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The Republican Sabotage Of Healthcare

We can all agree that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect but it was a monumental step in the right direction at a time when insurance companies were raking in record profits, jacking up rates by double digits, making the cost of insurance unaffordable for millions of Americans.

Since the ACA passed, Republicans have been trying to repeal it. Over the last eight years, Republicans have made more than 60 attempts to repeal the bill and only in the last six months have they ever offered any type of replacement.

Their latest replacement plan, that was ironically killed by three moderate Republicans in the Senate, would have kicked an estimated 32 million Americans off of their healthcare plans and would have transitioned Medicaid into a block grant system.  Ending Medicaid would have left millions of children, seniors, and the disabled without out any coverage at all.

Medicaid is the largest single provider of insurance in the country.  Nearly 40% of all child births in New Hampshire are covered by Medicaid.  Medicaid covers the cost for millions of disabled Americans who use funds to live in their own homes.  This is why dozens of ADAPT (Americans Disabled Attendant Programs Today) members protested during the Senate hearing on the Graham-Cassidy bill.

“Graham-Cassidy is the worst bill yet that Republicans have come up with to repeal Obamacare. This wasn’t what they campaigned on; they didn’t campaign to strip away the services that disabled people and seniors rely on to live in the community,” said Bruce Darling, an organizer with ADAPT. “They campaigned on fixing Obamacare and I don’t understand why they continue to target our community with cuts that will steal disabled lives instead of actually fixing anything.”

Cuts to Medicaid funding will fall first and hardest on community based services, forcing disabled people into institutions which will be underfunded hives of abuse, neglect, and human misery.

“The cuts to Medicaid funding are cruel and un-American,” said Dawn Russell, ADAPT organizer from Denver Colorado. “Forcing disabled people and seniors into institutions just to pay for tax cuts, which is what this bill does, is not equality. It’s not liberty. Graham-Cassidy is a policy for a much crueler and meaner country than this one, and the people who support it should be ashamed of themselves.”

Recently, Senator Hassan shared the story of Bodhi Bhattari, a Concord boy who experiences spinal muscular atrophy and needs hundreds of thousands of dollars in life-saving drugs every year. Bodhi’s mother, Deodonne Bhattarai, told WMUR that under the Graham-Cassidy Trumpcare proposal, “If we sold our house, we could probably keep him alive for another year.”

Now, the New Hampshire Department of Insurance estimates that 25,000 people, who get their insurance from the healthcare exchange, will see a 52% increase.

“Among 97,000 people in the individual insurance market, the 74 percent who either get federal subsidies or are part of the expanded Medicaid program will likely see their premiums drop or remain flat in 2018. But the 26 percent who pay the full cost will see sharp increases,” wrote Holly Ramer of the Associated Press.

The news of this dramatic increase on those trying to provide healthcare for their families, outraged legislators.

“I am outraged that some middle-class New Hampshire families will suffer huge premium hikes next year because of the chaos D.C. Republicans have created in the individual insurance market,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter.  “This is exactly why I spent the past year urging my colleagues to pass bipartisan marketplace stabilization legislation, which would have provided insurers with needed certainty, and also why Congress should pass my bill, the Medicare You Can Opt Into Act, and make sure every American has an affordable option that’s not vulnerable to profit-driven rate hikes.”

“That said, let me be clear: thanks to the Affordable Care Act and its Medicaid expansion, New Hampshire’s uninsured rate is at an all-time low, and I will not allow Republican state officials to use the disruption their party has caused in the individual market as justification to jeopardize that progress by ending an essential program that covers over 50,000 people in New Hampshire,” Shea-Porter added.

In the US Senate, Senator Shaheen has been working to avoid these rate hikes. Earlier this year, Senator Shaheen introduced the Marketplace Certainty Act to permanently appropriate payments for cost-sharing reductions to help stabilize state marketplaces and expand eligibility for hard-working Americans who need help paying their premiums.

