3:14 PM, Apr 14, 2014 • By JAY COST
The Hill reports:
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) lowered the projected cost of ObamaCare's health insurance benefits Monday by $104 billion over 10 years.
The law's insurance coverage provisions will now cost close to $1.4 trillion between 2015 and 2024, about $100 billion less than previously estimated, the CBO said.
What is driving the lowered estimate? According to the report released by CBO, it has primarily to do with lower-than-expected premiums for exchange policies. So, good news for the Obama administration? Not so fast. Per CBO:
A crucial factor in the current revision was an analysis of the characteristics of plans offered through the exchanges in 2014. Previously, CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] had expected that those plans’ characteristics would closely resemble the characteristics of employment-based plans throughout the projection period. However, the plans being offered through the exchanges this year appear to have, in general, lower payment rates for providers, narrower networks of providers, and tighter management of their subscribers’ use of health care than employment-based plans do.
So far, CBO is only projecting a modest increase in premiums for 2015, although it notes, “actual exchange premiums for 2015 may differ from those CBO and JCT have projected because insurers could have different expectations of their costs for that year.” The late surge of enrollees might help keep rates down, but what really matters is not so much the political class’s expectations of what enrollment would look like as of, say, January, but rather what insurance company projections were when they set rates nearly a year ago.
The factors that will influence rates in 2015 include: (a) increasing healthcare costs in general; (b) the grandfathering of “non-compliant” plans by the Obama administration; (c) the difficulty of estimating the 2014 risk pool because of late enrollees and government limits on what health questions insurers could ask of its customers; (d) differences in the actual versus expected ratio of healthy to unhealthy enrollees; (e) state by state variations in the risk pools and costs of providing care; (f) the “Three R’s” -- risk adjustment, reinsurance, and risk corridors -- meant to limit insurance company losses for the first few years of the program; (g) the partial sunsetting of the reinsurance program, which helped keep rates down in 2014.
Insurers will start filing rates with government regulators later this spring.
A footnote on Obamacare hitting its CBO enrollment target. Despite the "surge" of late enrollees late in the period, CBO did not update its previous prediction of total enrollment (which stood at 6 million as of this winter, down from 7 million last year and a high of 9 million after the Supreme Court Ruling). CBO writes:
CBO and JCT’s estimate of 6 million people receiving such coverage in 2014 cannot be compared directly with the number of people who have enrolled through the exchanges as of any given date. The number of people who will have coverage through the exchanges in 2014 will not be known precisely until after the year has ended
This is exactly the point that conservative critics of Obama's "7.1 million enrollments" have made again and again. Some people will not pay the premiums and thus drop off coverage. Others will gain insurance through their employers and thus drop their individual policy. And so on. The "7.1 million enrollments" claim has no direct bearing either on the fiscal or actuarial condition of Obamacare. It is a purely political claim.
11:28 AM, Apr 11, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
At a celebration ceremony for Kathleen Sebelius's resignation as secretary of Health and Human Services, President Obama excused the problems with Healthcare.gov by saying it's the "final score" that matters:
10:12 AM, Apr 11, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The first official word from the Obama administration on Kathleen Sebelius's resignation as secretary of health and human services is a retweet by the official White House Twitter account of a tweet by Vox.com's Ezra Klein:
7:01 AM, Apr 8, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Despite the Obama administration's insistence that everyone -- the government, insurance companies, doctors, medical providers, and consumers -- will reap benefits from Obamacare, a recent grant proposal by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggests that the agency does have concerns about the ongoing financial viabil
2:14 PM, Apr 7, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
“In the end, history is not kind to those who would deny Americans their basic economic security. Nobody remembers well those who stand in the way of America’s progress or our people. And that’s what the Affordable Care Act represents.” President Obama, who made that statement last week, has never uttered truer words.
7:02 AM, Apr 4, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
In the months and weeks leading up to March 31, the Obama administration pushed the message through press releases, tweets and blog posts that the last day in March was the final opportunity to get health insurance in 2014.
7:05 AM, Apr 3, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
Millions of individuals who recently entrusted personal, medical, and financial information to the federal government while enrolling in Obamacare via Healthcare.gov may find a recent trend reported by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) rather unsettling. The number of security breaches involving Personally Identifiable Information (PII) at federal agencies more than doubled in recent years, increasing from 10,481 in 2009 to 25,566 in 2013.
3:28 PM, Apr 2, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal released a health care proposal Wednesday aiming to repeal and replace Obamacare with a conservative alternative.
"President Obama has to stop saying there isn't an alternative," said Jindal, the two-term Republican, on a conference call with bloggers Wednesday afternoon. Jindal's plan, developed within his America Next organization, is a 22-page proposal that seeks to be the "replace part of repeal and replace," as he explains.
9:01 AM, Apr 2, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
A new study by American Health Policy Institute finds that the president's signature legislation, Obamacare, will cost large employers "$4,800 to $5,900 per employee." The study, called “
1:26 PM, Apr 1, 2014 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
A newly released ABC News/Washington Post poll has some liberals feeling giddy. The poll shows Obamacare suffering from only a 2-point public-approval deficit among registered voters—with 48 percent in support and 50 percent in opposition. According to RealClearPolitics, that’s the best polling result for Obamacare since the last time ABC News and the Washington Post asked that same question (in late January), at which point Obamacare suffered from a 1-point deficit—47 to 48 percent. In other words, the new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that Obamacare is slightly less popular than it was two months ago. This is the polling result for which liberals have been waiting?
8:11 AM, Apr 1, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
The office of the inspector general (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has uncovered seventy-nine "high-risk security vulnerabilities" in the information processing systems of ten state Medicaid agencies that "raise concerns about the integrity of the systems used to process Medicaid claims." While the ten states are not identified by name, the OIG said that the investigation "suggests that other State Medicaid information systems may be similarl
12:01 PM, Mar 31, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
An Oklahoma reporter told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius how unpopular Obamacare is, rendering the cabinet secretary speechless:
"At last check, 64 percent of Oklahomans aren't buying into the health care plan, they don't like Obamacare, and they've been pretty vocal about it," said the reporter. "Now that's going to be -- still continue to be -- a tough sell, but we'll see how that plays out over the coming months."