Posts Tagged ‘health insurance’
November 22nd, 2013 at 3:44 pm
An Administration That Knows No Shame
Posted by Print

It’s becoming clear that the Obama Administration is beginning to lose hope that they can salvage Obamacare and are now just trying to contain the political fallout. From CBS:

After the slow start to enrollment in the Obamacare marketplaces for 2014, the Obama administration is set to delay enrollment for 2015 by a month.

The move will give insurers more time to evaluate the 2014 market and set 2015 premiums accordingly — it also moves the enrollment period past the 2014 midterm elections. It’s the latest Obamacare adjustment that, whatever its aims, is clouded by the continued political controversy over the health law. At least one Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, called the decision “a cynical political move.”

The Health and Human Services Department confirms to CBS News that it plans to reschedule the 2015 open enrollment period for Nov. 15, 2014 – Jan. 15, 2015. Previously, the enrollment period was slated to run from Oct. 15 – Dec. 7, 2014. Insurers also now have until May 2014, rather than April 2014, to submit applications to offer health plans in the marketplace. The changes don’t impact the Obamacare marketplace for next year.

Make no mistake, “Set premiums accordingly” means raise prices based on the internal logic of Obamacare. The Administration knows that Democrats will take a drubbing at the ballot box if yet another round of bad news and increased premiums coincides with the final days of next year’s midterm elections. This is nothing more than a face-saving measure, and one so laughably transparent that it’s not liable to do Democrats much good (especially if Republicans make the Administration’s intentional attempt to conceal health care rates a campaign issue).

It’s a shame the Obama Administration has gotten on the wrong side of so many doctors. They could use some triage right about now.

October 31st, 2013 at 1:44 pm
What the Government Giveth …
Posted by Print

We’ve spent virtually the entire month of October hearing about the practical defects of Obamacare—everything from the failures of the exchange website to the widespread cancellation of insurance plans that don’t comply with the health mandates. Apart from those functional considerations, however, there’s another major drawback to the law: it places America’s health care providers into a Faustian bargain with Washington.

Recall that in order to get many health insurance companies onboard to support Obamacare, the White House made what was essentially a quid pro quo deal: in order to cover the increased costs of covering the chronically ill that the plan would bring into the system, the individual mandate would ensure that young, healthy, actuarially sound Americans would be swept into the system too (the failure of the exchanges, however, is already steering this arrangement towards being upside down financially).

One of the downsides, however, of putting the industry at the government’s mercy is that the feds hold the whip hand when they fail to follow the party line. From CNN:

White House officials have pressured insurance industry executives to keep quiet amid mounting criticism over Obamacare’s rollout, insurance industry sources told CNN.

After insurance officials publicly criticized the implementation, White House staffers contacted insurers to express their displeasure, industry insiders said.

Multiple sources declined to speak publicly about the push back because they fear retribution.

But Bob Laszewski, who heads a consulting firm for big insurance companies, did talk on the record.

“The White House is exerting massive pressure on the industry, including the trade associations, to keep quiet,” he said.

Laszewski, who’s been a vocal critic of Obamacare, said he’s been asked by insurance executives to speak out because they feel defenseless against an administration that is regulating their business — and a big customer.

Government-backed plans accounted for about half of health care policies last year, a number that is expected to grow over the years.

He who has the gold makes the rules, as the saying goes. It turns out there was an additional cost to Obamacare that the insurance companies didn’t factor in: their autonomy.

October 16th, 2012 at 6:26 pm
An Obama Ally Previews the Coming ObamaCare Disaster
Posted by Print

Remember Darden Restaurants? As I blogged last year, they’re the parent company of Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and LongHorn Steakhouse that decided to codify Michelle Obama’s recommendations about nutrition in the menus of their franchises. But their latest change in corporate policy has far more ominous implications for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. From the Orlando Sentinel:

In an experiment apparently aimed at keeping down the cost of health-care reform, Orlando-based Darden Restaurants has stopped offering full-time schedules to many hourly workers in at least a few Olive Gardens, Red Lobsters and LongHorn Steakhouses.

Darden said the test is taking place in “a select number” of restaurants in four markets, including Central Florida, but would not give details. The company said there has been no decision made about expanding it.

In an emailed statement, Darden said staffing changes are “just one of the many things we are evaluating to help us address the cost implications health care reform will have on our business. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the health care regulations and we simply do not have enough information to make any decisions at this time.”