“These rate increases for next year would be devastating, yet have always been avoidable,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This administration has followed through on President Trump’s threat to sabotage healthcare marketplaces as leverage to repeal the Affordable Care Act. New Hampshire families are now forced to pay the price for the Trump administration’s shameful behavior. I have been pleading with Republican leadership to allow bipartisan efforts to stabilize the healthcare marketplace to move forward, but instead, they chose to use this valuable time to make another attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act—a law that has helped tens of thousands of Granite Staters gain access to healthcare coverage. Republicans must return to the negotiating table and work with Democrats to craft bipartisan legislation that would stabilize the marketplaces. We need to work together to mitigate the harm caused by the Administration and help working families access quality and affordable insurance.”

As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Maggie Hassan participated this month in bipartisan health care hearings focused on stabilizing the individual health insurance market and lowering costs.

At a press conference after the defeat of the Graham-Cassidy bill, Senator Hassan said:

“We know that there is more to do on health care. There isn’t a Democrat here who doesn’t know that there are improvements we need to make. I am committed to working with members of both parties on the HELP Committee and throughout the United States Senate to come together and find ways in the short-term to stabilize our markets and lower costs. We have to address pharmaceutical costs. We have to address health care outcomes. But as long as there is this threat out there of another Trumpcare attempt, it’s going to be harder for us to do that, and it’s going to cause disruption in the very lives of the people we were sent here to represent.”

In the U.S. House, Congresswoman Annie Kuster, who also saw the possibility of massive rate hikes looming, has been working to stabilize the marketplace. Earlier this year, Kuster and nine House Democrats unveiled a five-part plan to improve upon the Affordable Care Act and stabilize the individual marketplace.

“I’ve discussed with Republican colleagues various proposals to stabilize the individual marketplace and rein in costs. I genuinely believe that there are many areas of agreement that can be reached to improve our healthcare system and I’m hopeful that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will come to the table in good faith to get this done for the American people,” said Kuster.

Not only has the President and the Republican leadership actively worked to repeal the ACA, they have been ensuring its failure by slashing funding to the program.

Congresswoman Shea-Porter pushed back by calling on the President to release funding allocated for the exchange “navigators” program.

“Navigators are an essential resource for the American people, and the Navigator program is critical to the success of Open Enrollment. We urge you to unfreeze these funds immediately,” Shea-Porter wrote. “Americans already face a number of new hurdles to enrolling in coverage during the upcoming Open Enrollment period, including an enrollment timeframe that has been cut in half and a 90% cut to the outreach budget that could have informed consumers about this significant change. Destabilizing the Navigator program could further compound the challenges consumers will face in understanding when and how to enroll.”

Shea-Porter also submitted an amendment that would save the Navigator grant program from elimination in House Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

We have known for a while that the ACA needs adjustments, but you would not toss out your car because of a loose spark plug.  We need to stop this ideological and political attack on the ACA and do what is really needed to help working families.

Of course there are many among us who believe the best way to solve the entire insurance issue is to eliminate private insurance all together and move to a national single player system.

Shea-Porter To Trump: Release Promised ACA Navigator Funding

Shea-Porter Leads 31 House Democrats in Urging Trump Administration to Release Promised Navigator Funding

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) led 31 House Democrats today in sending a letter urging the Trump administration to release promised funding for the Affordable Care Act’s Navigator enrollment assistance grant program.

“Navigators are an essential resource for the American people, and the Navigator program is critical to the success of Open Enrollment. We urge you to unfreeze these funds immediately,” Shea-Porter and other Members wrote. “Americans already face a number of new hurdles to enrolling in coverage during the upcoming Open Enrollment period, including an enrollment timeframe that has been cut in half and a 90% cut to the outreach budget that could have informed consumers about this significant change. Destabilizing the Navigator program could further compound the challenges consumers will face in understanding when and how to enroll.”

The letter, addressed to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma, notes that on Friday, September 1st, HHS unexpectedly froze committed funding for the Navigator grant period that was scheduled to begin on Saturday, September 2nd. As of Monday, September 11th, grantees had received no update on when they should expect to receive this essential funding. The letter urges that funds be released immediately with a retroactive date of September 2nd.

The Members noted Navigators’ significance in keeping the Marketplaces stable, writing: “Helping Americans sign up for Marketplace coverage has many benefits, including strengthening the risk pool of the individual health insurance market. Conversely, discouraging enrollment could weaken the market and drive up premiums.”

