WSJ: Health Costs "Set for a Jolt," Hospitals Bolt

Posted: Jul 01, 2013 4:35 PM

Smart move, NFL.  More projections of pain, courtesy of Obamacare's maze of costly coverage mandates and requirements:

Healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage under the federal health law later this year, while the premiums paid by sicker people are set to become more affordable, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of coverage to be sold on the law's new exchanges. The exchanges, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health-care law, look likely to offer few if any of the cut-rate policies that healthy people can now buy, according to the Journal's analysis. At the same time, the top prices look to be within reach for many people who previously faced sky-high premiums because of chronic illnesses or who couldn't buy insurance at all.  A review of rates proposed by carriers in eight states shows the likely boundaries for the least-expensive and most costly plans on the exchanges. The lower boundary is particularly important because the government wants to attract healthy people to the exchanges, and they may choose to pay a penalty and take the risk of going without coverage if they believe they can't get an acceptable deal...The challenge for the law is that healthy 40-year-olds can typically get coverage for less today, especially if they are willing to accept fewer benefits or take on more costs themselves. Supporters of the law say tighter regulation on insurance practices gives consumers more protection and is worth the extra cost, but they have to persuade people who don't have an immediate need for health care of that. If only sick people buy into the new insurance pools, prices could shoot up.

Getting (expensive) buy-in from relatively healthy young and middle-aged people is a key to the law's success.  Without near-universal participation among this group, Obamacare's funding model implodes -- which may have been the long-game goal for some all along.  The Journal's analysis focused on eight states, one of which is purple Virginia:

Virginia is one of the eight states examined by the Journal and offers a fairly typical picture. In Richmond, a 40-year-old male nonsmoker logging on to the eHealthInsurance comparison-shopping website today would see a plan that costs $63 a month from Anthem, a unit of WellPoint Inc.That plan has a $5,000 deductible and covers half of medical costs. By comparison, the least-expensive plan on the exchange for a 40-year-old nonsmoker in Richmond, also from Anthem, will likely cost $193 a month, according to filings submitted by carriers.

Sixty-three dollars times three is $189, so that 40-year-old nonsmoker in Richmond will see his rates more than triple. The president promised Americans that Obamacare would reduce premiums across the board to the tune of $2,500 per household.  For more on rising healthcare costs, read this Forbes column by two executives at the Physicians Foundation.  Their self-explanatory headline: "Why Healthcare Costs Are About to Explode."  Bloomberg is reporting that roughly one-third of the hospitals and healthcare programs involved in an pilot Obamacare cost-containment program are signaling that they may soon head for the exits:

Almost a third of 32 hospitals and health systems involved in an experiment aimed at changing the way medical providers are paid may exit the program, a potential threat to the Affordable Care Act’s ambitious cost-saving goals. Medicare’s “Pioneer” program is designed to save money by more efficiently managing care for patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and dementia. The providers agreed to a three-year plan to forgo traditional fee-for-service payments, where hospitals charge for every procedure, and instead get a fixed monthly stipend for individual patients. Nine Pioneer members have told the U.S. they may exit, said Brian Cook, a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokesman...Depending on the number of patients involved, “it really shows a critical cost-containment approach in the Affordable Care Act is running into real problems,” said Robert Blendon, a health-policy professor at Harvard University’s School of Public Health...The experimental programs were set up under the law to save Medicare, the U.S. insurer for the elderly and disabled, as much as $940 million through 2015....Also, Medicare has lagged, by about six months, in providing the Pioneer systems medical claims data they need to track spending on their assigned patients, according to Hinton.

In other words, more of the "savings" baked into the CBO's initial force-fed scoring of Obamacare are unlikely to fully materialize, further exacerbating the law's deficit problem.  The president told Americans that his signature accomplishment would reduce overall health spending and would not add "a dime" to deficits.  With the NFL, NHL and MLB taking a pass on compromising their brands to advance the administration's healthcare propaganda, California appears to be exploiting public school students and teachers to cheerlead for the law:

With great excitement, the Los Angeles Unified School District has designed a nearly $1 million program to train teenagers to promote the glories of ObamaCare to parents, relatives and friends at home. The state's health insurance exchange, Covered California, is handing $990,000 to LA schools, along with federal grants totaling 36-million more U.S. taxpayer dollars to districts around the most populous state. The goal is to train millions of student messengers statewide to sell the idea of government-subsidized health insurance to parents and relatives at home and to get more people enrolled in ObamaCare. Taxpayer-paid public school staff will also be used to phone students' homes urging enrollment under Obama's Affordable Care Act.

We've apparently gone from "for the children" to "use the children."  Are Democrats still allegedly champing at the bit to "own" this law?

- Obamacare Rate shock arrives in Rhode Island.

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