If the devil is in the details, we got the motherlode this past week as to how the most incendiary part of President Obama’s health reform will actually work when it launches next January.
The Department of Health and Human Services issued lengthy rules on the controversial individual mandate requiring uninsured Americans to purchase a health plan. The IRS followed with nearly as lengthy a set of rules specifying who is eligible for subsidies for those purchases and who pays penalties when they refuse. In what critics will consider an Orwellian flourish, both federal agencies refer to these penalties as “shared responsibility payments” — even though the Supreme Court, in its upholding of the mandate, plainly referred to them as what they are: a tax.
The two sets of rulings represent a sort of good cop, bad cop routine from the Obama administration. The bulk of the HHS rules defines individual outs for the mandate, identifying 11 different types of uninsured Americans who will be exempt from the de facto tax, ranging from sudden financial impairment to genuine religious objection to medical care. The IRS rules are all bright hard lines about who has to pay, when, and how.
The major media, echoing criticism by Obamacare’s agitators from the Left, seized on the stinginess of the IRS rules regarding subsidies and penalties for family members of people covered by their employers, or what they call the “family glitch.” The glitch is technically real, but statistically remote, and will affect almost no one in the real world, but it does make for good inflammatory headlines.
Continue reading “Life Support and Taxes”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, family glitch, Health insurance, Health Reform, HHS, Individual mandate, IRS, J.D. Kleinke, Obama administration, Taxes, The IRS rules
Feb 7, 2013
Last week, I reported on my informal survey of health insurance companies and their estimate for how much rates will rise on account of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).
Today, there are press reports quoting the CEO of Aetna with their estimate. The Aetna estimate is worse than mine.
Health insurance premiums may as much as double for some small businesses and individual buyers in the U.S. when the Affordable Care Act’s major provisions start in 2014, Aetna Inc. (AET)’s chief executive officer said.
While subsidies in the law will shield some people, other consumers who make too much for assistance are in for “premium rate shock,” Mark Bertolini, who runs the third-biggest U.S. health-insurance company, told analysts yesterday at a conference in New York. The prospect has spurred discussion of having Congress delay or phase in parts of the law, he said.
“We’ve shared it all with the people in Washington and I think it’s a big concern,” the CEO said. “We’re going to see some markets go up as much as as 100 percent.”
Continue reading “More Signs of Rate Shock and Awe”
Filed Under: Health Plans, THCB
Tagged: Aetna, CBO, Health insurance, health insurance premiums, Mark Bertolini, premium hikes, Robert Laszewski
Dec 13, 2012
One of the perks of giving keynotes all over the country is being able to hear what other health care leaders are saying without having to pay the conference fees. One of my major keynote themes is that everyone (patients, doctors, hospitals, employers, and health plans) will have to change in order to thrive during the current health care delivery system transformation.
Recently in Delray Beach, I stayed after my keynote to hear Florida Blue CEO Patrick Geraghty describe his first year of trying to change the Blue Cross/Blue Shield franchise to respond to health care reform. I have written elsewhere about the health plan response to the changing environment, but Geraghty’s speech highlighted how urgent and how difficult change can be when an industry business model is disrupted by federal legislation and market forces.
Geraghty has led the Blues effort in Florida to update their name, mission, vision, and values. Focus groups revealed that the new name Florida Blue was easier to say and communicated a less corporate, more friendly image than the old name Blue Cross Blue Shield which brought to mind adjectives such as corporate, distant, and expensive.
A four paragraph mission statement was replaced by a single sentence: “To help people and communities achieve better health.” The vision statement was rewritten to now describe the company as “a leading innovator enabling healthy communities.” The five corporate values now include the familiar “respect,” “integrity,” and “excellence,” and the more unusual “courage” and “imagination.”
What I found most intriguing and revealing was how these new efforts are being translated into concrete tactics such as opening retail centers and partnering with Disney on a new innovation institute.
