Charles Gaba's blog

2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

Well this is rather unexpected.

Let's fire up the Wayback Machine, Sherman, and go back to 3 years ago, when the Risk Corridor Massacre first reared its ugly head.

The simplest explanation of how Risk Corridors worked is this:

  • The ACA made dramatic changes to how the individual insurance policy market worked.
  • Since it was so disruptive, it included several provisions to help stabilize the market.
  • One of these programs, called "Risk Corridors", was a temporary (3 year) program which acted as sort of an insurance policy for insurance carriers.
  • In a nutshell: Carriers which earned excessive profits on ACA policies had to place a chunk of those profits into a pool of money. Carriers which took excessive losses on ACA policies were supposed to be reimbursed for a chunk of those losses.
  • If the profits exceeded the losses, the government got to keep the difference, so it was theoretically possible they'd actually profit off the system.
  • If, however, the losses exceeded the profits, the government was supposed to pay out the difference.

(As an aside: For those claiming "government bailout! picking winners and losers!" etc etc, the ACA's risk corridor program is actually very similar in many ways to the permanent Medicare Part D risk corridor program, although there are some key differences between the two).

Rick Scott is the Republican Governor of Florida, coming up on the end of his 2nd term in office.

Rick Scott is also running to become the next U.S. Senator from Florida, against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

Prior to being elected Governor of Florida, Rick Scott was the CEO of Columbia/HCA, aka Hospital Corporation of America.

Under Rick Scott's leadership, Columbia/HCA was behind the largest Medicare fraud in history at the time:

Scott started what was first Columbia in 1987, purchasing two El Paso, Texas, hospitals. Over the next decade he would add hundreds of hospitals, surgery centers and home health locations. In 1994, Scott’s Columbia purchased Tennessee-headquartered HCA and its 100 hospitals, and merged the companies.

As usual, Louise Norris has the skinny:

Rate filings were due in New Mexico by June 10, 2018, for insurers that wish to offer individual market plans in 2019. Insurers that offer on-exchange coverage have been instructed by the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (NMOSI) to add the cost of cost-sharing reductions (CSR) only to on-exchange silver plans and the identical versions of those plans offered off-exchange (different silver plans offered only off-exchange will not have the cost of CSR added to their premiums).

Presented without comment:

AHIP Issues Statement Regarding TX v. United States of America

WASHINGTON, D.C. – America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) issued the following statement regarding the latest developments in TX v. United States of America:

“Millions of Americans rely on the individual market for their coverage and care, and they deserve affordable choices that deliver the value they expect. Initial filings for 2019 plans have shown that, while rates are higher due to the zeroing out of the individual mandate penalty, the market is more steady for most consumers than in previous years, with insurance providers stepping in to serve more consumers in more states.

Last Thursday, in my initial alarm-sounding post about the federal #TexasFoldEm lawsuit against the ACA, I used this headline:

ACA about to be torpedoed by a lawsuit even more idiotic than King vs. Burwell???

Law Professor and ACA expert Nicholas Bagley blasted both the case itself and the Dept. of Justice's response in an epic post which also coined the #TexasFoldEm moniker for this travesty:

For those of you just coming to the case, this is from my earlier recap:

In their complaint, the states [including Texas and other red states] point out (rightly) that the Supreme Court upheld the ACA in NFIB v. Sebelius only because the individual mandate was a tax and (rightly) that Congress has now repealed the penalty for going without insurance. As the states see it, the freestanding requirement to get insurance, which is still on the books, is therefore unconstitutional. Because it’s unconstitutional, the courts must invalidate the entire ACA—lock, stock, and barrel.

Welp. The idiotic #TexasFoldEm lawsuit against the ACA...or more specifically, the Trump Administration's decision to lay down and even join the lawsuit against it--appears to be doing even more damage to the U.S. Justice Department than I had thought:

In addition to three nonpartisan Justice Department attorneys withdrawing from the case just minutes before the government's brief in the case was formally filed (presumably in protest of the decision by their boss), a highly-respected senior attorney with the Department has also resigned in protest:

A highly respected career lawyer at the Justice Department has decided to resign just days after the Trump administration backed a controversial lawsuit that would wreck part of the Affordable Care Act.

