Health Insurance Info for Colorado

news & commentary on health insurance and benefits

ColoradoCare raises its ugly head.. again!

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Many years ago (ancient history for many, since it was in the last century) a certain Colorado Governor demanded the reform of Colorado’s health insurance regulations, or he’d bring a “single payor system” down on our heads. it was to be called, if memory serves, ColoradoCares. Reform happened, so it went away. But you know, the relentless need to have a government-run health care system never goes away with Democrats.

Well, its back, and it’s even worse. Here’s a quote: ” a “risky and untested state-run health insurance system.” State-run, as in, the state of Colorado, and financed with a whopping big tax increase, larger than the size of the entire Colorado budget. It will replace Obamacare. And no, that would not be the kind of replacement I’d be in favor of!

If you love Obamacare, you’ll love this – until you don’t.

Read the full story here.




NEWSFLASH: Colorado Health OP

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The Colorado Division of Insurance moved swiftly to remove Colorado HealthOP from the list of approved insurers in Colorado and through the Connect 4 Health Colorado Marketplace Exchange. See the news release here.

Obamacare Premium Increases Coming

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Insurers have a new year of data and the numbers don’t look good. It will be very interesting to see what Colorado rate increases will look like. As usual, for those on subsidized policies, this news will be met with a shrug, since the “I got mine” mentality is in full swing. For everyone else, the rates increases, be they at the low end (say, 10%)) or the high end (say, upwards of 30%) will be particularly savage, and, as individual rates continue to resemble small group rates in all states, it will be increasingly difficult to absorb rate increases coupled with assessment fees to Connect For Health Colorado (on ALL health policies sold in Colorado), along with high deductible and out-of-pocket costs. The reaction I get from people with families looking for individual plans run the gamut, with “HOW MUCH??” and simply stunned silence the most common refrains.

More Health Insurers Seek Double Digit Premium Increases

The Alternative to Obamacare is Easy

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I’ve said for some time that “health care reform” wasn’t the goal of Obamacare, and it certainly shouldn’t have cost however many trillions of dollars thats been forecast to pay for it (the actual figure isn’t important, save for one fact: it’s a lot more than we were promised, before we knew “what was in it”).

The mass media seems to be of the opinion that Republicans have no alternative to Obamacare, but the truth is that any number of alternative policies have been discussed within Republican circles. Most critics of outright repeal like to point out that the individual and employer mandates were Republican ideas; this canard has been bandied about for so long that it now been accepted as fact. The reality is that the mandates were viewed as essential only by a handful of think-tank policy wonks, and never really achieved critical mass with conservatives who study health care policy closely.

One of those individuals is John C. Goodman, from the Independence Institute. Mr. Goodman is considered to be the “father” of the health savings account, and he has a brand new article on what Republicans can do, now, to repeal the worst parts of Obamacare. In a previous article, “How The GOP should now deal with Obamacare”, he discussed the pitfalls that Republicans will likely encounter as they try to “repeal and replace” Obamacare with a new system that will inevitably be some version of what is currently in place.

In “A Republican Alternative To Obamacare”, he expands on his earlier work, by advising Republicans to concentrate on the promises made to voters in the 2014 elections: “keep your job; keep your health insurance; and keep your doctor”. And his solutions to health insurance, and health care, issues are the best I’ve read, encompassing great ideas and solutions to the kind of Washington-driven, centrally-planned health insurance environment we find ourselves in, with narrow networks, a return to highly steered “managed care”, rigid health care design, and lack of choice and flexibility.

I highly recommend the policy solutions he puts forward, and dearly hope that someone in the Republican leadership is listening and taking copious notes. The bottom line is this: without a clear cut and simple approach to replacing the disaster now known as Obamacare, Republicans will stand little chance of gaining any ground against entrenched interests, which include progressive Democrats, insurance company executives, and others who are beginning to reap the benefits of a quasi-monopoly driven by the central planners at HHS. Taking the alternative directly to the American people is the best way to get the message out, and that requires more than a statement in front of a podium at the Capitol, which is essentially all we’ve been given from the current Speaker of the House. It requires a full-court press by the leadership, because there isn’t a more pressing issue than repeal and replace Obamacare. I believe the political will can be found, and not just from Republicans.

Health Insurance Reform for Dummies

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Anyone who thinks that Obamacare was about heath care, let alone health insurance, reform, is either, at best, naive, or, at worst, completely ignorant of the law – and how it was passed, and the consequences of its various statutes, regulations, rulings, and case law.

