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Senator Hassan Joins Effort To Improve The Affordable Care Act And Lower Costs To Granite Staters

Legislation Improves Affordable Care Act &
Would Help Lower Costs for Older Granite Staters
 

WASHINGTON – Today, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) in introducing a bill to help make health care coverage more affordable for hard-working, middle class Granite Staters.

The common-sense legislation helps improve the Affordable Care Act by eliminating the cliff that currently blocks many middle-class individuals and families from receiving financial help to purchase insurance through the marketplace.

“We need to work together to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and bring health care costs down for hard-working people,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “This bill is a common-sense step that will help to bring down the cost of premiums for middle class Granite Staters on the exchange, allowing more people to access affordable coverage and making our people and our communities stronger.”

Under current law, individuals and families making just one dollar more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($47,520 for an individual, $80,640 for a family of three) receive no financial assistance in purchasing health insurance in the marketplace. This sharp cut-off contributes to affordability issues in individual markets nationwide.

This legislation would make it so no individual or family in New Hampshire would pay more than 9.69 percent of their monthly income toward health insurance premiums. Currently, 9.69 percent of monthly income is the maximum contribution households are required to make toward their health plan if they make between 300 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.

“While President Trump and Congressional Republicans seek to take away health care from 23 million Americans, real health care champions like Senator Maggie Hassan are seeking ways to strengthen the Affordable Care Act and make coverage more affordable for Granite State families,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress. “We need more elected officials like Sen. Hassan seeking solutions instead of the politicians promoting a failed Trumpcare 2.0 agenda that targets those with pre-existing conditions and puts at risk coverage for our families and small businesses.”

“We thank Senator Hassan for her work to ensure all Americans have access to the quality, affordable health care coverage they need to be healthy and economically secure,” Rice-Hawkins added.

The senators’ proposal would be particularly beneficial to individuals aged 50 to 64, given that plans are more expensive for older individuals.

850% Increase To Seniors Healthcare: NH Congressional Delegation Responds To New CBO Report

Yesterday the non-partisan, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their report on the American Healthcare Act of 2017 (AHCA) and the news is horrifying to seniors and low income families.

The CBO reports:

  • An estimated 23 million people would lose healthcare coverage over the next ten years.
  • The cost of an individual plan would skyrocket by 20% in 2018, and an additional 5% in 2019.
  • Those 50-64 would be forced to pay drastically higher premiums, as much as 60% of their income.

VOX reports that this would be an 850% increase over what they would pay under the current ACA law.  You can see the breakdown of premiums based on 175% of the Federal Poverty Level ($26,500 per individual) and 450% of FPL ($68,200).

This new law makes healthcare completely unaffordable for millions of Americans, specifically older Americans.  These are just what people would be forced to pay to get “access” to healthcare. This does not include deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance.   Nobody could possibly afford to pay 60% of their income to have the freedom to access healthcare.

“Today’s CBO report confirms that the Republican healthcare repeal bill is not only reckless, it would be devastating to Granite Staters’ health and wellbeing,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).”Throwing 23 million Americans off their insurance is not a successful healthcare plan. The Republican leadership’s repeal bill would result in many patients paying more and receiving less coverage, while eliminating protections that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against patients with pre-existing conditions such as a history of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or postpartum depression. The repeal bill would be particularly harmful to New Hampshire’s response to the opioid epidemic, eliminating Medicaid expansion that has helped Granite Staters get the substance misuse treatment they need. I urge my Republican colleagues to commit to working in a bipartisan manner to improve the Affordable Care Act and ensure that more Americans have affordable, accessible care.”

“The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has confirmed what we already knew: Trumpcare would be devastating for hard-working people across New Hampshire and America, leading to higher costs for worse health coverage,” said Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH). “If you buy your own health care, Trumpcare means you will face 20% higher premiums in 2018, with especially high premium hikes for older Americans. And if you have a pre-existing condition, which under Trumpcare includes cancer, asthma or diabetes, you could once again be discriminated against with higher costs. Trumpcare would also lead to 23 million more uninsured Americans, and it would undermine our efforts to combat the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis – despite President Trump’s promises to take action against this crisis. I will continue to do everything in my power to stop this harmful Trumpcare bill.”

