By Terence P. Jeffrey | September 13, 2016 | 10:47 AM EDT
By Terence P. Jeffrey | September 13, 2016 | 10:47 AM EDT
BY SYLVIA ANDREWS
Are you angry yet? If you’re not, you should be. I wonder if many Americans have even bothered to notice the miserable “stuff” that’s been going on in our country? Unfortunately, I feel that too many are more interested in the goings-on in the sports world and Hollywood. They can tell you the latest scores of the various teams, all kinds of information about the private lives of the celebrities in sports and Hollywood, and a variety of other, unimportant trivia. However, ask them anything about the United States history, geography, or government and they draw a blank. They have no idea what’s going on in their own country or the world.
How sad this is, that so many Americans don’t know, and probably don’t care. This is how a once-strong and exceptional republic deteriorates into a third-world country. The citizens let it happen. They elect politicians who they have not vetted, but who they think are so “cool”. The politicians are, in fact in many instances, just greedy and self-serving. They allow absurd and freedom-killing laws to be enacted. They listen to the mainstream media, who have become the propaganda arm of the White House and the Progressive Left. They don’t bother to contact their legislators and voice their opinions. Instead they’re all wrapped up in the lives of Hollywood bimbos when they should be caring about issues that affect the lives of every American.
Here are some items that I care about, and so should you:
We currently have an administration that constantly shreds the Constitution and bypasses Congress.
We have a gutless Congress. Whatever happened to separation of powers?
We have an administration that treats our allies badly and our enemies royally.
We have a President, who apologizes for our great country every chance he gets, lies on a regular basis, and initiates policies that will turn this country into a Socialist state.
Don’t forget the criminal activity in several government agencies, such as the Department of Justice, the IRS, the VA, and the EPA, just to name a few.
We once had the best healthcare in the world, and now we have the Affordable Care Act which is of very poor quality and has caused great pain to many citizens as well as increased costs. Obamacare is now imploding before our very eyes because many of the big healthcare companies are leaving the program due to diminishing returns and increasing costs.
Big Brother is trying to control every aspect of our lives while the government increases their surveillance of American citizens through the NSA.
Political correctness is rampant to the point where free speech is in danger. This is especially true in academia where dissenting opinions should be invited instead of discouraged.
There exists a national education program called Common Core which extols a Socialist agenda instead of teaching about the United States of America. It rewrites American history, promotes Islam, and is sexually explicit. Is this what our kids need?
This administration has poured thousands of so-called Muslim “refugees” into our cities and towns.
These people do not want to abide by our laws and are here for stealth jihad, with the help of the Department of Justice and Homeland Security. Their goal is to impose Sharia law instead of our Constitution.
Our economy is on life–support and the lefties do not seem to have a plan to revive it.
We have a First Lady who told graduating seniors to keep tabs on their racist family. When she’s not trying to regulate what we, or our kids, should be allowed to eat, she’s out there race-baiting.
I have a real problem with government agencies purchasing enough lethal ammunition to put five rounds into every American while trying to take guns away from law-abiding citizens. You have to ask why agencies such as the Social Security Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and the Post Office, to name a few, need ammunition at all. It’s no secret that the administration is trying to take citizens’ guns away under the guise of protecting people. That is not to protect people…that is to gain control over people and it’s in direct violation of the Second Amendment.
Our Armed Services have been decimated.
Veterans returning home from Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern venues have frequently been designated as terrorists by our government. Why? These same veterans are treated very badly at the Veterans Administration’s hospitals and clinics throughout the country. They deserve better.
Why is this administration so chummy with CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations)? It is well-known that they are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been called a terrorist group by several Muslim countries. Yet the United States will not declare them a terrorist group.
Groups like Black Lives Matter and many of George Soros’ extreme leftist groups are flourishing under this administration even though their goal is to take down America.
An election is about to happen and the Democrat nominee has a long history of corruption and lies. In addition, she now exhibits dangerous symptoms of some very serious problems.
The mainstream media cover and manipulate the news in favor of the Democrat party and the Liberals.
