Stupid News for the Math Challenged

Reaching a new low in sheer stupidity, CNN is now reporting that many Americans won’t be eligible for “Obamacare subsidies” because the insurance premiums in their states are too low, as if that means they are somehow being cheated.  They provide the example of subsidies in Portland, Oregon phasing out at the $28,000 income level for people under age 35 — and complain that the Obama administration had “promised”  a higher “threshold for government assistance.”

Or to put it simply:  CNN is upset that that insurance is being sold too cheaply to trigger the need for young people to get government help to pay their bills.

As if it would somehow be better if those youngsters in Oregon could be charged so more, so that more taxpayer dollars could be sent to the insurance companies.

So, here are a few pointers for the mathematically challenged: Continue reading

Some simple changes to improve ACA (Part One)

Here are some simple “fixes” that would reduce confusion over ACA provisions, help further the individual goals of the statute, and possibly improve the efficiency of signing up ACA customers, and the reason why they are needed.

1) Eliminate the Medicaid gap for non-expansion states: The ACA provides that  taxpayer units (individual or joint followers) are eligible for premium assistance tax credits when household income is between 100-400% of the federal poverty line. At the time of drafting, it was assumed that all any person with income under 100% of the FPL would be enrolled in Medicaid, as the terms of the original statute essentially mandated expansion in all states. (States which did not agree to expansion would have faced loss of federal funds).

However, after the US Supreme Court struck down the Medicaid provisions, half of US states opted out, meaning that individuals who earn less than the FPL who live in those states are not eligible for subsidies on the exchanges.  This leaves many of the neediest individuals out in the cold, and undermines the central goal of ACA: to provide insurance for all.
Continue reading

Forget the plan – let patients keep their doctors!

I think there are two important points that are missing from the intense media focus — and now the White House response – to the problem of the insurance cancellation notices on the individual market.  Both are the result of actions that have been taken by insurance companies which are now participating in the exchanges — in other words, they are barriers to acceptance of ACA created by the same insurance companies that are the chief beneficiaries of the new, heavily subsidized insurance market.

The promise that “if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance” was essentially written into the law, by the express terms of the original ACA legislation. There was a “grandfather” clause which expressly allowed consumers to keep whatever plans they were enrolled in prior to March of 2010, subject to some requirements to strengthen those plans.

The problem is that many consumers who buy their own insurance on the market have switched plans since then, giving up their grandfathered status.  It’s not that they didn’t like the plans they had; rather, those plans got too expensive. So very often the switch was to another, seemingly better or less expensive plan offered by the same company.    Continue reading

HealthSherpa Web site

Does navigating your government-created health exchange web site give you a headache?

Here’s a quick online tool to find the health care offerings in your area, including a tool to quickly estimate subsidies:

http://www.thehealthsherpa.com/

This is a free tool created  using public databases. No login required — all information can be quickly entered on the home page, with results appearing as the the data is entered.

(Created as a public service by three young and capable San Francisco-based computer technicians – see http://www.thehealthsherpa.com/about to learn more about them)

 

Today’s number: 17

17% of potentially eligible Americans visited Affordable Care Act marketplaces in October, according to a survey by the Commonwealth Fund.  Of those visitors,  20% were young people between the ages of 19-29, and 20% of those who visited actually enrolled in a plan.  60% of survey respondents were aware of aware of the purpose of the health care exchanges; of those that did not enroll,  37%  cited technical problems with the exchange web sites as the reason for not enrolling.

See:  http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Publications/Data-Briefs/2013/Nov/Americans-Experiences-Marketplaces.aspx

17 million individuals will qualify for insurance subsidies, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. This number represents nearly 6 in 10 Americans eligible to participate in the ACA health insurance marketplaces.   To receive a subsidy through the ACA, individuals must earn between 100-400% of the federal poverty line.  Most of the individuals qualifying for subsidies reside in Texas, California, and Florida.

See: http://kff.org/health-reform/issue-brief/state-by-state-estimates-of-the-number-of-people-eligible-for-premium-tax-credits-under-the-affordable-care-act/