"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

CNBC: Aetna could be forced out of Obamacare; Hill: Insurers downgraded on ObamaCare fears‏

January 23rd, 2014 by Mark Truman ·

Today brings new reporting on how Obamacare is making a mess of insurance markets, and sadly the ultimate result of these disruptions is usually bad news for American consumers. Remember when people laughed when it was said that Obamacare was specifically designed to put insurance companies out of business?

According to CNBC, “Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini told CNBC on Wednesday that Obamacare has failed to attract the uninsured, and he offered a scenario in which the insurance company could be forced to pull out of program. The company will be submitting Obamacare rates for 2015 on May 15. ‘Are they going to be double-digit [increases] or are we going to get beat up because they’re double-digit or are we just going to have to pull out of the program?’ Bertolini asked in a ‘Squawk Box’ interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. ‘Those questions can’t be answered until we see the population we have today. And we really don’t have a good view on that.’ . . . For Obamacare to work better, it needs more flexibility and choice of insurance programs, Bertolini said. ‘We need to make it a lot more simpler for people. There needs to be more choice. When you get more choice, you make it more of a market and you get more people in the program.’”

And The Hill reports, “Moody’s announced Thursday it was downgrading its outlook for health insurers from stable to negative based on uncertainty related to ObamaCare. The credit rating agency cited an unstable environment because of the healthcare law’s difficult rollout, and projected that insurers would earn 2 percent less than forecast in 2014. ‘While we’ve had industry risks from regulatory changes on our radar for a while, the ongoing unstable and evolving environment is a key factor for our outlook change,’ Moody’s Senior Vice President Stephen Zaharuk said in a statement. ‘The past few months have seen new regulations and announcements that impose operational changes well after product and pricing decisions were finalized.’ The Moody’s report also cites the slow enrollment of young people into ObamaCare as a reason for the downgrade. ‘Uncertainty over the demographics of those enrolling in individual products through the exchanges is a key factor in Moody’s outlook change,’ the ratings agency said. . . . Moody’s also said it was worried that insurers’ premium calculations might not be enough to cover the industry assessment tax that begins in 2014.”

Meanwhile, the parts of Obamacare that have already gone into effect are already hurting Americans with higher prices, canceled insurance plans, and doctors they can’t see. WRAL recently reported on a small business in North Carolina whose health care costs are going up by between $250,000 to $275,000 per year. A man in southern New Jersey found out that his premiums would go up ten times their previous amount. A Virginia woman told The Virginian-Pilot that “[a]n insurance agent working with the health center gave her a quote for a couple of plans. One cost more than $1,400 a month with a $4,000 deductible, the other more than $600 a month with a $6,000 deductible.” She exclaimed, “Well, Donald Trump couldn’t do that.” In California, a “disabled mother of two says she’s out of medication for an auto-immune disease, she’s run out of antibiotics for a painful internal infection, and the health plan she’s paid for through the Affordable Care Act keeps sending her to doctors who say they can’t treat her because they won’t take her insurance,” according to a KCBS report. Fox News recently reported on a New York woman “diagnosed with breast cancer, whose life-saving surgery has been postponed after she lost her doctors under ObamaCare.” She was “forced to postpone her Jan. 3 biopsy and follow-up treatment at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the largest private cancer center in the world, when her insurance rolled over into a new plan that was part of an exchange under the Affordable Care Act. ‘As of January 1, my insurance plan rolled over into a new ObamaCare plan that is part of the exchange and my doctors are no longer available in my network, so the surgeons that I was dealing with … I no longer have access to,’ Gracchi told Fox News.” And WKBN in Ohio reported, “Hundreds of people in the Mahoning Valley can no longer go to their trusted doctors, and local officials say the Affordable Care Act is to blame.”

Related:

NRO:Insurance-Company Bailouts


Tags: Healthcare

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GUEST EDITORIAL: “Why Do I Hate the President?”

