacare is a reversal from years of exits. Health insurers were fleeing Obamacare in droves around this time last year, and it looked as though people in as many as 47 counties would have no options for coverage.

The Trump administration and Republicans have made several changes to Obamacare since then that Democrats call “sabotage.” President Trump ended payments to insurers, the GOP tax law will end the requirement in 2019 that people must buy health insurance or pay a fine, and people soon will be able to buy less-expensive coverage that doesn’t follow Obamacare’s rules.

Yet, the Obamacare exchanges are showing an unexpected trend: No empty counties have been reported. Not only are insurers not leaving, but they’re also expanding or returning. Read More at the Washington Examiner

Pro-ObamaCare Group Launches Ad in Supreme Court Fight

A pro-ObamaCare group has launched the first television ad focused on health care in the fight over the next Supreme Court justice.

The Protect Our Care ad tells viewers that President Trump could nominate a Supreme Court justice who opposes ObamaCare — specifically its protections for those with pre-existing conditions, like diabetes and asthma.

“This is an emergency,” the narrator says. “Trump and Mitch McConnell have a plan to install a Supreme Court justice who will overturn those protections,” the ad continues, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

The ad refers to a lawsuit brought by Republican attorneys general against the Trump administration targeting ObamaCare, arguing Congress’s recent repeal of the individual mandate to have health insurance makes the whole law unconstitutional. Read More at The Hill

Obamacare Is Proving Hard to Kill

As health insurers across the country begin filing their proposed rates for 2019, one thing is clear: The market created by the Affordable Care Act shows no signs of imminent collapse in spite of the continuing threats by Republicans to destroy it.

In fact, while President Trump may insist that the law has been “essentially gutted,” the A.C.A. market appears to be more robust than ever, according to insurance executives and analysts. A few states are likely to see a steep spike in prices next year, but many are reporting much more modest increases. Insurers don’t appear to be abandoning markets altogether. In contrast to last year, regulators are not grappling with the prospect of so-called “bare” counties, where no carrier is willing to sell A.C.A. policies in a given area.

“The market is in a better position now than it has ever been since the exchanges have opened,” said Deep Banerjee, who follows insurers for S & P Global Ratings. The companies first began selling policies in the state exchanges, or marketplaces, five years ago. After years of losses, the insurers are now generally making money.

With roughly a third of states releasing information, the insurers’ rate requests vary widely, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. In Maryland, companies are seeking increases averaging 30 percent. A midlevel policy in Baltimore could cost $622 a month, roughly a third higher than the average of the other states reporting to date. Read More at The New York Times