Obamacare was about social engineering – much the same way that Common Core is about federal control of school curriculum, to advance certain, shall we say, dogmas that most of us would find puzzling, if not outright outrageous.

But I digress. I’ve often told those that will listen that I could have written a health insurance reform proposal that would have numbered a few hundred pages and would have been much, much more successful than the Affordable Care Act, assuming that its goal was the elimination of the chronically un-insured in these United States, probably around twenty million or so (it wasn’t, re-read paragraph two). And, it certainly would not have cost upwards of $2T plus that we see now (and that figure will continue to rise, even as deductibles rise, and out-of-pocket expenses rise, and so on). And I would agree that reform was needed, just not what we got.

James C. Capretta is one of a handful of experts who I respect wholeheartedly with regards health care reform policy. In this article he lays out the compelling reason why we need, not just to repeal, but replace Obamacare: because reform is just as needed now, as it was in 2009.

Here is the most interesting conclusion that Mr. Capretta advances: “The hard work of developing a credible alternative plan has already been mostly completed. What is needed now is a spirit of practical compromise among key Republican policymakers. It will not be possible to beat an incumbent program — the ACA — with abstractions, good intentions, and idealistic concepts. What’s needed is a workable, politically viable plan, one that voters can see for themselves would work better than the ACA.” 

As the article points out, the hard work for a viable replacement for the ACA has already been done. It will take Republicans to advocate for it in a forceful way. And, if SCOTUS disallows the payment of premium credits in the federal exchanges, as detailed in King v. Burwell, then Republicans won’t need to wait for control of the White House to replace Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act Turns Four…

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The American Action Forum has published an eye-opening research paper on The Affordable Care Act, and comes to the conclusion that “regulatory costs exceed benefits by twofold”.

From the opening summary: “From a regulatory perspective, the law has imposed more than $27.2 billion in total private sector costs, $8 billion in unfunded state burdens, and more than 159 million paperwork hours on local governments and affected entities. What’s more troubling, the law has generated just $2.6 billion in annualized benefits, compared to $6.8 billion in annualized costs. In other words, the ACA has imposed 2.5 times more costs than it has produced in benefits.”

For the full report, including the employment impact and policy implications for small business, go here.

This New O-care Regulation Could Affect You

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From The Foundry at The Heritage Network, originally published in National Review Online: “One excepted benefit that  .. could serve as a lifeboat if the voyage of the SS Obamacare goes as badly as we have feared: indemnity insurance .. anything that constitutes an excepted benefit under HIPAA remains exempt from all of Obamacare’s new insurance regulations.”

Well, not anymore it seems, as Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) unilaterally decided to amend HIPAA to suit themselves. As usual, the government drops its bad news on Friday evenings when we are all exhausted from working to pay for our health insurance premiums (or not, if you’ve decided to pay the penalty). Go here for the full story.

And this quote is especially telling: “.. this latest proposed Obamacare regulation, like many before it, isn’t even a remotely plausible interpretation of the statutes that Congress actually passed. This latest “fix” is worth fighting — both to keep the lifeboats intact during this dangerous voyage and to keep a sound insurance option in place for the long haul.”

Another Obamacare delay?

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Kaiser Health News is reporting that the Obama administration is preparing to implement yet another rule change in the rollout of Obamacare that would relax the enforcement of the medical loss ratio (MLR) provision for health insurers.

To review:  The MLR provision, which took effect in 2012, requires all insurers in the individual and small-group  health insurance market to spend 80% of every insurance premium dollar (85% for insurers in the large-group market) on medical care and expenses for customers, according to specific guidelines developed by the government. Only the remaining percentage of 15-20% can be used for administrative costs and profits. If an insurer does not meet its minimum-loss ratio, it must issue a rebate to its customers.

From “In the Federal Register, the Department of Health and Human Services signaled it may give insurers a temporary break on the ratio requirements, citing “the special circumstances” of the disastrous launch of Obamacare’s federal exchange website ( The administration also made other last-minute political changes during open enrollment, which ends on March 31.”

The minimum-loss provisions have been roundly criticized in this and other forums, as insurers would have little reason to manage claims costs below the MLR, since they will be penalized for doing so. It essentially sets the allowable limit for profit, regardless of how efficient or how successful a carrier is. In other words, health insurance carriers are regulated as utilities (a concept I first ran across in a well-known industry publication more than fifteen years ago).

