Monthly Archives

August 2015

Yes, Those Shocking ObamaCare Rate Hikes Are For Real

By | Health Insurance, Health Reform

Health Care: When insurers requested huge rate hikes for their 2016 ObamaCare plans, we were told not to worry because state regulators would force them down. But that’s not happening. Death spiral, anyone?

In Alaska, the state regulator approved a 39.6% rate increase for Moda Health, and Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska got a 38.7% hike.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee asked for and got a 36.3% boost in premiums. Oregon’s insurance commissioner approved a 25.6% increase for Moda, the biggest insurer on its ObamaCare exchange. In Kansas, ObamaCare enrollees will face increases of up to 25.4%.

In the pre-ObamaCare days, rate hikes of this magnitude, no matter how rare, would have been cited as proof positive of the need for ObamaCare-type changes. But these eye-popping jumps are showing up across the country, and ObamaCare itself is to blame.

The law’s mixture of heavy-handed market regulations, mandated benefits, taxes and fees have sharply increased the cost of insurance, with no end in sight.

Undaunted, ObamaCare backers say that in many states, regulators succeeded in cutting back on some requests, and that premiums in some states didn’t go up all that much. But calling a 14% increase a victory because it wasn’t 21% isn’t a victory for those still faced with a substantially more expensive product.

Fact is, insurers had real claims data to back up their rate hikes, giving regulators little wiggle room. When New Mexico refused to let that state’s Blue Cross Blue Shield raise premiums enough to cover its costs, Blue Cross decided to pull out, which will force 35,000 ObamaCare enrollees to find another provider.

In some states, regulators themselves forced premiums up more than insurers requested. Oregon’s commissioner told Health Net to raise its premiums by 34.8% instead of the 9% the company had in mind.

In Florida, insurers asked for rate hikes averaging 8.6%. The increase finally approved was 9.5%.

For those eligible for tax subsidies, these premium hikes won’t matter much. But for the many who aren’t, it means ObamaCare is putting affordable insurance even further out of reach. That’s a pretty big failure for a law that is officially titled the “Affordable Care Act.”

Did You Know: If you have obamacare you pay a big tax

By | Health Insurance
As Originally Released from DAILY CALLER NEWS FOUNDATION

Everybody Has To Pay This New Obamacare Tax

Photo of Richard Pollock

RICHARD POLLOCK
11:02 PM 08/09/2015
All Americans who bought health insurance policies this year – not just those enrolled in Obamacare – face a 41 percent increase in excise taxes because of hidden fees contained in an obscure section of the Affordable Care Act, according to an investigation by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Virtually everyone who pays for health care insurance this year will be affected by the tax. The little-known tax was imposed on all consumers regardless of whether they obtained their insurance through Obamacare or through their employer or as individuals in the private market.

This year the tax will cost individuals more than $500 in extra premiums according to one actuarial estimate. Families who purchased insurance will see their premiums go up by more than $700.

The new tax also hits senior citizens who rely on Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage. It will land on the nation’s poor who depend upon Medicaid-managed care programs.

Obama’s health insurance co-ops: They’re drowning

By | Health Reform

ObamaCare’s government-run insurance “alternative” that’s supposed to compete against big insurers is coming up precariously short both in revenue and enrollment.

By The Tribune-Review
Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, 9:00 p.m.

Out of 23 nonprofit insurance co-ops, 22 lost money in 2014, according to an audit by the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services. Only Maine made money; a co-op in Iowa/Nebraska was shut down over “financial concerns,” Fox News reports.

In addition, 13 of the co-ops fell short, in some cases drastically short, of enrollment projections. A preliminary review this year found enrollment has increased at some co-ops but the financial losses continue.

And that could leave taxpayers on the hook for $2.4 billion in loans that got the co-ops started. Low enrollments “might limit the ability of some co-ops to repay startup and solvency loans and to remain viable and sustainable,” according to the audit.

Yet the White House last spring painted an entirely different picture, saying the co-ops “competed effectively with established insurers.”

Tell that to the Louisiana Health Cooperative, which announced it will cease offering coverage next year. This is an alternative to traditional health insurance?

The question is how much more public money is going to get pumped into the government’s insurance experiment, which already is significantly underwater and shows no sign of resurfacing.

Wondering If A Living Benefits Policy Is Right For You?

By | Life Insurance

More insurers offer products to cover long-term care

Tom Anderson |

An estimated 7 in 10 Americans will need some form of long-term care, and the costs can be staggering. But more insurers are starting to offer policies that could help ease the burden.

The median annual cost of a private room at a nursing house is $91,250, a private room at an assisted-living center is $43,200, and the median annual cost for a home health aide is $45,760, according to Genworth Financial, one of the largest providers of long-term care insurance.

And long-term care policies aren’t cheap. A healthy, 55-year-old single man can expect to pay $1,060 per year in premiums for a long-term care insurance policy that’s worth $164,000 in potential benefits, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. The average cost for a 55-year-old single woman is $1,390 for the same amount of coverage. A 60-year-old married couple would pay $2,170 per year combined for a total of $328,000 of long-term care insurance coverage.

 

It’s also gotten more difficult to buy a long-term care policy because many providers have left the market. A decade ago, more than 100 companies sold coverage, according to insurance trade association Limra. Last year, about two dozen companies sold long-term care policies.

In 2014, an estimated 131,000 such policies were purchased from carriers surveyed by Limra, down 24 percent from last year.

But long-term care insurance isn’t the only way to fund long-term care expenses. Life insurance policies that offer long-term care coverage, known as life combination products or hybrid policies, are becoming an increasingly popular alternative. (See chart below.)

Combosalesthrough2014“Life combination products have experienced double-digit growth in the past five years,” said Catherine Ho, a Limra product actuary. “These products clearly appeal to consumers who want a policy that provides flexible benefits and can address several of the financial risks consumers face as they grow older.”

The main advantage of the life insurance combination product over a long-term care policy is that the buyer will get some benefit from the premiums even if long-term care coverage isn’t needed.

Combination products can also be more affordable to buyers in their 60s than long-term care policies, said Chris Conklin, Genworth’s senior vice president of product design.

 

Life combination products are not standardized, and long-term care payouts vary widely depending on carrier and policy. So it’s important to shop around and know exactly what your benefits will be if you require long-term care. You will also have to submit health information to the carrier to see if you qualify for coverage. As with standard long-term care coverage, the sooner you apply, the cheaper the policies may be, depending on your health.

Most life combination products require a single premium payment to begin coverage. To buy a meaningful long-term care benefit a person will have to write a check for $50,000 or more for a life combination policy, according to estimates from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. Some carriers are allowing people to split their premium payments over two years, Ho said.

Carriers are still experimenting with better ways to cover long-term care costs, said Samantha Chow, senior life and annuities analyst at the Aite Group.

“Combination products allow less financially stable people to purchase long-term coverage,” Chow said. “It’s a relatively new market and insurers are still figuring it out.”