- UnitedHealth's enrollment projections provide evidence that healthy people consider Obamacare a bad deal. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)
UnitedHealth is withdrawing from most of the 34 ObamaCare Exchanges in which it currently sells, citing losses of $650 million in 2016. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report indicates UnitedHealth's departure will leave consumers on Oklahoma's Exchange with only one choice of insurance carriers. Were UnitedHealth to exit all 34 states, the share of counties with only one or two carriers on the Exchange would rise from 36% to 52%, while the share of enrollees with only one or two carriers from which to choose would nearly double from 15% to 29%.
The Obama administration dismissed the news as unimportant. A spokesman professed "full confidence, based on data, that the marketplaces will continue to thrive for years ahead." Like what, two years? Another assured there is "absolutely not" any chance, whatsoever, that the Exchanges will collapse.
ObamaCare hasn't yet collapsed in a ball of flames. But UnitedHealth's withdrawal from ObamaCare's Exchanges is more ominous than the administration wants you to know.
The Daily Caller has an excellent article recounting that it wasn’t just opponents who saw trouble ahead for ObamaCare’s health‐insurance cooperatives, of which more than a dozen have now collapsed.
Susan L. Donegan was commissioner for Vermont’s Division of Insurance in 2013 when she refused to issue a license to the proposed Vermont Health CO-OP, saying it failed to meet state standards. Her action barred the Obamacare non‐profit from selling health insurance in the state…
Today, she looks like a prescient state official who likely saved thousands of Vermonters from buying their health insurance from a doomed insurer.
That’s because 13 of the 24 co‐ops set up under Obamacare have collapsed, costing the federal treasury $1.3 billion. More than 800,000 co‐op customers now find themselves without health insurance coverage and are scrambling to find new policies due to the co‐op failures.
Turns out that some of the biggest problems she identified two years ago in her state also doomed co‐ops across the country…
Denying a license to the health co‐op was not an easy decision for Donegan, who first joined Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin’s administration as a deputy insurance commissioner in 2010.
First, she already knew when the co-op’s application arrived at her her office that federal officials in Washington, D.C., had pre‐approved the co-op’s plan and allocated to it $33 million in taxpayer funds.
Second, she knew the co‐ops were an important part of President Obama’s signature health reform effort. Obama is extremely popular in Vermont, having garnered 67 percent of the vote in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns…
Donegan sensed trouble as soon as she read the co-op’s application. There were optimistic and questionable forecasts, a board filled with friends, sweetheart deals, high salaries, deep conflicts of interest and a staff with little business expertise.
The failure of more than a dozen other ObamaCare co‐ops suggests these problems were not limited to Vermont’s proposed co‐op. Yet regulators in those states, not to mention CMS, nevertheless approved them.
One might even say the rule is that government regulators either were unable to spot these co‐ops’ looming insolvency, or worse, allowed political considerations to trump their judgment; and Vermont is the exception, where regulators both identified the problem and had the courage to pay the political cost of denying that carrier a license. Something to keep in mind when contemplating the costs and benefits of government regulation of insurance‐carrier solvency.
Any count of failed ObamaCare co‐ops should be sure to include Vermont’s.
H/T: Greg Scandlen.
If you’ve ever wondered why a person would earn (and relish) titles like “ObamaCare’s single most relentless antagonist,” “ObamaCare’s fiercest critic,” “the man who could bring down ObamaCare,” et cetera, my latest article can help you understand.
“Health Care’s Future Is So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades” is slated to appear in the Willamette Law Review but is now available at SSRN.
From the introduction:
Futurists, investors, and health-law programs all try to catch a glimpse of the future of healthcare. Lucky for you, you’ve got me. I’m from the future. I’ve travelled back in time from the year 2045. And I am here to tell you, the future of healthcare reform is awesome.
When I presented these observations at the Willamette University College of Law symposium “21st Century Healthcare Reform: Can We Harmonize Access, Quality and Cost?”, I was tickled by how many people I saw using iPhones. I mean, iPhones! How quaint. Don’t get me wrong. We have iPhones in the future. Mostly they’re on display in museums; as historical relics, or a medium for sculptors. Hipsters—yes, we still have hipsters—who wouldn’t even know how to use an iPhone, will sometimes use them as fashion accessories. Other than that, iPhones can be found propping up the short legs of coffee tables.
