Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Obama administration report: 65% of small firms face Obamacare premium hikes

From Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

Released into a news black hole last Friday, an official Obama administration report finds that ObamaCare will push premiums up for two-thirds of small businesses. Cross off another ObamaCare promise.

The report came from the actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which means it’s from the administration’s official ObamaCare number cruncher.

What it found was that 65% of small businesses that offer insurance will likely see their premiums rise thanks to ObamaCare. That translates into higher insurance costs for 11 million workers.

The reason? These companies generally employ younger, healthier workers and so had been paying lower-than-average rates.

But since ObamaCare bans insurance companies from considering health when setting premiums, these companies will get hit with higher costs.

“We are estimating that 65% of small firms are expected to experience increases in their premium rates,” the report said, “while the remaining 35% are anticipated to have rate reductions.”

The report doesn’t say how big these hikes will be, but we have good reason to believe the extra costs will be significant.

One study, for example, found that 63% of small employers in Wisconsin will see premiums jump 15% because of ObamaCare. A separate study found that 89% of small companies in Maine would see rate hikes of 12% on average.

Another, by consulting firm Oliver Wyman, concluded that ObamaCare would push up small group premiums nationwide 20%.

Is this how the bill was sold to us by the Obama administration and their supporters in the mainstream media?

No:

In 2009, Obama promised small businesses that his plan would “make the coverage that you’re currently providing more affordable.” Later he said it would drive small-business premiums down by 4% in its first year, and as much as 25% by 2016.

As recently as last summer, Pelosi was proclaiming that “if you’re a small business … it lowers costs,” while Waxman said the law would make “high-quality healthy insurance more affordable and more widely available for small businesses.”

Notice that nowhere — either before or after ObamaCare passed — did any Democrat say anything about two-thirds of small businesses paying more for health coverage so the lucky one-third could get rate cuts.

Next time you hear a big government liberal promising you goodies at no cost, keep in mind their record. They are making policy from emotions, not from mathematics. They believe that they are lying to you for your own good. Their goal is not to tell the truth at all. And don’t rely on the left-wing journalism crowd to hold them accountable, they flunked math too.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

Walmart’s health care plans are cheaper and offer more coverage than Obamacare plans

The Washington Examiner takes a look at the numbers.

Excerpt: (links removed)

Walmart offers its employees two standard plans, a Health Reimbursement Account and an alternative it calls “HRA High” that costs more out of employees’ pockets but has lower deductibles. Blue Cross Blue Shield manages both plans nationally.

Also offered is a Health Savings Account plan that includes high deductibles but allows tax-free dollars to be used for coverage.

For a monthly premium as low as roughly $40, an individual who is a Walmart HRA plan enrollee can obtain full-service coverage through a Blue Cross Blue Shield preferred provider organization. A family can get coverage for about $160 per month.

Unlike Obamacare, there are no income eligibility requirements. Age and gender do not alter premium rates. The company plan is the same for all of Walmart’s 1.1 million enrolled employees and their dependents, from its cashiers to its CEO.

A Journal of the American Medical Association analysis from September showed that unsubsidized Obamacare enrollees will face monthly premiums that are five to nine times higher than Walmart premiums.

JAMA found the unsubsidized premium for a nonsmoking gouple age 60 can cost $1,365 per month versus the Walmart cost of about $134 for the same couple.

The medical journal reported a 30-year-old smoker would pay up to $428 per month, in contrast to roughly $70 each month for a Walmart employee.

A family of four could pay a $962 premium, but the same Walmart family member would pay about $160.

Low premiums are not the only distinguishing feature of the Walmart plan. The retailer’s employees can use eight of the country’s most prestigious medical facilities, including the Mayo Clinic, Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic.

At these institutions, which Walmart calls “Centers of Excellence,” Walmart employees and their dependents can get free heart or spinal surgery. They can also get free knee and hip replacements at four hospitals nationwide.

Many top-rated Walmart hospitals — such as the Mayo and Cleveland clinics — are left out of most Obamacare exchange plans.

But the real difference between Obamacare and Walmart can be seen in the levels of day-to-day access to doctors and hospitals.

Robert Slayton, a practicing Chicago independent insurance agent for 11 years and the former president of the Illinois State Association of Health Underwriters, described to the Examiner the differences between Walmart and Obamacare provider networks.

Slayton said the BlueChoice exchange network for President Obama’s hometown has very limited hospital participation. “In downtown Chicago, the key is the number of hospitals: 28,” he said.

“Now we’re going to the national network — this is what the Walmart network would most likely be — and you have 54 hospitals. That’s a big difference,” he said.

[...]Slayton said the gap between doctor availability in Chicago under the Obamacare and Walmart plans is dramatic.

“You will notice there are 9,837 doctors [under Obamacare]. But the larger network is 24,904 doctors. Huge, huge difference,” he said.

Walmart also offers a free preventive health plan that mirrors the Obamacare plan. Its employees can take advantage of a wide range of free exams and counseling, including screenings for colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, chlamydia, diabetes, depression and special counseling for diet and obesity.

