Jump to content

Flurry of Tweaks to Affordable Care Act Leaves Insurers Rattled


2 posts in this topic

Recommended Posts

A spree of surprise changes to the health-care law in recent weeks has rattled insurers, who say the Obama administration's pronouncements could undermine the law's new marketplaces.

The latest change, announced Thursday, days before the Dec. 23 deadline to choose coverage starting Jan. 1, allows people of any age whose current coverage is being phased out under the law to buy so-called catastrophic coverage. These plans, with limited benefits and high deductibles, were mainly reserved for customers under age 30

In November, President Barack Obama urged insurers to resurrect plans that had been canceled for next year. A week later, the administration delayed a key enrollment deadline to Dec. 23, giving insurers less time to sort out new customers before coverage is set to begin in January. In mid-December, officials asked insurers to cover some services even for customers who hadn't paid their bills by Jan. 1.

Together, the shifts increase administrative burdens and leave insurers with less confidence they know the rules of the game. Allowing desirable customers to opt out of the new exchanges or delay decisions inserts new risk in the marketplaces. Insurers say that could translate to higher prices that would jeopardize the law's success.

"This all just adds to the complexity," said Matt Wiggin, a spokesman for Aetna Inc., AET +0.53% which has a major presence in the new marketplaces.

Consumers may "choose to wait out coverage decisions, knowing that their options could change yet again," said Humana Inc. HUM +0.20% spokesman Tom Noland. Humana offers plans in 14 states.

The Obama administration made the changes as it sought to mitigate the fallout from problems with the federally run insurance website and to stymie public outcry over policy cancellations that seemed to violate a presidential promise: that people who liked their coverage could keep it. Many of the tweaks also affect the exchanges run by 14 states and Washington, D.C. The federal site, HealthCare.gov, serves consumers in 36 states.

Thursday's change is "essentially an additional net in case folks might have slipped through the cracks," Mr. Obama said Friday. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said only a limited number of people—about 500,000 whose old plans were canceled but hadn't yet obtained new coverage—are expected to take advantage of the new provision.

The string of changes could add to costs by making the market more risky, said Gary Tanner, spokesman for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. "The rates in 2015 will rise because of them," he said.

Health plans set their 2014 prices months ago, using the guidelines of the 2010 health-care law as a road map. But the map has changed. For the new marketplaces to work, insurers must sign up broad swaths of customers including young, healthy people who can offset the costs of sicker enrollees. The health law bars insurers from charging unhealthy people higher rates.

Enrollees are trending older than expected in the first months: 62% of the 162,000 people signed up are over age 45, according to a McKinsey & Co. analysis of five state-run exchanges.

Thursday's decision allowing more consumers to buy the catastrophic plans could steer key healthy customers away from costlier policies, which could be left with a bigger share of sicker customers who need the rich benefits.

"If everyone on the healthier spectrum moves to the catastrophic plan, it further deteriorates who's left in all your other plans," said Joan Budden, chief marketing officer for Michigan insurer Priority Health.

"The rules of engagement have changed so much that maybe low enrollment isn't such a terrible thing," Ms. Budden said.

Priority Health has tallied enrollments in the "low thousands," a manageable number even if the plans lose money, she said.

WellPoint Inc., WLP +0.95% Cigna Corp. CI -0.08% and other insurers declined to comment.

The late changes coupled with glitches in the online enrollment websites raise the prospect that the law won't achieve its primary goal: taking a bite out of high rates of uninsured people, insurers worry.

The series of last-minute changes leaves some consumers such as Michael Huling, a 48-year-old from Greensboro, N.C., with health-law whiplash.

His bare-bones plan with Blue Cross & Blue Shield was canceled, then uncanceled. Now, he is wondering if a catastrophic plan might be a better choice. He doubts he will decide by Monday, the sign-up deadline. "Now, there's something else that's changing and not a lot of time left to decide," Mr. Huling said.

Write to Timothy W. Martin at timothy.martin@wsj.com and Christopher Weaver at christopher.weaver@wsj.com


Refusing to use the spellchick!

I have put you on ignore. No really, I have, but you are still ruining my enjoyment of this site. .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Filed: IR-1/CR-1 Visa Country: China

alright, that's it - i'm going in for a new eyeglass prescription on Monday.

Why? I swear I read 'Furry Twerks' ..

Man it sucks getting old.

Sometimes my language usage seems confusing - please feel free to 'read it twice', just in case !
Ya know, you can find the answer to your question with the advanced search tool, when using a PC? Ditch the handphone, come back later on a PC, and try again.

-=-=-=-=-=R E A D ! ! !=-=-=-=-=-

Whoa Nelly ! Want NVC Info? see http://www.visajourney.com/wiki/index.php/NVC_Process

Congratulations on your approval ! We All Applaud your accomplishment with Most Wonderful Kissies !


Link to comment
Share on other sites


Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
- Back to Top -

Important Disclaimer: Please read carefully the Visajourney.com Terms of Service. If you do not agree to the Terms of Service you should not access or view any page (including this page) on VisaJourney.com. Answers and comments provided on Visajourney.com Forums are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Visajourney.com does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. VisaJourney.com does not condone immigration fraud in any way, shape or manner. VisaJourney.com recommends that if any member or user knows directly of someone involved in fraudulent or illegal activity, that they report such activity directly to the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. You can contact ICE via email at Immigration.Reply@dhs.gov or you can telephone ICE at 1-866-347-2423. All reported threads/posts containing reference to immigration fraud or illegal activities will be removed from this board. If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by contacting us here with a url link to that content. Thank you.
  • Create New...