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.




Gruber-ized in Colorado!

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Everyone’s aware of the infamous Gruber statements. Let me paraphrase: you’re all idiots – now pay me. Followed by an evil laugh.

Well, apparently the good folks over at your local Marketplace Exchange, Connect For Health Colorado, fell for it, too. (And I should add a disclaimer that I am a Certified Agent for C4H-CO, and I’m just reporting the facts, Ma’am).

Those pesky folks over at the Independence Institute, namely their Health Care Policy Center, run by the charming Linda Gorman, an economist by trade and a member of Colorado’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Health Care Reform, have published a very interesting piece of analysis titled “How The Gruber Model Failed In Colorado”. You can get it here. The bottom line assessment? “Its poor predictions will likely end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars”.

This is so good it’s hard to summarize: I think anyone interested in the effects of Obamacare and the lackeys employed to carry the water for it should read it, re-read it, and pass it around. And, if you know anyone in Vermont …

Seriously, I’m no economics expert (or anything else for that matter, except maybe good coffee) but for really educated folks to buy into Grubers’ predictions, as highlighted in the reports and analysis he got paid to do by Colorado, simply defies explanation. I mean, really: the idea that, based on somebody’s economic assumption, there wouldn’t be an almost catastrophic rise in Medicaid recipients is simply stunning. As almost anyone who’s been around the health insurance business knows, it isn’t the folks who can buy insurance and don’t who are the biggest problem, it’s the folks who couldn’t buy coverage at all due to extreme low-income or other circumstances. The farcical notion that many more people would get subsidies rather than a short trip to Medicaid says that no one really understood what’s been happening in Colorado. Guess what? Medicaid enrollment has exceeded expectations by 40%, and drastically overestimated the demand for subsidized policies (one-sixth of what was projected!).

Even unsubsidized policies are far below Grubers’ prediction. (And here’s an odd thing: why would anyone buy an unsubsidized policy through the exchange, anyway? There is simply no reason to buy an unsubsidized individual policy through the Marketplace exchange – something that comes as a surprise to many people.)

The reports go on to (laughably) suggest that insurance premiums would go down “27% on average”, with people buying richer plans because of their tax savings. I should send this to my clients who have a) had their premiums rise at least that much, b) their deductibles go up dramatically, and c) their networks and doctor choices curtailed, seeing that the market switched from PPO to HMO offerings almost immediately. That would be all of them, by the way.

The list of predictions that were wrong read like a list of Obama statements, that’s for sure! Like Grubers’ predictions that people in grandfathered plans would “see no change in their premiums”. Actual fact: they rose by 37% by early 2014.

And we won’t even talk about how Obamacare wrecked a high-risk pool that was actually cheaper than it’s replacement (and rather than an HMO was an any willing provider network, to boot).

This, my friends, is what happens when common sense and good public policy get replaced with redistributive ideology: any argument works so long as it advances the political objective, true or not. And the essence of Obamacare wasn’t about “health insurance reform”, it was about federalizing the health insurance markets prior to a move to a single-payor system (that’s my own opinion, by the way, not anything taken from the report).

Best take-away quote: “.. substituting tax subsidies for direct payment does not affect the cost of health insurance”. Of course not.

Download it, have a good read, and discuss it. Better yet, share it with every Colorado legislator you can! Good job, Ms. Gorman!





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.

Six Million? Really??

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Much ballyhooed numbers on Obamacare enrollment are released, with an estimated six million enrolling, but  Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) expresses doubt. See the video and news story here.

Even in the face of such strong enrollment numbers, though, which have not yet been verified, the government has moved to extend the open-enrollment date for federal exchanges, even after a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) spokesperson said “we don’t actually have the statutory authority to extend the open enrollment period in 2014.” And of course, she is correct, as reported here. The open enrollment period is specifically defined by statute, and isn’t open to interpretation. Forbes has an interesting article on it, go here.

What this means is that people who have recently fallen ill or are otherwise uncovered will be able to get health insurance beyond the open-enrollment date, something that troubles insurers, some of whom are predicting double digit rate increases for 2015.

UPDATE: Here are three little questions about those Obamacare enrollment numbers.

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.

O-Care Premium Spikes Coming

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One of the most frequently cited ways that insurers used to reduce costs for the new ACA compliant plans was to engineer new provider networks, primarily HMOs, with lower fee-for-service reimbursements, referred to as  per-member-per-month arrangements. These networks were reviewed at the state level for adequacy. In fact, the new networks were substantially smaller, as many physicians opted out of them due to reduced reimbursement rates or capitation necessitated by the new rules carriers must operate under due to Obamacare.

The federal government decided that this won’t be acceptable for 2015.  In a draft letter from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), insurers will be required to include 30% of “essential community providers” (ESPs) in their network.

ESPs serve primarily “underserved” populations, including community health centers, HIV/AIDS clinics, family planning clinics and children’s hospitals. From Insurance Business: “In order to assure this is the case, CMS plans to establish its own process for certifying adequate provider networks, cutting out the role of state regulators.” See the full story here.

