Insurance Agents Provide the Most Important Work Benefits

Health Care Seen as Most Important Work Benefit

Health insurance remains the most important benefit to workers, according to an Employee Benefit Research Institute study, with 87 percent calling it important or very important to them–more than the 77 percent responding similarly regarding their retirement savings plan and the 72 percent for vision and dental care.

“Workers overwhelmingly consider health insurance to be the most important workplace benefit when considering whether to stay in a current job or choose a new job,” it said in a report on the latest version of a poll taken annually for 20 years.

However, overall workers are only “moderately satisfied with the benefits package offered by their employer.” Of those polled, for example, about a fifth said their employer does not offer health insurance and a quarter said it does not offer a retirement savings plan and a third said it does not offer long-term care insurance–in contrast to the federal government, which offers each to nearly all of its employees.

However, the poll also found that certain benefits the government doesn’t offer are common in the private sector. Fifty-eight percent said their employer offers short-term disability insurance, 28 percent accident insurance, 21 percent supplemental health insurance, 19 percent critical illness insurance and 16 percent cancer insurance.

Original Article

 

 

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Don’t forget to talk about Vision. Voluntary and Employer paid options. 

 

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The Amazon Collaboration: 5 thoughts for benefits brokers

Unless you’ve been under a rock the past few days, you’ve heard that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase announced a collaboration to do something about health care for their employees. While the announcement highlighted goals of transparency, tech innovation and forsaken profits – it didn’t include details of how these goals would be achieved. So, what are we supposed to think?

I’ve read at least 10 articles on the topic and it’s BIG in all ways! (ICYMI: Amazon is the biggest retailer, JP Morgan is the biggest bank and Berkshire Hathaway has substantial minority stock holdings in some of the biggest and best-known publicly traded companies in the United States. The health-care industry is 18 percent of the GDP and within two hours of the announcement, speculation caused key health care companies to drop $30 billion dollars in market value.)

As a previous senior manager at Amazon, I have great confidence in this collaboration because Jeff Bezos demonstrates the characteristics this endeavor will require: vision, financial strength, tech innovation, enthusiasm and a passion for the customer. I’m excited to see these three giants of tech, finance, and industry collaborating.

My career at Amazon brings to mind five thoughts about this announcement:

1. This collaboration is unique

It’s unique for two specific reasons:

  1. These three companies are using their own employee populations to “test” some ideas that could have a broader reach in the future. In the next few years, the companies are projected to provide health insurance for over 1 million employees and 2.5 million members in the US. Based on the average employer spend per employee, these three companies are looking to pay a combined $14 billion dollars annually on health care costs. This strategic partnership with such a large population will create opportunities to reduce cost, improve transparency, and build technological solutions.
  1. While each company is an expert in their own industry, none of them know health care. They might not KNOW health care, but they sure spend a lot on it. health care spending is a major expense for employers and can cause a competitive disadvantage. Starbucks spends more on employee health benefits than on coffee beans, and GM spends more on it than on steel.

During my time at Amazon, we entered product categories that weren’t our expertise. We were known for selling books and CDs, but broke into the footwear and clothing market. To gain expertise fast, Amazon would sometimes acquire industry innovators. One of the best-known acquisitions was Zappos, an expert in the footwear industry with great insights, innovation and a relentless focus on customer experience. Amazon became a student of Zappos and as a result is now the top retailer for footwear in the US. I think this deal opens opportunities for more partnerships with health care leaders and experts who have proven to bring innovation and customer-focus.

 

2. Amazon’s culture was made for this challenge

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it does wonders for Amazon! It’s part of the culture to always be learning and seeking to improve. When most retailers would ship, pack and land your order in a “fast” two weeks – Amazon challenged the status quo and delivered in two days. Amazon was not in the logistics business, they were in the book-selling business. Yet, today they are logistics gurus because they learned, hired experts, sacrificed short-term gains, and prioritized long-term improvement over profit.

It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos is curious about new possibilities and he acts to explore them. Recently he said, “success will require a beginner’s mindset.” While they don’t have the answer to this very complex, heavily regulated, highly political endeavor – I know that Amazon is entering this task with eyes wide open. They aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves, challenge the status quo and spend the money and time to find the right solution(s).

I’m sure you noticed the phrase, “free from profit-making incentives.” While many in the industry may scoff at this, recognize what it means. Using their 2.5 million members, they’re willing to invest in new ideas and be a health care incubator for America. If there’s money to be made, I’m sure they’ll figure it out, but they don’t have the short-term constraint of bringing ideas to market profitably. This is a differentiation.