Last week, Shea-Porter submitted an amendment that would save the Navigator grant program from elimination in House Republicans’ Fiscal Year 2018 omnibus appropriations bill.

2017.09.12 - HEA - Navigator Grants

Congresswoman Shea-Porter Submits Amendment to Save ACA’s Navigator Program

Congresswoman Defends New Hampshire
Enrollment Assistance Jobs

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) today submitted an amendment that would save the Affordable Care Act’s Navigator enrollment assistance grant program from elimination in this week’s House omnibus appropriations bill.

“Navigators provide an essential, free service to people in New Hampshire and around the country who need help finding the best plan for their needs and budget,” said Shea-Porter. “Comparing coverage options can be confusing, especially for people who haven’t had insurance in the past. I’ve seen New Hampshire Navigators’ skill and compassion firsthand, which is why I’m fighting to protect this essential community program from partisan Washington attacks.”

The enrollment assistance program, which provided $600,000 for New Hampshire grantees to hire Navigators last year, faces escalating threats from the Trump administration and House Republicans. On Friday, the Trump administration proposed cutting the Navigator program by $23 million, while this week’s House Republican Omnibus bill would completely eliminate the program by prohibiting any funding for Navigator grants during the upcoming fiscal year. Shea-Porter’s amendment strikes this prohibition and instructs the Administration to return $3 million to the Navigator program. Earlier this year, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), which administers the Navigator program, transferred $3 million in Navigator funding to conduct an anti-ACA study.

“Without local Navigator support, individuals and their families may lack information to make a thoughtful decision on insurance coverage options,” said Tess Stack Kuenning, President and CEO of Bi-State Primary Care Association, one of New Hampshire’s Navigator grantees. “Navigators are an ongoing community resource to help ensure that New Hampshire families have the coverage they need to stay healthy.”

Since its inception, the Navigator program has helped educate over 9 million consumers about their coverage options. In New Hampshire, Navigators who work through the Bi-State Primary Care Association and the state’s Community Health Centers to provide impartial information about Marketplace plans, help consumers understand and evaluate all their options and apply for federal tax subsidies to lower the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and assist residents throughout the enrollment process.

Tomorrow afternoon, the House Rules Committee will decide whether Shea-Porter’s amendment is in order for a House floor vote later in the week.

Mark Fernald: Trumpcare Hurts The Granite State

What Trumpcare Means for New Hampshire:  Thousands lose their health insurance, hospitals take a financial hit, and the wealthy get a tax cut.

The Congressional Budget Office has now officially ‘scored’ Trumpcare and has estimated that 23 million will lose their health insurance.

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act has made it possible for nearly 50,000 citizens of New Hampshire to get health insurance. The vast majority of these newly insured are the working poor.  Their employers offer no health insurance, and they could not afford health insurance on the private market.  People making $18,000 a year could not afford a $6,000 health insurance policy before the Affordable Care Act.

If the Republican healthcare plan becomes law, nearly all of the newly insured will lose their coverage.

The expansion of Medicaid in New Hampshire has brought over $100 million per year into New Hampshire.  That new money has flowed to the bottom line of our healthcare providers, primarily our hospitals, which bear huge burdens providing free care for people without health insurance.  One study concluded that Medicaid expansion has cut the cost of uncompensated care over 40% in those states that expanded Medicaid.

Under Trumpcare, New Hampshire healthcare providers would lose hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade, jeopardizing the financial health of some of our hospitals.

At the heart of Trumpcare is a big tax cut for the wealthy.  The Affordable Care Act included the Net Investment Income Tax, a new 3.8% tax on unearned income (such as interest, dividends, and capital gains) received by couples with incomes over $250,000 a year.  Trumpcare would repeal this tax.

The Net Investment Income Tax corrected a flaw in the original financing of Medicare:  the system is funded by a payroll tax on the wages of working Americans, rather than by a tax on the incomes of all Americans.  Part of our paychecks supported Medicare, but dividends, interest, and capital gains did not.

The importance of this flaw cannot be overstated.  Medicare is a program that benefits Americans who reach the age of 65.  It makes sense to pay for it the way we pay for the rest of the federal government—based on our incomes, not just on our W-2 earnings.

