Author Archive: Frederick Pilot

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Iowa files urgent ACA 1332 waiver request to preserve 2018 non-group market

Facing the prospect of no health plan issuers offering coverage in the individual, non-group medical insurance market in 2018, Iowa is urgently asking the federal government for a state innovation waiver under Section 1332 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The proposed stopgap measure by the state’s Insurance Division requests federal premium and cost sharing subsidies be used to fund the Proposed Stopgap Measure (“PSM”) Plan. The plan would offer a single standardized benefit plan with an actuarial value of 68 to 72 percent with premium subsidies determined by age and household income. It also proposes the federal Affordable Care Act funding support a reinsurance program for individuals incurring medical expenses greater than $100,000.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Iowa may be first state with no health insurers on exchange – SFGate

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa could be the first state in the nation with no health insurance company willing to offer policies on its Affordable Care Act exchange next year unless President Donald Trump’s administration approves a stopgap proposal, Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said Monday.Ommen said he and officials from two major Iowa insurance carriers met last week with Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials in Washington to pitch a proposal that would save the Iowa market from collapsing.Several counties in Missouri, Ohio and Washington state have no insurer for next year, but Iowa would be the first state to lose all insurers on an ACA exchange.

Source: Iowa may be first state with no health insurers on exchange – SFGate

The dreaded adverse selection death spiral appears to have gained a grip on Iowa’s non-group medical insurance market. The item reports Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen is asking the federal government to redirect advance premium tax credit subsidies to improve the spread of risk in the state’s pool by attracting more younger individuals and using some of the those dollars to cover higher cost people.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Nevada joins with federal proposals to roll in non-group market

There are efforts at the federal level and now the state level to integrate the problem step child of non-group medical insurance into other forms of insurance to offering greater access at lower cost. The federal proposals would allow individuals not covered in the employer group or other government insurance programs to purchase employer group coverage via the District of Columbia health benefit exchange’s Small Business Health Options (SHOP) and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Pending legislation recently sent to the desk of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval takes a different tack. It would authorize the state to seek federal waivers in order to allow Nevadans to purchase Medicaid managed care plan coverage though its health benefit exchange as Vox reported this week. Implicit in both of these moves is a lack of confidence that adequate spread of risk can be achieved in the non-group insurance segment, particularly in smaller states like Nevada.

Noticing the close household income eligibility nexus between its subsidized health benefit exchange and Medicaid populations, Nevada provides Medicaid managed care plans incentive to offer qualified health plans (QHPs) on its exchange to ensure adequate availability of QHPs as Vox’s Sarah Kliff reported in May. With Medicaid enrollments strongly outpacing commercial QHP enrollments in state health benefit exchanges, a number of factors began aligning in 2015 to set the stage for policymakers to allow Medicaid managed care plans to be offered on the exchanges alongside individual Qualified Health Plans (QHPs).

A major question is whether those who enroll in Nevada’s proposed “Medicaid for all” Nevada Care Plan will be able to find medical providers who will accept their plan given the historical shortfall between state Medicaid reimbursement levels and those of Medicare and commercial plans.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Anthem’s exit from Ohio non-group is a shot across the bow of official Washington

The Anthem exit in Ohio is especially worrying, however, given the massive swath of the country in which it is the sole insurer in the exchanges, according to Cynthia Cox, associate director at nonpartisan health policy think tank The Kaiser Family Foundation.”Anthem’s exit from Ohio could be the tip of the iceberg,” Cox told Business Insider on Tuesday. “Their reasons for leaving don’t appear to be specific to Ohio, rather about political and regulatory uncertainty coming from the White House and Congress. If Anthem leaves the market nationally, there could be hundreds of thousands of people without any exchange insurer.” In a statement to Business Insider, Anthem cited a number of uncertainties that could impact the market coming from the Trump administration and Congress. “The individual market remains volatile and the lack of certainty of funding for cost sharing reduction subsidies, the restoration of taxes on fully insured coverage and, an increasing lack of overall predictability simply does not provide a sustainable path forward to provide affordable plan choices for consumers,” said the statement.

Source: Anthem Obamacare exchange exit from Ohio – Business Insider

Cox raises an excellent point that suggests Anthem’s withdrawal from the Ohio non-group market is less about Ohio than national policy. Anthem is likely firing a shot across the bow of Washington, warning it to quickly provide a degree of certainty going forward — or all bets are off nationwide.

That’s bound to get attention given Anthem’s major presence in the non-group medical insurance market. In late April, Anthem tentatively indicated it would sell coverage in state health benefit exchanges for plan year 2018, but reserved the right to reverse course lacking clear federal policy direction, particularly with regard to reduced cost sharing subsidies offered to low income households and the Affordable Care Act’s tax on health plan issuers.

