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Kaiser Health News Original Stories

5. Political Cartoon: 'You Have No Idea'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'You Have No Idea'" by Hilary Price.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


The PACE is faster
To chase profits over care.
Put needs first... Bingo!!

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Summaries Of The News:

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Some Steep Premium Increases Seen As States Begin To Approve Insurers' Rate Plans

The numbers for 2017 premiums for marketplace plans are slowly coming out and show a wide range of increases. Tennessee authorities approved a 62 percent increase for one of the state's biggest plans, while in Ohio the hikes start at more than 12 percent. Other insurance news from Illinois and Wisconsin.

The Wall Street Journal: States Start To Approve Steep Increases In Health Premiums
The first handful of states have released approved 2017 rates for people who buy health insurance on their own and the results so far are consistent with what many expected: There are significant increases in premiums for next year. ... Some insurance regulators have begun announcing their approval of rate increases, including an average jump of 62% for the biggest plan in Tennessee and increases of around 43% in Mississippi and 23% in Kentucky for large carriers. ... Health plans, stung by large losses in the rocky early years of implementation of the 2010 health law, say they need to raise prices substantially to keep their offerings afloat. Federal officials say some increases reflect the planned end of provisions in the law designed to cushion insurers. They say other shifts are predictable as plans adjust to the law’s overhaul of insurance pricing to require it to be sold equally to all customers regardless of medical history or risk. (Radnofsky and Armour, 8/24)

Columbus Dispatch: Despite Increases, Feds Say Obamacare Remains Affordable For Ohio Enrollees
Ohioans insured through the Affordable Care Act will have fewer providers to choose from next year and will pay more for coverage. People insured through the federal exchange in Ohio will see premiums increases of 12.6 percent or higher in 2017 than they paid this year, according to the Ohio Department of Insurance. And the 17 insurance companies that offered coverage on the federal exchange will dwindle to 11 in 2017, according to the department. (Sullivan, 8/24)

Chicago Tribune: Illinois Submits Obamacare Insurance Premium Increases To Feds 
Illinois consumers are one step closer to facing sky-high increases for individual health insurance plans purchased through the Affordable Care Act's marketplace. The Illinois Department of Insurance said Wednesday it has submitted rate increases to the federal government that for some types of plans average 43 percent to 55 percent. (Schencker, 8/24)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: MHS Health To Drop ACA Plans In State
MHS Health Wisconsin, the brand name for Managed Health Services, is pulling out of the Wisconsin market for health plans on the marketplaces set up through the Affordable Care Act next year. The health plans are sold under the name Ambetter. In a statement, MHS Health Wisconsin said it has notified the people enrolled in the health plans that their coverage will expire at the end of the year. (8/24)

The Fiscal Times: The Latest Sign That The Obamacare Exchanges Aren’t Working In Many Markets 
In the wake of Aetna’s recent announcement that it was pulling up stakes in 11 of 15 states where it had been selling insurance on Obamacare exchanges, there are more alarming signs that other major insurers are struggling to remain in the game. On Tuesday, three of the major players in Tennessee — Cigna Health Insurance, Humana and Blue Cross Blue Shield — were granted huge double-digit premium increases for the 2017 season beginning in January amid a warning from the state’s insurance commissioner that the Obamacare markets were “very near collapse.” (Pianin, 8/24)

7. HHS Analysis Says Subsidies Will Help Buffet Consumers From Marketplace Turmoil

The government analysis finds that subsidies to help pay premiums will protect people buying coverage on the health law's marketplaces even as the number of insurers offering plans decreases and insurers set steep premium increases.

Bloomberg: Obamacare Subsidies Preserve Access As Premiums Climb, U.S. Says
Most buyers of Obamacare plans won’t see their costs jump, even if premiums increase next year, because of government subsidies, the U.S. said in a study that pushes back on reports of challenges facing the health-coverage overhaul. Government contributions to premiums will mask the rise in costs for most buyers on the program’s exchanges, according to the report from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. The study comes amid mounting reports of skyrocketing premiums. (Tracer, 8/24)

The Hill: White House: Most ObamaCare Users Will Be Shielded From Premium Spikes 
The White House released data Wednesday showing the vast majority of ObamaCare customers would be shielded from double-digit premium hikes that are expected to hit most of the country this fall. Even if premiums increased by a whopping 50 percent, most ObamaCare customers would still pay $100 or less per month for coverage, according to a 12-page report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (Ferris, 8/24)

Morning Consult: HHS Report: Most Marketplace Consumers Will Have Affordable Coverage Options
“Headline rate increases do not reflect what consumers actually pay,” Kathryn Martin, acting assistant secretary for planning and evaluation, said in a statement. “Our study shows that, even in a scenario where all plans saw double digit rate increases, the vast majority of consumers would continue to have affordable options.” Shopping around on the marketplaces can keep health insurance affordable because consumers can easily search for the cheapest plan each year, the report says. (McIntire, 8/24)

Chicago Tribune: Feds Aim To Calm Fears Over Possible Obamacare Rate Hikes 
Even if health insurance rates skyrocket by 10 to 50 percent next year, about two-thirds of Illinois residents who buy coverage through the Affordable Care Act's marketplace would pay no more than $100 a month in premiums, the federal government said Wednesday. That's because consumers could shop around on the marketplace and because premium tax credits would also increase and be available to more people, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report. (Schencker, 8/24)

Dallas Morning News: HHS Department: Fear Not, Obamacare Will Remain Competitive 
Despite recent decisions by several health insurers to stop offering plans in Texas on the Obamacare marketplace in 2017, federal officials say consumers will continue to have low-cost options. An estimated 80 percent of those who purchase health coverage on during open enrollment should be able to purchase a plan for less than $75 per month. That's even in a hypothetical scenario where final rates from insurers increase 50 percent, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday. (Rice, 8/24)

Houston Chronicle: Feds Say ACA Working Despite Insurers' Exodus From Exchange
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sought to reassure a worried and sometimes disgruntled public on Wednesday, insisting there will still be a robust selection of affordable health insurance plans next year on the federal exchange despite the recent defections by major insurers. Just last week Aetna said it would no longer be offering plans on the Affordable Care Act's exchange next year in 11 states, including Texas. (Deam, 8/24)

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Feds Tout Exchange Benefits Despite Lack Of Competition For 2017 
Despite the withdrawal of some insurers from government-run health insurance exchanges, federal officials insist the Affordable Care Act is still working to provide more consumers with coverage and choices. ...The administration of President Barack Obama has been pressed to defend the landmark health care reform in recent weeks as major companies move to dramatically reduce their participation in the exchanges, including in Missouri. (Liss, 8/25)