KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

full issue

Despite Payment Cuts, Medicare Advantage Plan Enrollments Rise More Than 50 Percent

The trend bucks experts who predicted that the private plans would be gutted by the health law measure that cut payments to the private insurance programs. In other Obamacare news, 2016 sign-ups fall short of estimates made in 2010 and delayed tax forms are confusing consumers.

The New York Times: Surge In Medicare Advantage Sign-Ups Confounds Expectations
Five years into Medicare spending cuts that were supposed to devastate private Medicare options for older Americans, enrollment in private insurance plans through Medicare has shot up by more than 50 percent, confounding experts and partisans alike and providing possible lessons for the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges. When Congress passed President Obama’s signature health law nearly six years ago, it helped offset the cost by cutting payments to Medicare Advantage plans, offered by private insurers operating under contract with the government. Insurers and Republicans said the cuts — about $150 billion over 10 years — would “gut” the program, a major theme in the 2010 and 2012 elections. The Congressional Budget Office predicted that enrollment would fall about 30 percent. (Pear, 2/12)

USA Today: Costs, Changes Led Obamacare Enrollment To Fall Far Short Of Estimates
The number of people who signed up for health insurance for 2016 on the state and federal exchanges was up to 40% lower than earlier government and private estimates, which some say is evidence that the plans are too expensive and that people would rather pay a penalty than buy them. Just 12.7 million signed up for plans by the end of open enrollment Jan. 31 and about 1 million people are expected to drop their plans — or be dropped when they don't pay their premiums. (O'Donnell, 2/15)

Kaiser Health News: Delay Of New Health Law Forms May Confuse Some Taxpayers
As the 2015 tax filing season gets underway, tax preparers said a delay in new health law tax forms is causing confusion for some consumers, while others want details about exemptions from increasingly stiff penalties for not having insurance. ... This is the first year that employers, insurers and government programs are required to send consumers tax forms that report whether they offered or provided health insurance that was considered affordable and adequate under the law. (Andrews, 2/16)

In news on a smaller provision of the health law —

CQ Roll Call: House Endorses Weakening Obamacare Menu Labeling Requirements
The House on Friday easily passed, 266-144, a bill that would weaken menu-labeling requirements set out in the 2010 health care overhaul. The legislation (HR 2017) takes aim at a mandate that menus of establishments with 20 or more locations must list calorie counts of the food that they serve. The Food and Drug Administration, which is tasked with enforcing the rule, has extended the deadline to be in compliance from the end of 2015 until the end of this year. (Siddons, 2/12)

And developments from Texas, Kansas and Wisconsin —

Kansas Health Institute News Service: Despite Obamacare, Insurance Disparities Persist In Kansas
A recent national report credits the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, for helping to reduce racial and ethnic inequalities in health insurance coverage. But Kansas has not made as much progress as other states. Before the Affordable Care Act, blacks, Hispanics, American Indians and Asian-Americans were much more likely than whites to be uninsured. But an analysis by the nonprofit Center for Global Policy Solutions shows that gap has narrowed because of the health reform law. (Thompson, 2/15)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.