Saturday, May 28, 2022

Will Medicare Advantage swallow fee-for-service Medicare?

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Medicare Advantage, the private-plan alternative to traditional fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare, is threatening to swallow the program. MA enrollment has been growing by leaps and bounds and is projected to surpass 50% of total Medicare enrollment by next year.

That raises the danger, as J. Michael McWilliams points out in Health Affairs, that traditional fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare will lose its capacity to serve as a reliable benchmark for MA pricing.  At present, the federal government pays MA plans a per-enrollee fee that's based, with regional variations and a complex array of adjustments, on the per-enrollee cost of FFS Medicare.  Thanks to that tether, MA plans pay providers roughly what FFS Medicare pays them. And FFS Medicare pays rates set by the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, albeit with arguably too much influence from powerful physician groups* that help set Part B (physician) rates.

Friday, May 20, 2022

ACA on the rocks

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Today Politico sounded an alarm that's been rising in Democratic policy circles: Democrats are walking right into an Obamacare fiasco of their own making. That is, if their lawmaking capacity is so paralyzed that they fail to extend the major boosts to ACA marketplace subsidies provided by the American Rescue Plan Act through 2022.

Politico's Adam Cancryn and Megan Messerly warn concisely:

The scenario has alarmed vulnerable lawmakers and White House allies, who have privately warned senior Democrats in recent weeks that the issue could cost Democrats control of the Senate and decimate their hard-earned reputation as the party of health care.

Politico does report some talks between Manchin and Democratic leadership. At this point, whether ARPA subsidies get extended appears to boil down to whether Manchin and/or Sinema simply want to destroy Democrats' electoral prospects -- now, and given the Republican drive to suppress votes and doctor vote counts, maybe forever. At the Washington Post's Plum Line, Greg Sargent is doubtful that Manchin will let any meaningful legislation pass.

As the clock ticks, I feel compelled to add my popgun to the salvo of increasingly desperate progressive healthcare groups and individuals begging Democrats to find a way to break the Manchin-Sinema blockade and extend the marketplace subsidy boosts provided by the American Rescue Plan. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Hi diddley dee, it's HDHP for me

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Welp, after 25 years of employer-sponsored health coverage provided by a hospital, my wife and I are enrolled in ACA marketplace coverage, effective June 1.

I have a post pending  up at outlining how, as an older couple with enough savings to cover the annual out-of-pocket maximum, we were pushed relentlessly by the marketplace benefit structure (and the U.S. tax code) to enroll in a high deductible bronze plan linked to an HSA. 

Monday, May 09, 2022

John Roberts, James Joyce, the individual mandate, Medicaid Estate Recovery, and "affordable" care

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A good book about Ireland's history since 1958, Fintan O'Toole's We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland led me to a second attempt at James Joyce's Ulysses, which I stalled out on decades ago, somewhere after Leopold Bloom emerges from an outhouse. Further I plod. One thing I will say for Joyce's internal babble is it does make you somewhat more mindful -- inclined to track your own perceptions and fleeting thoughts. 

So it was that I caught one lightning round of associations at lunchtime today:

--  John Roberts -- trying to moderate Roe strike-down?

-- Roberts -- headed off one radical conservative decision by saving the ACA's individual mandate "as a tax." 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

If HHS cuts back short-term plans, they'd best be sure that the ARP subsidy boosts are extended

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 Alice Ollstein of Politico relays:

[HHS Secretary] Becerra says he's "in the midst of rulemaking" to crack down on skimpy health insurance plans that Democratic lawmakers and activists call "junk plans." No word on when that rule could come out, but it would undo the Trump admin's rule opening the door to more of those plans.

The "skimpy health plans" are so-called short-term limited duration (STLD) plans promoted and facilitated by the Trump administration. STLD plans are not ACA-compliant: they don't have to cover the ACA-mandated Essential Health Benefits (and usually don't provide coverage of most prescription drugs), and they are medically underwritten, meaning that applicants with pre-existing conditions can be charged more, denied coverage altogether, or offered coverage with the pre-existing condition excluded.