Insurers to deliver whopping $1.3B in ACA consumer rebates

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/insurers-to-deliver-whopping-13b-in-aca-consumer-rebates/562689/

Dive Brief:

  • Health insurers are expected to issue at least $1.3 billion worth of rebates to customers in the coming weeks, hitting a new record, according to an analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • The record amount reflect just how profitable payers were over the past few years, largely fueled by insurers in the individual market, according to KFF. Companies in the individual market are expected to return about $743 million to customers, more than that of insurers in the small and large markets combined.
  • The average rebate per customer in the individual market is about $270. There are about 2.7 million customers in the individual market.

Dive Insight:

The Affordable Care Act sets limits on insurer profits, and in an effort to protect consumers, the law requires plans spend a majority of premium dollars on actual care, or claims for their patients.

Each year, if insurers do not meet that threshold, also known as the medical loss ratio, they issue rebates to customers. The rebates in 2019 take into account performance for the trailing three years.

“Insurers in 2018 were highly profitable and arguably overpriced, which is why rebates are so large despite being averaged across less favorable years (2016 and 2017),” KFF said.

Insurers in the individual market are fueling this whopping rebate return, according to KFF.

Even though exchange insurers struggled in 2016, previous data show that profit margins spiked in the first quarter of 2018. Many attribute the spike to insurers drastically raising premiums amid the uncertainty around policy plans from the Trump administration. Experts have said insurers raised prices and overcorrected in preparing for the potentially turbulent year.

Lingering overhead at the time was the threat of ACA repeal and the loss of cost sharing subsidy payments.

St. Louis-based Centene is expected to dish out the most in rebates, totaling nearly $217 million, followed by Virginia-based Optima Health, owned by Sentara Healthcare, which is set to return nearly $99 million.

 

 

Rate of uninsured people increases for first time since ACA rolled out

https://www.axios.com/uninsured-rate-increases-first-time-since-obamacare-ec6dbd6d-fffc-446d-be4c-02bed0d3ea3e.html

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Roughly 27.5 million people, or 8.5% of the U.S. population, had no health insurance at some point in 2018, according to new figures from the Census Bureau.

Why it matters: Last year’s uninsured rate increased from 7.9% in 2017 — the first time the uninsured rate has gone up since the Affordable Care Act has been in effect.

Between the lines: The uninsured population does not include the “underinsured,” or people who have medical coverage but face prohibitively high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

  • The figure also does not include people who have short-term plans, association plans and religious-based sharing ministries — policies the Trump administration has promoted, but that have holes in coverage that could leave people on the hook for high costs.

The intrigue: The type of coverage that witnessed the largest decline in 2018 was Medicaid, which fell 0.7 percentage points.

  • 4 states where the uninsured rate had a statistically significant increase were Alabama, Idaho, Tennessee and Texas, all of which have not fully expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

The bottom line: The uninsured rate is still markedly lower before the ACA became law, but it’s an odd paradox to see more people lose health coverage even though the economy created more jobs.

 

 

Health care dominates 2019 ad spending

https://www.axios.com/health-care-dominates-2019-ad-spending-417f0487-b46b-432d-9849-41cbdb7d83c1.html

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More than half of all issue advertising this year has been on health care, and that spending will only increase as the 2020 campaign gets closer.

Between the lines: Most of the top health care spenders are focused on issues like surprise medical bills and drug prices — many of which would cut into the health care industry’s profits.

Where it stands: The biggest spender by far is a dark-money group called Doctor Patient Unity.

  • It has shelled out more than $26 million on ads opposing Congress’ plan to address surprise medical bills. Doctors and hospitals staunchly oppose the leading proposal because it would cost them money.
  • AARP and the Partnership for Safe Medicines, an industry group, are on opposite sides of the intense battle over drug prices, which will heat up further this fall.

Health care was a winning issue for Democrats in 2018, but they’re not spending much on health care messaging right now.

  • One of the top 5 health spenders is One Nation, which is running anti-Medicare for All ads.
  • There aren’t any pro-Medicare for All groups in the top 5, nor are there any groups running ads explicitly on the benefits of the ACA.

Yes, but: Democrats will almost certainly spend more time and money on health care deeper into the 2020 cycle.

  • Health care was still a huge issue in yesterday’s special election for North Carolina’s 9th district — likely a sign of things to come.
  • “Fast forward to fall of 2020, and you will once again see…campaigns litigated on pre-existing conditions, health care costs and drug costs, because Republicans have only made the problem worse for themselves since 2018,” Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson said.

 

 

Medicare-for-All Opponents Push Ads Around Democratic Debate

https://www.wsj.com/livecoverage/campaign-wire-election-2020/card/1568297160?utm_source=The+Fiscal+Times&utm_campaign=b9ecdac8d9-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_09_12_08_14&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_714147a9cf-b9ecdac8d9-390702969

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An industry group opposed to Medicare for All will launch a slate of new television and digital ads around the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday as part of a seven-figure campaign aimed at eroding support for a federal health-care system.

Ads will also run on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, according to the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, whose membership includes drug makers, insurers, and others in the health-care industry. The organization said it will take over YouTube’s homepage following the debate.