3. Leaders inspire results

Jeff Bezos has an amazing ability to create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. I remember when he announced that Amazon would be the number-one clothing retailer in the US while we were still in “startup mode.” He created the vision, empowered his team, taught us to fail fast and funded the growth. Today Amazon is the number-one retailer in clothing.

Another example: Would we ever have made it to the moon if John F. Kennedy hadn’t announced before Congress, “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth”?

I made a bold move leaving Amazon to help the team at freshbenies improve health care. I have observed that health care is a segmented industry with few leaders calling out a bold direction. I admire these 3 leaders for their audacious vision and ambition.

4. Information is useful, but rumors are useless

In an earlier article, I noted that the health care industry is ripe for disruption, innovation, a better end-user experience, transparency, technological advances, etc. If you’re concerned about this deal, you should be concerned for EVERYONE coming after health care – Google, Apple and so many others! The space is primed for gutsy companies that will deliver a better experience. Speaking of that…

5. Customer experience will be the focus

While at Amazon the team would gather for “All-Hands” meetings with Jeff Bezos. In one of those meetings, an employee inquired about Jeff’s high customer service standard. Jeff said that his goal wasn’t to just elevate the customer experience at Amazon but to influence all industries to elevate their customer experience. To him, customer service is not a goal but the entire vision of his company. Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase said, “Our people want transparency, knowledge, and control when it comes to managing their health care.” I think it’s safe to say that elevating the employee experience will be a top priority!

Megan McArdle from Bloomberg View wrote, “health care costs are a bit like the weather: everyone talks about them, but no one ever does anything about it.” Maybe these three leaders will spark change and actually do something about it.

We should all take note of the information that has been released:

  • Three companies have decided to partner to figure out how to reduce health care costs for their companies and employees.
  • They will focus on technology solutions that can provide simplified and transparent health care, at a lower cost.

That’s what we know. The rest is only rumors. Amazon is usually pretty tight-lipped about their projects, so don’t expect to hear much until the launch.

FEB 01, 2018 | BY TONIA DEGNER – Benefits Pro 

Millennials have different ideas about retirement, longevity and their finances

Millennials have different ideas about retirement, longevity, and finances at the end of life than other generations.

That doesn’t mean they think about those things realistically. In fact, they’re not thinking about their future much at all.

So finds a survey from Aperion Care that asked millennials questions as followed but not limited to: How long do you expect to live? Do you think you will have longer lifespans than your parents? How they’re doing on saving for retirement?

Bear in mind, the survey report notes, this generation (currently aged 21 to 37) grew up with the 9/11 attacks, the Great Recession, school shootings and the Gulf War. This generation witnessed the election of the first African-American president Barack Obama. In addition the view of a society that offers a very child-centrist environment, not to mention the rise of social media.

While the study finds them to be idealistic, many of their notions about the future could leave them exposed to a rude awakening.

Millennials on retirement preparation

For instance, 60% expect to be in “average” financial shape when they die, and 56 % aren’t all that concerned about being a burden to people as they age.  55 % say they’ll be about the same or worse off financially as their parents when they die.

They also see themselves dying somewhere other than a nursing home — see the snippet from Aperion’s infographic (click to enlarge):

 

Most (58 %) are already saving for retirement. 84 % of savers having accumulated less than $50,000.
( 53 % of boomers have less than $50,000 saved, too)

Asperion’s infographic (click to enlarge):

 

But besides that, here’s the really scary part: 34 % of millennials think they’ll be able to get by comfortably, no less—on less than $200,000 in retirement.

The reality, according to AARP, is that to be able to live off of $40,000 a year in retirement, a worker needs to save about $1.18 million for a 30-year retirement.

And despite that naïve expectation, other expectations included:  85 % expect to own a home, despite loads of student debt and low-paying jobs, 58 % also plan to help out their kids with college tuition and 40 % think they’ll retire younger than their parents did.

A mixed outlook on the future

Indicating a very mixed outlook, despite all those financially ambitious—if unrealistic—goals, 79 % expect to live through another major economic depression and 51 % think that global warming will become irreversible.

And in a sad commentary on both the state of the world and the state of millennials’ minds, they believe that universal health care in the U.S. is less likely (60%) than the advent of World War III (44%).

 

Life Insurance for Everyone

Healthcare Coverage Has 1 Powerful New Trick

Ted Bauman | Monday, November 20, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Earlier this year I wrote a couple of articles about the state of healthcare in the U.S. They generated a lot of responses — so many, in fact, that it took me over a day to read them all.

