Friday, March 29, 2013

Health care update 3/29/13

Health Action Network:

This Week in Health Care Reform: March 29th, 2013

In advance of next week’s decision on proposed payment changes to Medicare Advantage, a new detailed impact analysis is released; while the administration’s top health official acknowledges that costs could be going up; separate bills are introduced to both repeal the health insurance tax and protect brokers; and, three years later, a quick look back at what the health care law has already wrought and where it goes from here.


Health Care Reform

Impact Analysis: Late last week, a new analysis by management consulting firm Oliver Wyman detailed what the proposed payment cuts to Medicare Advantage would mean to beneficiaries in specific states.  Building on an earlier report in which they estimated seniors could face higher premiums of up to $90 per member per month, the new analysis, released by AHIP’s Coalition for Medicare Choices, breaks down by state the cumulative impact of CMS’ proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage, in terms of premium increases and/or a reduction in benefits, with 40 percent estimated to fall in the $60 to $75 range. 

Actuarial Cost: On Tuesday, the Society of Actuaries released a new study predicting that costs for insurers in the individual market could go up by 32 percent on average in the next four years.  In fact, the study goes on to predict that some states could see their costs rise by as much as 60 to 80 percent in that time.  Perhaps most tellingly, despite asserting that definitive data on these costs wouldn’t be available until later in the year, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged that some individuals, particularly men and younger people, in the individual market could see their costs increasing in the next few years.

Pair of Bills: Also last week, two bills were introduced in the Senate, both aimed at cushioning the blow for populations exposed to new taxes and restrictions imposed under the Affordable Care Act.  The first bill, introduced last Tuesday by Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), seeks to repeal the health care law’s health insurance tax.  As constructed, it’s estimated that this tax alone would result in individuals purchasing coverage on their own having to pay $110 more in premiums next year, while employers would be on the hook for an additional $360 for each family they cover.  The other bill, introduced last Thursday by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) and Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), addresses the medical loss ratio (MLR) provision in the Affordable Care Act and its dramatic consequences for insurance agents and brokers.  As currently written, the MLR provision requires insurers to treat the valuable services provided by agents and brokers as parts of their administrative services.  The proposed bill seeks to exclude their compensation from the final MLR calculations.

Legacy and the Road Ahead: With this past weekend marking the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act’s passage, a new study seeks to shed some light on the administrative burden borne out over the sweeping health care law’s first three years.  Released by the American Action Forum, their analysis estimates that the law has already resulted in more than 111 million hours of paperwork and $30 billion in costs.  Whether or not opponents find enough in those numbers to rally behind is anyone’s guess, but in the meantime, some took advantage of this past weekend’s milestone to put forth their own arguments as to why the occasion was nothing worth celebrating.  Regardless, the question remains: Three years later, what does the country think of health care reform now?

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