About 5 weeks ago I noted that organizations representing pretty much the entire healthcare industry sent urgent letters to Donald Trump, HHS Secretary Tom Price, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, OMB Director Mick Mulveney and current CMS Administrator Seema Verma...basically, every major healthcare-related administration figure...practically begging them to fund the goddamned Cost Sharing Reduction reimbursements.
They made it crystal clear how vitally important doing this was, and Trump grudgingly went ahead and made the April payment, then later indicated that he was "probably" going to keep reimbursing carriers for the CSR funds legally owed to them on an ongoing basis, at least until the House vs. Price (formerly House vs. Burwell) lawsuit appeal process was completed.
Health insurers and state officials say Trump is undermining Obamacare, pushing up rates
Health insurers across the country are making plans to dramatically raise Obamacare premiums or exit marketplaces amid growing exasperation with the Trump administration’s erratic management, inconsistent guidance and seeming lack of understanding of basic healthcare issues.
At the same time, state insurance regulators — both Democrat and Republican — have increasingly concluded they cannot count on the Trump administration to help them ensure that consumers will have access to a health plan next year.
As noted in my last post, it turns out that if the CBO score of the final version of the AHCA (that is, the one which passed two weeks ago) doesn't project the law to save at least $2 billion over a 10 year period, the House Republicans would have to start over again from scratch and re-vote on yet another version of their bill.
Now, the good news for them is that the CBO projected the prior version to save $150.3 billion over that period, so they have $148.3 billion worth of wiggle room, right? What are the odds of the CBO's new projection assuming that the passed version would eat up that much more money?
The key is does CBO assume lots of states waive benefits/community rating, and lots of healthy people use tax credits for skimpy insurance. https://t.co/vLx28MT5Bv
Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch says he could support delaying the repeal of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate for a while, or even indefinitely, as a way to stabilize the marketplaces. "I wouldn't mind" postponing the repeal until after 2020, he told reporters this afternoon. "It all comes down to budgetary concerns and how it's going to be written." And he didn't rule out keeping it even longer:
"I'd like to not have it at all, but you know, it all comes down to, what's the art of the doable?"
A few days ago, CMS announced that they're retooling the ACA's SHOP program (at least on the federal exchange) so that instead of small businesses using HealthCare.Gov for eligibility verification, enrollment and payments, going forward it will only be used for verification, with the businesses then being kicked over to the actual insurance carrier website in order to actually enroll in the policies and make payments.
Although the Trump Administration and HHS Secretary Tom Price are hell bent on killing off the ACA altogether, this move didn't bother me for several reasons. For one thing, the SHOP program has always been kind of a dud anyway, with only around 230,000 people being enrolled in it nationally. For another, a business signing up their employees for coverage is a very different animal from an individual signing their family up for a policy. Finally, for several reasons, SHOP enrollment across the dozen or so state-based exchanges is actually higher than it is across the 3 dozen states covered by HC.gov, and the state-based exchanges aren't impacted by this policy anyway.
Julie McPeak is the Tennessee Insurance Commissioner. She was appointed by a Republican Governor, Bill Haslam, and while the position itself appears to be nonpartisan, I've found several links indicating that yes, she's a Republican herself. This is hardly surprising in Tennessee, of course, and there's nothing wrong with it...but it's noteworthy given that Tennessee is among the 19 states which has been fairly hostile towards the ACA in general over the years (no state exchange, no Medicaid expansion, total GOP control and so forth).
Assuming this ratio hasn't shifted much over the past 8 years, around 28% of the total U.S. population are mothers,
Of course, women over 64 (mostly on Medicare) are much more likely than the general population to be mothers...but girls under 18 are far less likely to be (well...under 16, anyway...the birth rate varies from state to state, of course), so I'm assuming that these cancel each other out, resulting in that 28% rate being roughly accurate.
Senate Republicans are working on a potential breakthrough that could help push through an Obamacare repeal bill – by making insurance subsidies look a lot like Obamacare.
There’s growing support for the idea of pegging the tax credits in the House repeal bill to income and making aid more generous for poorer people. But those moves — while they may win consensus among Senate moderates — are unlikely to sit well with House conservatives.
The financial assistance in the House bill “is just not robust enough to make sure that low-income individuals can actually afford a [health] plan,” said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.). “If you bring those income limits down for people who really need the help, you can give them more help.”