January 23rd, 2014 by Mark Truman ·

Christopher Arps is the co-founder of Move-On-Up.org, an African American conservative organization based in St. Louis with over 1,200 members in 43 states.

By Christopher Arps

I am often asked by my fellow African Americans when I criticize President Obama is “why do I hate the president?” Of course I reject the very premise of the question. I don’t hate the president, but I do very strongly dislike his policies and the divisive tone he has set for his presidency and for this nation. Unfortunately in the era of President Obama, disagreement with this president’s policies automatically makes you a “hater” or a racist. Noted Black progressives like Tavis Smiley and Professor Cornell West can call the President a “Rockefeller Republican in Black face” or a “global George Zimmerman” and there is barely a peep and no mention of hatred from President Obama’s loyal Black supporters. Read more…

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More Obamacare Consequences: WSJ: “Target Cuts Health Coverage for Part-Time Workers”

January 23rd, 2014 by Mark Truman ·

Last year, President Obama was fond of suggesting that Americans who had insurance through their employer had nothing to worry about from his unpopular health care law. In a September speech where he boasted that the Obamacare site is “a website where you can compare and purchase affordable health insurance plans, side-by-side, the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak — same way you shop for a TV on Amazon,” the president also said, “[E]ven before the Affordable Care Act fully takes effect, about 85 percent of Americans already have health insurance -– either through their job, or through Medicare, or through the individual market.  So if you’re one of these folks, it’s reasonable that you might worry whether health care reform is going to create changes that are a problem for you — especially when you’re bombarded with all sorts of fear-mongering. So the first thing you need to know is this:  If you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything.”

Despite his dismissal of the well-known failures of Obamacare as “fear-mongering,” news reports are showing today that even Americans who already have insurance are facing the negative effects of Obamacare. The Wall Street Journal reports, “Target Corp. on Tuesday said it would stop offering health coverage for part-time employees, citing insurance options available through public exchanges. Target will stop covering part-time employees on April 1, the company said in a corporate blog post quoting human resources chief Jodee Kozlak. . . . Target said the health-insurance marketplaces, spurred by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, could provide options its part-time workers may prefer. . . . Retailers, along with restaurant and hospitality companies, are bracing from some of the biggest cost increases under the new insurance mandates due to their sizable workforces. Several other big employers have already said they are paring back the benefits they offered that aren’t required by the law to try to keep their benefits spending in check. In August, United Parcel Service Inc. said it was cutting off coverage for workers’ spouses who had access to insurance through their own employers.” So once again, the president’s constant refrain that “If you have health insurance and you like it, and you have a doctor that you like, then you can keep it. Period.” was just not a correct description of his signature health care law.

And even Americans with employer-based coverage are looking at problems from the mandates and taxes in the health care law. The AP finally realizes this, writing today, “Republicans have called the overhaul the ‘Job-Killing Health Law.’ This is in part because of the law’s requirement that companies with 50 or more workers offer full-time workers – defined as those working 30 hours or more – health coverage. Some companies have said they are cutting part-time workers’ hours to keep them below that threshold. Texell Credit Union in Temple, Texas, is one. . . . Many companies already are starting to change benefits to avoid an overhaul-mandated tax on high-cost plans that takes effect in 2018. One way a company can lower the cost is to raise an employee’s out-of-pocket expenses. So, your plan may introduce a bigger deductible, which is the amount you have to pay for care before most coverage starts. It also might require you to start paying more at the doctor’s office in the form of a higher co-payment. . . . Overall, the federal law could raise the total cost of an employer-sponsored health plan from 1 percent to 5 percent, said Tracy Watts, a senior partner with the human resources consultant Mercer. . . .  The law may prompt some companies to drop coverage for their part-time workers and send them to public health insurance exchanges. Some businesses also may start excluding spouses from their coverage, but most companies have avoided doing that, said Jim Winkler of the benefits consulting firm Aon Hewitt. And drug plans also may start offering fewer choices for prescriptions or a narrower network of pharmacies that people can visit. The 2018 tax that is motivating companies to adjust their health insurance plans also is prompting them to narrow the list of drugs they cover, said Dr. Steve Miller, chief medical officer for Express Scripts Holding Co., the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager.” Basically, even though “[i]f you already have health care, you don’t have to do anything,” Obamacare may result in lost hours, higher deductibles, higher co-payments, lost coverage for spouses, narrower networks, fewer drug choices, and employees dumped onto the exchanges. Many of these things have already happened all over the country.

