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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Truth About MNSure's October Rate "Surprise"

Category: Health Care
Posted: 08/20/14 01:29

by Dave Mindeman

Minnesota Republicans are gleefully awaiting October....because that is when they will be able to relentlessly attack Democrats on MNsure and Obamacare. You see that is when the new health insurance rates for the following year will come out (which Dayton could have held back but didn't). And the GOP is not hesitating to come out with their predictions. They are fully anticipating huge double digit increases in those premiums.

The Democrats are doomed.

But the same scenario was laid out for Connecticut....

The headlines were all too predictable when Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield announced in June that it would request an average 12.5 percent premium increase for its Connecticut market. "Now EVEN MORE States Report Double-Digit Premium Hikes," the conservative Daily Caller trumpeted.

Funny thing, but there always seems to be a "but" on the conservative "good" news on Obamacare issues....

But that wasn't the whole story. It never is with Obamacare premium news, though that hasn't stopped news outlets from blaring headlines like that one from the Daily Caller whenever an insurance company announces its proposed rates for next year. Skyrocketing premiums are one of the last anti-Obamacare talking points that conservatives have to hold onto.

The problem for conservative talking points stems from an Obamacare regulation that gives state insurance regulators the final say....and with some teeth. Obamacare gives state and federal regulators the ability to demand a justification from any insurer for any proposed rate increase greater than 10 percent.

So what really happened in Connecticut?

But then on Monday, the conclusion of the Connecticut story came. State insurance regulators had rejected Anthem's proposed 12.5 percent premium hike. So after some revisions, the company would instead lower its premiums ever so slightly on average -- 0.1 percent -- in 2015, the Connecticut Mirror reported.

No increase at all. The insurance company couldn't justify the proposed rate increase with evidence. Just like the Franken amendment that forces insurance companies to return money that is over spent on administration, the watchdog part of Obamacare keeps insurance rates reasonable.

Now this won't stop the MN GOP from using a megaphone to publicize any rate increase proposal by insurance carriers that exceeds double digit increases. They will surely do that. But, remember, it is a "proposal"...and if it becomes that much of an increase, regulators will get to have the final word.

And that final word is what protects consumers in the end.
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The ACA: Another Story Behind The Numbers

Category: Health Care
Posted: 07/24/14 18:26

by Dave Mindeman

We hear so many talking points from Obamacare opponents that we almost take it for granted that the ACA is extremely unpopular. The polling seems so overwhelming that nobody bothers to even look at the real numbers.

Well, right now we are going to do that.

A recent (July 18-20) CNN poll gave us the usual headline. Obamacare is favored by only 40% of Americans.

Here are the total numbers:

Favor 40%
Oppose 59%
No Opinion 1%

Even the fact that only 1% have no opinion means that our attitudes have been firmly entrenched.

But CNN asked a follow up question.

(IF OPPOSE) Do you oppose that legislation because you think its approach toward health care is too liberal, or because you think it is not liberal enough?

They only asked that question of the people who stated they opposed Obamacare. And they found the percentages ended up like this:

Favor....................................40% (the original number favored)
Oppose (Too Liberal)..............38%
Oppose (Not Liberal Enough)....17%
No Opinion...............................5%

No only did they find out that 17% didn't think Obamacare went far enough, they confused another 4% enough that they went to undecided.

I would speculate that the 17% are single payer advocates. And there are probably also a number of single payer advocates (like me) that will poll in favor of Obamacare because we assume that we can't get what we really want - single payer...or at least some kind of government option.

If you extrapolate that into the poll, you could surmise that some kind of government health care system is favored - 57% to 38%.

But that requires some nuanced thinking and probably a more detailed poll to be completely accurate. And we are not getting that kind of in depth coverage on this issue.

What is interesting is that CNN has been polling with this method for the last 4 years....and that 17% number is the highest it has ever been. In fact, it is up 5% since the last poll in March. Why don't we hear about that? Because the narrative has already been established.