I'm not sure what the original source for this is, but the following initial filing deadlines were provided by Stephen Holland via Twitter. I've already posted analyses of the Virginia, Maryland and Connecticut filings. The California and Oregon filings are supposed to have been submitted already but don't appear to be publicly available yet. In addition, it's my understanding that in many states the rates can still be adjusted/resubmitted until as late as August 16th, so I'm not really sure how useful these dates are anyway, but it's at least a guideline.
May 11, 2017 - 21% Of U.S. Voters Approve Of Revised GOP Health Plan, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Voters Reject Trump Tax Plan Almost 2-1
Only 21 percent of American voters approve of the Republican health care plan passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last week, a slight improvement over the 17 percent who approved of the first health care plan in March, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Overall, the current health plan goes down 56 - 21 percent.
Apparently throwing $8 billion (over 5 years) to the junk pile gave it a 4 point increase. I wonder what would happen if they restored the $840 billion (over 10 year) that the bill takes away from Medicaid?
Except for an anemic 48 - 16 percent support among Republicans, every listed party, gender, educational, age and racial group opposes the plan, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN- uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds.
To summarize: For months now I've been predicting/warning that regardless of whatever legitimate risk pool issues the ACA exchanges may still be having in many parts of the country which could lead to significant rate 2018 rate hikes no matter what, there's the additional Fear/Uncertainty/Doubt factor which is being deliberately created by Donald Trump, Tom Price and the Congressional GOP. Insurance carriers hate uncertainty above all else, and I've been expecting them to do one of two things as the 2018 rate filing deadlines approach: Either jack their rates up significantly to cover themeselves for the unholy mess brewing ahead...or to simply get out of Dodge by either dropping out of the exchanges or fleeing the entire individual market altogether, on & off exchange. Most likely, I've been saying, it'll be a combination of both.
There are so many stories I could be writing right now about the fallout, potential fallout, next steps and so forth of yesterday's House vote on the AHCA. But this one in particular really says it all.
Watch: Chris Collins admits he didn't read health care bill
WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins told CNN that he didn't read the entire Republican health care bill that the House passed Thursday.
And then he told The Buffalo News that he was unaware of a key provision in the bill that decimates a health plan that serves 635,000 New Yorkers.
Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer if he had read the entire health bill, Collins, R-Clarence, said: "I will fully admit, Wolf, that I did not. But I can also assure you my staff did. We have to rely on our staff. ... I'm very comfortable that we have a solution to the disaster called Obamacare."
Welp. I've done everything I can to help stop them, but it looks like the House Republicans have decided to go ahead and vote on their big ol' dumpster fire of a bill after all.
No CBO score. No review. No debate. No transparency. No time for anyone to read the bill. Everything they falsely accused the Democrats of 7-8 years ago (yes, I gave a range of 7-8 years, because there was a solid year of debate, discussion, meetings, arguments and so forth before the final votes were cast).
Maybe they'll pull it off. Maybe they won't. If it passes the House, what'll happen to it in the Senate? Who the hell knows, but the fact remains that anyone who votes for this piece of crap doesn't deserve to hold office any more than the racist, misogynistic, xenophobic con-artist moronic pussy-grabbing asshole who leads their party.
Back in January, I wrote a long rant about High Risk Pools. The general thrust was that in theory HRPs aren't necessarily a horrible idea; on paper they can be made to work...assuming the math adds up and they're properly funded on a permanent basis.
However, I also pointed out that due to the very nature of HRPs (i.e., segregating out a small, highly vulnerable group of people from the rest of society), it's incredibly easy for legislators not to properly fund or maintain them, especially after the initial funding comes up for renewal.
The latest iteration of the AHCA is supposedly being scheduled for a vote (for real, this time) sometime this week. The pressure is high on both sides, the whip counts are bouncing around, the tension is palpable, etc etc.
The first time around, the biggest tug-of-war was over Medicaid expansion. This time, the major issue seems to be Pre-Existing Condition coverage...and along with it, Guaranteed Issue and Essential Health Benefits; the three have to be pretty much joined at the hip, since removing one effectively makes the other two pointless in practice. It doesn't do most people much good to be told that yes, they'll be covered even if they have cancer if that coverage is gonna cost them $50,000/month.
Anyway, people are furiously scrambling to call their member of Congress and lighting up social media spreading the word...while Donald Trump, MIke Pence and Paul Ryan are running around DC desperately trying to squeak out 216 "Yes" votes from the Republican caucus.
JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about health care -- Tucker Carlson interviewed you about six weeks ago when you were in the middle of health care negotiations. And you agreed with him that the health care bill wasn't going to help your supporters. That those who lived in rural areas, the older, were going to get hurt by that bill. And you told him--
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me, the health care bill is going to help my supporters.
"F*ck anyone who didn't support me, though."
JOHN DICKERSON: Well, hold on. Let me just finish the question, if I may, sir--
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Otherwise, I'm not going to sign it. I'm not going to do it.
JOHN DICKERSON: Well, this is why I wanted to ask you. You said to Tucker, "We will take care of our people, or I am not signing it." You said you were going to negotiate.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, that's what I just said.
JOHN DICKERSON: So tell me what in the bill you've been negotiating to get--
I noted a week or so ago that according to David Anderson of Balloon Juice, rumor has it that many insurance carriers are making their actuaries work overtime to put together multiple rate filings for 2018 based on several different outlooks:
Trump/Price/GOP quit screwing around, officially fund CSR reimbursements, enforce the mandate penalty and generally implement the ACA in good faith.
Trump/Price/GOP cut off CSR funding but otherwise enforce the law somewhat reasonably
Trump/Price/GOP cut off CSR, don't enforce the mandate, keep mucking around with half-assed repeal/replacement bills
*(Disclaimer: No, that's not a direct quote from Dr. Molina, but it's a pretty damned spot-on paraphrase).
A couple of weeks ago I noted that a buttload of heavy players in the healthcare field sent a joint letter to Trump, Tom Price and everyone else under the sun making it pretty clear how vital resolving the CSR issue is, and what the consequences would be if Congress and Trump don't make good on them.
Today, Molina Healthcare, which has around 1 million ACA exchange enrollees at the moment (roughly 9% of all effectuated enrollees) lowered the boom even harder (via Bob Herman of Axios):
Molina will exit exchanges if ACA payments aren't made
WH to Dems: We’ll continue paying ObamaCare subsidies
The Trump administration has told Democrats it will continue paying controversial ObamaCare insurer subsidies, lowering fears that a fight over the issue could cause a government shutdown.
The move marks something of a shift for President Trump, who had threatened earlier this month to withhold the subsidies, known as cost-sharing reductions, as a way to move Democrats to negotiate on a healthcare overhaul.
"A shift"? He shifts so often he should be in the next Fast & Furious movie.
Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), for one, said Wednesday that he doesn’t trust the president enough to take him at his word.
With the future of any other replacement plans uncertain, this month’s survey also gauges who the public views as responsible for the 2010 health care law going forward. A majority (61 percent) of the public say that because President Trump and Republicans in Congress are in control of the government, they are now responsible for any problems with the ACA moving forward. About three in ten Americans (31 percent) say that because President Obama and Democrats in Congress passed the law, they are responsible for any problems with it.
UPDATE 7/17/17: Dusting it off AGAIN because with the Senate GOP's #BCRAP replacement bill supposedly dead, Mitch McConnell is now claiming he's gonna go back to "Repeal/Delay", while Trump is once again threatening to simply "let Obamacare fail completely"...which CSR sabotage would definitely be a part of. Simply substitute the month of "AUGUST" for "MAY" in the entry below.
UPDATE 7/29/17: OK, BCRAP is dead but now Trump is really pissed off and is openly promising (not just threatening) to cut off CSR payments starting in August, which means the following scenario could kick in effective SEPTEMBER.
(sigh) Yes, this is the third time I've used the exact same clip from "Dead Again". That's no coincidence; Zombie Trumpcare keeps shuffling back every few weeks, but this time they appear to actually be serious about it (again).
A new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis finds that the average premium for a benchmark silver plan in Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces would need to increase by an estimated 19 percent for insurers to compensate for lost funding if they don’t receive federal payment for ACA cost-sharing subsidies.
Again, that's an average onf 19% on top of whatever the carriers would otherwise be increasing rates for other reasons.
As I posted yesterday, here's a rough overview of what total Individual Market Enrollment has looked like since 2010, and how Trump's threat to cut-off CSR reimbursements would impact it:
The blue section is off-exchange enrollees...around 7 million people today, all of whom are paying full price. This includes perhaps 1.8 million people still enrolled in Grandfathered or Transitional plans (which are part of a separate risk pool), although that number is highly speculative.