Wednesday, 22 January, 2020

Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December, 2017

Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December, 2017. To have update about Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December, 2017 with last week’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, Vermont is the latest state to explore its own version of the provision. Here all about Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December, 2017. For latest Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December visit bellow, You will have Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December all dates.

Vermont to Consider State Individual Mandate

If the number of uninsured Vermont residents rises, Governor Phil Scott will review a state mandate that requires all citizens to have health coverage or pay a penalty, said Al Gobeille, Vermont’s secretary of the Agency of Human Services.

ACA Signups Drop to 8.7 Million

The latest enrollment figure for the federal healthcare exchange has dipped to 8.7 million, about 80,000 fewer enrollees than announced last week. The drop in signups was mostly due to late cancellations.

The latest count also includes 66,000 new last-minute signups. Enrollment has reached almost 95 percent of last year’s numbers, even with the enrollment period cut in half.

The final ACA enrollment number will not be available until March due to the longer enrollment period for some states, including California and New York.

Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December, 2017

4 in 5 ACA Plan Enrollees Live in Trump-Backed States

Eighty percent of people who recently enrolled in health plans on the federal exchange live in states that President Donald Trump won in the 2016 election, according to an Associated Press analysis. The analysis also found:

  • The president won the four states with the largest number of enrollees—Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia.
  • Of the 11 states that increased enrollment from last year, eight were states that Trump won. Those states include: Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Final enrollment numbers for all 2018 ACA enrollments are still incomplete, as some state exchanges continue their enrollment periods through January 31.

Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December 26, 2017

ACA’s Individual Mandate Overturned as Tax Bill Becomes Law

President Donald Trump signed the GOP-backed tax overhaul bill into law December 22, eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all individuals have health insurance or pay a penalty.

As he signed the bill, Trump expressed his disapproval with the mandate. “The individual mandate was very unfair, because you’re basically saying, pay for something in order to not have to get healthcare. So you’re paying—you’re paying not to have healthcare. It was very unfair. Many people thought it should have been overturned at the Supreme Court,” he said.

Proponents of the repeal claimed it would save the government $338 billion, but the action could allow 13 million people to become uninsured.

GOP Continues Strategy to Repeal, Replace ACA

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Friday that if Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) can draw enough support for legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, he’d encourage the Senate to vote on the bill.

Noting that the repealed individual mandate was “one of the pillars” of the ACA, McConnell said he would “love to make more substantial changes to Obamacare than we have.”

McConnell’s comments come a day after he said in an interview that, next year, the Senate will probably focus on other issues besides repealing the law.

Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December 22, 2017

ACA Signups Nearly Equal Last Year’s Numbers

The federal healthcare exchange saw a surprising surge of enrollments in its final week, reaching a total of 8.8 million signups. That nearly matches last year’s total, despite working with an enrollment period that was half as long.

More than one million new enrollees signed up in the week of December 10. This brings the total number of new enrollees to 2.4 million—almost 30 percent of all enrollees.

The numbers are likely to rise in a final count, as some areas affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters have been given enrollment extensions.

State-run exchanges have enrolled 2.5 million Americans so far. Since 10 states and Washington, D.C., have longer enrollment periods than the federal marketplace, this number will increase.

Congress Retains Medical Expense Deduction

This week’s tax overhaul package not only kept the medical expense deduction but temporarily lowered the thresholdfor some people.

Taxpayers can subtract some out-of-pocket medical expenses from their taxes that exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income for 2017 and 2018. For 2019, the threshold increases to 10 percent.

The deduction will apply to all taxpayers, regardless of age. Currently, the deduction is 10 percent for those under 65 and 7.5 percent for those 65 and older.

Majority Leader Ready to ‘Move On’ From ACA Repeal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he wants to focus on stabilizing the insurance marketplace next year rather than try to repeal and replace the law.

“Well, we obviously were unable to completely repeal and replace with a 52-48 Senate. We’ll have to take a look at what that looks like with a 51-49 Senate. But I think we’ll probably move on to other issues,” McConnell said.

McConnell said he wants to focus on keeping insurance premiums from rising. “We want to steady the insurance markets if we can … and I think we’ll probably be addressing that part of healthcare sometime next year,” he said.

Poll: Healthcare a Top Concern for Americans

A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed that 48 percent of Americans named healthcare as the most important topic for lawmakers. That is an increase of 17 points over the past two years.

Of the respondents who named healthcare as a priority, 7 in 10 said they didn’t have confidence that government would be able to help. Some of those polled said their skepticism was due to costs not being manageable any more.

Healthcare was the top issue for Democrats and Independents; for Republicans, top issues were immigration, health care, and taxes.

Second Judge Blocks Contraception Executive Order

A second federal judge blocked the Trump administration from enforcing new rules that allow businesses to obtain exemptions on moral or religious grounds for an ACA requirement to provide insurance that covers birth control. The action by California U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr. comes after a similar ruling from a federal judge in Philadelphia last week.

A Trump administration official hinted that the Department of Justice may appeal the ruling. “We disagree with the court’s ruling and are evaluating next steps,” she said.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 21, 2017

ACA Stabilization Bills Not Included in End-of-Year Funding Package

Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have scrapped plans to include two bipartisan Affordable Care Act stabilization bills in an end-of-year funding measure.

The senators hope to instead have the bills be part of an omnibus spending bill in January, they said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

“There is every reason to believe that these important provisions can and will be delivered as part of a bipartisan agreement. And Majority Leader McConnell has told us that he will uphold his commitment to schedule and support the legislation,” the statement said.

The two bills would fund:

  • cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers to help offset expected premium increases as a result of the individual mandate repeal.
  • reinsurance funding to offset insurers’ most expensive customers.

The president supports both bills, a White House spokesperson said Wednesday. “We believe we will work with the House to get those passed. We think that we’ll be in a more comfortable place in January to get that passed,” the official said.

Passage of the bills became uncertain last week when House and Senate Republicans clashed on including language to ensure that funds would not be used on plans that covered abortions. Negotiations on a resolution are ongoing.

Medical Device Firms Ask Trump to Delay ACA Tax

Trade firms representing medical device manufacturers have asked President Donald Trump to repeal or delay an ACA tax that’s set to be reinstated at the first of the year.

The device makers had hoped that a repeal of the 2.3 percent tax on medical device sales would be included in the tax overhaul package approved yesterday. There is proposed legislation in the House that would extend the tax delay for an additional five years.

“Unfortunately, while Congress worked with you to advance this major legislative undertaking, they have failed to address a punitive tax that singles out the American medical technology industry, threatening jobs in the U.S. and future innovations for patients, and washing away the benefits of tax reform for our companies,” said Advanced Medical Technology Association CEO Scott Whitaker in a letter.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 20, 2017

Congress Repeals ACA Individual Mandate

The Republican tax overhaul bill that included the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was approved by Congress today after a House vote of 224-201. No Democrats backed the bill, and 12 Republicans voted against it.

The ACA provision stipulated that all Americans must have health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. After President Donald Trump signs the bill into law, the repeal will go into effect in 2019.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that repealing the mandate will reduce government spending by $300 billion over 10 years; however, it will increase premiums by 10 percent and raise the number of uninsured people to 13 million in that same timeframe.

Some GOP lawmakers and Trump believe that the elimination of the mandate is the beginning of dismantling the ACA, a measure they were unable to pass in a repeal-and-replace bill a few months ago.

Senate Majority Whip: Mandate Repeal Makes ACA ‘Unworkable’

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate’s Majority Whip, said the repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate could push Democrats into negotiations to replace the law.

“Arguably, doing away with the individual mandate makes the Affordable Care Act unworkable—not that it was particularly great beforehand. Hopefully this will precipitate the bipartisan negotiation on what we need to do as an alternative,” Cornyn said.

House and Senate Clash Over ACA Stabilization Bills

House Republicans are pushing back against a Senate plan to attach the Alexander-Murray stabilization bill that funds cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments in a year-end spending package.

The clash between House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could cause a government shutdown if not resolved by the end of the week.

McConnell made a promise to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) that the Alexander-Murray bill would be included in the spending package. Conservative Republican House members want to add abortion prohibition language into the CSR-funding bill, which Senate Democrats oppose.

It’s unclear how Ryan intends to negotiate a solution. Negotiations are ongoing.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 18, 2017

Some States Weighing Whether to Implement Individual Mandates

With congressional Republicans prepared to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in their tax reform legislation, some states are weighing state-level measures.

Democratic-leaning states such as California, Connecticut, and Maryland are beginning to create strategies to preserve the law that all Americans have health coverage or face a penalty.

  • In California, the chief executive of Covered California recently floated the idea of a state mandate as one of several possibilities to help stabilize the state’s marketplace.
  • In Connecticut, Democratic officials considered the option during a recent meeting with four state legislators.
  • Maryland Senator Brian Feldman said, “I’m fairly confident there will be a bill if the tax plan results in a repeal of the individual mandate.”
  • Officials in Washington and New Jersey are exploring whether their states would implement individual mandates.
  • Massachusetts is the only state that has an individual mandate already in place.

Federal Judge Blocks Order Against Contraception Coverage

A U.S. judge in Pennsylvania on Friday ordered the Trump administration not to enforce a new rule that would expand the types of employers that could claim a religious or moral objection to providing birth control for employees.

Judge Wendy Beetlestone temporarily halted the law, which overrode an Affordable Care Act provision that most employers provide contraception at no cost. The judge’s injunction said that the new rule puts employers’ religious beliefs over women’s constitutional rights.

Her ruling is in effect while the case brought by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro moves forward in the courts.

Medical Device Trade Group Pushes Lifting ACA Tax

The CEO of a medical device trade group wrote Congress last week asking that the Affordable Care Act’s device tax be delayed.

The 2.3 percent tax is scheduled to go into effect January 1, unless Congress includes the delay in its end-of-year spending package. The House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a five-year delay.

“Addressing the device tax now will provide medical technology innovators with the certainty necessary to support future job growth and sustainable, cutting-edge R&D that will ultimately lead to the next generation of breakthroughs in patient care and treatment,” wrote Scott Whitaker, CEO of AdvaMed.

Prolife Groups Urge Congress to Amend Stabilization Bills

Anti-abortion groups, including Susan B. Anthony List and National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), are asking lawmakers to revise the language in the two bipartisan healthcare stabilization bills that are expected to be in the end-of-the-year spending deal.

The groups want assurance that the bills specifically stipulate that funds will not be used on health plans that cover abortion. The requests primarily refer to the Alexander-Murray bill, which extends cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments. The NRLC also would like to add the restrictions to the Collins-Nelson reinsurance bill.

CSRs already include the provision that the funds can’t be used to cover abortions, but the prolife groups don’t believe the language is adequate.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 15, 2017

ACA Enrollees Who Receive Hold Messages Can Still Get Coverage

Some consumers who call the federal exchange phone line to sign up for coverage by today’s deadline may receive a message that says a representative will return the call.

The last-minute surge of consumers has caused hold times to grow. Today’s enrollees who need to wait for a callback will still be able to receive coverage that goes into effect January 1.

Health Groups Ask States to Override Trump’s ACA Executive Order

Several healthcare groups have written a letter to state insurance commissioners urging them to override an executive order from President Donald Trump that seeks to expand short-term insurance plans.

The letter warns that extending cheaper, short-term plans from three months to one year would lead to “higher premiums for consumers, particularly those with pre-existing conditions.”

Members of the coalition who wrote the letter include the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and America’s Health Insurance Plans.

California State Exchange Extends Deadline for ACA Plans

Covered California announced Thursday that healthcare enrollees now have until December 22 to sign up for coverage that starts January 1. Formerly, the deadline was today.

Enrollment in the state exchange continues through January 31. California consumers who sign up after December 22 will receive coverage that starts February 1 at the earliest.

Healthcare Enrollment for Florida Residents Extended

Due to damage caused by Hurricane Irma, most residents of Florida have been given an extended deadline of December 31 to sign up on the federal healthcare exchange.

To receive the extension, Florida residents must call the exchange to request it. Enrollment counselors in the state recommend using navigators, also called enrollment counselors, to help streamline the process.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 14, 2017

Study: ACA Helped Millions Gain Access

The Affordable Care Act has had a direct impact in increasing access to medical care, particularly in states that expanded Medicaid eligibility, according to a new report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund.

Some of the findings in the report include:

  • The uninsured rate for adults declined in all states between 2013 and 2016, with 47 states seeing at least a 5 percent drop.
  • The largest reduction of people who delayed care due to cost concerns was most pronounced in states that expanded Medicaid and launched significant enrollment efforts.
  • In Oregon, the percentage of people who delayed care due to costs was cut in half from 35 percent to 17 percent.
  • The percentage of those at risk of being in poor health who had not seen a doctor in at least two years was reduced in 37 states.
  • The largest coverage gains were seen in California, with uninsured working-age adults dropping from 24 percent to 10 percent.
  • Children’s uninsured rates declined by at least two percentage points in 33 states.

GOP Compromise Tax Bill Retains Repeal of ACA Individual Mandate

A compromise tax bill from Senate and House negotiators would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all Americans have health coverage or pay a penalty.

Also, the bill would lower the amount consumers need to spend on health-related costs before deducting those costs. Under the bill, the amount would be 7.5 percent of the consumer’s income, instead of the current 10 percent.

The new bill now moves to both houses of Congress for approval.

More Than 1 Million Sign Up in Week 6 of ACA Enrollment

During the sixth week of the Open Enrollment Period, the federal healthcare exchange signed up more than 1 million people, including 389,000 new enrollees. That surpasses the 823,000 signups from the previous week.

Overall, more than 4.7 million people have signed up for 2018 plans on the federal healthcare exchange.

Maryland Extends ACA Enrollment to December 22

Maryland’s state-run healthcare marketplace has extended its enrollment deadline from December 15 to December 22.

“While enrollments have been very strong so far this year, we want to ensure that everyone in Maryland in need of 2018 health coverage has additional time to shop and enroll,” Howard Haft, interim executive director for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, said in a statement.

Alabama Senate Election Result May Curtail ACA Repeal Efforts

The election of Alabama Democrat Doug Jones to the Senate this week might have hindered the GOP’s plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2018.

Jones reduced the Republican majority in the Senate to a slim 51-49. With the failure to pass a repeal effort over the summer due to the opposing votes of three GOP senators, the chances of future success have been greatly reduced.

Even with the smaller margin, the Trump administration said on Wednesday that it would like Congress to continue with ACA repeal efforts next year.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 13, 2017

Senate Democrats Ask for ACA Enrollment Deadline Extension

Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have asked the Trump administration to extend the healthcare enrollment deadline to January 31.

The senators argue that the administration’s decision to cut the Open Enrollment Period in half compared to previous years is not enough time for people to enroll.

“The Administration’s decision to depart from years of agency policy by ending Open Enrollment on December 15th is compounded by the many other efforts by this Administration to destabilize the insurance market, making it likely that many consumers miss this deadline and forgo insurance next year — all despite clear indications that consumers are highly interested in seeking coverage for 2018,” the senators wrote.

Neither the Trump administration or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) gave any indication whether an extension would be granted.

“The deadline for people to shop and pick a plan for the upcoming year is December 15. We continue to encourage people to make plan selections by that deadline so that their coverage can begin on January 1,” a CMS spokesman said.

Actuaries: Mandate Repeal Would Damage the Marketplace

The American Academy of Actuaries sent a letter to Congress saying that a repeal of the ACA’s individual mandate will raise premiums and cause people with individual insurance to lose coverage.

The tax overhaul bill currently being reconciled by House and Senate leaders includes the repeal of the provision that levies a fine to individuals who do not have health coverage.

The group says the two proposed stabilization measures would not be able to offset the damage that a repeal would trigger in the health insurance market.

“Insurers would likely reconsider their future participation in the market. This could lead to severe market disruption and loss of coverage among individual market enrollees,” according to the letter.

House Committee Unveils Bills to Delay ACA Taxes

Republican members of the House Ways and Means Committee released several bills on Tuesday that delay or halt some Affordable Care Act taxes and lift the employer mandate. The proposed rollbacks are separate from the tax overhaul bill currently being reconciled.

The bills’ recommendations include:

  • Delaying the medical device tax for five years.
  • Halting the 2018 health insurance tax (HIT) to insurers that provide premium rebates.
  • Halting HIT for all insurers in 2019.
  • Lifting the employer mandate retroactively for the past three years and for 2018.
  • Delaying the “Cadillac” tax for one year.
  • Temporarily lifting the ban on paying for over-the-counter drugs from health savings account funds.

Credit Report Freeze Can Cause a Holdup in ACA Enrollment Process

Consumers who put security freezes on their credit reports this year may experience a delay in the enrollment processon the federal healthcare exchange.

During enrollment on the website, users are asked to confirm their identities via questions that are tied to their credit histories. If there is a freeze on their credit data, applicants may have to call a marketplace help desk or call center before being able to continue with enrollment.

Instead of suspending the freeze on their credit reports, consumers can upload or mail in documents to the exchange.

In the event of an identity glitch, consumers should be able to complete the enrollment process as long as they start their applications before the December 15 enrollment deadline.

Lawmakers Ask to End ACA Program Operating in Only One State

Representative Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) have called for the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s Multi-State Plan program.

The program requires that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) contract with two national health plans to compete with existing state plans. Only Arkansas is scheduled to participate in 2018.

Johnson said in a statement: “The program has failed to meet statutory requirements and is diverting necessary resources from what should be the OPM’s priorities, such as retirement and security backlogs. Congress needs to let the OPM focus on its job, eliminate this failed program and work to ensure healthcare is more affordable for all Americans.”

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 12, 2017

ACA Funding for Community Health Centers Extended by HRSA

Several community health centers that received funding through a provision of the Affordable Care Act have had their funding extended by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Funding for the centers expired September 30 and has yet to be renewed by Congress. To help cover the shortfall, the HRSA will provide funding from fiscal 2018 discretionary appropriations and remaining mandatory funds. This will continue on a month-to-month basis until the program is reauthorized or the funds run out.

HRSA sent funds for January and February to the 25 percent of community health centers that have grant periods beginning January 1. The agency plans to soon send out one month of funding to the 17 percent of community health centers that have grant periods beginning February 1.

Healthcare Enrollment Sees Small Glitch in Illinois, Final Push From Obama

Some consumers in Illinois received an erroneous message Monday when they tried to sign up on the website in the final week of Open Enrollment.

The website incorrectly generated a message that said health plans were not available in the area. The computer glitch occurred after enrollees completed their application for government subsidies.

Despite the error, the federal exchange website has operated efficiently for users throughout the Open Enrollment Period.

To help draw more people to the federal exchange, former President Barack Obama joined healthcare navigators and volunteers on a conference call to help encourage their efforts.

“So far, we’ve gotten more people covered this year than in past years, which is incredible given that there’s been so little advertising or outreach from some official quarters to remind people when and how they should get covered,” Obama said.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 11, 2017

ACA Enrollment Enters Final Week

The last day for consumers to sign up for healthcare coverage on the federal exchange ends Friday. Those seeking coverage must be enrolled by midnight (Pacific time) December 15.

Due to disruption from recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida, people in affected areas can get a deadline extension to December 31.

Typically, the final week is one of the busiest, but the Trump administration has said little about any contingency plans.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has not announced if it will continue an Obama administration policy of creating a grace period for people who started an application prior to the deadline but didn’t complete it in time. In prior years, this extension enabled hundreds of thousands to receive coverage.

Heavy traffic could lead to delays on the website, but so far there have been no reported problems.

Government Shutdown Could Hinge on Extending CSR Payments

The Alexander-Murray stabilization bill, which extends cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers for two years, has become an issue in avoiding a government shutdown.

Congress is negotiating a spending package to keep the government funded past December 22. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wants to include Alexander-Murray in the spending bill as part of a promise made to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) for her vote on the tax overhaul bill.

But Republicans in the House aren’t interested in including the Alexander-Murray bill in the measure. “None of us voted in favor of Obamacare, so supporting it, sustaining it’s not exactly a high objective,” said Representative Tom Cole (R-OK.).

If the Senate includes Alexander-Murray in the spending package, it could cause a legislative stalemate that would trigger a shutdown.

ACA’s ‘Cadillac Tax’ Slowing Bipartisan Healthcare Negotiations

The ACA’s so-called Cadillac tax has become an obstacle in Congress’ attempt to delay certain healthcare taxes before the end of the year.

The Cadillac tax is a 40 percent excise tax on employer plans exceeding $10,200 in premiums per year for individuals and $27,500 for families. It’s currently scheduled to begin in 2020.

Democrats want to include delaying the Cadillac tax into the year-end spending package. Republicans prefer the delay of only the healthcare insurance tax and medical device tax, which go into effect in 2018. Negotiations are ongoing.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 8, 2017

House Lawmakers Consider the Fate of ACA Taxes

Republican tax writers in the House are in discussions about delaying or suspending the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance tax (HIT), medical device tax, and the “Cadillac” tax as part of a year-end government funding bill.

Lawmakers are considering suspending HIT for all markets in 2019 but delaying it in limited markets next year. However, small businesses and private Medicare plans would still be subject to HIT in 2018.

HIT charges a 4-to-6 percent tax on every insurance plan sold. It can raise premium rates by up to 2.6 percent.

House lawmakers would also like to delay the ACA’s medical tax device tax for two years and the ACA’s Cadillac tax, which is a 40 percent excise tax on employer-funded health insurance plans that cost more than $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 7, 2017

Bipartisan ACA Bills Reduce Health Plan Premiums

If two bipartisan ACA stabilization bills are enacted, health insurance premiums for 2019 would be reduced by 18 percent, according to an analysis by Avalere Health.

The Alexander-Murray bill, which would fund cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers for two years and increase flexibility for states to change ACA rules, would reduce premiums by 14 percent. The Collins-Nelson bill, which would provide funding for reinsurance, would reduce premiums by 4 percent.

If the ACA individual mandate is repealed in the tax overhaul bill, these reductions would help offset an expected 10 percent premium increase.

The bills may be included in an end-of-year government spending package, but support for the measures is not clear.

On Wednesday, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) said he’d be open to supporting the Alexander-Murray bill if Senate Democrats would agree to back increased defense spending.

ACA Plans Showing Profitability

Many insurers will see a profit on ACA plans for the first time, according to a Politico analysis of 31 regional Blue Cross Blue Shield plans.

On average, insurance companies spent 78 percent of their premium revenue on medical claims through September 2017, which is seven points over the break-even threshold.

The turnaround comes after three years of losses. In 2015 and 2016, carriers lost more than $12 billion, which resulted in many leaving the federal exchange marketplace.

ACA Enrollments Increase in Week 5

Healthcare sign-ups on the federal exchange during the fifth week of Open Enrollment outpaced the previous week, but overall numbers may be down from last year.

For the week of November 26, there were 823,180 sign-ups compared to 504,181 for the week of November 19. There were 271,207 new enrollees compared to 152,243 in the prior week.

Overall enrollment during this year’s Open Enrollment Period totals about 3.6 million people. That is about half the number of sign-ups during a comparable point from last year, according to Avalere Health.

With only one week left to enroll, experts expect this year’s final numbers to decrease 20 percent from last year’s 9.2 million sign-ups.

California State Exchange Enrollment Increases 28

Covered California has currently signed up more than 102,000 new enrollees, which is a 28 percent increase over last year. In addition, almost 400,000 existing California consumers have switched coverage for 2018. The state’s Open Enrollment Period ends January 31.

Consumers Using Supplemental Coverage as Health Insurance

With rising premium costs making plans unaffordable to some consumers, many brokers are selling a combination of supplemental packages as an alternative.

Even though the mix-and-match supplemental approach does not give full coverage and is not exempt from the ACA’s individual mandate penalty, some consumers find it an affordable option.

Brokers are typically combining fixed-benefit indemnity, critical illness, and drug discount cards to help families have a minimum amount of health coverage for around $900 to $1,000 a month.

Though consumers may find the option attractive, in many cases purchasing a marketplace plan would have a lower premium, fewer out-of-pocket expenses, and provide full coverage.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 6, 2017

Repeal of Individual Mandate Sees Strong Push in House

As the tax overhaul bills from the Senate and House are being reconciled, the House Republican Study Committee(RSC) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) are pushing to assure inclusion of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

The Senate version of the bill includes the repeal, the House version does not. A committee will reconcile the differences in the two bills and merge them into a single bill.

On Tuesday, the RSC sent a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee urging for the repeal. “Including language to repeal this harmful policy will return personal decisions about health care choices to patients, fulfilling a key promise we have made to the American people,” the group wrote.

Also on Tuesday, Brady said the repeal is popular in the House. “We’ll be asking our members where do they want us to be on that position. I suspect there will be strong support,” he said.

Support of Stabilization Bills Not Guaranteed in House Vote

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on Monday that he has not entered into an agreement to support two bipartisan bills that could help stabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) that the two measures would be included in an end-of-month government funding bill. Support in the House is now unclear.

One stabilization bill extends cost-sharing reduction subsidy payments to insurers for two years and gives states flexibility to change ACA rules. The other provides two years of funding for reinsurance, which “helps pay for the costs of sick ObamaCare enrollees with the intent of bringing down premiums.”