I also noticed you’re still operating general hospitals in 2015. Again, how quaint.
It’s not often I get to cite MLK, Bono, Justin Bieber, the Terminator, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, two Back to the Future films, and Timbuk3, all in one law-journal article.
Things must be going poorly for President Obama if he wants to change the subject to ObamaCare.
Today, most of Washington is questioning whether the U.S. government was derelict in its handling of the September 11, 2012 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which heavily armed assailants injured 10 Americans and murdered four, including the U.S. ambassador. However, over at the White House, President Obama is launching a PR defensive of ObamaCare, at which he will basically ask mothers to nag their kids to waste their money on ObamaCare’s over‐priced health insurance.
The contrast brought to mind this passage from University of Chicago law professor M. Todd Henderson’s article in the latest issue of Cato’s Regulation magazine:
When the president sought to make birth control a mandatory part of all insurance plans, this was a political decision regarding health care. This is not to disparage political decisions in general, but merely to point out this feature of them, that they bind those who disagree…
A relatively simple, low cost, and widely accepted practice like birth control became a firestorm when individual choice and local variation were overridden on the grounds of improving social welfare. The airwaves and print media were filled with analysis, name‐calling, and hyperbole. Kitchen tables, like my own, were filled with debate about how we should vote about the financing of other peoples’ use of birth control… Just imagine what the debates will look like when the stakes become—as they inevitably will—whether expensive cancer therapies, surgeries, or other procedures will be paid for, or whether more controversial matters like abortion, gender reassignment, and the like will be paid for…
When … matters are decided by experts or politicians, mistakes can be made and made in ways that necessarily are coercive. This coercion does not admit easy exit, as one can exit an insurance policy, especially if done at the federal level. The central lesson is that centralized power over complex matters risks making larger mistakes than decentralized power, admits less innovation, provides for less tailored satisfaction of preferences, and generates greater political conflict. Ironically, those risks may undermine the important work that government must do to improve the world we live in.
Every minute the government spends trying (and failing) to improve people’s health is a minute it cannot spend making them safer.
Read the rest of Henderson’s article, “Voice and Exit in Health Care Policy.”
Take it, Janet Adamy:
A labor union representing roofers is reversing course and calling for repeal of the federal health law, citing concerns the law will raise its cost for insuring members.
Organized labor was instrumental in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, but more recently has voiced concerns that the law could lead members to lose their existing health plans. The United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers and Allied Workers is believed to be the first union to initially support the law and later call for its repeal.
“After the law was passed, I had great hope…that maybe the rough spots would be worked out and we’d have a great law,” said Kinsey Robinson, international president of the union, which represents 22,000 commercial and industrial roofers…
Mr. Robinson says the union’s concerns about the law began to pile up in recent months after speaking with employers.
The roofers’ union’s current insurance plan caps lifetime medical bill payouts at $2 million for active members and $50,000 for retirees. Next year, the plan has to remove those caps in order to comply with the health law. Other aspects of the retiree plan must become more generous in order to meet the law’s minimum essential coverage requirements next year. All that will increase the cost of insuring members, Mr. Robinson said, and has prompted the union to weigh eliminating the retiree plan.
Adding to those cost concerns is a new $63‐per‐enrollee fee on health plans that pays insurers to cover people with pre‐existing conditions next year. Looking ahead to 2018, when the law levies an excise tax on high‐value insurance plans, Mr. Robinson predicts that at least some of the union’s plans will get hit by it…
Over time, Mr. Robinson says, his optimism that regulators or lawmakers would address the union’s concerns diminished. “I don’t think they are going to get fixed,” he said. On Tuesday, the union called for a repeal of the health law or a complete reform of it.
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.”…
Premiums are likely to increase 25 percent to 50 percent on average in the small‐group and individual markets, he said, citing projections by his Hartford, Connecticut‐based company.
Industry analyst Robert Laszewski comments:
[F]or the vast majority of states there will be rate shock.
I can also tell you that, so far, I have detected no serious effort on the part of Democrats to delay anything. Frankly, I think hard core supporters of the new health law and the administration are in denial about what is coming.
I expect more health insurers to be echoing the Aetna comments in coming weeks.