CMS, in 2013, stated that, for 2014, they would “rely on state analyses and recommendations when the state has the authority and means to assess issuer network adequacy.” See the full text of the earlier guidance here. For 2015, with CMS expanding the ESP requirement,this will likely increase premiums further, due to an increase in network providers mandated by CMS.

Other changes that will have a cost effect on premiums include changes to stand-alone dental plans, and a new requirement to pay for a 30-day supply of any new drug that a new customer had been taking—even if the drug would not have ordinarily been covered.  For the complete 2015 guidance, go here.

Insurers are rightfully concerned about the new requirements, with America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) already expressing its disapproval in comments filed on the proposed changes. Insurers have just weeks to present their changes, with some deadlines beginning in April of 2014.

Obamacare individual mandate: slip-slidin’ away!

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Today, The Wall Street Journal reports on  Obamacare’s secret mandate exemption. An amazing read!

A few choice quotes below:

“last week the Administration quietly excused millions of people from the requirement to purchase health insurance ..”

“the mandate suspension was buried in an unrelated rule that was meant to preserve some health plans that don’t comply ..”

“shifting legal benchmarks offer an exemption to everyone who conceivably wants one.”

The article concludes: “The larger point is that there have been so many unilateral executive waivers and delays that ObamaCare must be unrecognizable to its drafters, to the extent they ever knew what the law contained.” Indeed.


The Roberts Court and Obamacare

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Well, I can’t pick horses, either.

With the stunning decision by the Supreme Court of the United States this morning, Chief Justice John Roberts reminded me of the history surrounding another Chief Justice, Earl Warren, appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower, when asked, made the point that many may make about Roberts in the not-too-distant future – that it was, after all, a bad decision to elevate this juror to the Supreme Court, given his now-apparent political unreliability and left-leaning nature. Roberts has now proven, in at least two decisions this year, to be at least as politically unreliable as Justice Warren, and has firmly relabeled the Supreme Court as “the Roberts Court” rather than “the Kennedy Court”, since Justice Kennedy sided with the minority, all conservative, in the dissent to the bizarre and unsupported decision concerning the Affordable Care Act. Chief Justice Roberts, flatly, sided with the liberals on the Court in upholding the constitutionality of The Affordable Care Act.

It’s not as if the Court hasn’t previously made law out of whole cloth: but what’s interesting about this decision is that Mr. Roberts has essentially told the Obama Administration, and the country, that, while the individual mandate exceeds the Commerce Clause authority, the mandate can and will be considered a tax, something that the Administration itself argued wasn’t the case, until it had to be argued, and then promptly reversed itself, again, during oral arguments before the Justices. Chief Justice Roberts in essence said, yes, I think this is a tax, notwithstanding the Solicitor Generals’ previous denial, and as such you can proceed. He did what all Constitutionalists fear: he warped reality and invented law, conveniently, to advance an ideological position, from the bench.

The Affordable Care Act now becomes the biggest issue of this Presidential election, or perhaps any election since 1936. While Republicans have always espoused “repeal and replace” as the ultimate solution, in light of the devastation wrought by this decision, Republicans will be galvanized (or should be!) like never before to do just that, as, given the breathtaking depth and breadth of the societal changes wrought by Obamacare, they face the prospect of permanent isolation in the wilderness of politics, or, alternatively, complete disintegration as a political organization, if Mr. Obama is handed another four years to build a permanent majority of government-dependent voters who will fully embrace a government-dominated socialist society that promises them everything at the expense of the producers who, flatly, create the bounty we now enjoy. With this election, and this enormous landmark legislation now seemingly upheld, voters will be handed a stark contrast, one that favors liberty and individual freedom and one that favors “equality” and government intrusion. It is not inconceivable that, if Mr. Obama is re-elected, a permanent Democratic majority will come into power for decades, based only on the power of a newly created “dependency class” to continue voting to receive government largesse. And the bottom line is that, if you want to see the outcome of such a majority, take a good look at Europe today.

“That sound you hear is the marching of libertarians into Camp Romney, with noses held, knowing that the libertarian and conservative coalitions must unite to defeat Obama and Obamacare.” – Eric Erickson,

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.”




The Argument Against Obamcare

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The Supreme Court of the United States, beginning this week, will hear arguments in the case against Obamacare, brought by 26 states against the federal government. Their legal ruling, due sometime this summer, will determine, in the words of David B. Rivkin and Lee A. Casey, writing in an op-ed in the pages of The Wall Street Journal, “the Constitution’s structural guarantees of individual liberty, which limit government power and ensure political accountability by dividing that power between federal and state authorities”.

In their article, published today, attorney’s Rivkin and Casey may be giving us a sneak peek at how Paul Clement, the attorney arguing against Obamacare, will craft his arguments to the Court. Mr. Clement is the former United States solicitor general charged with arguing that Obamacare “represents an unprecedented overreach into the personal lives of Americans”, according to Jess Bravin, writing in the WSJ (“Courtly Battle in Health Case”). Mr. Clement is lead counsel in the case, brought by 26 states to overturn the Affordable Care Act, notoriously known as Obamacare.