“Today’s estimate by the independent Congressional Budget Office confirms that the health care repeal bill Republicans pushed through the House earlier this month would kick a devastating number of Americans – 23 million people – off of their coverage, strip protections from people with pre-existing conditions, and raise their premiums,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) who voiced her opposition to this bill on the House floor.

“This estimate caps off a disturbing week where President Trump proposed devastating cuts to Medicaid, children’s health care coverage, and Social Security disability insurance, while continuing to destabilize insurance markets by denying insurers certainty about whether his Administration will honor its obligations. President Trump has broken his promise of ‘insurance for everybody,’” Shea-Porter added.

“This report affirms what we already knew, that the American Health Care Act would be a disaster for access to healthcare in New Hampshire and across the country,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02). “It would take away protections for those with preexisting conditions, allow Americans over 50 to be charged more, hurt access to healthcare for seven million veterans, and jeopardize our response the opioid epidemic. I urge my Republican colleagues to abandon this legislation and come to the table in good faith to work on bipartisan solutions to improve access to healthcare for all Americans.”

No doubt the Republicans will try to say that the CBO confirms that this new healthcare bill will save taxpayers “$116 billion dollars” over the next decade.  But at what cost?  They are gutting Medicaid upwards of $800 billion with an addition $276 billion in tax giveaways to wealthiest Americans.

This new healthcare bill is a complete disaster. The Senate is our only hope to somehow fix this.  If the Senate passes this bill as it is now, people will die.  People will no longer be able to afford healthcare and they will no longer be able to afford their medications and they will die.

Planned Parenthood Of NH Pushes Back On Washington’s Attack On Women’s Health

Planned Parenthood NH Action Fund Launches #IStandwithPP Statewide Grassroots Campaign to Protect Women’s Health in Granite State

Activists Gird for Negative Impact on 12,000 Granite Staters, State’s Five Planned Parenthood Health Centers If Extreme Politicians in Washington Act to Restrict Women’s Health 

From Planned Parenthoot FLIKR

CONCORD, NH— Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund has joined the #IStandWithPlannedParenthood national grassroots campaign that includes 300 events in 47 states across the country.  Just last week, Speaker Ryan’s pledged to defund Planned Parenthood health services – a measure that would leave thousands of Granite Staters without care. The measure would prohibit the health care provider from receiving reimbursement for services, like cancer screenings and birth control, provided to patients insured by federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare. In effect, this blocks patients from accessing reproductive health care. Federal insurance programs do not cover abortion.

As a part of these efforts, Senators Shaheen and Hassan made their first joint New Hampshire appearance on Monday morning at a Planned Parenthood health center in Exeter, where they spoke with local patients and volunteers signaling their unwavering efforts to protect health care access for the 12,000 Granite Staters who rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for their care, and the 2.5 million women, men, and  young people across the country.

“Planned Parenthood’s patients are anxious about how they will get affordable reproductive and sexual health care if extreme politicians in Washington block access to birth control and preventive care at our health centers,” said Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President for Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund. “New Hampshire has among the lowest teen pregnancy and STI rates in the country and taking away access to birth control, cancer screenings, and reproductive health care will have dangerous consequences for the health of our citizens and for the well-being of our communities. We are grateful that our federal delegation knows how essential the services Planned Parenthood provides is and will fight to ensure women’s health care access is protected.” 

“The fundamental right of women to access health care is integral to the economic security and vitality of our families and communities, and Planned Parenthood provides critical primary and preventative health care services to thousands of New Hampshire women, including preventative care, birth control and cancer screenings,” Senator Hassan said. “It is outrageous that Speaker Ryan and Republicans in Washington would try to take away access to basic health services for women in New Hampshire and across the country, and I will continue fighting against any proposals that defund Planned Parenthood and undermine Granite Staters’ access to quality, affordable health care at providers they trust.” 

“Thousands of women in the Granite State rely on Planned Parenthood for vital preventative and primary health care services like breast cancer exams, diabetes screenings, and birth control services,” Senator Shaheen said. “Defunding Planned Parenthood would leave these women without access to critical preemptive care that they need in order to live healthy lives, care for their families, and lead in the workforce. This effort is another politically-motivated attack on women in New Hampshire and across the country, and I will not stand for it. Republican leadership in Congress does not have a mandate to take away women’s healthcare.” 

