Wednesday, November 15, 2017

GOP's Obamacare Tax Scheme Will Create an Insurance Nightmare for the Middle Class

Senate Republicans just announced that the repeal of the individual mandate (in the form of reducing the penalty tax to zero) will be in the Senate Finance Committee's version of tax reform.

The individual mandate has never been successful toward the objective of attracting people to the program. There are much better ways to do that.

But killing the mandate while simultaneously opening up the market to cheaper stripped down alternatives would combine to create unintended consequences the Republicans haven't appeared to comprehend.

Recently, President Trump encouraged his administration to craft regulations that would enable insurance companies to sell short-term medical policies with a duration of 12 months.

These short-term medical policies would not have to comply with the Obamacare benefit mandates. They could exclude people with pre-existing conditions.

Today, buying one of these policies would trigger the individual mandate tax penalty because a person had not purchased qualified coverage.

But, if the individual mandate tax penalty is repealed as part of the Republican tax bill there would be no such penalty to buy one of these policies.

I could easily see the individual health insurance market bifurcated into a sick and healthy pool because of these changes:
  • The sickest taking advantage of the guarantee issue protections in the Obamacare compliant market.
  • The healthiest buying a succession of these "short-term" 12 month policies while guaranteed to be able to opt back into the Obamacare market when they got sick. In fact, I could see these "short-term" policies sold on a calendar year basis so those prohibited from renewing, because of a recently acquired condition, would be able to conveniently opt into the Obamacare guaranteed insurability market when their short-term coverage expired right in line with the annual open enrollment.
I can envision these "short-term" policies offering a fairly comprehensive medical and hospital benefit set even though they did not cover all of the mandated benefits. These policies could also be much cheaper by excluding things like pregnancy and mental health and substance abuse coverage.

I could easily see these policies costing half of what the Obamacare compliant policies cost.

So, the healthy would have the best of both worlds––cheap and even arguably attractive coverage while still being guaranteed to be able to opt into a much more comprehensive Obamacare policy every January 1st if they got sick.

It's not hard to see what would happen. We would have two risk pools:
  • The very expensive Obamacare compliant risk pool with only the very sickest left in it, and
  • The very cheap "short-term" policy risk pool with the healthiest people.
And, the unsubsidized cost for those who acquired a pre-existing condition and were forced to opt back into the Obamacare compliant market, would be simply astronomical. Remember, 40% of those in the individual health insurance market make too much to qualify for a premium subsidy.

In other words, this scheme works much better than what we have today––until you get sick. And, everyone ultimately acquires a pre-existing condition.

A health insurance system that works only while you are healthy is not a health insurance system.

Obamacare is a disaster because it only works best for the sickest and those with the lowest incomes. As a result, the healthy have disproportionately stayed away driving the costs up to unaffordable levels for those who don't get the big subsidies. And, only 40% of those who are subsidy eligible are now participating.

This Republican scheme would work best for the healthiest. It would also work well for the poor because the premium subsidy system would protect them from the even higher costs inside of Obamacare.

But the Republican scheme would be devastating for those in the unsubsidized middle class who would not be able to afford coverage once they got sick.

Ironically, the people the Republican scheme would hurt the most would be those in the middle class (the unsubsidized) that have been most vocal in calling on the Republicans to fix the system.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Outlook for Stabilizing Obamacare in 2018 and the President Who Can't Shoot Straight

The Alexander-Murray bipartisan effort to stabilize the Obamacare individual insurance markets will not pass the Congress on its own. 

The only chance it now has is to be added to a must-pass legislative deal, such as the one needed to fund the government by the December 8th deadline in order to avoid a government shutdown.

Also sitting in the queue, and certain to pass at some time, is the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) reauthorization bill. The Congress is currently struggling over the pay-fors for this reauthorization but there is wide bipartisan agreement that it must be funded before the states start running out of money, which will begin in a few weeks. CHIP now covers nine million kids.

Conservative Republicans are adamant that they do not want to pass an “insurance company bailout” bill like Alexander-Murray. Particularly in the House, where Republicans were able to pass a "repeal and replace" bill, these members have already taken a controversial vote to cut Medicaid and insurance subsidy support and after that tough vote don't now want to have to explain why they have backtracked to "bail out" Obamacare with the Alexander-Murray short-term patch bill.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Donald Trump Doesn't Know the Diffrence Between an Unfunded Mandate and a Bailout

By killing the cost sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies has Trump stopped what he has called an "insurance company bailout"? Or, has he created an unfunded mandate?