As some observers have noted, Anthem could simply raise premium rates by 20 percent on its silver level plans to make up for the potential loss of cost sharing reduction subsidies for income qualifying households as Anthem indicated in April. However, that would potentially accelerate adverse selection among households that don’t qualify for significant advance premium tax credits to offset higher premiums, particularly coming after steep increases for 2017 plans.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Growth in self employment points to need for non-group medical coverage

Another reason insurers will likely return or work to remain in the individual market is that it’s part of the future of health care, says Counihan. With so many people now working for themselves in the “gig economy,” he says, selling insurance “is going to be more business-to-consumer than business-to-business.””This market could grow,” agrees Giesa. “And I don’t think [insurance companies] want to be left out completely from this market if there’s an opportunity to break even, or make a little money. “In the end, says Counihan, regardless of what he considers the Trump administration’s “disorganized neglect, I think this market is here to stay.”

Source: What Happens If The Individual Health Insurance Market Crashes? : Shots – Health News : NPR

Kevin Counihan served as head of the Department of Health Service’s insurance exchange program in the Obama administration. Kurt Giesa is an actuarial expert at the consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

While most working age Americans are covered by employer medical benefit plans that have dominated since the 1940s, there are indications this is changing and pointing to the need for a viable method of financing medical care outside of employer group coverage. The executive summary of a recent McKinsey Global Research survey reports 20 to 30 percent of the working-age population in the United States and the EU-15 countries are engaged in some form of non-employment vocation.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Measures would allow individuals to purchase small group plans sold by DC health benefit exchange and federal employee plan to fill gaps in state individual markets

Two measures were recently introduced in Congress to address gaps in the non-group medical insurance market by allowing individuals and their family members to buy into small group plans sold through the District of Columbia’s health benefit exchange’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) if their state health benefit exchange offers no plans where they live.

The Health Care Options for All Act (S.1201, McCaskill) would require the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to establish a mechanism for their enrollment. A companion measure to S.1201, H.R. 2770 (Loebsack) was introduced in the House June 2; text for the bill is not yet available. The DC SHOP currently offers coverage to members of Congress and their staffs as required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The District of Columbia health benefit exchange, DC Health Link, is reportedly opposed fearing the proposal if enacted would turn the DC exchange into a de facto national high risk pool.

Section 1334 of the ACA authorizes OPM to contract with health insurance issuers or a group of affiliated plan issuers to offer plans in all states as of this 2017. While the intent is to ensure exchanges can offer plans in all areas, the “multistate plans” authorized by Section 1334 are available in less than half of the states.

The bills could raise objections from health plan issuers since they broadly organize their product lines as employer group or non-group (individual) coverage and risk rate, price and establish provider networks separately for each. In addition, the Affordable Care Act segregates small group and individual coverage into separate statewide risk pools. However, states may merge their individual and small group markets under Section 1312(c)(3) of the law “if the State determines appropriate.” ACA Section 1311(b)(2) also affords states the option to merge their individual and SHOP exchanges.

Another measure introduced in early May, (H.R. 2400, Issa) also disregards the distinction between the group and non-group market segments by allowing individuals who are not federal employees to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Generous health insurance plans encourage overtreatment, but may not improve health — ScienceDaily

Offering comprehensive health insurance plans with low deductibles and co-pay in exchange for higher annual premiums seems like a good value for the risk averse, and a profitable product for insurance companies. But according to a forthcoming study in a leading scholarly marketing journal, the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, such plans can encourage individuals with chronic conditions to turn to needlessly expensive treatments that have little impact on their health outcomes. This in turn raises costs for the insurer and future prices for the insured.

Srinivasan (study co-author) noted that health insurance has unique challenges compared to autos and home insurance when offering a menu of insurance plans. Said Srinivasan,”People won’t go out of their way to get into accidents or burn their homes, simply because they have more comprehensive insurance, but they do tend to get more expensive treatments with more comprehensive coverage.”

Source: Generous health insurance plans encourage overtreatment, but may not improve health — ScienceDaily

This goes to the heart of the problem of treating medical care as an insurable risk. Consumers don’t necessarily see it that way, particularly when it comes to non-catastrophic care. Rather, the study suggests, they can view their medical plans like a menu of pre-paid care. The more generous the plan, the greater number of items and more higher priced treatments are on the menu for ordering. And worse, it reinforces the mindset that health can be bought through higher cost medical care.

