Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Back to Obamacare Schadenfreude

Admittedly, Hillary's email hilarity is a lot more fun than the pleasure we get seeing the United States private healthcare system go down the tubes, but we have to work with what we have. This post was prompted by the first entry, which I saw in the dead-tree version of the Washington Post this morning. The rest have been in the digital refrigerator a while, and may be a bit limp and slimy, like 2 week old produce.

About 25% of the Obamacare policies taken out since the last enrollment period have gone inactive: Coverage in Affordable Care Act health plans wanes since winter
Nearly 1 in 4 of the Americans who picked a health plan this year through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces have dropped or lost their coverage, according to new federal data.

A report, released Tuesday by federal health officials, shows that 9.9 million people were paying, as of the end of June, for health plans they had gotten through the federal and state-run insurance exchanges created under the health-care law.

Those people reflect a decline from the roughly 12.7 million consumers who signed up for a 2015 health plan. The vast majority signed up during an open enrollment period that ended in February and the rest through special enrollment circumstances since then.

The figures also mean that health plans sold on the exchanges are covering slightly fewer people as the year goes on. Between the end of March and the end of June, the number of people with active coverage dipped by about 300,000.
To be fair, the article points out there are many reasons for people to drop off Obamacare, not all of them resulting in their becoming uninsured. Some may get jobs with benefits (but then, some could lose them as well and become eligible for Obamacare; given the slow growth of jobs, those should approximately balance), they could age out and go onto Medicare. But others simply may be finding the cost of the insurance even with subsidies worse than the penalties, and are simply deciding to pay their own way.

Obamacare's Implicit $1,200 a year 'Wife Tax'
OK, strictly speaking it also could be fairly called a ‘husband tax’ or a ‘spouse tax.’ You may also quibble on the ‘tax’ bit, largely because this is being done to avoid a tax.  But, hey: no Republican voted for this monstrosity, remember? So I’m admittedly a little indifferent to any Democratic pain over the nomenclature.
To avoid the Affordable Care Act’s so-called “Cadillac tax” on rich benefit plans, companies are adding surcharges of $100 a month or more to wives and husbands of workers, hoping spouses will seek coverage elsewhere,new employer data shows.
The idea behind the so-called “spousal surcharge” employers are implementing is to reduce the number of people an employer covers so the company can save money and avoid triggering the special excise tax for plans with high cost benefits.
Basically, if you have a high-end plan – and thanks to inflation, the definition of ‘high-end’ will get broader and broader every single year – then the company that you work for will want to get your spouse off of your insurance plan whenever possible. If making you pay a hundred bucks a month will do so, then that’s what an increasing number of them will do. To be fair, many companies don’t really want to, because people get cranky on the subject, but again: no Republican voted for this monstrosity.  “Tell your troubles to Jesus: the chaplain’s gone over the hill.”
 Let’s face it… the only winners from Obamacare were the insurance companies
Somebody has been taken for a ride and I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you came out on the losing end. But there was certainly one set of winners in all of this. As David Williams pointed out at The Daily Caller last week, the biggest insurance companies have been doing a victory lap.
Meanwhile, as Americans are suffering from rising costs and less access to quality health care, the biggest winners from the passage of Obamacare are the insurance giants. In the aftermath of the government health care takeover, there has been an explosion of health insurance company profits, windfalls and megamergers. As “stock market darlings,” health insurance company profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs and stocks have split even thanks to the health care law.
Reports show the so-called “Big Five” health insurers – UnitedHealth, Aetna, Cigna, Humana, and Anthem – have all outperformed the broader stock market by a wide margin since Obamacare was signed into law in March 2010. That’s why America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s main trade group, filed an amicus brief to defend the Obama administration in the recent Supreme Court case, King v. Burwell. And when the law was upheld, it was no surprise that there was a boost in health insurance company stocks.
What’s really curious is how the President can remain in full blown denial mode after all this time. Is it just political positioning or does Barack Obama honestly think this is how we wanted things to work out?
 March For Life Defeats Obama Administration In Court
A federal court prohibited the Obama administration from forcing a pro-life nonprofit to insure “abortion-inducing” contraceptives Monday, in what is the first exemption from the mandate granted to a secular organization.

March for Life, which holds a pro-life rally every January in Washington, D.C., filed suit against three federal agencies last year, demanding an exemption from the mandate. It requires employers to provide insurance coverage for 20 FDA-approved contraceptives at no extra cost to the employee — including birth control pills March for Life and other pro-lifers believe are a form of abortion.

A D.C. District Court sided with March for Life Monday, signaling organizations that are not overtly religious can be exempted from the mandate, in addition to those which fall under a religious exemption put in place.

“If the purpose of the religious employer exemption is, as HHS states, to respect the anti-abortifacient tenets of an employment relationship, then it makes no rational sense-indeed, no sense whatsoever to deny March for Life that same respect,” the decision states.
The Latest Frontier in 'Total Regulation'
The newest domain to fall under the regulatory gaze? Personal trainers. The Washington Post reports today:
After decades of unregulated existence in all 50 states, the booming field of personal trainers is braced for a wave of scrutiny that is expected to transform the industry and could make or break some of the biggest fitness companies in the country.
The new regulations, being written by and for the nation’s capital city, will create a registry of all personal trainers in the District only. But they are expected to become a model that winners and losers in the fight believe will be replicated elsewhere.
The credit — or blame — for the newfound urgency can be traced in part to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. A variety of workplace wellness programs and preventive health-care initiatives called for in the law could soon translate into rivers of billable hours for those with credentials to keep American waistlines in check.
Yet another thing that no one knew was in the Affordable Care Act. Nancy Pelosi was right: indeed we did have to pass the bill to find out what was in it. And I suspect we’ll be finding out new things in the bill for a very long time.

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