Currently, the powers that be have a goal to bring our country down, and we cannot allow this to happen.
Pay attention, get involved. Are you angry yet?
The administration has claimed Obamacare — officially designated the Affordable Care Act — to be a great success, insisting that 20 million previously uninsured Americans now have insurance. But according to a report at The Guardian, that “success” comes at the expense of all the features that were supposed to make the law sustainable.
President Obama and his cohorts imagined that since Obamacare was to be compulsory, millions of healthy young Americans would immediately sign up, and the massive influx of cash paid into the system as insurance premiums would help pay for the higher costs in care doled out to older, sicker enrollees.
Unfortunately for supporters of Obamacare, millions of young people simply ignored the law, deciding, instead, to pay the tax penalties to the IRS for not having insurance because it was both easier to do and cheaper in the long run. Consequently, the largest number of new enrollees are people whose illnesses are costing the insurance companies more to pay out for their care than they are paying into the system in premiums. The result is more money going out for care than coming in, a situation impossible to sustain for long.
The latter is why so many insurance carriers are dropping out of Obamacare. They are being outspent and cannot sustain the costs and remain profitable at the same time. And this, in turn, is setting the whole Obamacare system toward collapse.
As the outlet reports:
In April, UnitedHealthcare left most of the 34 state marketplaces it participated in. And in August, Aetna scaled back its participation in the markets because of losses, and also because of the [J]ustice [D]epartment’s attempt to block it from merging with another health insurance giant, Humana.
Worse, insurance premiums have risen time and again since the inception of Obamacare only a few short years ago, and those rises are set to continue pricing many policies hundreds of dollars a month past the wooly claims of cheap healthcare plans Obama made when he was pushing the law.
In addition, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study on Obamacare was released that was such bad news for Obamacare it brought the Trump campaign to call it “another extraordinary indictment of Obamacare.”
Echoing The Guardian’s report, the Foundation’s study reported that “the number of counties with a single marketplace insurer is likely to increase, from 225 (7% of counties) in 2016 to 974 (31% of counties) in 2017.”
The report reveals another of the principal failures of a feature that was supposed to have made Obamacare sustainable — that of competition between insurers. We are now finding that this competition is non-existent in large swaths of the country.
“The news that Americans living in more than 6 in 10 counties next year will only have one or at most two healthcare options under Obamacare is another extraordinary indictment of this law and Hillary Clinton’s disastrously poor judgment,” national policy adviser to Donald Trump Stephen Miller said in a statement.
Every policy she touches only produces more calamity. In this case, it means higher prices, fewer choices, and less control over one’s most private medical decisions. Yet Hillary Clinton thinks struggling Americans still have it too good. She wants to give the government more control over the entire healthcare system — taking away even more choices from American moms, dads and children. This is yet another crossroads in this election: America must repeal and replace this disastrous law or live under total government control.
The Kaiser Family Foundation study is only added to reports that Obamacare rates are soaring, and 16 of the 23 state exchanges established by the law have failed.
But MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, the Obamacare architect who famously claimed the American people were too stupid to be told the truth about the ill-starred law prior to its passage, wrote in Politico recently “the fear of ‘death spirals’ from rapidly rising premiums is greatly exaggerated when the vast majority of exchange enrollees are subsidized, meaning they don’t pay those higher premiums.”
But the current failures of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement extend well beyond the designation given to the president’s promise that with the new law “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” which Politifact declared in 2013 to be the lie of the year.
As Fox News reported, “16 of Obamacare’s 23 approved healthcare cooperatives have closed up shop, or announced their intention to close by year’s end, further reducing competition.” That’s two more failed exchanges since last month, when Breitbart reportedthe fourteenth failure in Connecticut:
Connecticut’s Obamacare health insurance co-op is being placed under state supervision because of its status as financially “unstable,” leaving 40,000 individuals on the hunt for new insurance plans.
HealthyCT – a nonprofit health insurance plan set up under President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform, is one of 23 original Obamacare co-ops and the 14th to fail since they began selling their health insurance plans on the Obamacare exchanges.