Image by Sarah Mirk (FLIKR CC)

 

Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund has many grassroots events planned in January to highlight the support for Planned Parenthood in the state and nationally.

Later this week, PPNHAF will kick off an ‘I Stand With Planned Parenthood’ statewide lawn sign drop. As of today, more than 200 Granite Staters have signed up to stand in solidarity with the state’s largest women’s health provider by placing a sign outside their homes. All weekend PPNHAF will be dropping signs off to supporters around the Seacoast area. 

On January 21st, PPNHAF will cohost a ‘NH Women’s Day of Action & Unity’ in Concord, NH. The ‘NH Women’s Day of Action & Unity’ will include a morning rally and afternoon advocate trainings. Hundreds of New Hampshire residents have RSVP’d to attend and are eager to voice their support for women’s health, equity, and justice in an era of uncertainty for Planned Parenthood and abortion access.

PPNHAF also plans to host three open mic “story slams” in coffee shops in Manchester, Portsmouth and Keene where women, men, and families can share the important role Planned Parenthood and reproductive health care access has played in their lives. The events will take place on January 26th and 27th at Book & Bar in Portsmouth on Thursday January 26th from 7-9pm, Brewbakers in Keene on Friday January 27th from 6-8pm and Studio 550 in Manchester on Friday January 27th from 7-9pm.

In the past two months, hundreds of people have signed up to volunteer in New Hampshire, mobilizing supporters to fight back against this effort to restrict access to health care. The events coincide with the launch of a new website, istandwithpp.org, directing supporters to take action by sending letters to their members of Congress, volunteering for Planned Parenthood, sharing their story, finding an event, or calling their senator. Since yesterday, 168,000 people signed a petition asking Congress to stand with Planned Parenthood against the attacks. 

The American people overwhelmingly support Planned Parenthood. Sixteen separate nationwide polls and nine polls in key swing states show strong favorability for Planned

Parenthood and strong opposition to efforts in Congress to block patients from accessing high-quality, often lifesaving care at Planned Parenthood. Additionally, a recent Politico-Harvard poll showed overwhelming support for Planned Parenthood, including from nearly half of self-identified Trump supporters.

ICYMI: New Business Coalition Forms to Advocate for Granite State Medicaid Expansion

Concord, N.H. – Continuing the steady drumbeat in support of reauthorizing New Hampshire’s successful Medicaid Expansion, the Union Leader reported today that a group of local businesses and business organizations has formed a coalition to advocate for continuing the successful bipartisan program that is reducing the shifting of uncompensated care costs onto families and businesses while boosting the Granite State’s economy. Please see below.

A coalition that includes some businesses and local business groups has formed to advocate for Medicaid expansion in New Hampshire.

ExpandNH has launched a website and plans to advocate for Medicaid expansion from a business perspective, according to a statement released Monday.

The effort includes chambers of commerce in Manchester, Portsmouth and Concord; the for-profit Hospital Corporation of America; the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; and Harvard Pilgrim, said Michelline Dufort, vice president of public affairs at Cookson Strategic Communications, which is organizing and managing the ExpandNH initiative.

It has also shortened the issue into a five-letter abbreviation: MedEX.

“This is an important issue because MedEX is working as it was designed — helping New Hampshire families become and stay healthy while stabilizing health insurance rates for employers and creating savings for taxpayers,” Dufort said in a statement.

Leo W Gerard: GOP Vows Sickness and Ill-Health

Paul Ryan (DonkeyHotey)

Paul Ryan (DonkeyHotey FLICKR)

The grandest and most majestic first act of 2016 by the Republican majority in Congress was to take a meat clever and sever 17 million Americans from their Affordable Care Act health insurance.

No chemo for you, cancer patients, the GOP declared. No plaster or slings for you, bone fracture victims, they sneered.

Precious few of the 17 million Americans whose health the GOP imperiled with this hard-hearted deed heard any panicked news about it, however. This made Republicans very, very sad because last week’s measure was the first in their 50 attempts to gut the Affordable Care Act to actually pass both the U.S. House and Senate. All of their other failed attempts had died in Congress. But this one, this one special bill, died Friday at the tip of President Obama’s veto pen. Still, it’s just as dead as the others. The bad, old insurance days won’t return.

