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.
2:26 PM, Apr 14, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
Lolita C. Baldour of the AP reports that:
A Russian fighter jet made multiple, close-range passes near an American warship in the Black Sea for more than 90 minutes Saturday amid escalating tensions in the region, a U.S. military official said Monday.
11:01 AM, Apr 14, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
What we usually hear about when the subject is climate change is stuff meant to scare you out of your socks. Rising oceans, violent storms, draughts, famines, plagues of locusts … and so forth. The implied alternative is austerity so severe – no cars, rationed electricity, smaller houses, once-a-week cold showers, etc.
9:49 PM, Apr 13, 2014 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
The Obama administration has scheduled a deputies committee meeting this week—tentatively set for Tuesday—to resolve a bitter inter-agency dispute over a request from Russia with respect to the Open Skies program. Informed sources believe the White House is likely to side with the State Department, which wants to accommodate Russia, over the objections of the Obama administration's Defense Department and intelligence agencies.
'Unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly, and divisive adversity'7:16 AM, Apr 10, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Eric Holder complained yesterday to civil rights activists about the way Congress is treating him. He made the remarks, which appeared unscripted, yesterday at Al Sharpton's National Action Network conference in Manhattan:
8:42 AM, Apr 9, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
The administration’s enthusiasm for GM extended to its electric car, the Chevy Volt. President Obama once said he’d like to drive one when he leaves office and no reason he couldn’t. There’s lots of inventory lying around.
1:31 PM, Apr 8, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
A new ad from a Republican primary challenger to Michigan congressman Justin Amash notes he has voted for bills supported by Barack Obama more than any other Republican in Congress. Brian Ellis, a businessman from Grand Rapids, released the 30-second ad on Tuesday.
"Amash was the only Michigan Republican to vote against a balanced budget amendment, and Amash voted against banning gender selection abortions," says the voiceover. "The fact is, Justin Amash voted with President Obama 51 percent of the time." Watch the full video below:
9:41 AM, Apr 8, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
CNN's John King called the White House's push for equal pay "a textbook case ... of do as I say, not as I do."
"It's better than the national average," King said mocking White House press secretary Jay Carney. "I guess the coach would say, is that the best you got?"
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.
2:02 PM, Apr 4, 2014 • By ARYEH TEPPER
So the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are, predictably, collapsing. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry responded to the frustration of his manic peacemaking efforts by quoting an ancient complaint, "There’s an old saying, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Now it's time to drink and the leaders need to know that."
To which one might respond with the words of Psalms: "Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding."
12:02 PM, Apr 4, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
In late March, President Obama took a week-long trip through Europe which included a stop of less than 24 hours in Brussels, Belgium for meetings with the European Union and NATO.
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.
2:09 PM, Apr 3, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
In the midst of the Obama administration's latest push to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released an analysis showing the the percentage of hourly workers earning at or below the minimum wage is down to 4.3 percent, or 3.3 million workers.
12:03 PM, Apr 3, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
Steve Hayes, with A.B. Stoddard and Charles Krauthammer, last night on Fox News: