Charles Gaba's blog

OK, kind of a snarky headline I realize. This is actually a very good article by the Washington Post's Jason Millman, which goes beyond the actual number of people newly added to the Medicaid rolls since January thanks to the Affordable Care Act (by my count it's up to around either 6.5 million or 9.7 million, depending on whether you include "woodworkers" or not), but the quality of that coverage.

The good news is that, unsurprisingly, people are pretty relieved to finally have decent healthcare coverage, in many cases for the first time in their lives:

Pop Quiz: You're writing (or editing) a news story about a GAO report regarding the security situation at Healthcare.Gov. Which of these passages from the article do you choose for your big, bold-faced headline?

OK, this one doesn't fall so much into the "another ACA attack debunked!" category as the "vastly overblown" category:

Narrow networks were a popular health insurance option on the exchanges in the first enrollment period, with half of all plans for individuals offering limited groups of lower-cost providers, and new research shows consumers generally aren't griping about the products.

...Health insurers have said the healthcare reform law is spurring them to offer more narrow networks, which they say save them money and lead to lower monthly premiums in exchange for a smaller number of in-network hospitals and physicians.

After speaking with several state officials and insurers that offer exchange plans, researchers found that few consumer complaints have emerged to date about the networks' offerings.

“Insurance companies calculated that consumers would be willing to trade greater provider access for lower premiums, and to a large extent, our research confirms that,” said Sabrina Corlette, the report's lead author, in a statement.

This is really just a confirmation of an entry from 3 weeks ago, but this time I have more specifics on the premium changes at hand in New Mexico:

Among the five insurance carriers participating in the exchange, premiums will drop on average by 7 percent at Molina Healthcare, 1.5 percent at New Mexico Health Connections and 1 percent at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Insurance.

The highest, lowest and roughly mid-range monthly payments for HMO health insurance plans offered by companies participating in the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. The payments are based on charges for a 50-year-old, non-smoking resident of the Albuquerque metro area for 2015. For more information, go to the exchange website atwww.bewellnm.com.

Premiums will be unchanged at Presbyterian Health Plan. The fifth insurance carrier participating in the exchange, Christus Health Plan, is in its first year.

Whew! The Invisible Hand of the Free Market sure is giving its middle finger a thorough workout today...

Obamacare’s small business exchanges offer cheaper health coverage, study shows

Rates are lower on the new marketplaces than in the private market

...Health plans available to small businesses on the law’s new health marketplaces are on average about 7 percent cheaper than comparable plans offered elsewhere, according to analysis conducted by a team of researchers at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. For middle-tier plans, for instance, the disparity translates into about $220 in annual premium savings for plans purchased on the SHOP exchanges.

Wow! And why is this the case, you may be asking?

This one comes to us from that bastion of Socialist-Communist-Pinko thinking known as...Forbes.com:

State Farm, Blue Cross Partner To Sell Obamacare Policies

Bringing together two of the best-known brands in insurance, State Farm said it would partner with Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in five states to sell Blues brand individual medical policies when signup begins in November for private coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The relationship will marshal an army of more than 3,300 State Farm agents to sell Blue Cross plans in Illinois, Texas, Montana, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Financial terms of the deal between State Farm and Health Care Service Corp., the parent of the five Blues plans, weren’t disclosed but executives said State Farm offices, known better for their auto and home insurance offerings, will begin to offer individual health insurance policies beginning Nov. 15 for coverage that will begin as early as Jan. 1, 2015.

Back in May, you may recall that I called attention to an appallingly offensive and cruel law which the Michigan state legislature (fully controlled by the Republican Party) passed which effectively subjects up to 200 rape victims per year to cruel & unusual punishment (and/or a $500 fine) for the "crime" of being, you know, raped:

As humiliating and degrading as the "rape insurance" law is, as Michigan political blog Eclectablog notes, it actually gets far worse, because:

At first glance, my headline above might seem to have a typo; according to the story itself, the actual increase is a whopping...1.18%, nearly a full percent higher! Busted, right?

Health insurance premiums next year will increase only about 1.18 percent on average statewide next year.

That’s according to the Colorado Division of Insurance after it reviewed and approved 1,072 health insurance plans from 20 carriers that will offer health coverage to consumers and small businesses next year.

However, when I read the actual report from the Colorado Insurance Division, it's even better than that:

A must-read piece by LOLGOP over at Eclectablog (which in turn cites the Washington Post and, full disclosure, this site as well):

None of the nine Deep South states with the highest rates of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses — Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — has opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Those states also have the highest fatality rates from HIV in the country, according to the coalition.

Not expanding Medicaid is literally helping spread HIV.

“People who don’t have Medicaid or other health-care coverage rarely visit primary-care doctors and aren’t getting tested for HIV, according to Michael Saag, an HIV/AIDS researcher with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine,” Wiltz explains.

Yeah, yeah, I know...least-shocking headline of the day, right?

Ever since the 2014 ACA open enrollment period ended in April and the hoopla over this site and my bean-counting died down, I've been wondering whether what I'm doing here is still relevant. After all, as I noted many times last winter/spring, I never intended on keeping the site live and active this long; my original plan was to shut it down sometime in late April, Mission Accomplished and all that.

However, stories like this one reassure me that the need for up-to-date, accurate information regarding ACA data is still alive and well.

David Ramsey of the Arkansas Times reports:

Paul Ryan Admits That The GOP Plans To Win The Senate and Take Healthcare Away From Millions

"I’d go back to the pre-Obamacare baseline is what I would do. I think that’s the way to go. We shouldn’t assume we’re going to have an explosive entitlement then replace it with our own. I would start over again, quite frankly."

What Ryan was suggesting is that if Republicans take control of the Senate, they are going to begin the process of repealing Obamacare. The real target date that Republicans have in mind is 2017. If Republicans control Congress and win the presidency, they will be able to repeal the ACA and replace it with a voucher system.

A Health Care Success Story

Pretty minor Oregon update today, with no Medicaid update and total QHPs up around 800; the main significance is that the net QHP enrollment, having gradually dropped every week since around mid-July, has leveled off at 78,616 for the past 2 weeks:

Medical enrollments through Cover Oregon: 354,291
Total private medical insurance enrollments through Cover Oregon: 101,909

Oregon Health Plan enrollments through Cover Oregon: 252,362*

*OHP enrollment data is current as of August 13, 2014. An updated number will be posted soon.

Dental enrollments 
Total private dental insurance enrollments through CoverOregon 1: 20,686

Net enrollments 
Net private medical: 78,616
Net private dental: 14,195

This means that Oregon's net attrition rate since July 14, which I had down as 2.5% per month, is now down to just 2.1% monthly.

This Just In...

77 new health insurance issuers means greater choice and competition for consumers

A report released today by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that consumers will have more choices as they shop for quality, affordable coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015, because there will be a net 25 percent increase in the number of issuers offering Marketplace coverage in 2015.  In total, 77 new issuers will offer Marketplace coverage. 

“When consumers have more choices, we all benefit,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell.  “In terms of affordability, access, and quality, today’s news is very encouraging.  It’s a real sign that the Affordable Care Act is working.”

Today’s report examines preliminary data from 36 states run or fully supported by the federal government (Federal Marketplace) plus eight states operating State-based Marketplaces, and finds that a larger set of insurance issuers will offer plans in the Marketplaces in 2015.  Specifically:

(sigh) I debated whether to respond to the latest nonsense spewed forth by FOX News' Jim Angle (he's their "chief national correspondent", don'cha know?), since I've already pre-debunked (pre-bunked??) pretty much every mouse pellet that he drops in this article, but what the hell:

President Obama’s claim last spring that 8 million people had enrolled in ObamaCare recently got a significant downgrade from the head of the agency overseeing the plan.

  • STOP: No one enrolls "in" ObamaCare. They enroll in either a commercial healthcare policy via a healthcare exchange providede for by the Affordable Care Act or they enroll in Medicaid or CHIP thanks to provisions within the Affordable Care Act.
  • No, Tavenner did not give a "significant downgrade". She was actually quite happy (and rightly so) to report that a good 90% or so of ACA QHP enrollees have paid their first month's premium and continue to do so from month to month.

Go on...

OK, I suppose there have been worse U.S. Senate candidates in the past, and it's conceivable that there are worse ones this year thrown in by one major party or the other as "Some Dude®" sacrificial lambs in deep Red or Blue states. However, Terri Lynn Land is certainly the worst "serious" contender this cycle that I can think of.

Anyway, Land, who somehow managed to win statewide office twice as Michigan's SOS in the past, has apparently decided that 630,000 of her potential constituents shouldn't have decent, affordable healthcare coverage, so she's signed a pledge vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

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