(Social Security is different.  It is paid for with a payroll tax, and the benefits you receive depend upon how much you pay in.  With Medicare, your benefits are not based on the Medicare taxes you have paid.)

Warren Bufffet is paid a modest salary by his company. The vast majority of his income is dividends and capital gains that are not subject to the Medicare payroll tax.  Year after year, before the Affordable Care Act, Warren Buffett paid less in Medicare tax than many wage-earning Americans.

To his credit, Warren Buffet has spoken out against Trumpcare as a tax cut for people like him who do not need it.  According to Buffett, repealing the Affordable Care Act—and the Net Investment Income Tax—would have saved him about $680,000 in 2016.

Repealing the Net Investment Income Tax will cost the federal government about $60 billion a year.  Trumpcare offsets that revenue loss with huge cuts to healthcare spending.  Medicaid expansion would be phased out, while health insurance subsidies for the working poor would be eliminated.

Here in New Hampshire, if Trumpcare becomes law, the health of tens of thousands of our fellow citizens will decline as they lose their health insurance.  The financial health of our hospitals will also decline, as the number of uninsured people increases.

Republicans have spent years railing against “Obama tax hikes” without mentioning that the target of their wrath is a tax that corrected one of the great inequities in our tax system.  The health of millions will be harmed to benefit the wealthy few.

The Republican plan is now in the Senate, where it is being revised in secret. Most senators pay the Net Investment Income Tax, as they have large stock portfolios, and family incomes over $250,000.  We will see which senators vote to give themselves a tax cut—while taking health insurance away from millions—and which senators will vote against a personal tax cut and for affordable healthcare.

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor.  He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

Alliance for Retired Americans: House Health Care Vote is Appalling for Retirees, Older Americans

Raid of Medicare, cuts to Medicaid among the most problematic parts of the AHCA

The following statement was issued by Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to the House vote today to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with the American Health Care Act.

“Retirees and older Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare are simply appalled by today’s American Health Care Act vote.

“This bill decimates Medicaid, with more than $800 billion in cuts. Medicaid pays for the nursing home care of millions of seniors and health care for people with disabilities. The $8 billion that the GOP added to their plan at the last minute is a mere drop in the bucket compared to their cuts.

“It also robs the Medicare Trust Fund to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires. That transfer of wealth from the sick to the wealthy is unconscionable.

“The House leadership’s decision to rush the floor action means that lawmakers voted on the bill without even obtaining updated figures from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

“CBO estimated that the original bill would leave 24 million more Americans without health insurance after a decade, due to repeal of the subsidies and the rollback of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in states that adopted it. We cannot rule out the possibility that more than 24 million people would lose coverage under this version of the bill.

“Despite the wheeling and dealing and vote trading, the GOP repeal bill still drops the coverage guarantee for people with pre-existing conditions, strips coverage from millions and drives up costs for millions more.

“Among people ages 55 to 64, 84 percent had at least one pre-existing condition in 2014. That has not changed since the last vote.

“It is difficult to say what the cruelest aspect of this vote is, but raiding Medicare and cutting Medicaid surely remain at the top of the list.”

Senator Hassan Joins Colleagues in Calling on President Trump to Protect Granite Staters from Higher Health Care Costs

Senator Urges President Trump to Protect Cost-Sharing Subsidies that Help Lower Health Care Costs for Hard-Working Granite Staters 

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan joined fellow members of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), including Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), in calling on President Trump to stop efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to help stabilize the insurance market by protecting the cost-sharing subsidies under the Affordable Care Act that help lower health care costs for hard-working Granite Staters and Americans.

“As we have said, we stand ready to work on improvements to the law that would reduce costs for individuals and improve the stability of the market. But, we cannot work together on commonsense reforms without a strong commitment from your Administration to do no further harm and to halt efforts that have already begun to undermine access to affordable coverage,” the Senators wrote. “We urge you, again, to take action to protect and continue this vital financial assistance for our constituents and all of the health benefits that our families rely on today.” 

More than 6 million Americans enrolled in health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act receive cost-sharing subsidies to help reduce their out-of-pocket costs and deductibles. 

