ACA Sabotage

2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

*(except people who are actually sick, that is) --h/t Anne Paulson

I've written a lot about Idaho's decision to simply ignore ACA regulations by allowing non-ACA compliant healthcare policies which would destabilize the individual healthcare market even worse than it already is today.

A couple of weeks ago, University of Michigan law professor and ACA expert Nicholas Bagley explained how the bigger danger here is that if this move is allowed to stand, it won't be limited to just Idaho:

But it would be a mistake to ignore what Idaho is up to. If the Trump administration doesn’t intervene, other red states will surely follow in its footsteps. The result will be widespread disregard of the law and the rise of state-to-state inequalities in the private market similar to those that already exist in Medicaid.

In a move which should surprise exactly no one, Congressional Republicans are attempting to defund Planned Parenthood AGAIN:

House Republicans are demanding a series of controversial abortion and health care policies in the annual health spending bill, setting up a showdown with Democrats and threatening passage of an omnibus spending package to keep the government open.

Democrats are vowing to block the slew of long-sought conservative priorities. The riders would cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, eliminate a federal family planning program and ax the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, according to sources on Capitol Hill. Republicans also want to insert a new prohibition on funding research that uses human fetal tissue obtained after an abortion.

In 2018, unsubsidized premiums for ACA-compliant individual healthcare policies have shot up by around 30% on average nationally. Around 18 points of this (60% of the total) is due specifically to policy decisions by the Trump Administration and Congressional Republicans, primarily the cut-off of Cost Sharing Reduction reimbursement payments and the (accurate, as it would later develop) anticipation, by some carriers, of the ACA's individual mandate being repealed.

What about 2019, however? The 2-3 points tacked on out of concern for the mandate being repealed was only a small portion of the full impact insurance carriers expect it to have, and of course there's the further undermining of the ACA via Donald Trump's "Short Term" and "Association Plan" executive orders. Finally, there's the impact of what is assumed to be another year of the advertising/outreach budget being starved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid.

 

Back in June 2016, the Obama Administration rightly clamped down on "Short-Term Plans", limiting them to, you know, a "short term"...no more than 3 months out of the year, while also making them non-renewable; that is, you couldn't get around the 3-month limit by simply renewing the policy every three months:

 

From the Cabinet Meeting scene in the comedy "Dave":

DAVE: Now the Commerce Department..,

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE (sitting erect): Yes, Mr. President?

DAVE (from a card): You're spending forty-seven million dollars on an ad campaign to... (reading) 'Boost consumer confidence in the American auto industry.'

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Um...yes, sir...it's designed to bolster individual confidence in a previous domestic automotive purchase.

DAVE: So we're spending forty-seven million dollars so someone can feel better about a car they've already bought?

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE: Yes, sir, but I wouldn't characterize it that way...

DAVE (indignant): Well I'm sure that's really important, but I don't want to tell some eight- year-old kid he's got to sleep in the street because we want people to feel better about their cars. (beat) Do you want to tell him that?

SECRETARY OF COMMERCE (quietly): No sir...(looks at TV cameras)...no sir, I sure don't.

 

Hot Off the Presses, via Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner...

President Trump’s budget plan released Monday endorsed an Obamacare repeal and replace bill that gives funding to states and makes cuts to Medicaid.

...Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., are behind the legislation that takes Obamacare’s funding for the Medicaid expansion and tax subsidies for lower premiums and gives it to states through block grants. The senators introduced the bill in September along with Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.

The bill would end the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare but supporters say states can implement it individually if they want. However, the bill makes cuts to Medicaid overall by capping federal funding per beneficiary.

The bill failed to get enough support in Congress in September, as some senators from expansion states worried about Medicaid cuts and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

(sigh) One More Time, folks...

Last year, in my "If I Ran the Zoo" piece, I stuck my neck out and noted that the single biggest problem with the Individual Mandate isn't that it exists, but that it's not strong enough (conservative healthcare writer Michael Bertaut, who I disagree with on most issues but respect on this topic, also argues that the mandate has never been enforced strongly enough either). Here's what I said at the time:

The reality is that as much as everyone complains about the $695 or 2.5% income individual mandate penalty for NOT having qualifying healthcare coverage, the penalty should really be increased. There, I said it. The problem is that if the penalty is significantly less than the amount that the premiums would be, some people will still decide to eat the tax instead of signing up.

I've been expecting the first and third of these developments:

MARYLAND Open enrollment extended by one week:

OPEN ENROLLMENT EXTENDED UNTIL DEC. 22
ONE WEEK ADDED TO ENROLL IN 2018 HEALTH, DENTAL COVERAGE

BALTIMORE (DEC. 13, 2017) – Open enrollment through Maryland Health Connection has been extended until Friday, Dec. 22 to choose a plan for health coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2018, with expanded call center hours through next week.

Individuals can apply at MarylandHealthConnection.gov or through the “Enroll MHC” mobile app available free in the App Store (iOS) and the Google Play Store (Android).

Also, hundreds of insurance brokers and navigators around the state can help Marylanders apply for financial help and enroll in a plan. Their locations and contact information are available at MarylandHealthConnection.gov or through a GPS-enabled locator tool on the app.

As I noted earlier, the price Maine GOP Senator Susan Collins appears to be demanding is passage of the Alexander-Murray stabilization bill and passage of her own Collins-Nelson reinsurance bill. I addressed Alexander-Murray in my last post, but let's take a look at Collins-Nelson:

Collins' bill with Nelson would set aside $4.5 billion over two years to help states establish reinsurance programs. Reinsurance directly compensates insurance carriers for their most expensive customers.

To the best of my knowledge, that's...pretty much all it does: $2.25 billion per year for two years, and then...that's it. If there's more to the bill than that, I'll revise this post, but in the meantime, that seems to be the whole bill.

I've said before that there are a few areas of the ACA which I simply don't consider myself knowledgable enough about to try and explain to others in depth. One of these is the so-called "Cadillac Tax" on high-end employer sponsored insurance policies. The other (well 3 others, really) are the "3R" programs which were set up to try and smooth out the transition period for insurance carriers for the first few years. The "3 R's" are "Risk Adjustment", "Reinsurrance" and "Risk Corridors".

Since I don't know much about them, here's a quick explainer from the Commonwealth Fund. A summary version is below:

Risk adjustment is a process that deters insurance plans from trying to attract healthy enrollees (“cherry picking”), and protects companies that may—by chance or because of their particular benefits—attract sicker than average customers (“adverse risk selection”). Though the Affordable Care Act bans carriers from turning people down or charging them more based on their health, the incentive to attract healthier enrollees remains because healthier customers increase profits by reducing companies’ payouts.

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