Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Obamacare Exchange Average Premium Hike 16 Percent Next Year

Caroline F. Pearson of the Avalere consulting firm has surveyed states which have already published 2017 Obamacare exchange premiums. Among eight states and the District of Columbia, the average requested rate hike is 16 percent for popular Silver plans:

Specifically, average proposed rate increases across all silver plans in the nine states examined range from 44 percent in Vermont to 5 percent in Washington. In 2016, 68 percent of exchange enrollees selected silver plans.
According to the data, in most states, proposed premiums for lower cost silver plans increased less dramatically or even went down for 2017, compared to higher-cost plans on the same tier. Lower-cost silver plans tend to be most popular with consumers, making this portion of the market more competitive as plans seek to attract enrollees.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Health Services 30 Percent of GDP Growth

The second estimate of GDP for the first quarter was a little stronger than last month’s advanced estimate, although much of the adjustment was a smaller decrease in inventories than initially estimated.

Spending on health services continue to dominate weak GDP growth. Health services spending of $19.2 billion (annualized) comprised 30 percent of GDP growth. However, there was shrinkage in personal consumption expenditures on goods, private domestic investment, and exports. This meant personal expenditures on services grew much more than GDP overall. Growth in spending on health services amounted to a little less than one fifth of growth in services spending. Nevertheless, the quarterly growth in spending on health services indicates health services continues to consume a disproportionate share of (low) growth.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Billions of Dollars Later, Veterans Health Administration Still Failing

Back in July 2014, I described how Congress was preparing to reward the Veterans Health Administration for its failure to ensure veterans get timely, adequate care, with a multi-billion dollar bailout.

Because Republicans had taken the majority in both Houses of Congress, the bailout was camouflaged as a method of allowing veterans more choice of healthcare providers, outside the government bureaucracy. The results are pretty bad, according to a report by Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Will You Ever Understand Your Medical Bill?

It is hard to exaggerate how painful medical billing is for patients. A new crop of entrepreneurs is trying to solve the problem. However, their success will be limited without policy changes.

Read the entire column at Forbes.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Do We Have To Work For Nuns to Dodge Obamacare's Mandates?

Obamacare’s opponents are cheering the Little Sisters of the Poor’s apparent victory over Obamacare’s mandate to cover artificial contraception, about which I wrote when the controversy first erupted.

The Little Sisters defied the mandate, which is contrary to their Catholic faith. The mandate is (obviously) not relevant to the nuns themselves, but to their lay employees who work in the Little Sisters’ nursing home and are covered by their plan.

Bravo to the nuns for standing up to Uncle Sam. However, I am increasingly concerned that advocates of small government have surrendered a lot of ground in the fight for individual liberty. Unless a person or persons have a sincerely held religious objection to a federal mandate, they have to obey. This principle is problematic.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Workers Increasingly Prefer Pay to "Benefits"

The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI), a research organization with a mission “to contribute to, to encourage, and to enhance the development of sound employee benefit programs and sound public policy through objective research and education” includes members as diverse as AARP, Aetna, Boeing, Charles Schwab, and Wal-Mart.

EBRI’s latest research on how employees view their benefits should give some encouragement to reformers who want to change the tax treatment of health insurance, and weaken the iron triangle of big business, big labor, and big government which enforces the discrimination against individually owned insurance. From EBRI’s latest Note: "There appears to be the start of a trend away from being satisfied with the current mix of benefits and wages, toward more preference for fewer health benefits and higher wages"

Read more at NCPA'ss Health Policy Blog.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pittsburgh Insurer Highmark Swings For the Fences on Obamacare Bailout

Health insurers have not had much to cheer about lately, when it comes to Obamacare. They have been losing money on exchanges, and there is little hope that will change. So, a large health plan in Pittsburgh has asked judges to give it Obamacare money the Administration promised, but Congress declined to appropriate.