Meanwhile, Democrat leaders continue to resist repealing one of the worst taxes in Obamacare that’s hurting an entire industry. MarketWatch writes today, “The medical-device tax woven into President Obama’s health-care overhaul in 2010 seems to endure even though few lawmakers see its value and the industry is lobbying intensely to kill it . . . . Regardless of support on both sides of the aisle, from even the likes of the most liberal stalwarts in the Senate such as Al Franken of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts as well as 41 House Democrats, a repeal measure has yet to weave its way through the legislative process. . . . The medical-device tax has upset the apple cart for what has been a thriving sector within the health-care industry over the past decade and a half. Since the century’s turn, makers of stents, artificial limbs, pacemakers and surgical gear have thrived. . . . Yet companies in the sector see stagnation with the tax as well as growing pressure to keep costs down in all parts of the medical business. Firms that projected smooth sailing just a few years ago are concerned those enviable profits will erode. For smaller companies that don’t have near the same margins, many worry they’ll be dead in the water before long. . . . [T]housands of smaller device makers say the tariff would eat up most of their profits, if they have any, since it’s a tax on sales and not just profits. ‘We’re actually borrowing money to pay the excise tax,’ said Tom Allen, chief executive of Iconacy Orthopedic Patients, a 13-employee start-up that makes orthopedic devices. . . . One glaring example of the tax’s effect came from Kalamazoo, Mich.-based Stryker, which said in late 2012 that it would have to cut its workforce by nearly 1,200, due largely to the Obamacare excise tax. That reduction came even though Jon Stryker, grandson of the company’s founder, has been a staunch Obama supporter.”

And yet, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) continues to block efforts to repeal this tax, despite “a clear majority in the Senate that is opposed to the tax,” as the story points out.

The medical device tax and the whole law need to be repealed. Americans are already hurting from the failures of Obamacare on the individual market, and it’s clear that the negative consequences of the law’s mandates, taxes, and regulations are headed for the employer market next.


Tags: Healthcare

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Herman Cain Coming to St. Louis to Campaign for Former Miss America

January 20th, 2014 by Mark Truman ·

From email invite sent to MOPNS:

You are cordially invited to a fundraiser and meet and greet with Illinois congressional candidate and former Ms. America Erika Harold. Special guest for the evening will be syndicated radio host and former presidential candidate and Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain. SUGGESTED DONATION $25. VIP* $150 Couples $250 This is not a Move-On-Up.org event.

* VIP’s get a signed photo with Herman & Erika

Ms. Harold’s bio:

Erika was born and raised in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois and graduated from Urbana High School. Having grown up surrounded by the Orange and Blue, Erika decided to attend college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she majored in Political Science. She graduated from the U of I in 2001 as a Phi Beta Kappa inductee and a Chancellor’s Scholar. Read more…

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Tags: St. Louis

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Video: Nixon – Oath Breaker

January 20th, 2014 by Mark Truman ·

Hat tip: UnitedForMissouri

Governor Jay Nixon took an oath to uphold the Constitution and laws of the state of Missouri. He has violated his oath on a number of occasions.

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Train Wreck: “WH Moves Obamacare Goalposts Again,” “Obamacare Has Youth Problem”

January 15th, 2014 by Mark Truman ·

“I just see a huge train wreck coming down.”Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.