Somewhat to my surprise, the clear majority of the responses went something like this:

The U.S. healthcare and health insurance systems have serious problems at many levels. The problem needs to be addressed holistically, not piecemeal. No matter what one thinks of Obamacare, it would be wrong to undo it without a fully worked-out replacement.

Well, we’ve seen nine months of attempts to do just that. And all have failed — because it was clear to a majority of the U.S. Senate that they didn’t actually solve any problems, much less do so holistically.

So, we are back to the piecemeal approach, as embodied by President Donald Trump’s executive order to cut $7 billion in cost-sharing payments to insurance companies participating in the Obamacare system.

If there’s still time in your financial life, you need to start thinking of an alternative … and I know just the thing.

Skyrocketing Premiums

The $7 billion in question are the payments the government makes to health insurance companies to offset the discounts on co-payments that low-income consumers have received under Obamacare.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system.”

There’s just one problem: The money wasn’t a subsidy to insurance companies.

It was a subsidy to low-income Americans … nearly 6 million of them, or 57% of the people who get their insurance via Obamacare.

The insurance companies are simply a pass through for the money that Trump has cut off. The money just compensates the companies for reducing high co-pays and deductibles for families unable to afford them. It’s not a source of additional profit for insurers.

By ending the payments, the administration has ensured that many Americans will see their premiums skyrocket. 20% to 25% is the figure being bandied about.

Unfortunately for many insurance companies, their rates for 2018 are already set. They can’t change them. They’ll just have to eat the losses … or become stingier about what treatments they’ll pay for.

But they have other options, too.

All of Us in the Crosshairs

Two groups of people that are especially vulnerable to the Trump action on the payments: early retirees who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare and self-employed people. Those are the two groups most vulnerable to changes in the individual insurance marketplace.

That’s because, without the funding, insurance plans will flee individual insurance exchanges in droves. That will force early retirees — and anyone else without employer-provided health coverage but an income higher than the premium subsidy cutoff — to pay full unsubsidized rates for insurance directly from the insurance companies. The same goes for copays and deductibles, which will soar.

But there will be an impact on the rest of us too … including those of us who get our insurance from our employers. Here’s how and why…

As I’ve noted, Trump’s withdrawal of the payments will force the insurance companies to eat those costs in 2018. They’ll have to make up for that loss somewhere.

They’ll do so by raising the premiums the rest of us pay, spreading out the losses across all their plans. But there’s more.

In addition to the payment cuts, the president also signed an executive order calling for new regulations to encourage cheap, loosely regulated health plans. Once those are up and running, millions of younger people will move to them.

That will leave existing insurers with a smaller pool of riskier people to insure. Elementary insurance theory tells us this will result in even more premium increases.

No Savings

To make matters worse, Trump’s move will actually cost the federal government an estimated $7.2 billion next year because it will have to shell out more in premium subsidies to cover these higher rates.

Individuals with annual incomes between $12,000 and $48,000 qualify for subsidies that offset the cost of their monthly insurance premiums. Trump’s action doesn’t touch that, so those subsidy payments will have to go up to cover higher premium costs.

Over 10 years, the additional cost would be almost $200 billion. So, there will be no budgetary savings at all … the opposite, in fact.

Playing Politics With Your Healthcare

The president and other administration officials have described Trump’s move as a way to put pressure on Congress to come up with a bipartisan fix. It’s unlikely that Trump would have done this if he thought he couldn’t get Congress to agree on an alternative fix — and fast.

Yeah, right.

Under these circumstances, if you still have time to put aside money for your retirement healthcare needs, you need to find out as much as you can about what I call the “(H)IRA” as soon as possible. It’s a special trick that can save you current tax, ensure your healthcare and help you have more to spend in retirement.

Because I have a powerful feeling you’re going to need all the help you can get.

Kind regards,

Ted Bauman
Editor, The Bauman Letter

CVS to Buy Aetna for $69 Billion in a Deal That May Reshape the Health Industry

By Michael J. de la Merced and Reed Abelson

CVS Health said on Sunday that it had agreed to buy Aetna for about $69 billion in a deal that would combine the drugstore giant with one of the biggest health insurers in the United States and has the potential to reshape the nation’s health care industry.

The transaction, one of the largest of the year, reflects the increasingly blurred lines between the traditionally separate spheres of a rapidly changing industry. It represents an effort to make both companies more appealing to consumers as health care that was once delivered in a doctor’s office more often reaches consumers over the phone, at a retail clinic or via an app.