In those bad, old, pre-Affordable Care Act days, health insurance was not working. Remember insurance companies throwing people off their plans when they got sick? Recall insurance companies denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions like diabetes and acne? There was that Medicare prescription plan donut hole that cost senior citizens thousands of dollars every year. And more and more employers were ditching health coverage for workers.

2016-01-10-1452442490-157501-ACAgraphic.jpg

Americans wanted it all fixed. The Affordable Care Act took a giant leap toward accomplishing that. Okay, it’s not perfect. It doesn’t cover everyone. But 17.6 million more Americans got insurance because of it. Young adults to age 26 can stay on their parents’ plans. The cost of drugs for seniors stuck in the donut hole declined, and the coverage gap disappears altogether in 2020. Insurance companies can’t dump the sick or deny them coverage.

It’s a different world. It’s one where tens of millions of Americans feel safer and more secure. They’ve got health insurance now. Or they know that if they lose their job, and along with it their employment-based insurance, they’ll be able now to buy coverage.

This world, though, makes Republicans squirm. They hate it when the government of the people, by the people does more for the people. To them, it’s bad enough that the people have gotten together and decided government should provide public schools for all children. Republicans believe private schools exclusively for those who can afford them would be just fine. Republicans believe those private security forces hired to guard gated communities could supplant public police departments, and places that couldn’t afford private forces would get no protection. They’d be happy with toll roads owned and operated by private corporations instead of freeways built by tax dollars.

Similarly, they’ve repeatedly proposed privatizing Medicare, the highly efficient, extremely popular, government-operated health insurance for the elderly. They opposed the national health insurance plan FDR proposed in 1939. And in the decades since then, they’ve killed every attempt by Democratic administrations, including President Bill Clinton’s, to provide some sort of national health plan. Many influential Republican leaders condemned Medicare, the national health plan serving only the elderly, when it passed in 1965. Those opponents included Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush.

Republicans don’t care that Americans love Medicare and desperately want the reassurance of access to health insurance during the decades before they turn 65. Republicans don’t care that citizens of every other major first-world nation provide this benefit to each other. Germany started doing it in 1883.

Republicans don’t believe citizens should provide services to each other through their government. And the GOP’s sworn mission is to destroy as many as they can.

In addition to cancelling insurance for 17 million Americans, the doomed Republican measure would have eliminated all federal funding – $450 million – for Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, the places that millions of poor women rely on for basic reproductive needs including annual exams and family planning.  No federal funding pays for abortions.

The GOP contended that it made up for that loss by providing $235 million for community health centers. That’s just about half of the Planned Parenthood funding. So apparently the GOP thought it was just fine to deny care to half of the women Planned Parenthood serves.

Republicans made no plans to deal with the loss of the Affordable Care Act, however. They’re claiming that they’d replace the act someday over the rainbow when they re-elect GOP majorities in both the U.S. House and Senate as well as elect a GOP President, after which they would actually be able to repeal the law.

There’s not any sort of replacement proposal now, however. None. GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan admits it. He claims Republicans will start talking about that soon. “Just wait,” he instructed when asked about plans.

Republicans have been trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act for five years. But they’ve made absolutely no effort to patch the massive gaping hole that would leave behind. They don’t want to.

They don’t believe in communities coming together to care for their members, whether that’s by providing public transit or access to health insurance.

They believe that Americans who get cancer in the richest country in the world and don’t have health insurance are on their own.

NH Democrats’ Blast Ayotte And Rubio Over Healthcare “Repeal And Defund” Votes

Excerpts from NHDP Press Call on Ayotte and Rubio’s Votes to Defund Planned Parenthood and Repeal Medicaid Expansion

CONCORD, N.H. – Today, the New Hampshire Democratic Party held a press conference call on Senators Kelly Ayotte and Marco Rubio and their damaging, partisan votes to repeal New Hampshire’s successful bipartisan Medicaid expansion and kick 40,000 Granite Staters off of their health care while defunding Planned Parenthood in one fell swoop. While both are scheduled to appear at the same Republican women’s event in New Hampshire today, former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Kathy Sullivan and New Hampshire State House Deputy Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald spoke out on their disastrous votes.

