Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Bailout for health insurers? Less than 25% of Obamacare sign-ups under age 34

The Wall Street Journal reports.

Excerpt:

One-third of health plan enrollees in new insurance marketplaces are 55 or older, the Obama administration said Monday, a figure that insurers said makes the pool older than they would need to sustain their coverage at current premiums.

Administration officials said they are pushing to enroll more young people before a March 31 deadline for most people to get coverage for this year, and some cushions built into the law mean it won’t necessarily face trouble right away even if the 2014 pool of enrollees skews older.

Still, the release of the data, showing for the first time the age breakdown of people who had signed up for coverage through December, highlighted the challenge in persuading younger people who may not have a pressing need for health coverage to sign up for policies that can cost about $200 a month before subsidies.

“This is concerning to us that we’re seeing this portion come in so old,” said Marty Anderson, marketing director for the Wisconsin-based Security Health Plan, which serves rural counties in the state.

Just under a quarter of the roughly 2.2 million people who signed up for private plans nationwide by Dec. 28 were between the ages of 18 and 34, while one-third were in the 55-to-64 range, just short of the age at which most qualify for Medicare, the federal government program for the elderly.

[...]Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, consumers no longer pay premiums based on their health risks. To prevent a sharp rise in premiums in 2015 and beyond, carriers say they need strong enrollment from younger people who are likely to be healthier. That would balance out the bills racked up by sicker and older people.

[...]“There’s no way to spin it: Youth enrollment has been a bust so far,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio). “When they see that Obamacare offers high costs for limited access to doctors—if the enrollment goes through at all—it’s no surprise that young people aren’t rushing to sign up.”

So who is going to be on the hook when the insurance companies take far higher losses than the Democrats estimated?

YOU ARE. The Weekly Standard explains why in this article.

Excerpt:

Robert Laszewski—a prominent consultant to health insurance companies—recently wrote in a remarkably candid blog post that, while Obamacare is almost certain to cause insurance costs to skyrocket even higher than it already has, “insurers won’t be losing a lot of sleep over it.”  How can this be?  Because insurance companies won’t bear the cost of their own losses—at least not more than about a quarter of them.  The other three-quarters will be borne by American taxpayers.

[...]As Laszewski explains, Obamacare contains a “Reinsurance Program that caps big claim costs for insurers (individual plans only).”  He writes that “in 2014, 80% of individual costs between $45,000 and $250,000 are paid by the government [read: by taxpayers], for example.” 

In other words, insurance purchased through Obamacare’s government-run exchanges isn’t even full-fledged private insurance; rather, it’s a sort of private-public hybrid.  Private insurance companies pay for costs below $45,000, then taxpayers generously pick up the tab—a tab that their president hasn’t ever bothered to tell them he has opened up on their behalf—for four-fifths of the next $200,000-plus worth of costs.  In this way, and so many others, Obamacare takes a major step toward the government monopoly over American medicine (“single payer”) that liberals drool about in their sleep.

Laszewski adds, “The reinsurance program has done and will continue to do what it was intended to do; help attract and keep more carriers in Obamacare than might have otherwise come.”  Thus, Obamacare is being aided by having taxpayers subsidize big insurance companies’ business expenses.  (Who could ever have guessed that big government and big business might be natural allies?)

But, amazingly, it doesn’t stop there.  Laszewski writes that Obamacare also contains a “Risk Corridor Program that limits overall losses for insurers.”  So insurers not only don’t have to pay out all of their costs; they also don’t have to swallow all of their losses. 

Laszewski explains that if an insurance company expects its costs in a given year to be X, and those costs end up being more than X plus 2 percent, taxpayers will come to that insurance company’s rescue—thanks to Obamacare.  In fact, once an insurance company covers that initial 2 percent in unexpected costs, taxpayers will cover at least 80 percent of any additional costs the insurer accrues.