A lawsuit brought by Congressional Republicans, House v. Price (formerly House v. Burwell), seeks to stop ACA cost-sharing subsidies and raise out of pocket costs for hard-working American families. Instead of committing to protect the payments, President Trump and House Republicans further delayed action on this lawsuit – prolonging uncertainty for consumers and insurers – until May 22, 2017. President Trump could take action to halt these subsidy payments, which would force families to lose critical financial assistance and create instability for insurers that could result in plan cancellations.

“Failing to take immediate action to oppose the lawsuit or direct House Republicans to forgo this effort will increase instability in the insurance market, as insurers may choose not to participate in the marketplace in 2018,” the Senators added. “Most importantly, if your Administration stops these payments, it would immediately expose our families to higher insurance costs and could force them to forgo needed care.” 

Last week, Senator Hassan and Senator Shaheen joined their colleagues in urging President Trump and his administration to abandon efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act so that they can work together in a bipartisan fashion to improve the law and lower the cost of health care for all Granite Staters and Americans. 

The full text of the Senators’ letter available here and below.

Letter to Trump Re Cost Sharing

 

As President Trump & Republican Leadership Move Forward With Repeal, Shaheen Seeks ACA Stories From Granite Staters

In a video published on social media, Senator Shaheen urges Granite Staters to send-in their stories to HowACAHelpedMe@shaheen.senate.gov

*Watch on Youtube*

(Washington, DC)—This morning in a video published on social media, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asked Granite Staters who have been helped by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to send-in their stories as part of her effort to show President Trump and Republican leadership in Congress that the people who could be harmed by repealing this law are more than just statistics. Senator Shaheen setup a special email address for Granite Staters to send-in their stories: HowACAHelpedMe@shaheen.senate.gov.  

“Repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement would recklessly endanger healthcare coverage for nearly 120,000 Granite Staters,” says Shaheen in the video. “But I want to show my colleagues that this isn’t just a number – it is individuals and families whose lives would be disrupted if their health insurance was pulled out from under them. That’s where we need your help. I want to hear your story. What has the Affordable Care Act done for you?…We need to show Republican leadership in Washington what their actions to repeal healthcare coverage will mean to Granite Staters and their families.”

Senator Shaheen has been urging President Trump and Republican leadership in Congress to work across the aisle to improve the law, rather than repeal. In 2015, Senator Shaheen successfully improved the Affordable Care Act to help small businesses by passing bipartisan legislation. The Pace Act remains one of the few successful and non-controversial efforts to change the healthcare reform law. 

Last week, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report on the Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The report estimated that by repealing the ACA without a replacement, 32 million people would lose healthcare coverage by 2026, with nearly 18 million Americans losing coverage in the first year of enactment. Premiums in individual markets would about double by 2026. The same day the CBO report was released, Senators Shaheen and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) hosted a roundtable discussion with healthcare providers and policy leaders to assess the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act on New Hampshire. These experts warned that this could have dire consequences for the tens of thousands of Granite Staters who now have coverage thanks to the healthcare reform law. They drew attention to the expanded coverage provided for mental health and substance misuse treatment, which has been vital as the state combats the opioid epidemic, as well as for the management of diabetes and other diseases. Providers also highlighted the harmful effects of repeal, which hospital administrators have already factored into investments for the future of their practices. Repealing the ACA and the corresponding compensation structure would disrupt hospitals and healthcare providers’ ability to plan ahead. 

Key Facts on the ACA in New Hampshire:

– 43%: uninsured rate in NH has fallen since the ACA was enacted in 2010 citation

– 63,000: Granite Staters who gained healthcare coverage under the ACA citation

– 3x: Estimated increase in uninsured rate if the ACA were repealed citation

– 118,000: Granite Staters who would lose health care coverage by 2019 under ACA repeal citation

– 48,000: Medicaid claims submitted in 2015 for vital substance use disorder treatment

– 9,000: Young adults who have benefited from the ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26 citation

– 690,524: Granite Staters who benefitted from free preventative care and services such as flu shots, cancer screenings & contraception citation

– 74%: Seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B who took advantage of at least one free preventive service citation

– 13,000: Number jobs lost in NH if the ACA were repealed citation

– 2%: average premium increase on NH’s exchange from 2016 to 2017, the second lowest increase in the nation citations here and here