Former NH Democratic Party Chair, Kathy Sullivan:

“Sen. Ayotte is appearing with Sen. Rubio today at a Republican women’s event on the Seacoast and they will likely tout that vote as if it’s something to be proud of. But it’s not something to be proud of. They should be ashamed for that vote. This was a vote to defund Planned Parenthood, which helps thousands of women and their families here in New Hampshire. This was a vote to take away health care coverage for more than 40,000 people who were covered by New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion. 

“But we shouldn’t be surprised by these votes. This is Ayotte’s 5th vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and her 6th to defund Planned Parenthood — and Ayotte even voted against a proposal from so-called ‘centrist Republicans’ including Maine’s Susan Collins who wanted to maintain funding for Planned Parenthood. And Rubio is trying to win over Granite State voters by pushing for ACA repeal and opposing a woman’s right to choose without exceptions for rape and incest survivors.

“Ayotte and Rubio’s votes make it abundantly clear that they aren’t interested in supporting New Hampshire’s women and families – they’re interested in dialing back the clock when it comes to women’s health, leaving women and families without the health care they need…

“And speaking of health care, over 40,000 Granite Staters receive their health care through New Hampshire’s bipartisan Medicaid expansion led by Governor Hassan. Kelly Ayotte voted to take coverage away from 40,000 in our state. And Rubio? Just like every other Republican presidential candidate, he’s vowed to take health care away from millions nation-wide.

“They’re clearly comfortable with putting New Hampshire’s health and safety on the line. After all, they also voted last night to continue allowing known or suspected terrorists to purchase guns and explosives!”

New Hampshire State House Deputy Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald:

“Kelly Ayotte and Marco Rubio voted to repeal New Hampshire’s successful bipartisan Medicaid expansion. A bipartisan plan that was the result of members of both parties coming together to get results for New Hampshire’s people and businesses. Ayotte and Rubio aren’t just out-of-touch with voters across our state — they’re even out-of-touch with Republicans in the State House who support this crucial plan.  

“Repealing this plan would mean that more than 40,000 New Hampshire residents get the rug pulled out from underneath them and will lose their health care. Kicking tens of thousands of people off their health care would be bad enough, but it’s made worse because of the substance abuse crisis here in New Hampshire. This vote would eliminate substance abuse treatment coverage for a huge group of Granite Staters… 

“If that funding from Medicaid expansion goes away, providers will no longer be able to function the same and will be left with costs they can no longer afford. Now is the time to be expanding access to substance abuse treatment, not taking it away. 

“We’ve lost almost a person a day to overdose this year in New Hampshire.

“The Medicaid expansion is a vital component of our efforts to reverse that trend and save lives. But Kelly Ayotte and Marco Rubio voted to eliminate it.”


Yesterday, Jennifer Frizzell, Vice President of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Hampshire released the following statement after Kelly Ayotte voted to defund Planned Parenthood:

“Planned Parenthood condemns Kelly Ayotte for once again abandoning the women, men, and young people of New Hampshire who rely on the critical preventative services at Planned Parenthood health centers. Thousands come to our health centers for care each year for services like breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, STD/STI tests – and for many we are the only provider they will see all year.   

“Women’s health should not be a partisan issue. We are grateful that several moderate Republican Senators, including Maine’s Senator Collins, recognize this. Yet, once again, Senator Ayotte has followed the directives of outside special interest groups instead of protecting the well-being of the women of New Hampshire.  Here in New Hampshire and across our country, those who stand with Planned Parenthood understand that women, men and young people should be able to receive the care they need with  health insurance from the provider they choose.” 

“Senator Ayotte should understand that her votes and her actions have real consequences for the health and well-being of her constituents. It’s profoundly disappointing that politicians like Ayotte continue their constant attacks against women’s health mere days after the recent tragedy that occurred in Colorado Springs.  While Ayotte demonstrates extreme indifference to the events of the last week, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England will remain focused on the safety and well-being of our patients and our continued commitment to providing high quality health care- no matter what.”

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:UNH EPS chartAm 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.

