Kaiser: Employers getting ready to dump workers into ObamaCare

Kaiser: Employers getting ready to dump workers into ObamaCare

Who didn’t see this coming? According to Kaiser Health News, employers are increasingly looking at the benefits of getting out of the health-insurance delivery process. Fueling this interest are ObamaCare-related spikes in health-insurance premiums, plus the opportunity to fix costs and reduce vulnerabilities presented by employees who develop serious health issues:

Can corporations shift workers with high medical costs from the company health plan into online insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act? Some employers are considering it, say benefits consultants.

“It’s all over the marketplace,” said Todd Yates, a managing partner at Hill, Chesson & Woody, a North Carolina benefits consulting firm. “Employers are inquiring about it and brokers and consultants are advocating for it.”

Patients with preexisting medical conditions like diabetes drive health spending. But those who undergo expensive procedures such as organ transplants are a burden to the company as well. Since most big corporations are self-insured, shifting even one high-cost member out of the company plan could save the employer hundreds of thousands of dollars a year—while increasing the cost of claims absorbed by the marketplace policy by a similar amount.

And the health law might not prohibit it, opening a door to potential erosion of employer-based coverage.

“Such an employer-dumping strategy can promote the interests of both employers and employees by shifting health care expenses on to the public at large,” wrote two University of Minnesota law professors in a 2011 paper that basically predicted the present interest.

One did not have to be UM law professors to see this coming. We have pointed out these perverse incentives in the employer mandate since before Democrats put the ACA up for a vote. Barack Obama and his supporters insisted that “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan,” based in large part on the assumption that businesses would simply eat the exploding costs of mandate health insurance.

That, however, ignores the efficiency process and cost-benefit analysis that any business with a survival instinct uses. If it’s cheaper to pay the fine and dump the coverage, the only incentive that employers have to do otherwise is strictly competitive. And that will only last as long as the competition doesn’t make the same move. Once the first few employers looking to gain a tactical advantage on costs make the decision to get rid of that overhead, everyone else will follow to negate that advantage — and to push those costs off onto the federal government. That will make a hash of the carefully managed cost analyses offered by ObamaCare supporters, and subsidy payments will explode far past the ability of revenues within the ACA to keep pace.

By the way, we should start seeing this phenomenon in just a few months. Even though the White House pushed the open-enrollment date for 2015 to mid-November to avoid having an ObamaCare shock just before the election, these businesses have to decide on whether to keep coverage as part of their budgeting process for the next year — and that will take place long before November 15th. Employees will start noticing that their employers aren’t holding their usual private-sector open enrollments on October 1st, even if employers wait to give them the bad news until November. That will not motivate voters to rush out and support Democrats, to say the least.

This report comes at an opportune moment. Sylvia Burwell will testify this morning at 9:30 at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing to discuss her nomination to replace Kathleen Sebelius as HHS Secretary, and to answer some questions about ObamaCare:

Before the Senate confirms Sylvia Mathews Burwell to take the helm of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department, lawmakers are sure to have tough questions for her.

On Thursday, when she appears before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Burwell will find out whether those questions will focus on the partisan controversies surrounding Obamacare or more substantive policy matters. She’s likely to get a taste of both. …

The failure of Oregon’s Obamacare marketplace – which cost the federal government more than $300 million — has piqued the interest of not just lawmakers but also nonpartisan investigators, including reportedly the FBI. Other states such as Massachusetts are also struggling to run their own marketplaces.

While lawmakers Thursday are sure to bring up Obamacare’s existing flaws, there are plenty of other questions for Burwell about the law’s continued implementation.

For one thing, lawmakers may ask if she’s prepared to oversee the ongoing construction of HealthCare.gov. Insurers on Capitol Hill this week reminded Congress that the back end of the website has yet to be finished.

In February, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters it would take “several months” to finish the back end portion of the website, which will automate the transfer of federal subsidies from the government to insurers.

The HELP committee doesn’t actually get a vote on Burwell’s confirmation. Her official confirmation hearing will take place with the Senate Finance Committee, and the new filibuster rules makes it all but certain that Burwell will win confirmation in the end. Republicans will get two public hearings in which to press for answers on ObamaCare failures and the dishonesty of administration claims and promises — and probably should demand some answers on the real impact of the employer mandate, too.

Final Obamacare Headcount Lacks Details on Who’s Paid, Newly Insured

Final Obamacare Headcount Lacks Details on Who's Paid, Newly Insured

More than 8 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance plans under Obamacare’s online exchange, officials say, but some details remain vague.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported Thursday that 8.01 million selected a plan from the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act. This is the final report for the first enrollment period of Oct. 1 through the March 31 deadline, plus some widely publicized extensions.

“Together we are ensuring that health coverage is more accessible than ever before,” outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

Although the 45-page enrollment report gives more insight into the gender, age, and financial assistance status of the new “enrollees,” it does not say how many had paid their first month’s premium. The Obama administration also did not disclose how many of the enrollees previously were uninsured.

Instead, officials promoted the 2.2 million young adult (ages 18 to 34) that made up 28 percent of the participant pool. Officials originally projected that, to be successful, Obamacare’s state and federal exchanges would need nearly 40 percent of new enrollees to be relatively healthy young adults — and thus spread out health care costs.

The announcement came a day after the House Energy and Commerce Committee charged that only 67 percent of Obamacare enrollees paid their first month’s premium by the extended deadline of April 15.

Citing data from insurers, committee members called previous enrollment figures from the Obama administration “misleading.” HHS officials argued that final payment deadlines are set by insurers, who could have extended them to late April — meaning more may have paid.