The issue appears to be that insurer costs relating to the botched launch of Obamacare will make it difficult if not impossible to meet the MLR. Of course, at that point, if losses due to claims and other costs exceed revenue (likely, in my opinion), then the next big crisis will be “risk corridors”, which will compensate health insurance carriers for unanticipated losses. An understanding of this can be found here. And yes, it is a bailout, since the government agreed to compensate insurance carriers, who are required to meet claims and loss guidelines mandated by the government, for losses under The Affordable Care Act.

That it is considered to be a bailout by conservatives and not-a-bailout by progressives is a given. The reality is that the taxpayer is on the hook for outflows from companies who agreed to participate in the health insurance exchanges, if inflows don’t meet requirements for claims and costs (very likely, given that much lower numbers of previously-uninsured applicants, as well as applicants who are in the younger ages that the plan requires, have actually enrolled in Obamacare). In fact, many in the media get it completely wrong, as detailed here.

It is puzzling to me why some Republicans are quick to introduce legislation forbidding insurer compensation (known as the risk-corridor provisions) for losses incurred in meeting the requirements of Obamacare. They’d be better off simply allowing the Act to come apart on its own, which is what will happen, given the amount of panicked fiddling that is occurring with its implementation, and replacing it with something that will work, minus all of the social re-engineering. Eliminating the risk corridor provisions of Obamacare will simply bankrupt most carriers who agreed to participate in the exchanges, since they will be unable to sustain the losses that will occur given the conditions as they exist “in real-ville”. It’s been obvious for some time that the estimated number of uninsured, by most left-of-center pundits and think tanks, including FamiliesUSA, was optimistic; those numbers were used to justify and support all of the projections needed to make Obamacare work. That it isn’t working shouldn’t now be a surprise, and bankrupting insurers will simply provide Democrats with the end game they’ve always wanted: the death of the private health insurance market. Republicans should brandish the “no bailouts!” banner with great trepidation.

The Coming Disaster

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OK, there – I said it. It will be an unmitigated disaster. The relationship between The State and The Citizen has now been forever altered. I’m of course speaking of Obamacare, a.k.a. The Affordable Care Act. But, from now on, we’ll just call it Obamacare for short. Has such a great ring – after all, hasn’t The Prez himself now embraced it?

It will not be our place, going forward, to rail against the excesses of the great unwashed masses who really did vote for “stuff”, including “free” health care, such that it is. Rather, it will be our  pleasure to point out all of the unintended (really – unintended? but I jest) consequences of the greatest piece of social engineering that has ever hit a nation, short of the Russian Revolution. Stay tuned, as this is going to get really entertaining – or, perhaps not, depending on your viewpoint (you small business owners, who have just been reclassified as a “large business” – you know what I’m talking about).

Obviously, I’m no fan of this legislation (thankfully, having an opinion isn’t a hangin’ offense – yet). Obamacare is, of course, the opening gambit in the final throes of a complete government takeover of the health care sector – whether five years or twenty years from now. In spite of the near-complete abdication by the media of their responsibility to report what is factual and accurate about Obamacare, some truths have filtered out. So, one of our responsibilities will be to elaborate on these “truths”, in spite of the near-total blackout you’ll get from most in the media, so that you, my dear readers, can begin to understand the enormity of what one-party rule and flagrant “gifting” to minority coalitions can create. Havoc, in other words.

(My sympathies in advance of those who will look back fondly on these pre-Obamacare days of full-time employment – meaning, forty hours a week, that is. Working two part-time jobs is really going to be stimulating!)

Beyond that, there will be numerous changes (hell, I might as well say it – changes in the thousands!) to health insurance, health insurance regulation, health insurance markets, health insurance policies, health insurance coverage, health insurance taxes – you get the idea – over the coming five years, as we rush headlong into the full implementation of Obamacare, which doesn’t fully  land on everyones doorstep until 2018. We will be here, barring some unforeseen event, giving you all of the gruesome details, so that you can watch the unfolding train-wreck with us. Get the popcorn. Lock the door.