Adding to doubts about passage, the House Freedom Caucus expressed its opposition to the bills last week, and Representative Tom Cole (R-OK) said Monday that there were not enough votes in the House to pass the measures.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 5, 2017

Funding for Reinsurance Bill Grows by $5.5 Billion

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) announced that she has increased the amount of funding for the reinsurance bill she authored with Bill Nelson (D-FL) from $4.5 billion to $10 billion over two years.

The bill sets aside funds to reimburse insurance companies for customers with the biggest medical problems.

“We know from experiences in the states of Maine and Alaska that high-risk pools can help to lower premiums substantially — by an average of 20 percent,” Collins said in a statement.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised Collins that he would add the reinsurance measure to an end-of-year spending bill in exchange for her vote for the tax overhaul bill.

Collins raised the funding amount in response the tax bill, which repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the repeal would cause 4 million people not to have insurance in 2019 and would raise premiums 10 percent.

Poll: ACA Individual Mandate Supported by Majority of Well-Informed Voters

A recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that even though the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is the least popular part of the law, a majority of voters support it once they understand how the provision works.

Previous polling showed that 42 percent of voters supported the mandate that requires all Americans to have health coverage. But opinions rose when told of the impact from a repeal.

  • When told that people with insurance from employers, Medicare, or Medicaid already have coverage required by the mandate, support rose to 62 percent.
  • When told that repeal would increase premiums by 10 percent, support rose to 60 percent.
  • When told that 13 million Americans would lose coverage, support rose to 59 percent.
  • When told that low-income people who can’t afford coverage do not have to pay the penalty, support rose to 59 percent.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 4, 2017

Senate Passes Elimination of Individual Mandate

Republicans in the Senate narrowly passed a tax overhaul bill early Saturday that includes the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all Americans have health coverage or pay a penalty.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the repeal of the individual mandate would cause insurance premiums to rise. It would leave about 13 million people without health insurance coverage.

The bill will go through a reconcile process with the House, which is expected to be completed sometime next week.

Healthcare Reform News Update for December 1, 2017

Health Plans for 2018 More Restrictive, Have Higher Deductibles

Seventy-three percent of 2018 health plans sold on the federal exchange have more restrictive networks and an average deductible of almost $4,000, according to a new analysis from Avalere.

The percentage of health plans on the marketplace that use restrictive Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) or Exclusive Provider Organizations (EPOs) has risen significantly over the past three years. In 2015, 54 percent of plans were HMOs or EPOs; in 2017, it was 68 percent.

HMOs and EPOs limit coverage to exclusive in-network providers and specialists, whereas Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) and Point of Service (POS) plans offer broader coverage.

Deductibles for silver plans have also risen. In 2015, the average deductible was $3,703; for 2018, it’s $3,937. Deductibles for bronze plans have dropped over the past three years, mostly as a consequence of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments for lower-income consumers. Platinum plan deductibles have also lowered.

“For the most popular exchange plans, we see an increase in deductibles for 2018. This trend helps reduce premium costs but may increase what consumers must pay out-of-pocket for their care,” said Avalere Senior Vice President Elizabeth Carpenter.

House Conservatives Against Marketplace Stabilization Bills

Some conservative Republican members of the House said they probably would not support a short-term spending billif it contains provisions to stabilize the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

In a deal reached this week between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), bipartisan bills that extend cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments for insurers and provide funds for state reinsurance programs would be included in the spending bill in exchange for Collins’ vote for the tax overhaul bill.

House conservatives believe the stabilization efforts are bailouts to insurance companies and the measure wouldn’t pass in a House vote. “For me, I think probably largely for many of our members, that doesn’t make sense. I wouldn’t be supportive of that,” said Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH).

Enrollment for CT State Exchange Equals Last Year’s

Connecticut’s state-run health exchange program, Access Health CT, estimates that it will have about the same number of enrollees as last year.

CEO Jim Wadleigh estimates that final enrollment numbers will be between 105,000 and 110,000. Currently, about 101,000 people have signed up for 2018 coverage.

Open enrollment for Access Health CT ends December 22. Thank for visiting Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December, 2017, You can have more information about Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update for December at Small Insurance Companies. Visit for more about Life Insurance Health Care Reform News Update.

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