The merger comes at a time of turbulent transformation in health care. Insurers, hospitals and pharmacy companies are bracing for a possible disruption in government programs like Medicare as a result of the Republicans’ plan to cut taxes. Congress remains at an impasse over the future of the Affordable Care Act, while employers and consumers are struggling under the weight of rising medical costs, including the soaring price of prescription drugs. And rapid changes in technology have raised the specter of new competitors — most notably Amazon.

A combined CVS-Aetna could position itself as a formidable figure in this changing landscape. Together, the companies touch most of the basic health services that people regularly use, providing an opportunity to benefit consumers. CVS operates a chain of pharmacies and retail clinics that could be used by Aetna to provide care directly to patients, while the merged company could be better able to offer employers one-stop shopping for health insurance for their workers.

But critics worry that customers could also find their choices sharply limited. The deal risks leaving patients with less choice of where to get care or fill a prescription if those with Aetna insurance are forced to go to CVS for much of their care.

On Sunday, the two companies emphasized their ability to transform CVS’s 10,000 pharmacy and clinic locations into community-based sites of care that would be far less expensive for patients.

“We think of it as creating a new front door to health care in America,” CVS Health’s chief executive, Larry J. Merlo, said in an interview.

The merger would establish a new way of delivering care, with nurses, pharmacists and others available to counsel people about their diabetes or do the lab work necessary to diagnose a condition, Mr. Merlo said. “We know we can make health care more affordable and less expensive.”

Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna’s chief executive, said that by using CVS’s locations, the company can provide people with a better way of accessing medical care.

CVS operates 10,000 pharmacy and clinic locations, which Aetna could use to provide care directly to customers. CreditMario Anzuoni/Reuters

“It’s in their community. It’s in their home,” he said. He added, “CVS has the draw. People trust their pharmacist.”

It is the development of community-based clinics — capable of delivering care with the technology and health information available from both parties — that could prove to be the biggest change brought about the deal.

The hope would be that consumers would not only be able to see savings by going to a retail store to treat a sore throat but also have better oversight of a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart disease. They could get advice on how to lose weight, or undergo tests to monitor their health.

“If they can drive the adoption of the care delivery model, that’s a big deal,” said Ana Gupte, a senior health care analyst for Leerink Partners.

The merger agreement came as another factor weighs on the minds of all in the health care industry: Amazon, which has been rumored to be preparingfor an entry into the pharmacy business. Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief executive, and his e-commerce juggernaut have already overturned many industries: book buying, retail shopping, groceries and Hollywood, using fierce customer loyalty and enormous reach as cudgels against incumbent players.

But CVS and Aetna have had a business partnership dating back seven years, and have steadily converged into similar visions of how the health care industry was evolving. Conversations about a deeper bond eventually crystallized into deal talks within the last two months, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions.

Although neither chief executive mentioned Amazon by name, both said that what they were creating was a compelling opportunity in and of itself.

“Chasing our competitors has never been a solution,” Mr. Bertolini said. He added, “Our competitors will do what they do.”

Many companies are seeking shelter in the arms of their former adversaries, with well-known medical groups like the Cleveland Clinic joining with Oscar Health, an insurer. With federal officials blocking traditional mergers — like the megadeal that featured Anthem and Cigna, the nation’s largest insurers, and one involving Aetna and its rival Humana — companies are looking at combinations that take them beyond their traditional lines of business.

Many analysts view the combination of CVS and Aetna as a defensive move by the companies. CVS Health, which also recently signed an agreement with Anthem to help the insurer start its own internal pharmacy benefit manager, is looking to protect its business with Aetna as it fends off rivals like UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx and others. Aetna, foiled in its attempt to buy Humana, is searching for new ways to expand its business.

CVS and Aetna have had a business partnership dating back seven years, and have steadily converged into similar visions of how the health care industry was evolving. CreditBill Sikes/Associated Press

The merger could also fundamentally reshape the business of overseeing drug coverage for insurers, an industry that is dominated by three large players and that has increasingly come under scrutiny over the past year as public anger over high drug prices has expanded beyond the usual culprits — most notably the pharmaceutical industry — to lesser-known players like pharmacy benefit managers.

Under the terms of the deal, CVS will pay about $207 a share, based on Friday’s closing prices. Roughly $145 a share of that would be in cash, with the remainder in newly issued CVS stock. The deal is expected to close in the second half of next year, subject to approval by shareholders of both companies as well as regulators.

Antitrust approval has become an interesting question in the Trump administration, which bankers and lawyers had thought would be more tolerant of consolidation than its predecessor.

