I’m doing a series on things I think you should know about Obamacare. Here is installment #3…
There’s a major glitch or loophole in the healthcare law that actually allows large employers to avoid health-law penalties by offering stripped down plans that are devoid of any hospital benefits. That’s right. No hospital benefits at all. Obamacare regulators created an online calculator to certify whether plans offered by large self-insured employers that pay their own medical claims meet the Affordable Care Act’s toughest standard. The Obamacare calculator is used to test “minimum value” for adequate benefits. Many, including your 2-Minute Drill author, were surprised to read in a recent Kaiser Health News story that the calculator approves these plans lacking any hospital benefits.
Word is that numerous large, low-wage employers with high turnover that haven’t offered medical coverage in the past — retailers, hoteliers, restaurants and other businesses with high worker turnover and lower pay — are considering driving a truck through this loophole by offering plans without any hospitalization coverage. By doing so, they thus protect themselves from some of the employer mandate penalties that come into play next year. Some of the talking heads in the industry claim the calculator was purposely designed this way by the administration. However, I tend to agree with respected consultant Bob Laszewski. He’s quoted as saying “That’s baloney. Nobody said we’re going to have health plans out there that don’t cover hospitalization. That was never the intention…I think they just screwed up.” Stay tuned for more on this.
Obamacare…Did you know? #1
Obamacare…Did you know? #2
I’m doing a week-long series “Obamacare…Did you know?”
Last week I talked about how as we move into the open enrollment phase for 2015, more complexities arise and more computer glitches are expected. Read my post Obamacare…Did you know? #1
Just recently a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that subsidies can’t go to those who purchased health coverage through a federal exchange (most states). This decision adds to a mix of rulings on whether individuals in states utilizing the federal marketplace can legally be provided with premium subsidies. Many expect that this subsidy issue, which is a major component of the Affordable Care Act, will wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. In July, two U.S. appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on health-law subsidies, raising questions about the fate of tax credits/premium subsidies provided to several million Americans. While this issue makes its way through the courts, subsidies remain available.
Read more about this in an article on Politico
Stay tuned for more this week on Obamacare…Did you know?
Believe it or not, you can expect the second year of Obamacare to be even more chaotic than the first. Last week we attended a market update meeting related to this year’s open enrollment which begins November 15. The meeting was sponsored by one of the major insurance companies. Any notions we had for a smoother rollout and less disrupted market this year were quickly dispelled. With little more than 6 weeks to the start of open enrollment, it was pretty clear to those of us in attendance that there were still many more questions than answers.
So, over the next few days, I’m going to provide you with some important “Did you know?” points that I think you need to be aware of. Here’s the first installment:
Did you know…Additional complexities are expected in the enrollment process. Specifically, re-enrollment for those who signed on in the first year, i.e. those who qualified for subsidies in year one must re-qualify. And, more computer glitches are expected. Just yesterday the Wall Street Journal reports that in order to participate in any systems testing, insurance carriers must first agree to confidentiality of the testing process. Disclosure of testing results is strictly prohibited. There’s essentially a gag order for those carriers. Hmmmm. Color me skeptical but it sure doesn’t foster confidence that things will be improved this year. Also, makes one wonder if keeping it all hush-hush has anything to do with the upcoming mid-term elections.
Read 5 things we need to know before Obamacare enrollment starts again from The Washington Post.
Despite the fact that narrow networks continue to come under fire, we believe they will remain an integral part of the fabric of health plan options.
Narrow network strategies are employed by carriers as a means to control costs, offer lower-priced health insurance options, and still comply with new provisions of the Affordable Care Act such as medical loss ratio requirements and qualified health plan actuarial values. The rub with narrow networks is that while narrow networks can help lower premiums, they can also limit choice, access and potentially even quality. Plus, despite lower rates they can ultimately cost individual patients a lot more.
In the cases of these newly reported lawsuits, some docs that were originally listed as participating were dropped from the network. Patients were then faced with very high and unexpected medical bills from the newly out-of-network docs. Some enrollees sued the insurance companies claiming that the carriers failed to let them know that the docs were no longer participating.
For some, narrow networks can be the right choice, e.g. those who focus on monthly premiums above all else. While we believe that to be true, we’ll continue to bang the drum loudly that before selecting a narrow network plan, buyers need to do their homework. Know who is in the network and re-confirm participation before seeking care whenever possible.
Read Consumer Group Sues 2 More Calif. Plans Over Narrow Networks from The KHN Blog.