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

As Midterms Approach, Conservatives and GOP Again Attempt to Destroy Obamacare

Not satisfied with a raft of legislative and administrative steps likely to drive up health premiums just as voters turn their attention to the November elections, a coalition of conservatives on Tuesday unveiled another attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act.

This one also has Republican fingerprints on it. The “Health Care Choices Proposal” advanced by the Health Policy Consensus Group closely tracks the so-called Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill proposed by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that enjoyed a brief moment in the sun last fall before fading away. The sponsoring group comprises the Heritage Foundation, the free-market Galen Institute, the right-wing Goldwater Institute and former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), among others.

Like Graham-Cassidy, the latest proposal would effectively do away with protections for people with preexisting medical conditions and would remove the ACA’s requirements that all health plans offer minimum essential benefits, such as hospitalization, maternity care and mental health services.

Graham-Cassidy would have eliminated the Medicaid expansion and funneled money away from states that covered their poorest residents via Medicaid, such as California, and toward those that didn’t bother, such as Texas, via a block-grant system providing each state with a capped amount of federal funding.

The new proposal is vague on how its block-grant system would work, but on the surface it has some of the same features as Graham-Cassidy. As Duke University health insurance expert David Anderson puts it, the message for Americans saddled with a healthcare law like this is: “Don’t get sick.” Read More at LA Times

CBO Lowers Estimate of Number of Uninsured Due to Republican Tax Law

The government’s scorekeeping agencies revised their controversial estimate for how many more people would be uninsured as a result of changes Republicans and the Trump administration made to Obamacare.

The latest estimates project that zeroing out Obamacare’s fine for going uninsured alone will result in roughly 8.6 million more people becoming uninsured by 2027 than if the fine had been kept in place, compared to the 13 million figure the agencies had released several months ago. Read More at the Washington Examiner

Obamacare Repeal Effort Quietly Poised for Success

New numbers on healthcare costs highlight, yet again, how much of a dereliction of duty it will be if congressional Republicans don’t take another crack this year at replacing Obamacare.

The Congressional Budget Office reported on Wednesday that premiums for the basic Obamacare plan will rise 15 percent next year, despite overall price inflation in the rest of the economy remaining at or below 2 percent.

The huge price hikes will not be a one-time thing, either. “Going forward, the agency projects premiums will increase an average of 10% a year between 2019 and 2023 and then 5% annually between 2024 and 2028,” reported CNN. Read More at the Washington Examiner

Why Republicans Are Battling Republicans on Obamacare Repeal

Republicans are rarely as exercised as when they are fighting with themselves.

And as the House debates how to best dismantle the Affordable Care Act, a familiar array of interest groups with deep pockets, incensed talk radio hosts and online agitators is again assuming its posture of aggression toward the House Republican leadership.

Read more of The New York Times

Republicans Struggle to Replace Obamacare

The Obamacare replacement plan that President Donald Trump said in mid-January was nearly done has yet to materialize.

Congressional committees may begin voting on legislation this week, but a leaked early draft proposal divided Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress.

Some of the most conservative members complained that the replacement plan would just substitute one entitlement program for another.

Read more at the Indianapolis Star

Republicans May Not Be Prepared for the Obamacare War

Republican Senate and House leaders who have summarily decided on a “repeal and dawdle” plan for Obamacare don’t seem to understand what they are up against. They see House and Senate majorities, an incoming president who vowed to repeal all of Obamacare and a reconciliation process that allows them to gut Obamacare taxes and subsidies, essentially killing the program with 51 votes in the Senate. Do they understand it won’t be that easy?

Read more at The Washington Post

Republicans See Tax Credits In Potential Obamacare Overhaul

According to a Reuters report (online, Apr. 20 – Susan Cornwell) “More Republican proposals are popping up.” This refers to possible conservative Affordable Care Act alternatives should the U.S. Supreme Court rule against the Obama White House in King v. Burwell.

One ACA option offered by Rep. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., according to Reuters, “wants to make the Obamacare taxpayer subsidies available through August, 2017, while repealing the individual and employer mandates.” On the other hand, the Reuters story says, “Louisiana Republican Representative John Fleming favors putting taxpayer money into tax-exempt health savings accounts that individuals can use to pay for healthcare expenses.”

Cornwell additionally relates, with regard to Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee: “In an e-mailed statement to Reuters, Ryan said tax credits would ‘empower Americans to make their own healthcare decisions rather than government mandates.’”

Read more at Reuters

With Or Without Obamacare, Republicans Should Focus on Lowering Healthcare Costs

Noted Obamacare critic Arvik Roy, a Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow For Policy Research, is being heard from again. This time in Forbes Magazine (online, Aug. 20).

Roy’s Forbes report says the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicates that by the time of the next U.S. presidential election, in 2016, 36 million Americans are projected to be on some sort of an Obamacare-oriented health insurance plan. Roy says, “Whether they admit it or not, no Republican can win the White House in 2016 campaigning on taking away health coverage for 26 million people.”

Roy adds three points to support his arguments, “The overall framework is fairly simple: First, de-regulate the Obamacare exchanges so people can truly shop for coverage they want and need. Second, migrate Medicaid enrollees and future retirees onto the reformed exchanges. Third, tackle the problem of consolidated hospital systems that exploit their market power to charge prices far above what a free market would bear.”

Read more at Forbes

GOP Seized on Dem tweet on Obamacare

Anti-Obamacare House Republicans publicized a tweet from Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile reading: “What’s on your menu? Just got off the phone with my health care provider asking them to explain why my premium jumped up. No good answer!” The House Ways and Means Committee sent out an email with the tweet under the subject line: “Q: Why are your health insurance premiums higher? A: Obamacare”

Read more at The Washington Times