A combination of a drugstore company and an insurer is considered less problematic than a merger of two players in the same business, which could reduce competition and hurt consumers. Such concerns ultimately sank Aetna’s efforts to buy Humana, and Anthem’s push to buy Cigna, when the Obama administration signaled its opposition to such consolidation.

CVS’s proposed takeover of Aetna is a so-called vertical merger, combining companies in two different industries. But while such deals have traditionally met little opposition in Washington, the Justice Department has sued to block AT&T’s $85.4 billion takeover of Time Warner on the grounds that it would create too powerful of a content company.

Both CVS and Aetna played down the prospects of regulators moving to block their deal. The breakup fee for the transaction is not especially large, reflecting that belief.

Mr. Bertolini asserted that the companies would not raise prices for consumers. “It doesn’t make sense for us to charge people more when we want more people in the store,” he said.

But analysts and other merger experts warn that the deal could be blocked by federal antitrust officials who worry that it could lessen competition. One area of focus may be Medicare; both companies are significant players in offering prescription drug plans to Medicare beneficiaries.

While the companies said they want to lower costs, CVS also makes money on rebates from drug makers and on filling prescriptions through its pharmacies.

David A. Balto, an antitrust lawyer who has been sharply critical of combinations among insurers and pharmacy benefit managers, said that he was wary of having retailers in charge of people’s health. He argued that doctors may be in a better position to treat illness than retail executives.

“Who do you want to run the health care system?” he said.

Read article on original site: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/03/business/dealbook/cvs-is-said-to-agree-to-buy-aetna-reshaping-health-care-industry.html?WT.mc_id=SmartBriefs-Newsletter&WT.mc_ev=click&ad-keywords=smartbriefsnl

Healthcare Coverage Has 1 Powerful New Trick

By: Ted Bauman

Earlier this year I wrote a couple of articles about the state of healthcare in the U.S. They generated a lot of responses — so many, in fact, that it took me over a day to read them all.

Somewhat to my surprise, the clear majority of the responses went something like this:

The U.S. healthcare and health insurance systems have serious problems at many levels. The problem needs to be addressed holistically, not piecemeal. No matter what one thinks of Obamacare, it would be wrong to undo it without a fully worked-out replacement.

Well, we’ve seen nine months of attempts to do just that. And all have failed — because it was clear to a majority of the U.S. Senate that they didn’t actually solve any problems, much less do so holistically.

So, we are back to the piecemeal approach, as embodied by President Donald Trump’s executive order to cut $7 billion in cost-sharing payments to insurance companies participating in the Obamacare system.

If there’s still time in your financial life, you need to start thinking of an alternative … and I know just the thing.

Skyrocketing Premiums

The $7 billion in question are the payments the government makes to health insurance companies to offset the discounts on copayments that low-income consumers have received under Obamacare.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said: “The bailout of insurance companies through these unlawful payments is yet another example of how the previous administration abused taxpayer dollars and skirted the law to prop up a broken system.”

There’s just one problem: The money wasn’t a subsidy to insurance companies.

It was a subsidy to low-income Americans … nearly 6 million of them, or 57% of the people who get their insurance via Obamacare.

The insurance companies are simply a passthrough for the money that Trump has cut off. The money just compensates the companies for reducing high copays and deductibles for families unable to afford them. It’s not a source of additional profit for insurers.

By ending the payments, the administration has ensured that many Americans will see their premiums skyrocket. 20% to 25% is the figure being bandied about.

Unfortunately for many insurance companies, their rates for 2018 are already set. They can’t change them. They’ll just have to eat the losses … or become stingier about what treatments they’ll pay for.

But they have other options, too.

All of Us in the Crosshairs

Two groups of people that are especially vulnerable to the Trump action on the payments: early retirees who aren’t yet eligible for Medicare and self-employed people. Those are the two groups most vulnerable to changes in the individual insurance marketplace.

That’s because, without the funding, insurance plans will flee individual insurance exchanges in droves. That will force early retirees — and anyone else without employer-provided health coverage but an income higher than the premium subsidy cutoff — to pay full unsubsidized rates for insurance directly from the insurance companies. The same goes for copays and deductibles, which will soar.

But there will be an impact on the rest of us too … including those of us who get our insurance from our employers. Here’s how and why…

As I’ve noted, Trump’s withdrawal of the payments will force the insurance companies to eat those costs in 2018. They’ll have to make up for that loss somewhere.

They’ll do so by raising the premiums the rest of us pay, spreading out the losses across all their plans. But there’s more.

In addition to the payment cuts, the president also signed an executive order calling for new regulations to encourage cheap, loosely regulated health plans. Once those are up and running, millions of younger people will move to them.