Insurance commissioners in eight states have already approved significant premium rate increases for 2017, as Fox News reported:
Courtesy of ACASignUps.net, here are the average weighted increases for [seven of these] states thus far. . . Kentucky: weighted average increase of 24.5%, Oregon: 23.8%, New York: 16.6%, Mississippi: 15.8%, Arkansas: 9.4%, Vermont: 7%, Rhode Island: 1.3%
Rates in an eighth state, Tennessee, also just went up significantly, where the state’s insurance commissioner just authorized dramatic rate increases for the three remaining insurers in the market: “Blue Cross Blue Shield received a 62 percent increase in rates, Cigna received a 46.3 percent increase, and Humana received a 46.3 percent increase”, as Breitbart News reported:
Tennessee’s insurance commissioner said the Obamacare exchanges in her state are “very near collapse” after she approved rate increases for three insurance carriers on the exchanges in an attempt to give consumers more options for open enrollment in November.
I would characterize the exchange market in Tennessee as very near collapse … and that all of our efforts are really focused on making sure we have as many writers in the areas as possible, knowing that might be one. I’m doing everything I can to prevent a situation where that turns to zero,” Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said to The Tennessean.
It’s the way the law is written that’s causing these problems, Fox News reported:
To begin with, adverse selection is crushing insurers, while at the same time they’re struggling to enroll healthier young adults. Adverse selection describes the process by which sicker individuals were among the first to enroll, leaving insurers with a less-than-desirable mix of new patients who are proving quite costly. Remember, prior to Obamacare insurers were allowed to pick and choose their customers and turn away those with pre-existing conditions. That’s no longer the case with Obamacare.
On the other hand, younger adults are enrolling in greater numbers, but their overall participation is nowhere near what insurers need. The culprit here may very well be the Shared Responsibility Payment, or SRP. The individual mandate, which is the actionable component of the ACA, states that individuals need to buy health insurance or pay a penalty come tax time. The SRP is the official name of that penalty, and in 2016 it’s the greater of $695 or 2.5% of your modified adjusted gross income. The Kaiser Family Foundation predicts 2016’s SRP will average $969. The SRP was intended to encourage young adults to enroll, but when full-year premium costs for even the cheapest plans are typically $2,400 or higher, most are choosing the cheaper route of paying the penalty. In other words, insurers are being hindered by adverse selection and low healthy adult enrollment figures.
The failure of the risk corridor is another reason why competition has faltered. The risk corridor was designed to collect money from overly profitable insurers on Obamacare that would be redistributed to those insurers that were losing excessive amounts of money. The idea was to create a sort of risk-pool among insurers to both protect them against adverse selection, as well as from pricing their premiums too low. It was also believed that the added financial protection of the risk corridor would encourage new entrants, thus promoting competition that would keep premium inflation in check.
Unfortunately, the risk corridor was a disaster. There weren’t many overly profitable insurers on the ACA, so just 12.6% of the $2.87 billion in requested funds from insurers was paid out.
Even Jonathan Gruber conceded recently in the aptly titled “What We Didn’t See Coming” column he wrote for Politico that the actual results of the law’s implementation “include some surprises, even for those of us who have tracked the law closely and rooted for its success.”:
More people are in Medicaid than anticipated; fewer bought health plans through the exchanges. . .
What did happen? The law has more or less hit its target for covering Americans. Almost 20 million people had coverage in 2015 — close to what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had forecast in early 2013. But it didn’t quite happen in the ways the CBO and many of us other analysts expected.
The diehard supporter of the law offers this conclusion though: “Surprises aren’t necessarily failures.”
“[T]he sizeable rise in exchange premiums over the past year, and even a rapid rise in the coming year, does not imply a long run unsustainable pricing pattern for exchanges, despite what critics of the health law may contend,” he asserts.
As for the exchanges, he concedes they “will probably end up smaller than expected – but still plenty large enough to continue. The fact is that exchanges in every state are well above the minimum scale required to function effectively. And the fear of ‘death spirals’ from rapidly rising premiums is greatly exaggerated when the vast majority of exchange enrollees are subsidized, meaning they don’t pay those higher premiums.”