About 90% of my focus here at ACASignups.net is on the two biggest sections of the ACA: The Individual Market (3-legged stool, exchanges, subsidies, etc.) and Medicaid expansion. I tend not to write much about Medicare, "traditional" Medicaid or the Employer-Sponsored Insurance (ESI) market, which mainly consists of the Large Group Market (companies with 50 employees or more) and the Small Group Market (companies with fewer than 50 employees). As it happens, the ESI market covers nearly half the U.S. population (roughly 155 million Americans, give or take).

Under the ACA, individual market policies have to include the following "Blue Leg" provisions to be considered ACA-compliant:

 

(Image via "Turtle Fart w/Loud Lord" on SoundCloud)

This is utter horseshit:

McConnell on Trump’s decision to support the Texas lawsuit that would invalidate Obamacare:

"Everybody I know in the Senate, everybody, is in favor of maintaining coverage for preexisting conditions. There's no difference in opinion about that whatsoever."

— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) June 12, 2018

Even if you ignore the multiple times over the years that he's promised (and voted) to "defund Obamacare" and "repeal it out root & branch"...

...there's still the matter of last year, when Senate Republicans introduced the "Better Care Reconciliation Act plan" (BCRAp), which looked something like this:

 

By far, the most popular provisions of the Affordable Care Act is that it mandates Guaranteed Issue (GI) and Community Rating (CR) rules to all major medical healthcare insurance policies in most of the United States (all 50 states, plus DC...most ACA provsions don't apply in Puerto Rico, Guam and other U.S. Territories). These provisions state, quite simply, that insurance carriers can no longer discriminate against enrollees based on their physical or mental health status or history, their gender and so on, and can therefore no longer use medical underwriting to either cherry-pick who their enrollees are or how much they're charged in premiums for a given policy.

This is about as simple as I could make it. It's an absolutely absurd argument, but there it is:

 

It's time once again to talk about stools. Not step stools, but the Three-Legged Stool.

I posted this video explainer about the Affordable Care Act's "Three-Legged Stool" works last winter. The first 9 minutes or so covers why it exists, how it's supposed to work, how well it's actually working, the most obvious problems with it and the basics of how to fix them. The second half goes into the details of the half-dozen different awful repeal/replace bills that Congressional Republicans tried to push through throughout 2017.

Below is a condensed transcript version of the first half of the slideshow.


First of all, who is in the Individual Market? Well, what you're looking at right now is something a friend of mine dubbed The Psychedelic Donut. It's actually a depiction of the healthcare coverage, by type, of the entire U.S. Population...all 320 million or so of us.

One of the big stories over the past few months has been the Trump Administration's attempts to strip away regulations on non-ACA compliant "Short-Term, Limited Duration" plans (by making them neither short-term nor of limited duration) and "Association Health Plans" (by recategorizing them from state-regulated, Small Group plans to mostly unregulated Large Group plans).

However, a couple of months ago I wrote about a brand-new law in Iowa which would take a third route towards skirting ACA compliance: Farm Bureau plans:

The Iowa Senate voted Wednesday to let the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation and Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield sell health insurance plans that don't comply with the federal Affordable Care Act.

The new coverage could offer relatively low premiums for young and healthy consumers, but people with pre-existing health problems could once again be charged more or denied coverage.

 

(*credit to Nicholas Bagley for coining "Texas Fold'em")

Ut-oh. I've only written one blog post about this one (back in February) because the argument behind it is so idiotic that it actually makes King vs. Burwell seem like Marbury v. Madison by comparison.

Here's the short version:

Texas is suing the federal government over President Barack Obama's landmark health law — again.

In a 20-state lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that after the passage of the GOP's tax plan last year — which also repealed a provision of the sweeping legislation known as "Obamacare" that required people to have health insurance — the health law is no longer constitutional.

NOTE: The original post was getting to long/unwieldy so I've separated out my initial analysis of the proposal into this separate post.

Yesterday, Michigan Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed publicly rolled out his vision for a state-based Single Payer healthcare system. I wrote up an overview yesterday. Below are my initial thoughts, based on reading both the summary and full version of the proposal as presented on El-Sayed's website.

UPDATE 4:30pm: (sigh) As I expected, the stripped-down version of SB897 passed the state House

SB 897, to impose Medicaid work requirements, passed the House 62-47. #mileg

— Lindsay VanHulle (@LindsayVanHulle) June 6, 2018

The revised version of the bill still has to be kicked back over to the state Senate for a final vote, but that's almost certain to pass, so the only thing stopping it at this point is the possibility of Gov. Rick Snyder vetoing it, which is what I figured it would come down to in the the first place.

UPDATE 6/11/18: So much for that prospect:

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