By the way, as of this writing, SCOTUS has decided that the Liberty University lawsuit, essentially about religious liberty and the new contraceptive mandates, should be heard, and apparently will be tracked to eventually wind up with the Justices. This may or may not be a side-show: it may give the Court a second bite of the apple when it comes to the constitutionality  of Obamacare. Yawn. I don’t think this is going to change much – I mean, what are we now 0 for 3? – not counting an election. I feel somewhat better about the Courts’ recent decision (9-0) regarding religious liberty, but beyond that, I don’t see this impacting the roll-out of Obamacare except in certain narrow ways – and this Administration will just do what it wants anyway. And besides – who ever said that Obama wants religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, delivering health care anyway? Better to turn it over to non-profit and completely controllable Accountable Care Organizations. They’re easier to unionize, anyway.

Next week I’ll talk about the new federal health plan option for states that have decided to back-hand the feds and refuse to start their own exchanges. Yes, we finally now have a “public option”. Stay tuned…




The Supreme Court decides

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Media reports suggest that today (or, at, least, this week) the Supreme Court will hand down its decision on The Affordable Care Act. To briefly recap, dozens of states sued the federal government to overturn the act; the reasons for that suit are varied, such as the individual mandate, but include such issues as Medicaid funding requirements, which is a huge unfunded liability for states.

I’ve resisted the urge to handicap the forthcoming possibilities, but I do have an opinion. Right or wrong, I’m going to publish it today; one way or the other, the debates between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney about health care in the upcoming general election will be fascinating to discuss in light of what the SCOTUS decides.

There are four possible outcomes: to do nothing and leave the entire Act standing; to narrowly strike down just the mandate provisions; to strike down the mandate and two other major provisions (which is the position that the Obama Administration said should happen if the Supremes conclude that the individual mandate is unconstitutional), and the fourth: declaring the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

I have no idea what the “Vegas line” is on this decision, so, I will take my shot-in-the-dark and lay odds:

Do nothing: 12 to 1. Not likely.

Strike down just the individual mandate: 6 to 1. Too narrow, and creates a bigger problem.

Strike down the mandate and the provisions relating to it (the position argued by the Administration if the mandate is unconstitutional): 4 to 1. The Administration wins, and the remaining Act becomes a rallying cry for progressives who always wanted the single-payor option (and this decision almost guarantees it).

Strike down the entire Act: 3 to 1. The most sensible solution of all.

My reasons for giving the best odds for striking the entire Act lay in the unprecedented suit brought by a coalition (frankly, a majority) of states against the federal government. I’m unaware of any action brought against the government by so many states, and this alone should prompt an unprecedented examination of the role of the federal governments’ power to pass legislation that intrudes on the right of the states to govern themselves. It also bears pointing out that the federal government is, technically,  a government of limited powers (the term “states rights” is not a pejorative for discrimination, despite what liberals have always said) with the remaining powers reserved exclusively to the states. With the individual mandate exceeding any rational understanding of the purpose and use, even in liberal hands, of the Commerce Clause, the demand by the states to be relieved of a burden they clearly feel is unconstitutional has to be carefully considered. The strange manner in which the Act was passed, the lack of ANY bipartisanship (or, of that matter, any input from anyone except the Progressive Caucus in the bills ultimate form) the distorted cost projections, not to mention the majority view of the Act across the nation by voters – all of these things must be taken into account by the Justices. Never mind that they are legal scholars who pass judgment on constitutional issues at the highest level; there is and always will be a political element to every controversial Supreme Court decision. Couple this with the lack of a severability clause, and my opinion is that the Supremes err, not on the side of caution, but on the side of good sense: telling Congress that this legislation is so flawed and so intrusive that it would be best to just start over.

And that is what I think the Supremes will do. If they don’t, they will be performing a major disservice to the country, by leaving in place a huge entitlement program that completely remakes the social contract between the government and its citizens (or should they now be called subjects?) without any rational means to pay for it (assuming that the Commerce Clause doesn’t allow the government to tell you what you must buy), while dooming a portion of the insurance industry to almost-certain extinction or, worse, outright nationalization or regulation as a monopolistic utility, with the government calling ALL the shots, while re-distributing massive tax increases to pay for it.

Whatever they decide – it’s going to be interesting. And don’t forget that, in the absence of any new federal legislation, states, including Colorado, will be in a position to craft their own solutions, which is how it should be in the first place. The fact is that Colorado state Republicans control the House by a slim one vote margin – and history shows that in the early 90’s, Colorado’s Governor Roy Romer (D) threatened to pass a single payor system unless “health reform” was enacted, which set us upon the very path we now walk.

Let the games begin! Quoting Rep. Michele Bachmann: ““The decision on Obamacare goes well beyond health care,” she wrote. It “will determine whether or not the court believes the government has a right to mandate that Americans buy a product or service, a direct impact on our freedom and liberty.”