Does this sound familiar? Yes – this is exactly what caused the mortgage lending crisis and bailout in 2008. Democrats were very anxious to guarantee the bad loans of mortgage lenders with taxpayer money supplied through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And they are doing it again with health insurers. (And they’ll do it again with student loans, just wait)

The best way to stop this madness is by electing Republicans in the 2014 mid-term elections. And then electing a conservative as President in 2016. Evict the children from the White House and Congress.

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

Health care premiums will increase due to Obamacare

Story in the Wall Street Journal. (H/T Hot Air)

Excerpt:

Health insurers say they plan to raise premiums for some Americans as a direct result of the health overhaul in coming weeks, complicating Democrats’ efforts to trumpet their signature achievement before the midterm elections.

Aetna Inc., some BlueCross BlueShield plans and other smaller carriers have asked for premium increases of between 1% and 9% to pay for extra benefits required under the law, according to filings with state regulators.

These and other insurers say Congress’s landmark refashioning of U.S. health coverage, which passed in March after a brutal fight, is causing them to pass on more costs to consumers than Democrats predicted.

The rate increases largely apply to policies for individuals and small businesses and don’t include people covered by a big employer or Medicare.

[...]Many carriers also are seeking additional rate increases that they say they need to cover rising medical costs. As a result, some consumers could face total premium increases of more than 20%.

[...]In addition to pledging that the law would restrain increases in Americans’ insurance premiums, Democrats front-loaded the legislation with early provisions they hoped would boost public support. Those include letting children stay on their parents’ insurance policies until age 26, eliminating co-payments for preventive care and barring insurers from denying policies to children with pre-existing conditions, plus the elimination of the coverage caps.

Weeks before the election, insurance companies began telling state regulators it is those very provisions that are forcing them to increase their rates.

Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurers, said the extra benefits forced it to seek rate increases for new individual plans of 5.4% to 7.4% in California and 5.5% to 6.8% in Nevada after Sept. 23. Similar steps are planned across the country, according to Aetna.

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon said the cost of providing additional benefits under the health law will account on average for 3.4 percentage points of a 17.1% premium rise for a small-employer health plan. It asked regulators last month to approve the increase.

In Wisconsin and North Carolina, Celtic Insurance Co. says half of the 18% increase it is seeking comes from complying with health-law mandates.

When you require insurance companies to force all of their customers to pay for new mandatory coverages and you remove limits on payouts, it makes the premiums go up! Obviously – somebody has to pay for the happy-talk eventually.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

MUST READ: How Nancy Pelosi plans to bankrupt private medical insurers

Story here at Director Blue. (H/T Fausta’s Blog via ECM)

Here’s section 2714 of the health care reform bill.

(a) In General- Each health insurance issuer that offers health insurance coverage in the small or large group market shall provide that for any plan year in which the coverage has a medical loss ratio below a level specified by the Secretary (but not less than 85 percent), the issuer shall provide in a manner specified by the Secretary for rebates to enrollees of the amount by which the issuer’s medical loss ratio is less than the level so specified.

Unless I am mistaken, this means that medical insurers will be forced to pay out 85% of premiums collected as either losses (claims) or as rebates to customers.

So, private medical insurers will only be able to use 15% of all premium collected for operating expenses, such as salaries, rate dvelopment, claims processing, etc. But is 15% of income from premiums enough to keep a business afloat?

Director Blue writes:

Why would a loss ratio that permits only a 15% administrative margin for insurers cause companies to fail? Consider that the administrative expenses include collecting premiums; processing and paying claims; monitoring patient care; staffing customer service functions; paying costs to state and federal regulators; paying sales agents; and general overhead (rent, power, heat, light); etc.

I repeat: No company has ever survived with a loss ratio approaching 85%.

What are we to make of Obama’s claim that we could keep our health plan if we liked it, in light of this new evidence? If what Director Blue has argued is true, you will be depending on the federal government for health care. You will have no choice. And whatever they tell you to do, you will do it. They will be the sole provider of health care for you  and your family. This is how liberty dies – to thunderous applause.