The ad blitz show industry groups view Medicare for All as a serious threat in a 2020 election. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who are among the front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination, back replacing the U.S. health system with a government program that would cover everyone.

The ads say Medicare for All, as well as options that let people buy into a program like Medicare, would lead to higher taxes, worse health care, and amount to government control.

Backers of Medicare for All say the proposal would lower overall U.S. health-care spending, expand coverage nationwide, and free people from costly premiums and deductibles. They say the current system lets insurers and others in the industry make unseemly profits.

The campaign, which is also opposed to buy-in options such as the proposal backed by former Vice President Joe Biden, also launched ads around the previous Democratic presidential debates.

 

Biden, Sanders, Warren clash over Medicare for All in Houston

https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/461229-biden-sanders-warren-clash-over-medicare-for-all-in-houston

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The battle over health care that has dominated the Democratic race for the White House took center stage in Houston, where for the first time the top three candidates tangled over whether the nation is ready for sweeping reforms.

Former Vice President Joe Biden went back and forth at the opening of Thursday’s debate with the two progressives who are his leading challengers atop the polls, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Arguing that the “Medicare for All” proposal championed by Sanders would cost people their insurance, Biden called out the Vermont senator as a socialist and said his proposals would be too costly.

At one point in the debate, Biden said of Warren and Sanders that “nobody’s yet said how much it’s gonna cost for the taxpayer.”

He also pointed to the taxes that would have to increase for middle class people to pay for Medicare for All.

“There will be deductible in your paycheck,” Biden said, referencing the chunk that taxes would take out of people’s pay.

Sanders said most Americans were getting a raw deal in terms of their present health care costs compared with countries that have systems more similar to his Medicare for All approach.

“Let us be clear, Joe, in the United States of America we are spending twice as much per capita on health care as the Canadians or any other major country on earth,” Sanders said. 

“This is America,” Biden retorted. 

“Yeah, but Americans don’t want to pay twice as much as other countries and they guarantee health care to all people,” Sanders responded. 

Health care is a top issue in the race according to polls, and Democrats believe they can win the White House if the general election against President Trump is focused on the issue.

But it is also the issue that divides the Democratic candidates the most, with Biden and other centrists proposing more modest steps, such as reforms to ObamaCare.

The battle over health care is intertwined with the debate Democrats are having over which of their candidates is best positioned to defeat President Trump, with some in the party worried that Warren and Sanders are too liberal to win a general election. Others say their bold ideas are what is needed for the party to defeat Trump.

Biden argues Medicare for All means scrapping former President Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act, instead of building on it.

While Sanders touted that everyone would have coverage under his plan and that it would be more generous, with no premiums or deductibles, Biden countered with the cost of the proposal, which estimates put at around $32 trillion over 10 years.

In the debate’s first hour, Biden was already hitting Sanders and Warren over the cost of the plan.

“The senator says she’s for Bernie,” Biden said of Warren’s support for Sanders’s Medicare for All plan. “Well I’m for Barack.”

Warren, pressed by host George Stephanopolous on whether middle class taxes would rise from Medicare for All, did not directly answer, pivoting to argue that overall costs for the middle class would go down once the abolition of premiums and deductibles is taken into account.

“What families have to deal with is cost, total cost,” Warren said, adding: “The richest individuals and the biggest corporations are going to pay more, and middle class families are going to pay less.”

Other candidates were also in the middle of the Medicare for All exchanges.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who drew flak in the early months of the campaign for seeming to change her position on health care several times, touted the plan she eventually developed, to allow some private insurance to remain under Medicare for All by allowing private companies to administer some plans in a tightly regulated way.

“I want to give credit to Bernie. Take credit, Bernie,” Harris said, while adding, “I wanted to make the plan better, which I did.”

At another point in the debate, Biden dismissed the idea that employers would raise workers’ wages if employers no longer had to provide health insurance under a Medicare for All system. 

“My friend from Vermont thinks the employer’s going to give you back what you’ve negotiated as a union all these years … they’re going to give back that money to the employee?” Biden said.

“As a matter of fact they will,” Sanders interjected.

“Let me tell you something, for a Socialist you’ve got a lot more confidence in corporate America than I do,” Biden responded. 

While all of the Democrats advocate large additional government spending to expand health insurance coverage, the debates over whether private insurance should remain as an option has proven to be a particularly fierce source of debate.

Republicans have sensed an opening on that point as well, eagerly bashing Democrats for wanting to take away employer-sponsored coverage that millions of Americans have. Sanders and Warren counter that Medicare for All coverage would be better insurance, with no deductibles at all, so people would not miss it.

“I’ve actually never met anybody who likes their health insurance company,” Warren said, noting people like their doctors, which they would be able to keep. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who has staked out a more moderate ground, tore into Sanders, though, over his plan’s elimination of private insurance.

“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill, and on page eight of the bill it says that we will no longer have private insurance as we know it,” Klobuchar said.

“I don’t think that’s a bold idea, I think it’s a bad idea,” she added. 

Amid the division, Harris tried to strike a unifying note.

“I think this discussion is giving the American people a headache,” she said. “What they want to know is that they’re going to have health care and cost will not be a barrier to getting it.”