Their children can get more than 20 free preventive services, ranging including screenings for genetic disorders, autism and developmental problems to obesity, lead poisoning exposure and tuberculosis. There are also 12 free vaccinations, and free hearing and vision testing.

Walmart employees pay as little as $4 for a 30-day supply of generic drugs and only $10 for eye exams through a separate vision plan.

And Wal-Mart didn’t need to waste $600 million of taxpayer money on the web site. See why we need to led the private sector handle these things? Obamacare sucks, and that’s why the Democrats voted to exempt themselves and all their staff from it.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , ,

Does the last-minute Obamacare exemption fix anything?

One of my favorite writers on health care policy is Michael F. Cannon of the libertarian Cato Institute. He has an article in Forbes magazine that I think is a good level-set for the Obamacare changes that are happening in 2014 and beyond.

He writes:

[...]President Obama announced, just days before the deadline for purchasing coverage with a January 1 effective date, that he would offer a categorical “hardship exemption” from the individual mandate to anyone who had their insurance cancelled due to ObamaCare.

[...]If these folks choose not to buy health insurance, they will not face a penalty. They will also have the option to buy, “if it is available in your area,” the lower-cost catastrophic coverage that ObamaCare otherwise offers only to people under age 30, or who receive the separate “unaffordability” exemption from the mandate.

The obvious purpose of this policy is to give political cover to Senate Democrats who must face the voters next year, and are no doubt afraid of attack ads like this one.

[...]Yet this exemption may not be of much value to those who qualify, and is likely to create more problems for ObamaCare supporters than it solves.

The people who qualify for this exemption don’t actually want it. They want health insurance. They had affordable coverage, until ObamaCare took it away from them, and that’s what they still want now. Sebelius boasts that ObamaCare’s catastrophic plans cost 20 percent less than other ObamaCare plans, but don’t confuse that with affordable coverage. The Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy — who is now the opinion editor for the sprawling Forbes empire – notes that ObamaCare’s catastrophic plans can still cost twice as much as what was previously available on the individual market.

But even if they like their catastrophic plan, they can’t keep it. Sebelius has complete control over the duration of the exemptions, which she has described as a “temporary” step “to smooth [consumers'] transition” to enrollment in Exchange plans. So in a matter of months, Obama will violate his “if you like your health plan” pledge again by kicking these folks out of their catastrophic plans. They will get another cancellation letter tossing them into the Exchanges. Their premiums will surge again. They may lose their doctor again.

The exemption means insurers will suffer losses this year, and rates will be higher next year, for all ObamaCare plans.

The president argued before the Supreme Court that ObamaCare’s regulatory scheme cannot work with out the individual mandate. Yet he has now exempted millions of the very people he most needs to comply with it. This exemption siphons good risks out of the Exchanges and destabilizes the risk pools for both the standard ObamaCare plans and the catastrophic plans. Participating carriers set the rates for their Exchange plans with the expectation that these folks would be purchasing bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans through the Exchanges. But the healthiest members of this now-exempt group are the most likely to go uninsured or purchase a catastrophic plan. So Obama’s blanket exemption makes those risk pools older and sicker.

This blanket exemption also destabilizes the risk pools for the catastrophic plans. It opens those pools to lots of people over age 30, who have higher health expenses than people under age 30, and whom the insurers were not expecting to buy catastrophic plans when they set those rates.

So the effect of this is going to be to raise rates temporarily, because the insurers companies are not getting the younger, healthy people they need to make the rates as low as they originally calculated. They are going to lose a ton of money because the Democrats are changing the rules at the last minute. They people who have coverage are going to be the ones who make all the claims, and the people who normally don’t make claims are now exempt, temporarily – until the 2014 elections. This is going to be a huge hit to the health insurance companies.

As I noted before, the Democrats are going to have to bail out the insurance companies in order to account for the losses. It’s actually in the Obamacare law already, as David Freddoso explained. But will the Democrats use money from their political party to pay for their mistakes? Hell no – they will borrow it from your children, which is what they are so good at doing. There is a cost for electing incompetent people, and it’s going to continue to rise until the fools are voted out.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Americans shocked by high deductibles of Obamacare health plans

The Wall Street Journal reports.

Excerpt:

As enrollment picks up on the HealthCare.gov website, many people with modest incomes are encountering a troubling element of the federal health law: deductibles so steep they may not be able to afford the portion of medical expenses that insurance doesn’t cover.

The average individual deductible for what is called a bronze plan on the exchange—the lowest-priced coverage—is $5,081 a year, according to a new report on insurance offerings in 34 of the 36 states that rely on the federally run online marketplace.

That is 42% higher than the average deductible of $3,589 for an individually purchased plan in 2013 before much of the federal law took effect, according to HealthPocket Inc., a company that compares health-insurance plans for consumers. A deductible is the annual amount people must spend on health care before their insurer starts making payments.