That will leave existing insurers with a smaller pool of riskier people to insure. Elementary insurance theory tells us this will result in even more premium increases.

No Savings

To make matters worse, Trump’s move will actually cost the federal government an estimated $7.2 billion next year because it will have to shell out more in premium subsidies to cover these higher rates.

Individuals with annual incomes between $12,000 and $48,000 qualify for subsidies that offset the cost of their monthly insurance premiums. Trump’s action doesn’t touch that, so those subsidy payments will have to go up to cover higher premium costs.

Over 10 years, the additional cost would be almost $200 billion. So, there will be no budgetary savings at all … the opposite, in fact.

Playing Politics With Your Healthcare

The president and other administration officials have described Trump’s move as a way to put pressure on Congress to come up with a bipartisan fix. It’s unlikely that Trump would have done this if he thought he couldn’t get Congress to agree on an alternative fix — and fast.

Yeah, right.

Under these circumstances, if you still have time to put aside money for your retirement healthcare needs, you need to find out as much as you can about what I call the “(H)IRA” as soon as possible. It’s a special trick that can save you current tax, ensure your healthcare and help you have more to spend in retirement.

Because I have a powerful feeling you’re going to need all the help you can get.

Kind regards,

Ted Bauman
Editor, The Bauman Letter

 

Read article on original site: https://www.moneyandmarkets.com/healthcare-coverage-has-1-powerful-new-trick-89685?campid=204266&em=rrogers%40capital-benefits.com

Victory for Health Freedom | Defeat for Obamacare

HHS Announces Cost-Sharing Reduction Subsidies Will Cease ‘Immediately’; Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom Applauds Move That Will Begin to Unravel the ‘Unaffordable’ Care Act for Good

ST. PAUL, Minn.—The Trump administration announced late last night that cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, currently propping up the Affordable Care Act, will be “discontinued immediately based on a legal opinion from the Attorney General.”

Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom (CCHF, www.cchfreedom.org) has been calling for the end of the unconstitutional CSR subsidies for many months and applauds the decision as a step in the right direction toward restoring health freedom for all Americans.

“We’re pleased that President Trump and his administration are taking action to follow the rule of law, as written in the U.S. Constitution,” said CCHF president and co-founder Twila Brase. “Not one dime has been appropriated by Congress for the cost-sharing reduction subsidies. The taxpayer already hit with high premiums is facing higher taxes as a result of the billions in CSR subsidies that should never have been paid to the health plans.

“With inaction by Congress, President Trump is wisely using his executive authority to unravel the Affordable Care Act,” she continued. “We support the end of unconstitutional bailouts for health plans. If health plans choose to exit from the Obamacare exchanges as a result, state legislatures should use this opportunity to reassert their 10th Amendment states’ rights authority and restore access to the affordable catastrophic indemnity health insurance and high-risk pools that the Affordable Care Act prohibited.”

Late Thursday, U.S. Health and Human Services Acting Secretary Eric Hargan and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma released the following statement:

“It has been clear for many years that Obamacare is bad policy. It is also bad law. The Obama Administration unfortunately went ahead and made CSR payments to insurance companies after requesting—but never ultimately receiving—an appropriation from Congress as required by law. In 2014, the House of Representatives was forced to sue the previous Administration to stop this unconstitutional executive action. In 2016, a federal court ruled that the Administration had circumvented the appropriations process, and was unlawfully using unappropriated money to fund reimbursements due to insurers. After a thorough legal review by HHS, Treasury, OMB, and an opinion from the Attorney General, we believe that the last Administration overstepped the legal boundaries drawn by our Constitution. Congress has not appropriated money for CSRs, and we will discontinue these payments immediately.”

Just yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order that, according to the White House, seeks to “improve access, increase choices and lower costs for health care.”

Brase said, however, that the EO lacked the strong language necessary to make real changes in today’s health care landscape, with six instances of “potentially” and three instances of “consider” in the order, rather actual directives.


Read article on original site: https://hamiltonstrategies.com/victory-for-health-freedom-defeat-for-obamacare/

Americans show support for Obamacare despite Trump’s repeal attempts

By Joanna Walters

Millions of Americans remain committed to Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare legislation despite the Trump administration’s attempts to overturn it.

In a series of developments that fly in the face of Republicans’ repeated avowals to destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA), widely known as Obamacare, record numbers of people signed up this week for government-backed health insurance plans, and voters in conservative-controlled Maine elected to expand the government’s healthcare scheme for low-income Americans.