I believe that Obamacare would not be having the credibility problems it is having presently if the technology of the websites (Federal and State) had not failed us. If only the preparation and testing had been more thorough, the controversies could have been avoided.

The bottom line is that Obamacare did succeed in its main goal. More people have health care than ever before. Massachusetts has nearly 100% coverage....and even Minnesota, with its website debacle is moving in that direction.

In Minnesota, we have an opportunity to put all of these problems behind us by passing the Minnesota Health Plan. It is languishing in our legislature, ready to be debated and passed. With it, we can stop the website issues. We can cover every one of our residents. We can cut costs and end all the duplication. And we can do what it would seem that 57% of Americans want - health care for all.
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GOP Guv Candidates Still Talking MNsure

Category: Health Care
Posted: 07/18/14 13:42

by Dave Mindeman

The GOP candidates for governor are still making MNsure a main component of their campaigns. But are they offering any real alternatives?

1. Scott Honour - He wants to scrap the state exchange and opt into the Federal exchange. The Federal exchange had as many, if not more, problems than MNsure had at the beginning....and the Fed exchange has maybe made a little more progress on fixing it. But the essential dynamics of the ACA will not change - so what Honour is really talking about is changing tech venues. Does that mean he now supports the ACA iteself? Minnesotans generally like to be in control of their own processes and since we already have used our allowed Fed subsidy to make our own exchange - and we have made progress on identifying the tech problems, why not keep it Minnesota based and invest a little more to make it right? I doubt Honour's idea will fly.

2. Jeff Johnson - The GOP endorsed candidate wants to keep the exchange and local control. But he does want to apply for a waiver to remake health care in our state. He doesn't have anything specific which probably means he doesn't know what to do about that. Besides, even with a waiver, he still has to meet the basic goals of the ACA and its guidelines. I doubt he can find any compromise in that vein which will be accepted by the GOP base. So, essentially, Johnson is using rhetoric as an answer.

3. Kurt Zellers - Zellers wants a waiver as well, but he thinks he is going to get Democrats to join him in his quest. He puts it this way...

"Time is going to be on our side. You look at it. The federal system isn't working," Zellers said. "We were supposed to have everybody insured. We were supposed to keep our doctor. We were supposed to keep our clinic."

The first problem with that is that what he is saying is not true. Minnesota has the second highest insured population in the country. Only Massachusetts is higher at this point. And about keeping your doctor -- prior to the ACA and with the ACA, when have we ever had that guarantee? When we have to use employer based coverage, we have to go with the network chosen by our employer. That can change from year to year and with that, what doctor is in the network can also change. Since which insurance determines this - and since the ACA uses insurance in the exchanges - nothing really changed. Same goes for clinics.

Now if Zellers wants to get a waiver and go for John Marty's Minnesota Health Plan (single payer), then he will get a lot of Democrats on board. Trouble is, he would lose all the Republicans.

4. Marty Seifert - Seifert wants to include more insurance companies in the exchange. He said allowing for-profit and out of state companies to offer insurance on the exchange would lower costs and improve quality. But, as I understand it, for-profit insurers are allowed, they just have administrative expenses capped. Minnesota may have more restrictions on that, but allowing other insurers from out of state would require that they meet MN's regulations and the minimum ACA regs. So, as I have stated before, what rates they have in their own states would have to be completely reformulated to do something in Minnesota. This has been suggested by GOP circles before and it still has the same problems. Nothing new from Seifert on this one. But given all of that, I do think that there will be more insurance companies headed for the exchange anyway.... many were waiting to see how things happened in the first year before taking the plunge. Seifert's premise is really just status quo.

****************************************

I continue to defend the basics of MNsure and still agree with the criticism of the website itself. The ACA works on getting the uninsured covered. Universal coverage is a basic health care concept that must continue to be worked on. But if you want to make things work more smoothly and get rid of an awkward employer based, problem filled basic system, then apply for that waiver and head for single payer (the Minnesota Health Plan).

Problem solved. Health care for all. And no religious conflicts.
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