Though the fall flood of news of Obamacare failures and problems has slowed a bit, there is plenty of news this week with which to survey the wreckage that the president’s unpopular law has left across the American health care landscape.

On Monday, we learned that “[t]oo few young people are signing up for ObamaCare to stop premiums from rising, new data released by the administration . . . show,” according to The Hill. “Only 24 percent of Obama-Care’s enrollees are young people, well below the 40 percent benchmark set by the administration for the critical 18- to 34-year-old age group. Older people, who are typically more expensive to cover, made up the single largest group of Obama-Care enrollees. . . . To keep premiums affordable, experts say it is vital that the law attract about that many young and healthy ‘invincibles’ unlikely to need critical care to balance out older and sicker uninsured people who enroll and will be more costly to the system.”

But this isn’t a problem, the Obama administration assures, because they’re just going to move the goalposts again, as National Journal chronicles today. “The White House is scaling back another self-imposed standard for Obamacare’s success—and it’s one the administration has spent months promoting. White House officials consistently—and accurately—argue that the most important metric for Obamacare’s success this year is the mix of young and old enrollees. But they’re backing away from their own goals for that mix. Getting young people into the system is critical to holding down premiums, and therefore to keeping each state’s insurance market stable. Administration officials previously said their target was for young adults to make up about 38 percent of Obamacare enrollees. Now that standard is down to about 30 percent. Or maybe even 24 percent—where the mix stands now. . . . The administration may well hit its initial 38 percent target, but it’s apparently abandoning that goal preemptively, declaring success just by avoiding the worst possible outcome. ‘We are already at that stage of preliminary sustainability with three months left to go,’ an administration official said. . . . [O]nce again, administration officials are lowering their own standards for success—ditching targets they set or embraced, and redefining success as anything that’s good enough to avoid a total collapse. It was the White House that set the initial target of 38 percent enrollment for young adults. But officials wouldn’t stand by that figure this week. . . . The White House has already disavowed its self-identified ‘target’ for overall enrollment: 7 million people in the first year. In downplaying that number, the White House and HHS have argued that the age mix is more important than overall enrollment—which it is, from a policy perspective. But just as officials haven’t released a new target for overall enrollment, they’re also lowering expectations for the mix of old and young enrollees.”

Then there are the various disasters involving the websites the administration wants Americans to use to sign up for insurance through the exchanges. Over the weekend, the AP reported, “Mirroring problems with the federal health care website, people around the nation attempting to navigate the Spanish version have discovered their own set of difficulties. The site, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, launched more than two months late. A Web page with Spanish instructions linked users to an English form. And the translations were so clunky and full of grammatical mistakes that critics say they must have been computer-generated — the name of the site itself can literally be read ‘for the caution of health.’ ‘When you get into the details of the plans, it’s not all written in Spanish. It’s written in Spanglish, so we end up having to translate it for them,’ said Adrian Madriz, a health care navigator who helps with enrollment in Miami. . . . ‘In my opinion, the website doesn’t work,’ said Grettl Diaz, a 37-year-old Miami gas station cashier who is originally from Cuba. Diaz said she tried to sign up at home using CuidadoDeSalud.gov. After she couldn’t get the website to accept a scanned document, she called the government’s Spanish hotline seeking help. However, she was repeatedly told to call back because the site was down. She got through days later and waited over an hour for an operator before she was ultimately disconnected. ‘I’m very frustrated,’ she said through a translator this month. ‘I’ve spent at least one week on the phone, and I couldn’t get it done.’”