Repeal of So-Called Cadillac Tax Fixes Major ACA Flaw, Protects Millions of Americans from Benefits Cuts

LIUNA - The Laborers' International Union of North America

LIUNA – The Laborers’ International Union of North America

Washington, D.C.  – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement today on the bill introduced by Reps. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.), and more than 60 original co-sponsors to repeal the 40 percent excise tax (also known as the “Cadillac tax”) in the Affordable Care Act:

Repealing the so-called Cadillac tax would fix a major flaw in the Affordable Care Act and prevent millions of Americans from facing cuts in their healthcare coverage. The tax, which was promoted as a way to rein in supposed excessive healthcare benefits for highly-paid executives, is expected to instead hit healthcare plans covering hundreds of thousands of hard working men and women, including LIUNA members, as insurance costs escalate faster than the thresholds.

The so-called “Cadillac Tax” is particularly unfair to LIUNA members and those who rely on multi-employer healthcare plans for their health coverage. These plans will be forced to slash benefits in order to avoid the tax.  The tax would take money out of the pockets of workers and their employers in order to subsidize low-road employers who have shirked their responsibilities.

Healthcare reform was supposed to improve and increase coverage. This tax has the opposite effect. LIUNA urges Members of Congress to join Representatives Courtney in supporting a repeal of this harmful tax.


The half-million members of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – are on the forefront of the construction industry, a powerhouse of workers who are proud to build America.

Five Companies Compete On The NH Healthcare Exchange

NH Insurance Department Issues Updated List of Health Care Provider Networks
2015 Marketplace to Feature 5 Insurance Companies and a Range of Networks, Plans

Concord, NH ­– The New Hampshire Insurance Department has updated its listing of health care provider networks that will be available through 2015 insurance plans sold on the federally facilitated New Hampshire Health Insurance Marketplace.

The updated network information details the service area of each network as well as the participating hospitals. It also includes a list of Essential Community Providers (ECPs) in each network: The Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies offering plans on the Marketplace to include in their networks “a sufficient number and geographic distribution of providers that serve predominantly low-income, medically underserved individuals.”

Five insurance companies will offer 2015 plans to New Hampshire residents through the Marketplace in New Hampshire: Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield; Assurant Health (Time); Harvard Pilgrim Health Care; Maine Community Health Options; and Minuteman Health.

“New Hampshire residents will have a variety of networks and plan designs to choose from when they visit HealthCare.gov beginning November 15,” said New Hampshire Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny. “We are pleased that residents will have such a range of choices, and we encourage each consumer to look closely at the options and choose a plan that meets his or her unique needs. Help is available at no cost in the form of in-person assisters and insurance agents and brokers.”

 New Hampshire residents who would like assistance may visit CoveringNewHampshire.org/get-help to view a list of the free help available: in the form of federally funded “in-person assisters,” who are trained to aid residents in navigating the HealthCare.gov website, and from those insurance agents and brokers in New Hampshire (also known as producers) who are licensed by the Insurance Department to sell insurance and who also have been certified by the federal government to assist Marketplace users.

The network information is available on the Insurance Department website: http://www.nh.gov/insurance/legal/documents/pres_updated_network10.28.14.pdf.

People who wish to determine whether a particular doctor is included in any health care provider network should visit the insurance company’s website to view a more detailed list. New Hampshire residents are encouraged to contact the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services division at (603) 271-2261 with any questions.

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.

Garcia’s Party Line Opposition To The ACA Leaves Unanswered Questions About Her Health Insurance

obamacare-playbookMarilinda Garcia, the Republican candidate for Congress in the Second District, says she’s adamantly opposed to the Affordable Care Act. But how is she getting her healthcare?

Garcia seemed to be stumped when a NHPR reporter question her about her own healthcare. He asked if she got healthcare through the Affordable Care Act exchange.

Garcia: “I… that’s my own issue.”
NHPR: “So you don’t want to say?”
Garcia: “No that’s fine, I don’t need to share everything.” 

NHPR: “Is it fair to say you are not getting your health care through Obamacare, through the (federal) exchange?”
Garcia: “I don’t need to talk about that. Thank you.”

This entire exchange completely puzzles me. This is a very simple question, asked of someone who has put herself in the public arena by running for a high-level federal office.

