We’re continuing to read about plan changes, network changes, and price changes. Here’s a roundup of interesting datapoints, perspectives, and news.
52-47 ... was the vote of the U.S. Senate on Dec. 3 to repeal core components of the Affordable Care Act — including elimination of the federal government's authority to run public exchanges and provide subsidies — marking the first time the Senate has been able to pass such legislation. President Obama has promised to veto the measure. (AIS Health Business Daily, 12/11/15) (Click here to read the INSIDE HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGES E-ALERT in which this datapoint appeared. Free for HEX subscribers; $17 for non-subscribers).
Federal officials late Tuesday extended the deadline for consumers to sign up for health insurance on the federal Healthcare.gov site until 11:59 PM Dec. 17 due to "unprecedented demand." "Hundreds of thousands have already selected plans over the last two days and approximately 1 million consumers have left their contact information to hold their place in line," Healthcare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan (USA Today, 12/15/15)
ACA changes for 2016. The Kaiser Family Foundation analyzed the price movement of benchmark plans (i.e., the second-lowest cost silver plan before tax credits) in 49 major cities across the U.S., encompassing all but one state, and discovered that benchmark premiums were expected to rise by 10.1% in 2016. Consumers not receiving financial assistance may have difficulty absorbing such a large increase. Employers with 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees will be required to offer health coverage, and potentially subsidize that coverage, for eligible employees. Failing to do so could entail fines of as much as $3,000 per worker for businesses. (The Motley Fool, 12/12/15)
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote the top executives of UnitedHealth Group, asking them to reconsider a possible decision to stop offering plans under the ACA as early as 2017. His request comes about a month after CEO Stephen Hemsley told investors that UnitedHealth Group expected to lose $650 million this year and next year from its 550,000 customers served through health care exchanges under Obamacare. Blumenthal said some of the challenges that UnitedHealth has pointed out, such as customers signing up for a policy to cover a planned medical expense and then quitting, are short-term issues that can be overcome as more people sign up for the exchanges. (Hartford Courant, 12/16/15)
"We continue to forecast that the 30 Not-for-Profit [NFP] Blue Cross plans, in aggregate, will lose money for full-year 2015 (i.e., net income including investment income), which would be the first full-year loss for the Blues since the industry down-cycle of the late 1980s. With the ACA exchange losses as a key driver, we estimate the NFP Blues aggregate after-tax income (including investment income) was $464 million for the first nine months of 2015, down more than 70% year-on-year from the same period in 2014, implying a margin of 0.4% versus year-ago 1.6% and as compared to 3.6% on average for the same periods of 2010-2013." — Matthew Borsch, securities analyst for Goldman, Sachs and Co., said in a Dec. 3 update, based on 3rd quarter financials filed with the National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners. (AIS Health Business Daily, 12/18/15) (Click here to read the HEALTH PLAN WEEK article in which this quote appeared — "ACA Markets May Not Be in Death Spiral, But Pain Is Being Felt Across the Industry" (Free for HPW subscribers; $17 for non-subscribers).
Clear Choices, an advocate for the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC), shopped on 12 state-based exchanges and Healthcare.gov to grade them on a variety of factors. Kentucky's exchange, Kynect, came out the winner with an 84 out of 100, while New York State of Health scored lowest. Exchange websites that scored well allow consumers to enter very specific information and the site sorts it in ways that allow them to make better choices about their health plans, CAHC President Joel White said on a call to discuss the findings. "Details matter, and our individual circumstances matter a great deal" when it comes to healthcare, he said. (Fierce Health Payer, 12/11/15)