The Affordable Care Act contains a number of provisions intended to incent “personal responsibility,” or the notion that health care isn’t just a right — it’s an obligation. None of these measures is more prominent than the law’s individual mandate, designed to ensure that every American obtains health coverage or pays a fine for choosing to go uninsured.
But one provision that’s gotten much less attention — until recently — relates to smoking; specifically, the ACA allows payers to treat tobacco users very differently by opening the door to much higher premiums for this population.
That measure has some health policy analysts cheering, suggesting that higher premiums are necessary to raise revenue for the law and (hopefully) deter smokers’ bad habits. But other observers have warned that the ACA takes a heavy-handed stick to smokers who may be unhappily addicted to tobacco, rather than enticing them with a carrot to quit.
Under proposed rules, HHS would allow insurers to charge a smoker seeking health coverage in the individual market as much as 50% more in premiums than a non-smoker.
That difference in premiums may rapidly add up for smokers, given the expectation that Obamacare’s new medical-loss ratios already will lead to major cost hikes in the individual market. “For many people, in the years after the law, premiums aren’t just going to [go] up a little,” Peter Suderman predicts at Reason. “They’re going to rise a lot.”
Meanwhile, Ann Marie Marciarille, a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, adds that insurers have “considerable flexibility” in how to set up a potential surcharge for tobacco use. For example, insurers could apply a high surcharge for tobacco use in older smokers — perhaps several hundred dollars per month — further hitting a population that tends to be poorer.
Is this cost-shifting fair? The average American tends to think so.
Continue reading “About Time? Smokers Face Tough New Rules Under Obamacare”
Filed Under: THCB, The Insider's Guide To Health Care
Tagged: Affordable Care Act, Cancer, Dan Diamond, Insurers, Medicaid Expansion, MLR, Obamacare, Premiums, smoking, smoking cessation, tobacco
Jan 25, 2013
As employees participate in open enrollment for their company’s health insurance enrollment next year, it’s clear they should make a point of participating in their employer’s enrollment information meetings, not merely pick last year’s coverage. Partly because of the implementation of President Obama’s health care overhaul plan, U.S. workers are expected to pay average premiums of $2,200 in 2011 – an increase of 12.5 percent, the biggest in four years, according to human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates.
Increases in health care premiums are certain to continue increasing in coming years at double-digit rates, with inflation further exacerbated by the entry of 32 million uninsured Americans into the healthcare system. This will speed the transformation of insurers from underwriters of medical risk to managers of medical risk, a process inevitably accompanied by higher prices.
Annual healthcare inflation — and hence baseline premiums — have been rising 8-12 percent annually for two decades, and there is no reason to expect this to change anytime soon. It could actually increase as provisions of healthcare reform – such as the mandated removal of pre-existing conditions – become law. Some of these provisions, such as the elimination of a dollar amount of health benefits in a given year and the fact that children can now stay on a parent’s health plan until age 26, help explain the likely spike in health insurance premiums next year.
Continue reading “Companies Clearly Won’t Stop Hiking Health Care Coverage Premiums”
Filed Under: Health Plans
Tagged: Employers, Premiums
Nov 1, 2010
If anyone ever doubted the extent to which Congressional committees could turn good intentions into a bureaucratic nightmare, they need only to look at PPACA’s premium subsidy provisions and their potential impact on insurance exchanges.
PPACA offers premium and enrollee cost-sharing subsidies for lower-income people not eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP as one of the three key components—along with liberalizing Medicaid income restrictions and requiring everyone to have coverage—of reform’s attempt to solve the affordability problem that’s led to fifty million Americans being uninsured.
How will the subsidy process work? It takes up 25 pages of the final reform legislation, so the following is a vastly simplified description. It’s also one that assumes that the final regulations will not deviate significantly from the law itself.
First, anyone wishing to be eligible for a subsidy must submit an application to an exchange. The application must include all information necessary to determine if the applicant is eligible for Medicaid or SCHIP, as well as for the PPACA subsidies. (Massachusetts’ Connector—the prototype exchange—requires a 12-page page form to convey this information.)
Continue reading “PPACA Premium Subsidies: The Government Is Here to Help You!”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Medicaid, Premiums
Nov 1, 2010