First Look At Obamacare Premiums
2015 FILINGS BEGIN: The next open enrollment is still six months away, but we're already getting a glimpse at the first rate filings for 2015. In two states -- Virginia and Washington -- insurers are looking at premium increases for the plans sold through Obamacare's exchanges, but not the massive hikes some critics had predicted. In Virginia, the increases will range from 0.5 percent to roughly 15 percent, depending on the plan and the consumer. In Washington, next year's rates range from a nearly 7 percent reduction to about a 14 percent hike. And just as importantly, two new players -- including UnitedHealthcare -- filed bids to enter Washington's market for the first time. New competition, especially from a powerhouse like United, is one of the factors that could help keep premiums in check.
Top Health Care News
ON MENTAL ILLNESS, THE COST OF NOT CARING: NOWHERE TO GO: The financial and human toll for neglecting the mentally ill.
"Kelley says she didn't really want to die, but she realized there was only one way to get into a hospital.
"She swallowed an entire bottle of pills, walked into the next room and told her husband, 'Now they will have to admit me.'
"On average, people with serious mental illness die up to 23 years sooner than other Americans, giving them a life expectancy on par with people in Bangladesh…" (Liz Szabo, USA Today)
MORE INSURED, BUT THE CHOICES ARE NARROWING: "While many insurers are including only those hospitals and doctors willing to charge lower prices, experts say the makeup of the networks is likely to evolve over time, focusing less directly on price and more on the ability of providers to deliver coordinated and high-quality care.
"Outside the exchanges, insurers are also promoting smaller networks for employers as a way to reduce overall health care costs, said Larry Boress, chief executive of the Midwest Business Group on Health. 'The larger the network is, the higher the cost,' he said." (Reed Abelson, New York Times)
A WASHINGTON STATE HEALTH INSURER PLANS TO CUT RATES IN 2015: "While most carriers are seeking increases, Molina's filing signals that insurers that priced cautiously for 2014 could face pressure to be more competitive in the second full year of the law's insurance marketplaces." (Louise Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal)
CONGRESS PLANS OBAMACARE EXEMPTION TO BOOST VETERAN EMPLOYMENT: The Senate will hold a procedural vote on the Hire More Heroes Act of 2014, which would allow employers to leave veterans out of the 50-count threshold for the ACA employer mandate, as long as they already have federal insurance coverage. The bill passed out of the House in March.
There will be a roll call vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill at 11:10 a.m., according to a Senate Dem aide. The aide calls the bill "the legislative vehicle for the tax extenders legislation." (Sophie Novack, National Journal)
ICYMI: BOEHNER SPOKESMAN DEPARTING TO LEAD COMMUNICATIONS FOR AHIP: Brendan Buck, who has been a top spokesman for the House Speaker for three years, will transition from working for a Republican leader that has been opposed to the health care law, to an organization that has made few criticisms of the law. (Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post)
HARVARD: OVERUSED MEDICAL SERVICES COST MEDICARE BILLIONS: It's difficult to measure waste because "a treatment that is appropriate for one patient can also be unnecessary or even counter productive for another." Harvard researchers evaluated the use of tests that have been proven to offer little clinical benefit. (Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News)
DOCTORS BANNED FROM MEDICARE MAY GET AN EASIER SHOT AT A SECOND CHANCE: "Under current law, a doctor, nurse, or other licensed health care provider excluded by the OIG for a revoked license would need to recover their original license to get reinstated to Medicare.
"When weighing whether to let banned practitioners back in, the OIG will consider 'whether the individual has demonstrated that he or she has satisfactorily resolved any underlying problem that caused or contributed to the basis for the initial licensing action,' among other factors, according to the proposed rule." (John Tozzi, Bloomberg Businessweek)
MEDICARE STRUGGLING WITH HEPATITIS-C CURE COSTS: Doctors are prescribing a drug that is almost sure to cure patients with Hepatitis-C, but the cost of the drug is steep, and some Medicare insurers are declining payments for the treatment prescribed. (Richard Knox, Kaiser Health News, National Public Radio)
HOW MASSACHUSETTS SCREWED UP OBAMACARE: Last week, Massachusetts decided to scrap its exchange and start over. It ranks 49th in the nation for the percent of people eligible to get covered on the exchange who actually enrolled. (Sarah Kliff, Vox Media)
BLUE-RED STATE DIVIDE CLEAR IN HOSPITALS FOLLOWING ACA COVERAGE EXPANSION: A look at the first full quarter of results for publicly traded hospitals since ACA implementation began shows a noticeable difference in the kinds of patients they are seeing in blue versus red, or Medicaid expansion versus non-expansion states. (Jason Millman, Washington Post)
KENTUCKIANS ONLY HATE OBAMACARE IF YOU CALL IT OBAMACARE: A new NBC News poll suggests that while some people don't like the hotly contested Obamacare, they're more supportive of Kynect, the website Kentuckians are using to get health coverage made available under the law. (Sarah Kliff, Vox Media)
MISSOURI IS APPROACHING A 'WENDY DAVIS' MOMENT IN ABORTION BATTLE: An independent group of women is staging a 72-hour 'filibuster' outside the state capitol to protest legislation that would increase the mandatory waiting period to get an abortion from 24 to 72 hours between clinic visits. The deadline for action is the end of the legislative session Friday. (Sophie Novack, National Journal)
VIRGINIA'S GOVERNOR IS REVIEWING THE STATE'S ABORTION CLINIC REGULATIONS: Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered the state's Board of Health to review whether the rules limit women's reproductive rights. He campaigned on a promise to do away with the restrictions. (Laura Vozzella, Washington Post)
ARE RED WINE AND CHOCOLATE THE ANSWER TO A LONGER LIFE? New research suggests that the antioxidant resveratrol, long thought to be a possible explanation for the "French Paradox," has little impact on aging. (Clara Ritger, National Journal)
JOURNALISTS DO A LOUSY JOB REPORTING ON HEALTH STUDIES, RESEARCHERS FIND: Reports rarely explain the limitations of the study and often tout the findings. (Andrew Beaujon, Poynter)
REPORT: SENIORS AREN'T PICKING NEW MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLANS…And it's because the beneficiaries don't think they'll find better coverage at a better cost, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report coming out this morning. The event, "How well are seniors making choices among Medicare's private plans and does it matter?," is at 9:30 a.m. at the Kaiser Family Foundation's offices, 1330 G St. NW.