The most expensive provisions of Obamacare will cost taxpayers about $100 billion less than expected, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday.
CBO also said it doesn’t expect big premium increases next year for insurance plans sold through the health care law’s exchanges.
In its latest analysis, CBO said the law’s coverage provisions — a narrow part of the law that includes only certain policies — will cost the government $36 billion this year, which is $5 billion less than CBO’s previous estimate. Over the next decade, the provisions will cost about $1.4 trillion — roughly $104 billion less than CBO last estimated.
The analysis covers only a part of the Affordable Care Act. The costs outlined in Monday’s report, including the Medicaid expansion and subsidies to private insurance, are offset by other provisions that raise taxes or cut spending. On balance, CBO says, the law will reduce the federal deficit.
Monday’s report also sheds some light on one of the big challenges still to come for Obamacare: next year’s premiums. Some critics have warned that premiums could skyrocket next year, based in part on the demographics of the people who signed up for coverage this year.
But CBO isn’t expecting a big hike. The budget office says it expects the average premium to rise “slightly” in 2015, by about $100 per year for the middle-of-the-road plans that have proven to be the most popular option in the exchanges.
Premium increases from 2016 on will likely be higher, averaging about 6 percent per year, CBO said. That’s a nationwide average; some areas of the country will see bigger jumps, others will see smaller increases. But if CBO’s projections pan out, the average increase would still fall short of the double-digit hikes some insurers have predicted.
CBO said rising health care costs — not the risk pool of Obamacare enrollees — is the biggest factor driving its anticipated premium hikes. The people signing up for coverage in the exchanges next year will probably be healthier than those who signed up this year, CBO said, keeping premiums in check.
The budget office also expects insurers to relax some of the tools they have used to keep premiums low — namely, limited networks of doctors and other providers, and particularly low payments to those providers. As enrollment grows, CBO said, “many plans will not be able to sustain provider payment rates that are as low or networks that are as narrow as they appear to be in 2014.”
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”