Analysts say many other companies, including the White Castle hamburger chain, are considering employing fewer full-timers because of key features of the Affordable Care Act scheduled to go into effect in 2014. Under that law, large companies must provide affordable health insurance to employees working an average of at least 30 hours per week.

If they do not, the companies can face fines of up to $3,000 for each employee who then turns to an exchange — an online marketplace— for insurance.

So in the course of a year, the Obama Administration has cost me my Olive Garden breadsticks and Darden employees a sizable chunk of their livelihood. I’ll be honest: the first one verges on an impeachable offense in my book. But the second one is inexcusable. It’s underemployment by legislative fiat.

So remember this fact when you hear Barack Obama tout himself as a champion of the middle class in tonight’s debate: the Darden example is representative — working Americans without healthcare and with smaller paychecks.

July 3rd, 2012 at 12:43 pm
American Health Care: A Diagnosis
Posted by Print

If the Supreme Court’s ObamaCare decision hasn’t made you so despondent as to write off the topic of health care altogether, then you owe yourself a stop by the American Enterprise Institute’s online magazine, The American, where Cliff Asness has managed the near-impossible: writing a comprehensive overview of the defects of the American system that is breezy, informative, and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny.

Asness has as his goal debunking four common myths about American health care:

  1. Health care prices have soared in the recent past
  2. The pre-ObamaCare system was ‘insurance’
  3. Stopping insurance companies from charging based on pre-existing conditions is the one good part of ObamaCare
  4. Healthcare costs are very high in the United States compared to socialist countries

Asness’ deconstruction of every point is thorough, illuminating, and crystal clear. In fact, it’s safe to say that — if you haven’t been introduced to these arguments before — you’ll never think about health care the same way again. Here’s one example, hailing from section two, on ‘insurance’:

Due primarily to the tax subsidy given to employer-provided healthcare (a bipartisan, so-far-untouchable disaster), catastrophic health insurance is not Americans’ norm. Rather, employers provide essentially all healthcare from basic health maintenance and symptom relief to the most expensive life-saving procedures, and they do it because the government massively subsidizes this approach.

This is odd. You don’t go to your car insurer to fill your car with gas or to your homeowner’s insurance company to change a light bulb. Why do you go to your health insurance company for everyday medical services? That is not insurance, it is tax-subsidized provision of all your healthcare needs, and it causes two of our system’s biggest problems. 1) Health coverage is not portable, as it’s employer-provided, and 2) consumers are insulated from the cost of basic healthcare because they don’t pay directly for services. Educated consumers spending their own money would be far better shoppers for healthcare. Also, I wish I wasn’t asked for a $5 co-pay after a doctor’s appointment. Ask me to pay at least $200 or nothing. Paying $5 for a prostate exam is demeaning to both parties.

The conservative/libertarian intelligentsia has plenty of deeply-schooled policy wonks and plenty of engaging writers. But very rarely to both skill sets belong to the same author. Cliff Asness is the rare exception. Read it and grow wise.

January 21st, 2011 at 12:52 pm
The Economics of Federalism

Yesterday, 60 members of the House Republican majority endorsed a bill that would “deregulate” health insurance purchases by allowing consumers to buy plans across state lines.  The idea is to let companies compete on a national scale, spreading the risk and lowering premiums.  The bill is gaining support as a free market counterargument against ObamaCare’s one-size-fits-all regulation of health insurance.

There is a caveat.  In order to liberalize the insurance market, the GOP-sponsored bill must take away the states’ power to regulate insurance.  The reason insurance plans cost different amounts in different states is because individual states have different regulatory schemes.  Those schemes are the product of public policy decisions hammered out at the state level.  Importantly for 10th Amendment limited government types, the plan to “deregulate” the health insurance market comes at the expense of state sovereignty.

Ironically, the only way the House Republicans’ answer to ObamaCare gets passed is through an expansive reading of Congress’ ability to regulate interstate commerce “among the states.”  Members of Congress will (or at least should) have to struggle with which conservative principle they value more in this instance: the free market or federalism.  In a certain sense, federalism grants to states a public policy monopoly over all issues not expressly contained in the text of the U.S. Constitution.  That monopoly drives up prices for consumers in states with costly regulations.  Theoretically, if people want to pay less for health insurance, they could move to a state with less costly regulations.

Ideas like federalism have consequences.  As the Tea Party-flavored House GOP boards the ship of state, it will be interesting to see which crate of principles the revolutionaries toss over.

H/T: Los Angeles Times