Continue reading “Health Plan Case Studies: A New Florida Blue”
Filed Under: Health Plans
Tagged: ACOs, Affordable Care Act, Baptist Health South Florida, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cisco, Disney, Florida, Florida Blue, Fred Karutz, GE, health care delivery system, Health insurance, Health Insurance Exchanges, Health Plans, Johnson & Johnson, Kent Bottles, Medicare Shared Savings Program, Patrick Geraghty, Regina Herzlinger, Silverlink Communications, The States
Oct 8, 2012
While the Governor’s Mansion in Pennsylvania is currently under the control of the Republicans. I know the state’s Insurance Department is relatively apolitical. That’s why this September statement by Pennsylvania Commissioner Consedine before the U.S. House Ways and Means’ Subcommittee on Health is quite telling.
In it, Mr. Consedine describes how the Keystone state is encountering difficulties implementing an health insurance exchange. As readers will recall, exchanges are a key feature of the Affordable Care Act, because they’ll provide an online market that will enable individuals to obtain coverage.
According to Mr Consedine, CMS is failing to support a good law with the many regulatory details that turn a vague idea into a functioning reality. These failings include:
1. “Interim,” not “final” rules on eligibility, tax credit calculations, cost sharing and the role of brokers
2. Little formal guidance on the determination of the essential health benefit.
3. Delays in issuance of regulations on how states and Uncle Sam will split or mutually indemnify the myriad costs of the exchange and the Federal Data Hub.
Continue reading “Will the Rollout Of the Exchanges Be Delayed?”
Filed Under: Health Plans
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, CMS, Consumer Protection, essential health benefit, Health insurance, Health Insurance Exchanges, HHS, HIT, Jaan Sidorov, Michael Consedine
Sep 25, 2012
Employer outlays for workers’ health insurance slowed from a 9 percent jump last year to less than half that — 4 percent — this year, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Foundation. Good news?
Our political class believes it is. The Obama administration attributes the drop to the new Affordable Care Act, which, among other things, gives states funding to review insurance rate increases.
Republicans agree it’s good news but blame Obamacare for the fact that employer health-care costs continue to rise faster than inflation. “The new mandates contained in the health care law are significantly increasing the cost of insurance” says Wyoming senator Mike Enzi, top Republican on the Senate health committee.
But both sides ignore one big reason for the drop: Employers are shifting healthcare costs to their workers. (The survey shows workers contributing an average of $4,316 toward the cost of family health plans this year, up from $4,129 last year. Many are receiving little or no employer-provided coverage at all.)
Score another win for American corporations — whose profits continue to be robust despite the anemic recovery — and another loss for American workers.
Those profits aren’t due to a surge in sales. Exports are down (Europeans, Japanese, and Chinese are all pulling in their belts) and American consumers don’t have the dough to buy more.
Continue reading “The Wrong Way to Save Money on Health Care”
Filed Under: OP-ED, THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Chronic Illnesses, Employee Health Care Costs, Employer Health Care Costs, employer-sponsored health insurance, Health Care Costs, Health insurance, Institute of Medicine, Preventive care, Robert Reich
Sep 14, 2012
The Affordable Care Act leaves it to the states to decide whether they want to let insurers charge older Americans more for coverage. If a state takes no action, a 64-year-old buying his own insurance in the individual market will pay up to three times more than an 18-year-old. In the small-group market – if a small business employs an unusually large number of older workers – the same 3:1 ratio applies.
Today, in most states, there are no caps on how much insurers can charge a 60-something forced to purchase his own insurance. In the individual market, only New York State bans age rating altogether, and just three other states limit how much premiums can vary, based on age, to less than 3:1. When insurers sell policies to small businesses, Vermont also prohibits age rating, but only five other states cap increases.
To check whether your state shields older boomers in either of these markets, take a look at these charts. (A checkmark in the right-hand column means that age rating is now unregulated in that state.)
Help from the younger generation?
Continue reading “The Age Rating Game: Will Older Americans Pay More Under Health Reform? ”
Filed Under: OP-ED
Tagged: 20-somethings, Affordable Care Act, age rating, cost distribution, elderly care, Health insurance, individual market, Pepsi Generation
Aug 20, 2012
Here’s the most underreported story of the summer. When the Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) it inadvertently liberated millions of people who were going to be forced into Medicaid. Now they will have the opportunity to have private health insurance instead. What difference does that make? It could be the difference between life and death.
A Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report this week says there are 3 million such people. The actual number could be several times that size. But first things first.