Given that there are any number of ways, on any number of separate issues, that the Supremes could rule, I will refrain from making any predictions. It is interesting to note, though, that health insurers, who have been reluctantly complicit in the birth of Obamacare, the major negotiating point in their favor being the individual mandate, presented the court with a brief that was remarkably neutral, suggesting that, if the individual mandate is overturned, then the entire bill must be overturned. This is nothing more than window dressing: the insurers know that their survival, at least at the time, required a healthy dose of government-imposed regulation on their business model, turning them into crony-capitalist utilities in exchange for the chance to continue profiting from a system that many Democrat legislators have decried as “evil” and have vowed to destroy. What this means is that insurers signed on to Obamacare as soon as the government promised them that everyone must be on coverage, essentially mandating a compulsory market (with compulsory profit, too). As it turns out, given the kind of remarks we’ve heard from former Administration officials and the Secretary of HHS, their flight to regulatory safety was ill-advised and will result in their ultimate demise. Perhaps they should have stood their ground and made a fight for it, rather than make a pact with the devil.




U.S. Senators release report on Obamacare

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Senators John Barrasso, R-WY, and  Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, have co-authored a report detailing the disaster known as Obamacare. Senators Barrasso and Coburn have a unique perspective on the emerging octopus of centralized/federalized health insurance: they are both physicians.

Some excerpts from the 38 page report:

  • Warned the health care law could eliminate about 788,000 jobs. CBO Director Doug Elmendorf confirmed in Congressional testimony that the health care law would reduce the workforce by approximately 800,000 jobs.
  • Concluded the Medicaid expansion’s “extra costs forced upon state taxpayers and state governments could climb into the hundreds of billions of dollars”. In fact, according to a tally of state estimates, the law will impose about $120 billion in additional costs on states, just in the first few years of the law’s implementation.
  • Explained the Community Living Assistance Services and Support (CLASS) program was “a budget gimmick to appear to offset new spending” and warned the program could “expose taxpayers to tens of billions of dollars of loss” because it was would eventually collapse. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has admitted CLASS was unworkable, and shuttered the program.
  • Cautioned “the appearance of Medicare‘s extended solvency is actually only a mirage. In reality, under the new law, Medicare‘s unfunded liabilities will grow worse”. The Medicare Actuary late concluded that Medicare’s unfunded liabilities are made worse by about $2 trillion under the law.
  • Warned that “as the new law is being implemented, millions of Americans are in danger of losing their current health insurance.” HHS concluded that, under the law, between 39 and 69 percent of businesses will lose their status as “grandfathered health plans”—plans largely unaffected by the law’s new mandates. HHS estimates by 2013, up to 80 percent of small businesses will lose their grandfather status.
  • Noted that “rather than fixing an issue everyone in Congress agreed was a problem, Congressional leaders left the doc fix out of the final health bill” because of “budgetary shenanigans” to decrease the appearance of the bill’s cost. We warned that this policy omission “could endanger access to care for millions of seniors. In fact, Congress has already had to intervene several times to prevent severe cuts to physician reimbursements that would harm seniors’ access to care.

An eye opening report that every employee worried about their employer abandoning their health care, and every employer worried about the spiraling cost of benefits, should read.

Obamacare implementation moves forward in 2012

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2012 will be a landmark year in the life of The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, as the federal regulatory apparatus continues it’s torturous development of various aspects of the legislation and HHS builds out the infrastructure of the program, in spite of the constitutional challenge brought by more than two dozen states attorney generals, scheduled for oral argument in April by the Supreme Court of the United States. Battle lines continue to be drawn between pro and con advocates of the sweeping legislation, with California being the latest to submit an Amicus Brief in support of health care reform (not surprising, given the lay of the political landscape in California).

Here are some key dates this year in the implementation of this massive expansion of the welfare state:

Jan/Feb. 2012 – HHS awards grants totaling $3.4 billion to Consumer Oriented and Operated Plans (CO-OPs) for startup costs in order to meet state solvency requirements. These programs, which are essentially non-profit collectives with a high degree of default risk, are essentially being seeded and grown with federal taxpayer dollars and will surely undermine private, for-profit health care organization. HHS admits that these organizations may lose $1 billion of more. Sounds like Solyndra to me.

Spring 2012 – “Essential Health Benefits” regulation expected. This regulation will tell us what benefits will be required for all plans, rather than current state regulations or oversight. Expect health care premiums to increase with the publication of these regs, since there will be little effort to constrain what will be required for essential benefits (well, unless you are a senior on Medicare, of course).

March 26-28, 2012 – The Supreme Court of the United States hears oral arguments on the constitutionality of Obamacare. The Court has scheduled three days of oral arguments, almost unprecedented in the modern era. (The final day of Supreme Court’s 2011-2012 session is June 25th, 2012 – media reports suggest that a decision on Obamacare’s constitutionality is expected within a week or two before this date.)

June 29, 2012 – Deadline for States to apply for federal grants to implement Health Insurance Exchanges. Colorado has accepted federal grant money to develop it’s exchange, discussed here.

November 6, 2012 – For those who aren’t in favor of letting the Supreme Court legislate from the bench, or strike down only parts of Obamacare rather than extinguish it all based on it’s lack of a severability clause, this is the most important day of the year: Federal Election Day.


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