Gruber concludes “Any objective analysis of the ACA will find that it vastly improved the lives of millions of Americans who could not previously rely on the security of employer or government-provided insurance — while leaving the vast majority of Americans able to still rely on the insurance arrangements that they enjoy. And that should be no surprise.”
On the campaign trail, however, candidates are finding that most voters still do not agree with Gruber, even though the mainstream media seems eager to declare that, despite the failures of Obamacare, political criticism of the law have lost steam.
As Politico reported:
As insurers push large premium increases for 2017 Obamacare plans, some of the steepest hikes have been requested by insurers in crucial swing states that could determine control of the Senate.
In nine of 11 states with competitive Senate races, at least one insurer seeks to hike rates for Obamacare customers by at least 30 percent next year: Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pennsylvania wants to jack up average premiums by more than 40 percent. In Wisconsin, three insurers have asked for rate hikes of more than 30 percent. In New Hampshire, two of the five carriers want to sell plans with rate increase above 30 percent.
The potential sticker shock — coupled with the likelihood many consumers will have fewer choices next year after major insurers scale back their exchange participation — creates a potential political opening for Republican candidates, especially since the next Obamacare enrollment season starts one week before Election Day.
“People who are feeling it in their pocketbooks are going to be very unhappy about [rate hikes],” said Brian Walsh, a former communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “You would expect to see this will be part of the campaign messaging for House and Senate Republicans. … If it hasn’t started, it will be coming.”
While Donald Trump often cites eye-popping rate hikes as proof the health care law is a “disaster,” rate hikes haven’t yet emerged as a major campaign issue in most Senate races — although several Republicans said they plan to spotlight the issue in the fall.
Not surprisingly, Politico, which ran Jonathan’s Gruber’s July defense of the law, borrows one of his lines from that defense in its reporting on the issue: “The reality is that most Obamacare customers won’t have to pay headline-grabbing rate hikes since the vast majority are eligible for federal subsidies that reduce their monthly insurance costs. And proposed rates, which HHS posted publicly earlier this month, are likely to come down under regulatory scrutiny.”
Politico does acknowledge, “However, millions of people who buy their own coverage and who don’t receive federal help will be exposed to the full rate hikes unless they can switch into a cheaper plan.”
It is those voters who have to pay the full freight of Obamacare who are likely to let Democratic candidates know just how they feel about their continued support for the law at the polling booths in November.
EARNEST: “What is clear is that wast majority of people all across the country will have an access to a plan that costs $35 a month or less … I will let the executives at Aetna explain their business decisions and to explain their struggles to make this process work for their bottom line. Plenty of other insurance companies have figured it out and are putting forward offerings that give the American people a choice when it comes to providing health insurance for their families.”
The insurance regulator for the state of Tennessee warned that the state’s ObamaCare exchanges are “very near collapse.”
As health care costs only continue to increase, some insurance companies who have remained on the federal exchange are beginning to plan exit strategies. For example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee (BCBST) estimated that by the end of 2016 it will have lost upwards of $500 million since entering the exchange three years ago. In light of the rising health care costs and the threat of losing the three remaining insurance companies currently operating within the federal exchange in Tennessee, the state government has given the green light for these remaining companies to increase their rates for individual plans — up to 44.3% with Humana, 46.3% for Cigna, and a shocking 62% in the case of BCBST.
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate health committee, said that the large increase in rates is proof that ObamaCare is not working. He questioned, “How can anyone continue to defend this law while they watch it wreak havoc on family budgets, stealing money hardworking Tennesseans had set aside to buy a home or send their child to college but will now have to spend on their skyrocketing premiums?” But it’s not only those ObamaCare exchange plans which will see rate increases — it’s estimated that those off-marketplace plans will also see double-digit price increases. No one is free from the ObamaCare monster. Not even a model statelike Tennessee.
Increasingly, there are two ObamaCares.