Read the entire column at Forbes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Consumer Price Index: Medical Inflation Controlled

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for April confirmed medical inflation is matching the broad measure of price changes. For the second month, price changes for medical care (0.3 percent) were in line with all-items (0.4 percent). Although, it looks like a jump in energy prices drove the CPI up. If energy price increases moderate, we can expect prices for medical care to increase faster than CPI.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Producer Price Index: Pharma Prices Stand Out

The Producer Price Index (PPI) for final demand goods grew 0.2 percent last month, or 0.3 percent less food and energy. Prices for pharmaceutical preparations and most medical devices grew significantly faster, at 1.0 percent and 0.5 percent, although prices for X-Ray and similar equipment were flat.

With respect to final demand services, for which prices rose 0.1 percent (or 0.3 percent, less trade, transportation, and warehousing), prices of medical services changed similarly. However, prices for health insurance jumped 0.8 percent.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Federal Health Bureaucracy Growing? Don;t Blame (Just) Obamacare

Libertarians and conservatives and others have spent five years complaining about the increased bureaucratic burden of Obamacare. New research by Sam Batkins of the American Action Forum, while not letting Obamacare off the hook, shows the problem predates the current Administration. The burden of paperwork has increased linearly since at least 2005.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Taxpayers Increasingly Victimized in Obamacare Exchanges

Recent news has renewed attention on Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges (misleadingly called “marketplaces” by the Administration).

America’s largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, will all but withdraw from the Obamacare exchange business. Having sold plans in 34 states this year, the company will participate in only a “handful” next year. With 795,000 beneficiaries, UnitedHealth Group indicates it will lose $650 million in the exchanges this year – over $800 per enrollee.

Other insurers are sticking it out. Notably, Anthem, another leading for-profit insurer, which has nearly one million Obamacare enrollees, is positive about its future in the exchanges. Anthem’s optimism is surprising.

Read the entire op-ed in The Hill.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Another Hit on Price Transparency

JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, has published a research article challenging the doctrine that price transparency leads to lower health costs. Sunita Desai, et al., found being offered the tool was associated with a mean $59 increase in outpatient spending.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Health Jobs Grow Three Times Faster Than Other Jobs

Health services jobs grew over three times faster than non-health, nonfarm civilian jobs in April. Health services jobs comprised 44,200 (28 percent) of 160,000 jobs added. The rate of growth from March was 0.29 percent for health services jobs versus only 0.09 percent for other jobs.

Also concerning is the revisions of the job figures from February and March (Table III). The estimates of overall employment growth in those months have been revised down significantly from the previous two reports. However, all the downward revision has been outside health services. Indeed, the originally reported health services job growth for February has been revised up, while the previously estimated growth in other jobs has been revised down by 22,000.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Is Consumer-Driven Health Care Going the Wrong Way?

While there has been significant growth in patients’ direct payments, it is increasingly malformed. In 2015, deductibles comprised 47 percent of patients’ direct payments, versus only 23 percent in 2004. However, deductibles are the crudest and least effective way for patients to increase the share of health spending they control directly. Deductibles are determined by the calendar year. They are a characteristic of what I have described as the (very flawed) heliocentric doctrine of health insurance.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Health Insurers Shift More Costs To Taxpayers in Obamacare Exchanges

America’s health insurers are undergoing a crisis of consensus with respect to their engagement with Obamacare. Between 2010 (when the Affordable Care Act was signed), and 2014 (the first year of taxpayer-subsidized coverage in the health insurance exchanges), it was widely understood that health insurers had scored a big win. After all, which other industry could get the federal government to pass a law mandating individuals purchase its product or service as a condition of residency in the United States?

Since then, we have learned that insurers have been losing money on Obamacare’s exchanges. We should not expect insurers which continue to participate in exchanges to just keep losing money. In fact, the evidence indicates some insurers have quickly learned how to shift more costs onto taxpayers, despite failing to win an explicit political commitment to do so.

Read the entire column at Forbes.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Health Construction Boomlet Continues

The boomlet in health construction, first noted in last month’s Census Bureau release, continued in March. Health facilities construction starts grew 1.6 percent, while other construction grew only 0.3 percent.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.