The news comes after the Trump administration cut federal funding for ACA outreach and marketing, drawing concerns that sign-up numbers would plummet.

Across the country, more than twice as many people signed up for individual healthcare plans provided through the government-backed insurance exchanges created by the ACA on the first day of annual enrollment than signed up at the same time last year.

Last Wednesday, the first day of open enrollment for individual health plans, more than 200,000 people selected an ‘Obamacare plan’ to cover their healthcare in 2018. That is double the number that signed up on the first day of enrollment for 2017 plans, and also more than in previous years, according to a report in The Hill.

The surge, and a rise in online visitors to the government’s healthcare website, came despite cuts in grants under the Trump administration to outside groups that help people navigate the insurance system and sign up for the ACA.

At the same time, a poll this week showed only 26% of Americans believe Trump is handling the issue of healthcare effectively – down from the 44% in January who at that time believed that the new administration would manage it well.

Trump still enjoys majority support among Republican voters on healthcare, but their support has dropped from 87% in January to 59% this week, according to the Washington Post and ABC.

Approval of the job the Trump administration is doing overall has fallen to 37%, according to the poll, the lowest level for a first-term president in 70 years of such surveys.

Despite these signals from the public – and Republicans in Congress repeatedly failing in attempts to repeal the ACA – the administration is determined to do what it can to dismantle vital provisions.

The vice-president, Mike Pence, and the House speaker, Paul Ryan, are floatingcontroversial tax reform legislation as an alternative route for ending the individual health insurance mandate, a rule that was a central principle of the ACA, requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine, and which Pence calls a tax.

“I know it’s under active consideration and you know the president’s determination to repeal Obamacare. We came close. We’re determined to come back to that issue next year. But the president and I are both interested in seeing the House and Senate consider the possibility of repealing the individual mandate tax as a part of this tax reform bill,” Pence told Fox News on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in local elections this week, voters in Maine answering a referendum question overwhelmingly decided to expand the federal Medicaid scheme for low-income Americans in order to give tens of thousands more people in the state access to health insurance.

Many states with Republican governors or legislatures accepted extra Medicaid money provided under the ACA to help states subsidize insurance for the poor, but some conservative states refused it on principle, including Maine, where it was blocked by the Republican governor Paul LePage.

On Wednesday, after Maine became the first state to sanction Medicaid expansion via the ballot box, LePage pledged to try to block the move, which could leave him open to a lawsuit.

Frederick Isasi, executive director of Families USA, a not-for-profit healthcare advocacy group, said: “Maine has proven that ballot initiatives are a powerful way for Americans to stand up for their families, cut through political gamesmanship and spin, and send a clear message to lawmakers that the people want affordable, quality healthcare.”


Read article on original site: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/09/obamcare-healthcare-signups-trump-repeal

About 600,000 sign up for ObamaCare in first four days

By Peter Sullivan

About 600,000 people signed up for ObamaCare plans in the first four days of enrollment, the Trump administration announced Thursday.

Sign-ups are running at a faster pace than at this time last year. In fact, about twice as many people signed up on the first day, Nov. 1, this year compared to last year.

There were about 150,000 sign-ups per day on average for the first four days this year, compared to 84,000 sign-ups per day for the first 12 days last year. There is no data for just the first four days of last year.

Still, the results have energized Democrats, who have been worried about low enrollment due to Trump administration cutbacks in outreach.

About 130,000 people were new customers this year, while about 460,000 were returning customers.

ObamaCare numbers analyst Charles Gaba wrote on Twitter that the sign-ups are “more than I expected.”

The final sign-up picture will not be clear until the enrollment period ends Dec. 15, which is about half as much time to sign up as last year. Many analysts have predicted a drop in enrollment due to uncertainty over ObamaCare plans and less outreach educating people when and how to sign up.


Read article on original site: http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/359594-about-600000-sign-up-for-obamacare-in-first-four-days

Health insurance is good not just for individuals but for democracy

By Emily Nacol

For the past seven months, Americans have watched and weighed in as Congress considered the continued existence of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last Thursday, the Trump administration announced that the government would stop subsidizing insurers for making premiums and deductibles more affordable for low-income customers. Most of the discussion to date has been about whether these plans are good for families, and if so, which ones. But what if insurance had another value, beyond protecting individuals from financial and health risks? What if it was good for democracy?

Here’s how we’ve talked about insurance up to now

This year’s debates about health-care reform have produced some memorable sound bites. In March, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said: “The fatal conceit of Obamacare is that ‘we’re just going to make everybody buy our health insurance at the federal government level.’ … The people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick. It’s not working, and that’s why it’s in a death spiral.” In September, Trump economic adviser Stephen Moore told CNBC’s John Harwood that “people want insurance for their own families, not other people’s.”

