KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Concerns Raised About Insurance Markets Under New Law

The New York Times: Some Employers Could Opt Out Of Insurance Market, Raising Others' Costs
Companies can avoid many standards in the new law by insuring their own employees, rather than signing up with commercial insurers, because Congress did not want to disrupt self-insurance arrangements that were seen as working well for many large employers. Federal and state officials and consumer advocates have grown worried that companies with relatively young, healthy employees may opt out of the regular health insurance market to avoid the minimum coverage standards in President Obama's sweeping law, a move that could drive up costs for workers at other companies (Pear, 2/17). 

Los Angeles Times: States Worry About Rate Shock During Shift To New Health Law
Less than a year before Americans will be required to have insurance under President Obama's healthcare law, many of its backers are growing increasingly anxious that premiums could jump, driven up by the legislation itself. Higher premiums could undermine a core promise of the Affordable Care Act: to make basic health protections available to all Americans for the first time. Major rate increases also threaten to cause a backlash just as the law is supposed to deliver many key benefits Obama promised when he signed it in 2010 (Levey, 2/18). 

The Washington Post: Will Young Adults Face 'Rate Shock' Because Of The Health-Care Law?
Many young, healthy Americans could soon see a jump in their health insurance costs, and insurance companies are saying: It's not our fault. The nation's insurers are engaged in an all-out, last-ditch effort to shield themselves from blame for what they predict will be rate increases on policies they must unveil this spring to comply with President Obama’s health-care law (Aizenman, 2/15). 

Meanwhile, The Hill notes a new insurance rule is coming out.

The Hill: White House Unveils Awaited Affordable Care Act Profit Margin Rule
A proposed federal rule to cap profit margins for certain health insurance plans and prescription drug benefit programs is now available for review. The latest in a raft of rules required by President Obama's landmark healthcare law, the proposed rule was drafted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and sent to Pennsylvania Avenue on Thursday. The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is moving quickly to issue the proposal, which will hit the Federal Register on Tuesday (Goad, 2/16). 

Friday was deadline for states to say whether they wanted to work with the federal government on an insurance exchange. There were few takers.

USA Today: States Still Face Choices About Health Care Exchanges
The last deadline for developing a state health insurance exchange has now officially passed, but that doesn't mean the decision-making is over at the local level. ... Florida, New Jersey and Tennessee, all of which have Republican governors, announced Friday they would not create health insurance exchanges and let the federal government do it for them (Kennedy, 2/16).

Kaiser Health News: Federal Government To Run Insurance Marketplaces In Half The States
It's official. The Obama administration will be running new health insurance marketplaces in half the states— including the major population centers of Texas, Florida and Pennsylvania. The federal government had hoped more states this week would agree to form a partnership exchange—the deadline to apply was Friday—but the offer was largely rebuffed. New Jersey, Ohio and Florida, several of the biggest states that had not declared their intentions, officially said no late in the week (Galewitz and Tran, 2/16). 

Politico: Health Care Exchanges And The Two Americas
In the Obamacare era, there are two Americas. Half the states have refused to set up the health insurance exchanges, ignoring a Friday deadline for states to take on core requirements of the law. They’ll hand over the keys to the Obama administration, which will play an outsize and risky role in driving critical health insurance decisions that are typically the province of state governments (Cheney and Millman, 2/15).

Also Friday, federal officials announced that they are closing the high-risk insured pool.

The Wall Street Journal: Enrollment Ends For High-Risk Insured Pool
Washington is closing enrollment immediately for an interim federal insurance plan that was designed to help high-risk people who needed coverage in advance of a broader health overhaul taking effect in 2014. The program, which was allocated $5 billion under the federal health-care law passed in 2010, is set to reach its funding limit, the government said late Friday (Radnofsky, 2/15). 

The Washington Post: Funds Run Low For Health Insurance In State 'High-Risk Pools'
Tens of thousands of Americans who cannot get health insurance because of preexisting medical problems will be blocked from a program designed to help them because funding is running low. Obama administration officials said Friday that the state-based “high-risk pools” set up under the 2010 health-care law will be closed to new applicants as soon as Saturday and no later than March 2, depending on the state (Aizenman, 2/16). 

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