As the federal Spanish site struggles, so do the sites set up by Democrat-run states like Oregon and Maryland. Saturday, The Washington Post revealed, “More than a year before Maryland launched its health insurance exchange, senior state officials failed to heed warnings that no one was ultimately accountable for the $170 million project and that the state lacked a plausible plan for how it would be ready by Oct. 1. Over the following months, as political leaders continued to proclaim that the state’s exchange would be a national model, the system went through three different project managers, the feuding between contractors hired to build the online exchange devolved into lawsuits, and key people quit, including a top information technology official because, as he would later say, the project ‘was a disaster waiting to happen.’ The repeated warnings culminated days before the launch, with one from contractors testing the Web site that said it was “extremely unstable” and another from an outside consultant that urged state officials not to let residents enroll in health plans because there was ‘no clear picture’ of what would happen when the exchange would turn on. Within moments of its launch at noon Oct. 1, the Web site crashed in a calamitous debut that was supposed to be a crowning moment for Maryland officials who had embraced President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and pledged to build a state-run exchange that would be unparalleled.”

Meanwhile, Americans are still struggling with higher premiums, higher deductibles, and now confusion and an inability to get coverage. CNNMoney noted, “Many folks who signed up for coverage through the state and federal exchanges are running into roadblocks now that they are trying to use their new benefits. And though exchange officials and insurers have urged consumers to call their insurers if they encounter problems, many say they either wait endlessly on hold or get the runaround.”

And there are more problems on the horizon. The Washington Post wrote recently, “When millions of health-insurance plans were canceled last fall, the Obama administration tried to be reassuring, saying the terminations affected only the small minority of Americans who bought individual policies. But according to industry analysts, insurers and state regulators, the disruption will be far greater, potentially affecting millions of people who receive insurance through small employers by the end of 2014. While some cancellation notices already have gone out, insurers say the bulk of the letters will be sent in October, shortly before the next open-enrollment period begins. . . . The transformation of the small-group market is just one of the many ripple effects of the Affordable Care Act that will reshape the insurance industry in coming years. . . . Stephen Lohman, owner of Allegheny Plant Services, a trucking company in Pittsburgh, said the Aetna PPO plan he offers his 38 employees will be discontinued at the end of this year. He said he has been offered a new Aetna policy with premiums that are 40 percent higher, and that other insurers’ rates are similar. ‘We were very surprised,’ he said, adding that it is ‘important to me personally’ to offer insurance to his employees, but he is not sure he can afford the premium increase. . . . The Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 2010 that up to 80 percent of small-group plans, defined as having fewer than 100 workers, could be discontinued by the end of 2013. But many small employers bought themselves extra time by renewing policies early through the end of 2014. Jonathan Gruber, a key architect of the health law and a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the number of people covered by small-group policies that will be discontinued is ‘not trivial.’ . . . In New Jersey, the state’s association of health plans says 650,000 people with small-group coverage have had their plans disrupted. In Colorado, regulators said small-group plans covering 143,000 people are being discontinued in 2014. . . . In Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is discontinuing all its small-group plans for those who did not renew early, and offering new policies with different coverage and premiums. The company says 99.5 percent of the 5.3 million people it covers through its individual and small-group plans will be affected . . . . Also facing disruption are people who purchase insurance through professional or trade associations and don’t have any employees. This includes some doctors, lawyers and accountants in solo practice. Under the health law, that type of association plan is not allowed; sole proprietors must purchase coverage on the individual market. Cynthia Rutzick, 49, who has her own law practice in Oak Hill, Va., said that the policy she had been buying for years through the state bar association was already offering the benefits mandated by the health law. But the policy, which cost $1,500 a month for herself, her husband and their two children and included 94 percent of the physicians in her area, was canceled. The new one, which costs $1,600 a month for her and her two children (her husband is going on Medicare next year) includes 82 percent of area physicians. Her broker said plans like her old one don’t exist anymore. ‘So I had a blue car, but could not go out and buy another blue car,’ she said. ‘I have to buy a red car, and it’s not as good and way more expensive.’”

Apparently Americans can look forward to another year of more confusion, canceled plans, higher premiums, fewer choices, and ever more excuses from Democrats about the havoc their signature law is wreaking.

Related:

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Nixon Takes Position on Insurance Health Exchanges – After the Election!


Tags: Healthcare

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