 

ACA Repeal & Opioid Epidemic:

– 50%: Increase in treatment gap under ACA repeal for Americans suffering from the opioid epidemic citation

– $5.5 billion: Amount of money lost per year under ACA repeal for treatment for mental and substance use disorders citation

– 2.8 million: Americans with a substance use disorder, of whom about 222,000 have an opioid use disorder, would lose some or all of their insurance coverage citation

 

After Billions of $$$ to Stockholders, UnitedHealth Claims Poverty Due To Obamacare

By LaurMG, used by CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons

By LaurMG, used by CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons

SMH.

Yesterday’s 24/7WallSt article about UnitedHealth said that an “earnings warning” issued by the corporation “could be a serious blow to at least part of ACA/Obamacare.”

UnitedHealth’s latest advice to investors is that the corporation now expects slightly lower 2015 profits.  (Can’t help noticing: that recalculation includes a write-off of “$275 million related to the advance recognition of 2016 losses.” Nevermind that we haven’t actually gotten to 2016 yet; UnitedHealth is already calculating losses.)

Apparently, that press release was worth the headline “UnitedHealth Warning Creates Huge Spillover, With Big Implications Ahead.”

Just a month ago, 27/7WallSt was writing happier news about UnitedHealth. Quarterly earnings per share were better than expected, and better than 2014. Premiums were up 9.87% over last year. The company was adding about 100,000 new subscribers a month (1.7 million new people a year). And for the first three quarters of 2015, things were so rosy that UnitedHealth spent $1.1 billion buying back its own stock.

Plus, UnitedHealth paid out another $1.3 billion to shareholders in dividends, just in the first three quarters of 2015.

So… $2.4 billion paid out to shareholders in the first nine months of this yearand now suddenly there’s supposed to be some sort of crisis?  Wow.

Back to 24/7WallSt: “What has been interesting to see here is that UnitedHealth actually has seen its shares soar under ACA/Obamacare.”  Yes, that’s what happened.  The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.  Here’s what UnitedHealth’s stock price history looks like:UNH stock chart

Looks like UnitedHealth’s profits are up since Obamacare, too.  Here’s what their quarterly earnings-per-share history looks like:Am I the only one having a hard time seeing how this is a problem for UnitedHealth?

Back to 24/7WallSt. The headline from last month’s article: Are UnitedHealth Earnings Enough for Investors?

Hmmn.  Is investor greed the real crisis for Obamacare?

— — — —

insuranceYep, there’s more.

As of yesterday, the corporation’s new profit expectations “reflect a continuing deterioration in individual exchange-compliant product performance.”  Yep, they’re talking about policies sold to individuals through ACA exchanges, which apparently are not “performing” very well.  From the press release: “UnitedHealthcare has pulled back on its marketing efforts for individual exchange products in 2016. The Company is evaluating the viability of the insurance exchange product segment and will determine during the first half of 2016 to what extent it can continue to serve the public exchange markets in 2017.”

In other words: individual policies aren’t “performing” very well, from the corporation’s perspective.  So UnitedHealthcare may stop selling them.

UnitedHealth is currently the largest health insurance provider in America. Other large health insurance providers – Anthem and Cigna, Humana and Aetna – have plans to merge, which “could shrink the number of major companies in the health insurance industry from five to just three. And that could mean fewer options and higher rates for consumers and the employers that provide health insurance.”

And according to yesterday’s 24/7WallSt article, UnitedHealth’s (newest) earnings forecast “could be used by the companies to support those pending health insurance mergers.”  Apparently on the theory that the four other insurers are too small to compete in the individual policy “product segment.”  (Even though Centene Corp. and Kaiser Permanente seem to be doing just fine.)

Am I the only one wondering why UnitedHealth’s latest earnings warning would justify the mergers of its largest competitors?  Given the corporation’s “soaring” stock price.  Given the corporation’s growth in earnings-per-share.  Given the fact that the UnitedHealth paid out $2.4 billion to shareholders just in the first nine months of this year…?

Am I the only who remembers that Obamacare was intended to rein in profiteering by insurance companies?

