A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Exchanges"

This Democratic 'reform' would make Obamacare more expensive. Bad idea.

Michael Hiltzik
Los Angeles Times
Thu, 2014-10-30
"A caucus of seven nervous Democratic senators, led by Mark Begich of Alaska, has been pushing a plan to "reform" the Affordable Care Act by allowing insurers to offer an even skimpier insurance plan than the skimpiest permitted now. . The idea of their "Expanded Consumer Choice Act" is to create a new "copper" tier of health plan permitted in the individual and small-business markets under the ACA. The copper tier would undercut the current tiers of health plans by covering only 50% of expected health costs. Under the current law, the stingiest "bronze" tier covers 60% of costs."

House subpoenas former HealthCare.gov official

Julian Hattem, The Hill
Thu, 2014-10-30
"The House Science Committee has issued a subpoena for former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park over his role in developing HealthCare.gov. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) issued the subpoena for the Obama administration’s former top tech advisor, demanding that he testify about his oversight of the ObamaCare website, including its security protocols. The subpoena comes after Park’s previous refusals to testify and his recent cancellation of a meeting with House lawmakers after it became clear that the briefing would be public, the committee said."

Choosing a Health Plan Is Hard, Even for a Health Economist

Austin Frakt
NY Times
Wed, 2014-10-29
"A confession: I am a health economist, and I cannot rationally select a health plan. I buy health insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, or F.E.H.B.P., which is very similar to the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges. Like the exchanges, the federal employee program runs an online marketplace with a choice of plans, which vary by region."

Soft launch for O-Care's business exchange

Elise Viebeck, The Hill
Wed, 2014-10-29
"Businesses in five states received early access Monday to select features at ObamaCare's online health insurance marketplace for small employers. The soft launch for the SHOP system is an effort by federal health officials to troubleshoot any problems at the exchange before Nov. 15, when it will open to all states that did not elect to build their marketplaces. Small businesses in New Jersey, Delaware, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri can establish accounts, complete an application, receive a determination of eligibility and upload an employee roster, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said. In November, employers will also be able to browse plans and pricing."

Casting light on a simpler pricing system

Merrill Goozner, Modern Healthcare
Wed, 2014-10-29
"Remember the excitement surrounding Castlight Health's initial public offering? Last March, the San Francisco startup's stock price soared when investors bought into the idea that online price transparency would transform the healthcare marketplace. Castlight's business plan calls for offering software through insurers and employers that allows people to comparison shop for healthcare services. With employers rapidly moving their workers into high-deductible plans, patients looking to lower their out-of-pocket expenses could use Castlight to find low-cost providers."

Speculation swirls around what happens if federal subsidies go away

Lisa Schnecker, Modern Health Care
Wed, 2014-10-29
"New language in contracts between the CMS and insurers operating on HealthCare.gov is grabbing attention, with some calling it an admission by the government that it might lose upcoming court battles dealing with insurance subsidies on the health portal and others saying the new wording is just a practical precaution. The new language appears to allow insurers to stop offering their plans should federal premium subsidies disappear. A number of cases regarding the legality of the subsidies in states without their own exchanges are now working their way through the courts. The language says, “CMS acknowledges that (the insurer) has developed its products for the (federal exchange) based on the assumption that (advance payments of the premium tax credit) and (cost-sharing reductions) will be available to qualifying enrollees.

Insurers’ Consumer Data Isn’t Ready for Enrollees

Robert Pear, NY Times
Mon, 2014-10-27
"WASHINGTON — With health insurance marketplaces about to open for 2015 enrollment, the Obama administration has told insurance companies that it will delay requirements for them to disclose data on the number of people enrolled, the number of claims denied and the costs to consumers for specific services. For months, insurers have been asking the administration if they had to comply with two sections of the Affordable Care Act that require “transparency in coverage.”"

HealthCare.gov communication issues cast cloud on coverage renewal

Jordan Shapiro, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Mon, 2014-10-27
"If you bought health insurance on HealthCare.gov for this year, you could be in for a few surprises when open enrollment begins next month. It’s possible, for example, that you could end up being billed for two different plans. The reason, insurers say, is because the federal government hasn’t addressed a key communications issue with the website. And if you haven’t updated your financial information on the online insurance marketplace, you could face higher premiums and get less of a subsidy than you deserve."

Figures Don't Lie But Liars Figure––Will There Be Some Obamacare Rate Shock in 2015?

Bob Laszewski
Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review
Mon, 2014-10-27
"Hanging around actuaries as long as I have one of the old sayings I picked up was, "Figures don't lie, but liars figure." I have read one story after another this summer and fall about the modest Obamacare rates increases––or decreases––for 2015. On this blog you have also seen me write about the complex way the 2015 Obamacare rates will hit people particularly because of the impact the changes in the so called second lowest cost Silver plan will have on so many people's final subsidy. You have also seen me write about the fact that we really won't know what Obamacare costs people until the now unlimited Obamacare reinsurance program stops subsidizing insurance rates in 2017."

Obamacare's Bay State Bailout

Josh Archambault
Forbes
Mon, 2014-10-27
"After the worst transition to Obamacare in the country, Massachusetts is still without a functional exchange website and just 769 people have enrolled in Obamacare-subsidized plans. To avoid accountability and political repercussions, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is about to cut two special deals with the federal government: the “Commonwealth Kickback” which grants Massachusetts the most generous taxpayer-funded premium subsidies in the entire country, while the “Bay State Bailout” gives 300,000+ MA residents “temporary” Medicaid coverage in 2014, without any verification of their eligibility. These deals are reminiscent of the controversial ACA-related “Cornhusker Kickback” and “Louisiana Purchase,” but they also can be added to the growing list of special deals cut for Massachusetts as the state struggles to transition to the ACA."

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