Imagine that you are the head of a family of three, struggling to get by on an income, say, of $25,000 a year. You’ve signed up for your employer’s health plan because you want your family to get good health care when they need it. But that takes a big bite out of your paycheck — $250 a month.
When you first heard about the president’s health plan, you heard him say that if you like the plan you’re in you can keep it. That was good news. You also believed the whole point of the reform was to help families like yours get health insurance if for some reason you had to seek insurance on your own.
Continue reading “The Supreme Court May Have Saved Lives … by Keeping People Off Medicaid”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, CBO, employer-sponsored health insurance, Health insurance, John Goodman, Medicaid, Obamacare, Outcomes, private health insurance, safety net
Jul 30, 2012
Now that the Supreme Court has decided that ObamaCare’s mandate to buy health insurance is a tax, will the IRS be able to collect it?
Generally speaking, if you owe the IRS, it will get the money from you—with the possible exception of the ObamaCare tax. Though ObamaCare’s individual mandate imposes a tax on people who do not purchase government-approved health insurance, the law explicitly neuters the IRS’s ability to collect the tax.
Bizarre? Yes. And it matters. If policymakers expect uninsured young people to buy health insurance when it is even more expensive than it is today, the threat of serious consequences for not doing so must be real. Yes, the threat that the IRS might come after you if you do not do what you are told looks real at first glance. But Democratic politicians, fearing public backlash for making the mandate too intrusive, pulled its teeth.
First, the tax (nee penalty) is too small to matter to the people who are its target. In 2014, the tax will be the larger of $95 or 1 percent of taxable income for an individual. By 2016 it rises to $695 or 2.5 percent of income. Young people would not want to pay a dollar if they could avoid it, but avoiding the tax means signing up for insurance that many do not think they need. That insurance is not free. Even with subsidies, they will pay at least 3 percent of their incomes for premiums and up to 6 percent of the cost of the insurance in deductibles and copayments. That adds up to a lot more than 95 bucks.
Continue reading “Health Care’s New Rules: If You Don’t Buy Insurance, Will You Really Pay the Tax?”
Filed Under: THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Health insurance, Individual mandate, IRS, Obamacare, teeth
Jul 27, 2012
Many states are in a dash to finalize plans for a Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) following last month’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The scramble poses several questions – are Americans ready to participate in exchanges, and will states have enough vendor support to meet the deadlines?
Survey Shows HIX Knowledge Gap among Americans
A recent survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Xerox asked if they were in need of health insurance, would they consider purchasing it through a HIX. Nearly half (46 percent) were not sure. Another 25 percent said they would not consider using an HIX, while 29 percent said yes.
This is interesting as HIXs are designed to create a more consumer-friendly experience, where people can shop and compare when choosing a health plan, much like Expedia.com finds the best travel fare. However, as consumers are reporting a hesitancy around participating in HIXs, there appears to be a disconnect between the consumer-friendly intent and the knowledge people have of the type of experience and benefits an HIX will bring. While it’s common for people to be unfamiliar with the benefits of new technology until they use it, there is a need for states to quickly fill the knowledge gap around exchanges to show consumers they will deliver the desired experience.
Continue reading “Priorities for States as Plans for HIXs Move Forward”
Filed Under: The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Expedia.com, federal option, Harris Interactive, Health insurance, HIX, Knowledge Gap, Will Saunders
Jul 20, 2012
With over a dozen conservative states leaning against expanding Medicaid to cover poor workers without health insurance, perhaps it is time to resuscitate an idea embraced by President Ronald Reagan. Let the federal government take over Medicaid lock, stock and barrel.
In 1982 the president who ushered in the modern conservative era offered to assume federal responsibility for the program that now consumes over 22 percent of state government budgets in exchange for states taking over welfare. His offer built on a series of recommendations going back to 1969 by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, which called for a federal takeover of all public assistance programs.
President Obama’s health care reform law, if it survives the final hurdle of next November’s election, could give that idea new life. Under the Affordable Care Act, states are responsible for creating insurance exchanges where individuals and businesses can buy individual or group health plans.
Continue reading “States Should Opt Out of Medicaid — All The Way Out”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, health care access, Health insurance, Medicaid, Medicaid Expansion, Merrill Goozner, States, Taxes, The Supreme Court Challenge
Jul 9, 2012