Remember what it was like, back then?  “In the midst of a deep economic recession, America’s health insurance companies increased their profits by 56 percent in 2009, a year that saw 2.7 million people lose their private coverage.  The nation’s five largest for-profit insurers closed 2009 with a combined profit of $12.2 billion.”

So, yeah, I suppose someone could “blame” Obamacare for UnitedHealth’s current financial situation.  And the fact that UnitedHealth’s per-share profit (EPS) is 75% higher now than it was in 2009.

But if anybody’s going to start passing blame around, now that “the 2016 presidential election has brought the health care argument up more times than can easily be counted”…

I think we should also be talking about whether Obamacare managed to stop the corporate profiteering, like it was supposed to.

— — — —

Can’t help noticing…

Yesterday’s headlines were fueled by the sudden drop in UnitedHealth’s stock price, which followed its revised earnings statement.

But that was yesterday.  So far today, the stock price has recovered more than half of yesterday’s decline.

Which still leaves the stock trading at about four times its price in 2009.

— — — —

Read more NHLN coverage of stock buybacks here.

Information for NH Residents on 2016 Health Insurance Marketplace

NH Insurance Department Issues Consumer Guidance as Open Enrollment Begins 

CONCORD, NH – As open enrollment through the state’s federally facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace (www.HealthCare.gov) begins, the New Hampshire Insurance Department offers information to state residents who plan to purchase health insurance in the individual market for 2016.

“As many New Hampshire residents begin the process of choosing a health insurance plan, I am pleased to note that they have choices: five health insurance companies to choose from, many plans and health care provider networks, and a range of price points,” said New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. “And I want the people of this state to know that the Insurance Department is here as a resource: Our Consumer Services staff is available to assist with issues that arise after people are enrolled in coverage.”

Federal assistance based on income level:

While you can buy a plan off the Marketplace — through an insurance agent or directly from an insurance company — you’ll need to go through HealthCare.gov if you want to receive financial assistance. Depending on your income level, you may qualify for financial assistance for a health insurance plan through the federal Marketplace or for no-cost or very low-cost coverage under the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. By visiting www.HealthCare.gov  and viewing New Hampshire plans, you’ll be prompted to enter your household and financial information; you’ll be notified if you qualify either for federal assistance for a Marketplace plan or for coverage through the New Hampshire Health Protection Program. If you are already enrolled in the New Hampshire Health Protection Program, you should have received information from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services about how to pick a plan for 2016.

 

Health insurance plans:

In 2016, five insurance companies will offer plans on the New Hampshire Marketplace: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Ambetter from New Hampshire Healthy Families, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Maine Community Health Options, and Minuteman Health.

“I urge New Hampshire residents to check their options for 2016, even if they are already covered,” said Commissioner Sevigny. “Open enrollment is your opportunity to check the Marketplace to see whether there is a new plan that costs less, has a more suitable network, or has better cost sharing or prescription drug coverage.”

For 2016 individual plans, open enrollment begins November 1, 2015, and ends January 31, 2016. New Hampshire residents buying individual plans will not be able to buy 2016 coverage or change their 2016 plans after January 31, 2016, unless they have a change in circumstances, such as changing jobs, getting married, or having a baby.

There are five categories, or “metal levels,” of coverage in the Marketplace. Plans in each category pay different amounts of the total costs of an average person’s care and feature different deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximums. The actual percentage you’ll pay in total or per service will depend on the services you use during the year.

  • Bronze: Your health plan pays 60%, on average. You pay about 40%.
  • Silver: Your health plan pays 70%, on average. You pay about 30%. (Note: if you qualify for cost-sharing assistance, you will pay less than 30%, but only if you choose a Silver plan. Your cost-sharing could be as low as 6%, depending on your income.)
  • Gold: Your health plan pays 80%, on average. You pay about 20%.
  • Platinum: Your health plan pays 90%, on average. You pay about 10%.
  • Catastrophic: Catastrophic coverage plans pay less than 60% of the total average cost of care on average. They are available to people who are under 30 years old or who have a hardship exemption.

When choosing a plan category, think about your health care needs. Gold and platinum plans often have lower cost sharing — meaning the plan pays more and you pay less –when you need care. Bronze and silver plans tend to come with less expensive monthly premiums, but they tend to pay less of your costs when you need care.