As the study authors note, the findings point to a strong need for better health literacy among consumers so they choose medical care wisely based on value and most likely outcomes. I would add in lifestyle changes to alleviate chronic conditions most amenable to health promoting behaviors that might have prevented many chronic conditions from developing in the first place.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Study: Single-payer plan would save California $37 billion per year

The new study estimates it would cost California $331 billion to provide health care to everyone living in the state — less than the $368.5 billion spent today in a system that leaves millions without coverage. To pay for it, they say, the state needs to find $106 billion in annual tax revenue — far less than the Senate committee’s estimate of $200 billion. The figures are probably on the optimistic side, said Laurence Baker, a professor of health research and policy at Stanford, because they hinge upon California’s ability to negotiate lower costs with the powerful pharmaceutical industry and other key players, such as hospitals and doctors. “It may be that they could do that,” Baker said, “but getting from where we are now to there would be a tricky, difficult proposition.”

Source: Study: Single-payer plan would save California $37 billion per year

California’s proposed single payer legislation would create a state monopsony that could flex considerable market power with providers of medical services as Baker suggests. But in order to obtain the potential savings it could bargain, the Golden State would have to blow up the current payment pie (illustrated in this post) that carves out slices for different populations and bake a whole new one covering everyone. That’s nothing short of reshaping the entire payer side of the state’s medical care system — a heavy lift considering most people are happy with their slice of the pie with the possible exception of those in the non-group market ineligible for meaningful premium subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Then as others have pointed out, there’s the obstacle of getting the Trump administration to approve federal waivers allowing California to redirect those subsidies and Medicare and Medicaid funding to the proposed Healthy California program. The administration is quite favorable to states devising their own schemes for covering those not eligible for group plans and Medicare. But it’s not clear if would go so far as to approve combining all federal medical dollars into a single pot in one state.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Why medical care payment reform is a wicked problem

“You can have a picture of what the final system would look like,” says Katharine London of the University of Massachusetts, coauthor of a series of studies of a Vermont single-payer plan that eventually was abandoned. “But the biggest hurdle for single-payer is how you get from here to there.” That journey involves persuading voters that the system they’re so enthusiastic about in the abstract will function to their advantage in reality. That’s a hard task. “People by and large like the health insurance they have,” in part because most people have limited or infrequent interactions with the healthcare system, Gruber says. “They’re not willing to give up something they like enough for something unknown.”

Source: The challenges in setting up a California single-payer system are daunting — but not insurmountable – LA Times

Jonathan Gruber –who consulted on the drafting of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — is right on the money in his analysis. The pie chart below showing all forms of medical coverage in the nation’s largest state illustrates why medical care payment reform is such a wicked problem. Yes, it’s byzantine with all those slices of the pie covering different groups of people. But the people covered within each slice are generally satisfied with their coverage and thus not inclined to give up their slice in order to put everyone into one big pie of single payer where a governmental entity would pay all medical bills. That especially applies to employer group medical benefit plans that provide the bulk of private sector coverage to those under age 65.

 

Public sources account for 71% of healthcare revenues in California, including 60% from federal progSource: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Public Funds Account for Over 70 Percent of Health Care Spending In California. August 31, 2016.
 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Administration, Congress would leave CSR subsidies in limbo in latest court filing

President Donald Trump and House Republicans have decided not to blow up the Obamacare health insurance markets just yet. In a filing to a federal appeals court Monday, the Justice Department and lawyers representing House Republicans have requested another 90-day delay in the proceedings from a case challenging the legality of payments made to health insurers serving low-income customers. “The parties continue to discuss measures that would obviate the need for judicial determination of this appeal, including potential legislative action,” attorneys for both parties wrote to the appeals court.

Source: Trump Decides Not To Blow Up Obamacare — Yet | HuffPost

If the U.S. District Court of Appeals grants this request, the legal uncertainty over the reduced cost sharing subsidies for silver actuarial value (AV) plans sold in state health benefit exchanges would potentially continue for the rest of the summer. As the article notes, those subsidies could be cut off at any time by the Trump administration and an appeal in the case, House v. Price, dropped. That would leave intact a U.S. District Court ruling one year ago finding the subsidies cannot be allocated by the executive branch without congressional appropriation. Neither the Trump administration nor the current Congress are committed to keeping the exchange market functional and have little motivation to resolve the matter.

These circumstances will likely prompt plan issuers to increase plan year 2018 premium rates as a precaution as rate filings are due to state regulators in the next month since the Affordable Care Act would continue to require them to offer more generous coverage than standard 70 percent AV silver plans for households earning below 250 percent of federal poverty levels and purchasing though the exchanges. At least one plan issuer, Anthem, has indicated it would have to boost premiums by at least 20 percent to cover the potential loss of the CSR subsidies.

A second consecutive year of double digit premium increases could threaten the actuarial viability of the state non-group market risk pools since those eligible for little or no advance premium tax credit subsidies would likely flee the market. Particularly if the Trump administration doesn’t enforce the ACA’s individual mandate, making that option more appealing.

Some state regulators including California and most recently New Mexico have asked plan issuers to file two sets of premium rates, one assuming continuation of the subsidies and another without them.

 


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

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