There’s the one in coastal and northern areas, where the marketplaces include multiple insurers and plans. And there’s the one in southern and rural areas, where there is often little competition, a situation that can lead to higher premiums.
“There’s really two kind of stories that are playing out,” said Cynthia Cox, who studies insurer competition at the Kaiser Family Foundation.
The trend is likely to be accelerated by the departure of Aetna and UnitedHealthcare from ObamaCare marketplaces in 2017. The loss of those insurers won’t affect all parts of the country equally, experts say.
“The combined effect of these exits is mostly concentrated in southern states and particularly rural counties within those states,” Cox said.
According to an analysis from the consulting firm Avalere, as of now, there will be just one insurer offering ObamaCare coverage next year in seven states: Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Wyoming, Alaska, North Carolina and Kansas. It is possible that more insurers could enter these markets before next year.
In one county in Arizona, there might not be an ObamaCare plan available at all.
Aetna had been the only insurer offering a plan in Pinal County. Unless federal and state officials can find another insurer to fill the void in 2017, the county’s 400,000 residents will not be able to buy coverage on an ObamaCare exchange.
The dearth of options in rural, sparsely populated areas is a far cry from what Democrats promised when selling the Affordable Care Act.
Obama talked at the time about how the law would create a “one-stop shop” for insurance, comparing it to websites where people can look for airline tickets.
“Just visit healthcare.gov, and there you can compare insurance plans, side by side, the same way you’d shop for a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon,” Obama said in 2013. “You enter some basic information, you’ll be presented with a list of quality, affordable plans that are available in your area, with clear descriptions of what each plan covers, and what it will cost. You’ll find more choices, more competition, and in many cases, lower prices.”
In states like Oklahoma, the reality is different, with just one insurer to choose from in the online marketplace.
“We certainly see this as an issue,” said Mike Rhoads, Oklahoma’s deputy insurance commissioner. “With only a single carrier out there, there is no competition.”
“I think competition drives price sensitivity by these carriers,” Rhoads said.
Adding to the geographic disparities under ObamaCare, many of the same states where insurance competition is lacking declined the health law’s expansion of Medicaid. Because of that, many lower-income people have no insurance option at all.
Still, many rural areas had few insurance options before ObamaCare came along. Back then, individual plans were pricey and difficult to find, and insurers could reject people with preexisting conditions.
Under ObamaCare, insurers cannot deny coverage for health conditions, and lower-income people receive financial assistance to offset the cost of premiums.
Cox, the Kaiser Family Foundation expert, said the main consequences of insurers leaving ObamaCare next year will be enrollees having to switch plans. The cost to the federal government of providing ObamaCare, meanwhile, could rise if premiums increase.
In Oklahoma, Rhoads said he has been trying to recruit more insurers to join the ObamaCare marketplace, but found no takers.
“We see no other carriers willing to come in,” he said. “We certainly have had conversations with some of the national players.”
Rhoads said he spoke with two insurers that participated in ObamaCare’s first year about returning. They declined, citing the financial losses they suffered before.
“There’s a little bit of giggling in the background when we ask this question, and we understand that they’ve been there, they’ve done that, they’ve taken their lumps,” Rhoads said.
“As we discussed with one of the CEOs of a large HMO, who had competitive rates, they had their losses and their board of directors was just incensed that they hadn’t made money, and it caused some turmoil within the organization,” he added.
Relying on just one insurer to offer coverage runs the risk of having ObamaCare disappear, should that insurer bail from the marketplace.
In areas with just one insurer, it is almost always a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan. While those plans have generally expressed their commitment to continuing to offer ObamaCare coverage, they have also pressed the Obama administration for policy changes like tightening up the rules for extra sign-up periods that sick people can use to game the system.
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Some Blue Cross plans, including one in North Carolina, have expressed reservations about continuing to offer ObamaCare plans, particularly if they do not win their preferred policy changes.
Sabrina Corlette, an expert on the health law at Georgetown University, cited the geographic divergence when asked whether Aetna’s exit made her worried about the future of ObamaCare.
Corlette said her concern is “going to depend on what county somebody might live in.”