[...]That means some sick or injured people may avoid treatment so they don’t rack up high bills their insurance won’t cover, according to consumer activists, insurance brokers and public-policy analysts—subverting one of the health law’s goals, which is to ensure more people receive needed health care. Hospitals, meantime, are bracing for a rise in unpaid bills from bronze-plan policyholders, said industry officials and public-policy analysts.

How high are the deductibles? The article says that “Total out-of-pocket expenses under bronze plans are capped at an annual $6,350 for individuals and $12,700 for families of four”.

Is the government really helping people with a plan that has that high of a deductible?

More:

“They’re seeing sticker shock” in transitioning to the more-comprehensive coverage, and “once they start to use the policy, they will see a second sticker shock” of high deductibles, said Jamie Court, president of public-interest group Consumer Watchdog in California.

For example, the patient’s typical share of the cost of having a baby through normal delivery—$6,150, according to one insurer’s estimate—would be almost entirely an out-of-pocket expense for a person holding a bronze policy with the average $5,081 deductible.

“The anger is going to grow, because people are really stretched to buy these policies, then they’re going to have to reach into their pocket for another five grand before it does anything for them,” Mr. Court said.

[...]The average insured American spent $1,241 on out-of-pocket health-care expenses in 2012, according to Truven Health Analytics Inc., which analyzed medical claims from employers.

This article from the radically leftist New York Times explains that the Obamcare web site did not even DISPLAY the deductibles to the people who were shopping for plans.

Excerpt:

For months, the Obama administration has heralded the low premiums of medical insurance policies on sale in the insurance exchanges created by the new health law. But as consumers dig into the details, they are finding that the deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs are often much higher than what is typical in employer-sponsored health plans.

Until now, it was almost impossible for people using the federal health care website to see the deductible amounts, which consumers pay before coverage kicks in. But federal officials finally relented last week and added a “window shopping” feature that displays data on deductibles.

[...]In El Paso, Tex., for example, for a husband and wife both age 35, one of the cheapest plans on the federal exchange, offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has a premium less than $300 a month, but the annual deductible is more than $12,000. For a 45-year-old couple seeking insurance on the federal exchange in Saginaw, Mich., a policy with a premium of $515 a month has a deductible of $10,000.

In Santa Cruz, Calif., where the exchange is run by the state, Robert Aaron, a self-employed 56-year-old engineer, said he was looking for a low-cost plan. The best one he could find had a premium of $488 a month. But the annual deductible was $5,000, and that, he said, “sounds really high.”

My guess is that most of the people who have been buying plans would have been comparison shopping based on  the premium. They have no idea about this high deductible. So what they’ve really signed up for is to pay $300 a month or so for what amounts to no health care coverage whatsoever – they will probably not reach the limit of the deductible. Is it any wonder that the Democrats voted to exempt themselves (and their political allies) from their own health care policy?

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

Obamacare health plan cancellations and premium increases delayed to just after 2014 election

Fox News reports.

Excerpt:

Republican lawmakers are pushing back hard against the Obama administration’s decision to delay next year’s open enrollment season for health coverage under ObamaCare until after the 2014 midterm elections.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday it would allow consumers to start signing up for coverage under ObamaCare on Nov. 15, 2014, a month later than originally scheduled. The change does not affect those trying to enroll this year.

Congressional Republicans accused the administration of shifting the dates for political reasons, to hide a spike in 2015 premiums, though information may already be available about 2015 premiums before the elections on Nov. 4.

“That means that if premiums go through the roof in the first year of ObamaCare, no one will know about it until after the election,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a statement. “This is clearly a cynical political move by the Obama administration to use extra-regulatory, by any means necessary tools to keep this program afloat and hide key information from voters.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., accused the White House of moving next year’s open enrollment date to shield Democrats up for reelection next year who supported the law.

“The only American consumers this change will help are Democratic politicians who voted for Obamacare, because it delays disclosure of some of the law’s most insidious effects until after the election,” Alexander said in a statement.

He said he plans to introduce legislation that would require insurers to provide Americans with “proper notice” of premium increases before open enrollment period on the exchanges starts.

I don’t think that the Democrats are doing this to sway conservative voters, because we know what to expect from round two of Obamacare – loss of health care plans and higher premiums for those with employer-based health insurance. The delay is being done to influence low-information voters, i.e. Democrats. People who don’t follow politics because they are too busy watching Dancing With The Stars and Oprah Winfrey. They are the ones who cannot think beyond the moment, and sway their votes because of deliberately staged events, e.g. – Al Gore kissing his wife (whom he’s now divorced) just before an election. Two weeks is far beyond the time horizons of most Democrat voters.

What the Republicans should do is pass a law requiring all cancellations and premium increases be communicated before the elections and have the Democrats in the House and Senate go on record voting against it. Then they can use that in the 2014 campaigns. Uncertainty will be even more effective when dealing with independent voters who are paying attention to policy issues instead of staged photo-ops.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , ,

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