It should have been really easy for Garcia to answer – unless Garcia she’s trying to hide the truth. Did she have healthcare insurance at all before this interview? If she had insurance before, where was she getting her insurance from?

If someone were to ask me if I get healthcare from the ACA, the answer would be, “No, I get my health insurance through my employer.” Since Marilinda was nice enough to inform us that she only has a part time job giving harp lessons, we can be pretty sure she is not getting healthcare from her employer.

Garcia’s campaign was also nice enough to tell us that Garcia is in her early 30s and is still living at home with her parents. It is too bad she is not under 26 because then she could have stayed on her parents’ healthcare plan. (How old is her sister Bianca? I wonder if she is still their parents’ healthcare plan.)

Garcia is trying, and failing, to get people to believe that – at least during this campaign – she is buying insurance from a private company on a month-to-month basis, without going through the ACA exchange in any way. Even though her campaign admits she is eligible to use the ACA exchange.

I wonder how much Garcia’s monthly insurance costs?

Marilinda Garcia (Gage Skidmore CC FLIKR)I also wonder how a harp teacher who only works part time can afford to purchase an individual policy directly from the insurer on a month-to-month basis. I can’t think of a more expensive way to buy insurance. Even the lowest-rated plans (with high deductibles and high out-of-pocket limits) cost about $350 a month.

Of course, if Marilinda gets elected, she will undoubtedly sign up for the federal healthcare plan, while she collects that $174,000-a-year Congressional paycheck.

“I want to represent those who have seen their situation go beyond the bounds of what they expected” when the law was implemented, Garcia told the Union Leader. “People were told they could keep their doctor. People were told they could keep their plans if they liked them. All of that was false.”

It’s easy for Garcia to spout negatives and toss around blame. In fact, Republicans in the US House of Representatives put together a step-by-step instruction manual on exactly how to do that. Read the House Republican Playbook here, and then try to figure out if Garcia is saying anything that wasn’t pre-scripted for her.

(Then, maybe you’ll want to consider whether scripting political attacks is a very good use of Congressional funds.)

I guess it is very easy for Garcia to blame Congresswoman Kuster and President Obama for passing healthcare reforms that have been in the works for decades. A healthcare plan that expanded access for millions of Americans. A healthcare plan that lowered premiums for tens of thousands of Granite Staters while mandating better coverage.

What happened to the “old plans” that Garcia is so nostalgic for? Those canceled policies didn’t meet the ACA’s minimum standards for health insurance. But instead of changing the policies to meet the requirements, insurers across the nation just canceled them.

Except here in New Hampshire. Here in the Granite State, Anthem is still renewing those out-of-compliance health care plans.

What happened to limit coverage? That’s private market forces at work. If you’ve been following New Hampshire health insurance for a while, maybe you remember Anthem’s contract dispute with Exeter Hospital and Core Physicians?

Anthem was not willing to negotiate or mediate, and in order to ensure uninterrupted access to high quality, local care for more than 20,000 patients who utilize the services of Exeter Hospital and Core Physicians, we had no choice but to accept Anthem’s demand for more favorable reimbursement rates.

“Although the $10 million in concessions Anthem has demanded will have a negative impact on the health care resources available to this community, we will strive to provide the very best health care services to the tens of thousands of patients we care for every year,” says Kevin Callahan, President and Chief Executive Officer.

Aren’t Republicans supposed to be in favor of market forces? But Garcia doesn’t the practical effects? (This sort of thing wouldn’t happen with Single-Payer.)

Or maybe Garcia finds it more provocative to blame the President and the incumbent Congresswoman, rather than Anthem corporate executives.

WellPoint is known as a company that lavishes money and stock on its CEOs. Braly’s predecessor, Larry Glasscock, once pulled down total disclosed annual compensation of almost $50 million. Most of that rich outlay was a stock and cash award, payable over three years, given after he ­orchestrated the 2004 merger of Anthem and WellPoint.

“Tea Party extremist Marilinda Garcia signed the Koch Brothers pledge calling to take away health care from tens of thousands of Granite State families, but refuses to say where she receives her own coverage,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director Bryan Lesswing. “If Marilinda Garcia is going to make denying health coverage to hard-working Granite Staters a central part of her campaign, then voters deserve to know what she is hiding when it comes to her own health care.”

 

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