By the rough estimate of insurers, 80 percent to 90 percent likely paid their first month’s premium, The Hill newspaper reported.

The Next Four ObamaCare Disasters

The Next Four ObamaCare Disasters

On Friday, the president used the long-awaited resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to again claim victory for his namesake health law. “She got it fixed, got the job done,” Obama said. Right.

Sorry, there is plenty of more bad news ahead.

It’s not called SebeliusCare, and she wasn’t to blame for most of its problems. The horrors were mostly baked into the law, with some made worse by the president’s dishonest hard sell to get unsuspecting Americans to sign up.

Premium defaults

Obama claimed Friday that 7.5 million people have enrolled in exchange coverage. In fact, perhaps 20 percent haven’t paid their first premium and therefore aren’t covered, according to estimates by RAND Corp. and Goldman Sachs.

The bigger question is: how many will keep paying premiums? That’s got the American Medical Association, a chief ObamaCare booster, so worried that it’s sending warnings to its members.

Why the concern? First-time insurance purchasers, especially those living paycheck to paycheck, will be shocked by ObamaCare’s high deductibles: about $3,000 for the silver plan (the most commonly selected) and $5,000 for the bronze plan (the most affordable).

Basically, you’ll have to pay thousands out of pocket for appointments, tests, and prescriptions until you reach your deductible.

Millennials who heard Obama say on “Between Two Ferns” that they can buy a health plan for the price of a cellphone contract won’t be laughing when they realize what the $5,000 deductible means. (It’s like a cellphone contract that makes you pay $5 a text for your first thousand texts.) Rather than pay thousands out of pocket for care while also paying premiums, some will quit paying premiums.

That’s why the AMA is worried. Section 1412 of the health law gives consumers a 90 day “grace period” before their subsidized plan is canceled for nonpayment. But insurers only have to keep paying doctors and hospitals for 30 days. The next 60 days of care are on the care provider. The AMA says “it could pose a significant financial risk for medical practices.”

Premium hikes

Consumers reeling from Obama­Care premium shock are in for another jolt when the 2015 rates come out.

Overall, consumers had to pay far more for individual plans this year. In some states (Delaware and New Hampshire), rates went up 90 percent or even 100 percent, according to a newly released Morgan Stanley analysis.

And insurance executives already are warning about double- or triple-digit hikes for next year. “I do think it’s likely premium-rate shocks are coming,” said Chet Burrell, CEO of Care First BlueCross BlueShield. Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini, one of the first to raise the alarm, said increases “could go as high as 100 percent.”

In most states, insurers will be setting their 2015 rates in June; but the administration is doing everything possible to keep the grim news under the radar until after the November elections. It even postponed the beginning of the open enrollment period until Nov. 15.

Losing on-the-job coverage

But there’s no way to hide the impact on the 25 million to 30 million Americans who could lose coverage in the coming months.

For the same reasons that millions of policies in the individual market were canceled last year, employers who buy plans in the small-group market will have a hard time renewing their old plans this year. Many will have to choose between providing the more costly ObamaCare benefit package or dropping coverage altogether.

Count on employers with low-wage work forces (such as retailers, hoteliers, and restaurateurs) to push employees and their families into the exchanges.

Protests over cancer care

Cancer is the leading cause of death in America and our No. 1 health fear. But access to the nation’s top cancer centers is becoming a hot-button issue, as ObamaCare enrollees are finding how few choices of hospitals and doctors they have.

Many plans exclude all specialty cancer hospitals, even though research shows that women with ovarian cancer, for example, live a year longer when they are treated at high-volume cancer hospitals instead of local facilities. But insurers say they’d have to raise premiums for exchange plans even higher if this growing outrage over access to cancer centers forces them to broaden their networks.

The president said Friday that ObamaCare has “turned the corner.” Not exactly. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he hopes the confirmation hearings for Sebelius’ successor, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, “will be the start of a candid conversation about ObamaCare’s shortcomings.”

That could take a while.

Read more at http://www.westernjournalism.com/next-four-obamacare-disasters/#VBids4U7vg7udXDb.99

Report: Kansas GOP will pay bus fare for Kathleen Sebelius to come home for Senate bid

Report: Kansas GOP will pay bus fare for Kathleen Sebelius to come home for Senate bid

The Kansas Republican party jokingly offered to pay for former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to return to her home state if she wants to run for Senate — seeing her chances for victory unlikely.

“If Kathleen Sebelius wants to come back to Kansas to run for office, we will pay her bus fare,” said Kansas GOP Chair Kelly Arnold, according to the New York Daily News.

The party is also already fundraising off a potential Sebelius bid.

“We need your help to stop Obama’s former cabinet secretary – Kathleen Sebelius – from returning to KS to run for the US Senate Please consider a contribution,” said a post on the Kansas Republican Party’s Facebook page.
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The New York Times first reported Wednesday that Sebelius, a Democrat who served as Kansas governor before being Obama’s HHS chief, is considering a run for Senate in the state.

The Times wrote that Sebelius, who announced her resignation as Health and Human Services secretary April 10, is “weighing revenge” against her old family friend, Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

Roberts accused Sebelius of “gross incompetence” and demanded she resign following the disastrous early months of the Obamacare rollout.

Sebelius’ resignation came after the Obama administration triumphantly claimed it had reached its goal of seven million signups on the Obamacare exchanges by March 31.

The Times was unable to find anyone to comment publicly on the rumored candidacy.

Sebelius has until June 2 to decide whether to run against Roberts.