What the Democrat’s health care bill means to you

Director Blue also has a post up about what the Democrat health care bill means to you, in 90 seconds.

Excerpt:

The CBO now estimates health bill spending at $3 trillion over 10 years. Since the CBO historically underestimates expenses, assume massive new deficits for a country that can ill afford them.

You’ll be required to buy a ‘qualified’ health plan. A family earning $102K a year will pay $1,700 a month in premium and out-of-pocket expenses. ‘Willful’ failure to buy a plan will result in a fine of up to $250,000 and ‘imprisonment of up to five years’. Illegal immigrants are exempt from fines and imprisonment.

Every business in America must provide a ‘qualified plan’ for employees and pay 72.5% of the cost. Failure to do so results in an 8% payroll tax.

Read the rest. I would think that some people who worked for medical insurers voted for Obama. Actually, one of the strongest Democrats I know actually left our company recently to go work for a medical insurer. He said that health care was a safe industry during a recession. He’s going to learn the importance of studying economics if this bill passes.

How the Democrats got endorsements from the AMA and AARP

One last thing. ECM also sent me this article on how the Democrats were able to get endorsements from the AMA and the AARP.

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

Thomas Sowell explains the economics of cutting health care costs

The Democrats are talking a lot of about their plan to reduce the costs of health care. And they think that the way to do that is by having government take a bigger role in health care provision. Well, Thomas Sowell doesn’t like the idea that the government can reduce health care costs by using govenrment, and he’s written a four part series on it.

Here’s a quote from the first part about how Democrats attack the suppliers of health care products and services:

Despite all the demonizing of insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies or doctors for what they charge, the fundamental costs of goods and services are the costs of producing them.

If highly paid chief executives of insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies agreed to work free of charge, it would make very little difference in the cost of insurance or medications. If doctors’ incomes were cut in half, that would not lower the cost of producing doctors through years of expensive training in medical schools and hospitals, nor the overhead costs of running doctors’ offices.

What it would do is reduce the number of very able people who are willing to take on the high costs of a medical education when the return on that investment is greatly reduced and the aggravations of dealing with government bureaucrats are added to the burdens of the work.

Britain has had a government-run medical system for more than half a century and it has to import doctors, including some from Third World countries where the medical training may not be the best.

And a quote from the second part about how reducing costs means rationing:

There is no question that you can reduce the payments for medical care by having either a lower quantity or a lower quality of medical care. That has already been done in countries with government-run medical systems.

In the United States, the government has already reduced payments for patients on Medicare and Medicaid, with the result that some doctors no longer accept new patients with Medicare or Medicaid. That has not reduced the cost of medical care. It has reduced the availability of medical care, just as buying a pint of milk reduces the payment below what a quart of milk would cost.

Letting old people die instead of saving their lives will undoubtedly reduce medical payments considerably. But old people have that option already— and seldom choose to exercise it, despite clever people who talk about a “duty to die.”

A government-run system will take that decision out of the hands of the elderly or their families, and thereby “bring down the cost of medical care.” A stranger’s death is much easier to take, especially if you are a bureaucrat making that decision in Washington.

[...]You can even save money by cutting down on medications to relieve pain, as is already being done in Britain’s government-run medical system.

You can save money by not having as many high-tech medical devices like CAT scans or MRIs, and not using the latest medications. Countries with government-run medical systems have less of all these things than the United States has.But reducing these things is not “bringing down the cost of medical care.” It is simply refusing to pay those costs— and taking the consequences.

And a quote from the third part talks about free markets versus government price controls:

If you think the government can lower medical costs by eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse,” as some Washington politicians claim, the logical question is: Why haven’t they done that already?

Over the years, scandal after scandal has shown waste, fraud and abuse to be rampant in Medicare and Medicaid. Why would anyone imagine that a new government medical program will do what existing government medical programs have clearly failed to do?

If we cannot afford to pay for doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical drugs now, how can we afford to pay for doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical drugs, in addition to a new federal bureaucracy to administer a government-run medical system?

