September 28th, 2014
Written by Grace Hayden. GEI Associate
There are many positive and negative headlines about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). The strongest positive point is that more American's than ever are now insured. This post examines some of the uncertainty and other issues going forward.
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Obamacare continues to be a polarizing political force. Recent surveys posted by the CDC and US Census Bureau, headlines attribute a 3.8 million decrease in the number of uninsured directly attributable to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This past week the Department of Health and Human Services announced that Medicaid has enrolled 8 million Americans. Furthermore, the department expects a 25% increase in the number of insurers offering coverage on the exchange – potentially good news for consumers, as this increase in competition could potential result in lower premiums, or at least a suppressed increase in premiums.
There is a growing popularity of new breed of doctor – the virtual-reality doctor. Telemedicine companies, particularly Teladoc, are managing to capitalize on changing insurance regulations and seeing revenues skyrocket as a result. Although virtual-doctors are not a new development, insurance coverage for virtual visits is. The longer wait times in physician's offices have consumers, employers and physicians looking for more convenient cost-effective alternatives to the standard system. A patient suffering from bronchitis who would otherwise have had to wait for the first available appointment with their primary care physician or sit in the waiting room for hours in an urgent care facility can now get the treatment they from home by simply video-chatting online or calling by phone.
Approximately 6 million people lost coverage last fall mostly due to the fact that their plans not fulfilling certain requirements of the ACA. While some were able to hold on to their plans a little longer due to the one year extension granted, 22 states declined thus forcing many to buy alternative plans on the ACA exchanges.
Due to a technicality in the Obama Administration's “Keep Your Plan” promise permitting only those whose health plans had been in place since before March 2010, experts predict 250,000 Virginian’s plans will be cancelled. According to Kaiser Health News, Virginia is not the only state who will be having these sort of issues - consumers in many states should expect a message arriving soon to inform them that their health plan will be cancelled.
Federal health officials estimate roughly 115,000 immigrants are at risk of losing their coverage for failing to verify their citizenship and immigration status. On top of that, 363,000 people are at risk of losing their coverage due to discrepancies regarding their reported income and what is recorded in the federal tax records.
The ACA continues to effect on businesses. Many firms are continuing to shift full-time works to part-time to avoid the costs associated with benefits packages. Small business employee’s pay has been reduced $22.6 billion annually, and reportedly 350,000 jobs have been lost as a result of rising premiums and ACA regulations. There is a continuing possibility that small firms will have their employer sponsored plans annulled and be forced to buy ACA-approved plans, which will likely be costlier and less inclusive.
The distruption of the ACA likely will continue into 2015. With a serious lack of documentation, insurers state they are having difficulty on pegging their 2015 rates - and until the reinsurance program comes to an end in 2017, no one will know exactly what rates are.
The Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review has reported that the HealthCare.gov backroom hasn’t even been constructed yet, surpassing its deadline by one year. The government and insurers still have not set up an accounting system, which creates a vacuum of information such as how many people are even enrolled in Obamacare.
In 2015, the Obama Administration plans to auto-renew current policies, with a system that is not currently automatic. Consumers with subsidies must go online and re-enroll. Although 2015 promises lower premium baseline plans, this has been attributed to the shifting of insurers holding the baseline from ones that hiked up premiums.