P O P (Premium Only Plan) for employees – money saver for you


“P O P” isn’t fizzy, but is does save you money. What is it? P O P stands for “Premium Only Plan”, a slimmed down version of a Section 125 plan, casually called a “cafeteria” plan or Flexible Savings Account (FSA). And it is one of the most under-utilized employee benefits around – one that any employer who has a contributory welfare benefit plan sorely needs. This concept can be an incredible way to enhance your benefits package, while simultaneously boosting your profits.

Background: Why is this known as a Section 125 plan? Because the IRS Code Section 125 is the legal authority and basis for such a  welfare benefit plan – which must meet non-discriminatory requirements, as well as other reporting requirements, especially to your employees.

Why is this concept under-utilized? Because Section 125 FSAs can be a costly to set up and operate, most employers with less than 10 employees assume that they will never make it pay for itself. especially since owners are often exempted from them. But these plans include three “modules” – premium only, flexible spending, and dependent care accounts. Since much of the cost of administration (not to mention the headache of account losses due to utilization rules that favor the unscrupulous employee) are in the flexible spending accounts, the premium only module is cheap, easy to set up, and provides immediate tax relief to both employee and employer, without the headaches or administration costs of a full blown FSA. It is the simplest type of Section 125 plan and requires little or no maintenance once it’s been set up.

Premium only plans allow employees who contribute premium dollars. out of their wages, for employer-sponsored health and welfare benefit plans the ability to withhold a portion of their salary tax-free to pay for their premium contributions. Because these benefits are viewed as tax-free under the IRS Code, an employee’s taxable income is reduced. Employers win because pre-tax benefits aren’t subject to FICA, FUTA, or work comp premiums on these wages. Simply put, every dollar through a P O P reduces an employer’s payroll, reducing the employers’ costs, which immediately drop revenue to the bottom line.

Since your employees are already paying for these expenses out of pocket, a P O P gives them a great way to save money by lowering their taxes, which increases the percentage of their take home pay. With taxes likely to rise in the future, this is a ‘gimme’ for any small business employer.

Misleading the Supreme Court on Obamacare

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As I’ve written before, one of  the central defenses for the Affordable Care Act, as put forth by the Administration and echoed by all of it’s supporters, is the case for uncompensated care. Briefly stated, the Administration argued that uninsured patients drive up the costs of the delivery of health care sharply, and that cost is borne by all who are insured – hence, the primary reason for Obamacare.

I’ve also stated that this is, in fact, a canard – the total cost of uncompensated care is a scant fraction of the cost of Obamacare, now estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at somewhere around $1.76T for the first ten years (and this figure will rise, probably rise to more than $2T within the next year or so, unless the entire statute is declared unconstitutional or repealed). Spending the functional equivalent of $2T to fix a problem of less than $100B is not efficient – it’s one that only the federal government would develop, support, and champion.

The data that was used to make much of the argument around uncompensated care comes from a study done by FamiliesUSA, an ultra-left wing group that is on record as supporting a single-payor system. In that study, published in 2009, the cost of uncompensated care was estimated at $43 billion, the figure used by the Obamacare lawyers in it’s brief before the Supreme Court.

But as it turns out, there are major flaws in that study, and it should come as no surprise to anyone who follows how the left uses suspect statistics and shady reasoning to advance an agenda, the flaws inflate the costs to arrive at a foregone conclusion. David Hogberg, writing for Investors Business Daily Online, details the specifics here.

Researchers, led by Jack Hadley at the Urban Institute, examined uncompensated care and arrived at a different conclusion in the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured: that uncompensated care was “most likely about $8 billion. Given that total private health insurance expenditures in 2008 are estimated to be $829.9 billion (from NHEA projections), the amount potentially associated with cost-shifting represents less than one percent of private health insurance costs.” Documented here.

If the feds were really serious about “uncompensated care”, they’d look no further than their own under-compensated reimbursement scheme for Medicare, which dictates what Washington pays for its care under Medicare and other social welfare medical programs – which is in fact a far greater cost-shift to the private market than the care that is delivered to the uninsured. The accounting gimmick used – price fixing by Medicare through the HHS – transfers billions in costs directly to every American with a health insurance policy, and dwarfs any amount spent for uncompensated care that the Administration is touting as its primary reason for Obamacare.

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