And a quote from the fourth part talks about equality versus liberty in health care:

What about insurance companies denying reimbursements for treatments? Does anyone imagine that a government bureaucracy will not do that?

Moreover, the worst that an insurance company can do is refuse to pay for medication or treatment. In some countries with government-run medical systems, the government can prevent you from spending your own money to get the medication or treatment that their bureaucracy has denied you. Your choice is to leave the country or smuggle in what you need.

However appalling such a situation may be, it is perfectly consistent with elites wanting to control your life. As far as those elites are concerned, it would not be “social justice” to allow some people to get medical care that others are denied, just because some people “happen to have money.”

But very few people just “happen to have money.” Most people have earned money by producing something that other people wanted. But getting what you want by what you have earned, rather than by what elites will deign to allow you to have, is completely incompatible with the vision of an elite-controlled world, which they call “social justice” or other politically attractive phrases.

What’s frustrating to me is how quickly people think of growing government as the solution to their problems. They don’t want to deal with paying for health care themselves. But what the government does to solve the high prices is fix prices and regulate the producers of health care, like doctors and medical device manufacturers. They make the supply smaller. But when the cost apparently goes down, people are signaled to use more health care. That makes the demand larger. And this is why there is a shortage of health care in countries that have health care provisioning highly regulated by the government.

You can even save money by cutting down on medications to relieve pain, as is already being done in Britain’s government-run medical system.

You can save money by not having as many high-tech medical devices like CAT scans or MRIs, and not using the latest medications. Countries with government-run medical systems have less of all these things than the United States has.But reducing these things is not “bringing down the cost of medical care.” It is simply refusing to pay those costs— and taking the consequences.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sarah Palin’s latest post explains the Democrat health bill

Sarah Palin’s latest article is short and powerful.

My biggest problem with socialized medicine is that I will be forced to buy a policy when I never go to the doctor for anything. If I had to pay thousands of dollars per year for my entire career to pay everyone else’s contraceptives, abortions, in vitro fertlizations, drug needles, heroine, sex changes, etc., then I would have even less money for things that I want to do. And Sarah Palin understands that the Democrat bill does indeed force people like me to pay for everyone else’s decisions.

Sarah Palin explains:

The bill prohibits insurance companies from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and from charging sick people higher premiums. [1] It attempts to offset the costs this will impose on insurance companies by requiring everyone to purchase coverage, which in theory would expand the pool of paying policy holders.

However, the maximum fine for those who refuse to purchase health insurance is $750. [2] Even factoring in government subsidies, the cost of purchasing a plan is much more than $750. The result: many people, especially the young and healthy, will simply not buy coverage, choosing to pay the fine instead. They’ll wait until they’re sick to buy health insurance, confident in the knowledge that insurance companies can’t deny them coverage. Such a scenario is a perfect storm for increasing the cost of health care and creating an unsustainable mandate program.

To me, that $750 is nothing but a tax increase to pay for all this new spending on government-run health care.

Another problem with the Democrat bill is that it drives the cost of insurance premiums through the roof while destroying the development new drugs and medical innovations.

Sarah Palin writes:

The plan will also impose heavy taxes on insurers, pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, and clinical labs. [3] The result of all of these taxes is clear. As Douglas Holtz-Eakin noted in the Wall Street Journal, these new taxes “will be passed on to consumers by either directly raising insurance premiums, or by fueling higher health-care costs that inevitably lead to higher premiums.” [4] Unfortunately, it will lead to lower wages too, as employees will have to sacrifice a greater percentage of their paychecks to cover these higher premiums. [5] In other words, if the Democrats succeed in overhauling health care, we’ll all bear the costs. The Senate Finance bill is effectively a middle class tax increase, and as Holtz-Eakin points out, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation those making less than $200,000 will be hit hardest. [6]

She also gives her ideas for reforming health care at the end of the piece: choice and competition. There are 17 footnotes to back up all her facts.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , ,

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