Obamacare insurers just had their best year ever — despite Trump

Obamacare is no longer busting the bank for insurers.

After three years of financial bloodletting under the law — and despite constant repeal threats and efforts by the Trump administration to dismantle it — many of the remaining insurers made money on individual health plans for the first time last year, according to a POLITICO analysis of financial filings for 29 regional Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, often the dominant player in their markets.

The biggest reason for the improvement is simple: big premium spikes. The Blue plans increased premiums by more than 25 percent on average in 2017, meaning many insurers charged enough to cover their customers’ medical costs for the first time since the Affordable Care Act marketplaces launched in 2014 with robust coverage requirements.

“2017 was the first year we got our head above water in the individual market since the ACA passed,” said Steven Udvarhelyi, CEO Continue reading “Obamacare insurers just had their best year ever — despite Trump”

Head of major insurer lobby stepping down after turbulent term

Marilyn Tavenner is stepping down after three tumultuous years at the helm of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a K Street powerhouse that’s seen its influence decline as Washington grew more hostile to Obamacare.

Tavenner oversaw AHIP as Republicans took full control of the federal government, hellbent on dismantling the 2010 health care law. The industry group was forced to take on that fight with diminished resources, with three of the country’s largest insurers — UnitedHealth Group, Aetna and Humana — dropping out of the organization in recent years. AHIP spent $6.5 million on lobbying last year — a nearly 40 percent decline from four years earlier.

Tavenner will be replaced by Matt Eyles, who is currently the lobby’s chief operating officer.

The 2015 hiring of Tavenner, who served as CMS administrator under former President Barack Obama, was initially seen as a coup following the departure of AHIP’s longtime, dynamic Continue reading “Head of major insurer lobby stepping down after turbulent term”

White House pitch to bolster Obamacare includes tough trade-offs for Democrats

The White House is seeking a package of conservative policy concessions — some of which are certain to antagonize Democrats — in return for backing a legislative package bolstering Obamacare markets, according to a document obtained by POLITICO.

The document indicates the administration will support congressional efforts to prop up the wobbly marketplaces, in exchange for significantly expanding short-term health plans and loosening other insurance regulations.

The document also makes several references to abortion language that will be problematic for Democrats. A potential stumbling block in passing any stabilization package is whether conservatives will insist on including language prohibiting the use of government dollars to pay for abortions.

"Although congressional efforts to provide taxpayer money to prop up the exchanges is understandable, any such efforts must also provide relief to middle-class families harmed by the law and protect life," the document states.

The source of the document provided to POLITICO Continue reading “White House pitch to bolster Obamacare includes tough trade-offs for Democrats”

Trump proposal boosts skimpy insurance plans, again undercutting Obamacare

The Trump administration is proposing to expand the availability of short-term health insurance plans that some deride as “junk insurance” — an effort that could give consumers cheaper coverage options but undermine Obamacare’s marketplaces and popular protections for pre-existing medical conditions.

Proposed rules issued this morning follow an executive order from President Donald Trump this fall seeking to expand access to more affordable health insurance alternatives to comprehensive, but pricey Obamacare plans. The HHS proposal, released weeks after the Trump administration issued a rule encouraging small businesses to find coverage outside the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, represents the administration’s latest effort to unwind the health care law with repeal efforts stalled in Congress.

“The status quo is failing too many Americans who face skyrocketing costs and fewer and fewer choices," said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement. "The Trump Administration is taking action so individuals and Continue reading “Trump proposal boosts skimpy insurance plans, again undercutting Obamacare”

Amazon’s new health care business could shake up industry after others have failed

Three corporate behemoths are promising to shake up the health care industry — a notoriously inefficient sector that represents nearly a fifth of the U.S. economy.

Though the surprise Tuesday morning announcement from Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway was grand in ambition, it was scarce in details, leaving plenty of questions about just how the companies could tackle an unsustainable $3.3 trillion health care system when so many others have tried and failed.

“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett said in a statement. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable.”

Their partnership, at least at the outset, may be limited. The three companies said they will band together to provide cheaper coverage to their employees, relying on technology in some unspecified Continue reading “Amazon’s new health care business could shake up industry after others have failed”

Trump administration rolls out bid to expand association health plans

The Trump administration Thursday proposed new rules following up on the president’s pledge to let certain small businesses and trade groups band together to buy health care, a move that could weaken the Obamacare insurance marketplaces.

The expansion of so-called association health plans is part of a broader effort to encourage the rise of cheaper coverage options that don’t comply with certain Obamacare patient protections and benefit rules.

The proposed rules stem from an executive order President Donald Trump signed in October directing federal agencies to loosen restrictions on short-term health insurance and association health plans, in a bid to create more competition and drive down premiums. However, state insurance regulators and Obamacare advocates have warned the lax rules could open the door to a new wave of poorly regulated health plans that offer limited coverage.

The proposed rule issued Thursday by the Labor Department would rewrite existing regulations under Continue reading “Trump administration rolls out bid to expand association health plans”

Obamacare sign ups surge, despite Trump’s declaration on ‘repeal’

The latest HealthCare.gov enrollment season closed with a surge of sign-ups, unexpectedly putting Obamacare enrollment on track to potentially match last year’s figures despite the GOP’s attacks on the health care law.

A total of 8.8 million individuals signed up for coverage through the Dec. 15 deadline in the 39 states relying on HealthCare.gov, a top Trump administration health official announced on Twitter Thursday afternoon. And more than 2.5 million have so far enrolled through state-run insurance marketplaces, many of which are still allowing people to sign up over the new few weeks.

The robust enrollment pace defies President Donald Trump’s insistence that Obamacare is "dead" and will likely make Republican efforts to dismantle the 2010 health care law even more challenging after failed repeal efforts this year.

Obamacare supporters say sign-ups far surpassed their expectations, given the ongoing repeal effort in Congress, the president’s harsh Continue reading “Obamacare sign ups surge, despite Trump’s declaration on ‘repeal’”