Ryan and Moore’s harshest critics suggested that neither of them understand how health insurance works. But their comments reveal something else: Their baseline assumption is that individuals evaluate the worth of health insurance based on self-interest and personal economic calculus.

It’s true. People do want health insurance to protect themselves and their families, and oftentimes we articulate this in financial terms. Congressional Democrats have appealed to this idea in opposing ACA repeal. Their refrain is that families shouldn’t go bankrupt if someone becomes sick and that no one should die because they cannot afford medical coverage. They argue that keeping the ACA, or making it more inclusive through reforms, will protect individuals and families medically and financially.

These are important considerations, as any person who has ever lived on a budget and needed to go to the hospital knows. But they’re not the only ones.

There’s also an argument for the broad value of insurance for democracy

Daniel Defoe — a 17th- and 18th-century businessman and writer best known for his novel “Robinson Crusoe” — argued that insurance is a public good.

In An Essay Upon Projects (1679), Defoe evaluates (among other ideas) “friendly societies,” mutual aid associations formed by ordinary people. In these voluntary organizations, members paid fees to create a pool of assistance that would be available to any member who needed it. Friendly societies provided, in a word, insurance — fire insurance, livestock insurance, life insurance and health insurance.

Defoe generally approves. He argues that friendly societies have outsized potential to help protect members from the “miseries … and distresses” the future might hold — and to make life better for everyone. He even suggests these insurance pools may even harbor the potential for world peace.

Why such a bold claim?

Defoe’s argument for the positive potential of friendly societies depends on two values they embody: solidarity and equity.

Friendly societies promote solidarity because they encourage interdependence among individuals. Members regularly paid dues and fees into a common pool, with no knowledge of whether they would ever draw on them as individuals, on the off-chance they would need help themselves one day.

Defoe focuses on the larger picture, though. He stresses that these societies were a social project, one that offered security to the group (or to use his word, “mankind”) through solidarity. The political value of friendly societies is that they bonded people together against a risky future.

Defoe also identifies equity as a core principle of the friendly society, although a challenging one to achieve. He worries about whether friendly societies were organized fairly and shares ideas for promoting equity within them. He suggests, for example, that people in high-risk professions form their own insurance pools instead of banding together with people in lower-risk jobs.

But Defoe still praises friendly societies for at least trying to live up to the principle of equity. He says, “To argue against the lawfulness of [friendly societies] would be to cry down common equity as well as charity: for it is kind that my neighbor should relieve me if I fall into distress or decay, so it is but equal he should do so if I agreed to have done the same for him.” When we make such solidaristic commitments to our fellow citizens, we commit to treating them equitably. Defoe saw social insurance as one way to inject more equity into society.

Of course, “friendly societies” are a far cry from vast insurance companies

Defoe’s ideas about friendly societies might seem out of step with the concerns of 21st-century Americans. He was talking about small voluntary groups, and most Americans today buy insurance from large, for-profit corporations. Even those who turn to social welfare programs like Medicare and Medicaid interact with large bureaucracies. Is his defense of insurance as a relationship of solidarity and equity still applicable to us?

In a mass democracy like the United States, solidarity and equity are hard values to realize, but they are ones we still hold. We can see that, for example, in what Tennessean Jessi Bohon said when she stood up in a town hall in February and argued for the ACA’s individual mandate: “As a Christian, my whole philosophy in life is to pull up the unfortunate. So the individual mandate, that’s what it does. The healthy people pull up the sick.” She supported her position using the value of solidarity. (As an aside, Bohon’s link between the mandate and Christian charity would have made sense to Defoe, too.)

We’ve also seen appeals to equity. For example, when Planned Parenthood supported passage of the ACA, they did so based on the principle of fairness, arguing that by subsidizing birth control and mammograms it corrected a gender imbalance in health care costs. Similarly, when Sen. Lindsay O. Graham (R-S.C.) reflected on why the ACA should be replaced, he said that it didn’t recognize that different states have very different needs. He argued it isn’t equitable.

These scattered comments point us toward a conversation about the social value of insurance. Although politicians and policymakers will continue to appeal to individual self-interest as they try to gain support for their reforms, they might also wish to explain how their plans embody democracy’s social goods: solidarity, equity and fairness.

 

Read article on original site: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/10/16/health-insurance-is-good-not-just-for-individuals-but-for-democracy/?utm_term=.c61187467219