More information

The New Hampshire Insurance Department Can Help

Contact us with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your insurance coverage at 1-800-852-3416 or (603) 271-1406, or by email at consumerservices@ins.nh.gov. If you wish to file a grievance, you may call, email, or submit a complaint electronically or by mail or fax: http://www.nh.gov/insurance/consumers/complaints.htm.

The New Hampshire Insurance Department’s mission is to promote and protect the public good by ensuring the existence of a safe and competitive insurance marketplace through the development and enforcement of the insurance laws of the State of New Hampshire. For more information, visit www.nh.gov/insurance.

Senator Kelly Ayotte Is An Abysmal Failure On Women’s Health

Dont Take Away My Breast Exams - Image by Charlotte Cooper FLIKR CC

Dont Take Away My Breast Exams – Image by Charlotte Cooper FLIKR CC

Sen Kelly Ayotte Tries To Fool Us Into Believing She Supports Women’s Health

Today Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) tried to whitewash her dismal record on women’s health issues in an op-ed in the Concord Monitor, “My Turn: In breast cancer fight, early detection is crucial.”

Yes, we can all agree that women should regularly see a doctor for routine breast exams, pap smears, and other reproductive health issues, however this editorial focuses specifically on the need for women to get breast exams and mammograms for early detection of breast cancer.

“I’ve heard from many women in New Hampshire between ages 40 and 49 whose lives were saved because a mammogram successfully detected the presence of breast cancer before it was too late.

…I’m also supporting bipartisan legislation to make sure women and breast cancer patients have the information they need to make informed decisions about their health care,” wrote Ayotte.

That all sounds great except Senator Ayotte does not have a leg to stand on when it comes to supporting women’s health.  She has voted three times to defund Planned Parenthood, who provided over 3,500 breast cancer screening in 2013 and provided thousands of Granite State women.

We stand united with our allies at Planned Parenthood, champions of quality healthcare and a cornerstone of vital services to millions of Americans for decades. One in five women will rely on Planned Parenthood for health care in her lifetime,” Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The outrageous attacks on Planned Parenthood are nothing more than extremists’ attempts to advance their political agenda with complete disregard for the potential impacts on the health and well-being of the 2.7 million women, men and young people who rely on Planned Parenthood for basic preventive care,” added Henry.

Without quality healthcare routine preventative exams, like breast cancer screenings, are routinely pushed aside to save money.The good thing is that now, in part to the Affordable Care Act, many preventative exams are fully covered by your insurance. That must be why Sen. Kelly Ayotte is so supportive of the Affordable Care Act, which provides healthcare to 50,000 Granite Staters through Medicaid Expansion. Oh wait that’s right she wants to repeal the ACA leaving thousands of women without any healthcare at all!

Limiting access to healthcare, limits preventative care for all women.

It’s clear that when Ayotte talks about making ‘women’s health a priority’ she only means “some” women,” said Jenifer Frizzell, Vice President of Public Policy at Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund.  

Kelly Ayotte seems to forget that access to lifesaving breast cancer screenings and mammography go hand in hand with access to health insurance. This is clear in her unapologetic crusade against the Affordable Care Act —  which has allowed thousands of New Hampshire women the ability to afford health care for the first time — and her efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides thousands of breast exams in our state,” added Frizzell.  

The added irony is that Kelly Ayotte introduced “legislation that would mint commemorative coins to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation’s efforts to fight breast cancer.”   The Republicans in Congress have forced deep cuts to the federal budget which mandated cuts to hundreds of research programs. How much money was cut from the very program Senator Ayotte is now trying to fund with commemorative coins?

Protecting women’s health takes more than a commemorative coin. If Kelly Ayotte were serious about saving lives and making women’s health a priority, she would stop insulting New Hampshire women by pink-washing her record and support meaningful policies to improve health care in the Granite State,” said Frizzell.

No matter what Kelly Ayotte says, her record on women’s health issues is crystal clear. A abysmal failure.


 

See also: VIDEO: Planned Parenthood Wants New Hampshire  to #AskAyotte About Her Record on Women’s Health


 

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