The Obamacare statute requires the health plans to provide cost sharing reduction subsidies to reduce the deductibles and co-pays in the Obamacare compliant individual health insurance market for those who make less than 250% of the federal poverty level. It is a mandate. Funding a mandate is not a bailout. In Washington, DC we call failing to fund a mandate an unfunded mandate.

What Trump's Obamacare Cost Sharing Subsidy Rollback Means to Health Insurers and the Middle Class

My NPR All Things Considered Interview with Michel Martin:

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We have one more conversation about healthcare. As we just heard, health insurers are trying to figure out what to do without the [cost sharing reduction] reimbursement from the government that the Trump administration says will no longer be paid. The question is, will insurers raise their rates or withdraw from the health exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act? For perspective on this, we called Robert Laszewski. He's a former insurance executive who's now a health policy consultant. Mr. Laszewski, thanks so much for speaking with us.

ROBERT LASZEWSKI: You're welcome.

MARTIN: So based on your knowledge of the industry, what are the options that insurers are considering to deal with the lack of these subsidies?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Republican Senators' Cassidy-Graham Conundrum

If you were a Republican Senator today, would you rather risk losing your Senate seat because the base was angry with your failure to pass an Obamacare repeal and replace plan, or because you did pass it but blew up the insurance system?

See my op-ed at CNBC.com

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Preconditions Necessary for a Bipartisan Solution to Obamacare

It is now clear that Republicans cannot unilaterally tackle Obamcare.

But, I will suggest, it is also clear that both Republicans and Democrats can't even begin to have conversations about fixing the health law until they can agree on broader principles.

See my op-ed at CNBC.com.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Health Committee Could Agree to Shore Up the Obamacare Markets

When Congress returns in September, Senate health committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) will attempt to find a way to at least temporarily shore up the Obamacare individual health insurance markets.

First, they will try to guarantee the low-income cost sharing reduction (CSR) subsidies for at least a year in order to give participating insurers the confidence to charge rates that will often be 15% to 20% lower than they would otherwise have been. A good step that Democrats will have no trouble supporting.

But for there to be any chance that Republicans would support a stabilization bill, they will also have to get some concessions. The most likely concession to draw Republicans onside would be one that granted the marketplace more flexibility and a resulting better risk pool so that health plans could come up with better prices.

Opponents of this flexibility will argue that there is no free lunch. Plans with fewer benefits will cost less because they offer less.

Actually, not quite.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Number of People in the Off-Exchange Individual Health Insurance Market Plunged 29% in the Last Year

Is the individual health insurance market stable?

With Trump threatening to make things worse in the individual health insurance market, was it stable even before he made his threats?

See my op-ed in the National Review.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Strike Three! A Statesman and Two Adults––Republicans Fail to "Repeal and Replace" Obamacare

The latest attempt by Senate Republicans to "repeal and replace" Obamacare––the “skinny” plan––failed early this morning on a vote of 49-51.

The deciding vote came from John McCain (AZ), joined by Republican Senators Collins (ME) and Murkowski (AK).

Trying to pass the “skinny” bill was a fool’s errand. How did McConnell think he was going to do any better bringing 240 House Republicans—including the Freedom Caucus—into a process that he could get no more than 45 Republican votes for in his own Senate?

Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had earlier said the “skinny” plan was a “half assed” bill whose only purpose was to keep what had been so far a horribly failed process alive—just before he voted for it.

Now what?

The focus now has to be on what will happen to the failing Obamacare exchange markets.

Will there be a bipartisan effort to shore them up?

I will suggest that there are two pre-conditions for any Congressional bipartisan solution:
  1. Democrats will have to admit the problems with Obamacare are more than “imperfections”––they will have to admit that Obamacare has been a dismal failure for those who have no choice but to buy their health insurance in the individual health insurance market and make too much money to qualify for a subsidy––40% of American households make more than 400% of the federal poverty level, which is the cutoff point for subsidies.
  2. Republicans will have to admit that most American households not eligible for Medicare, employer-based health insurance, or the pre-2014 Medicaid program, cannot afford to buy health insurance on their own—even if we had 2013 premium rate levels.
Will Trump make things worse in the Obamacare insurance exchanges?

Probably:


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Strike Two––The Republican Obamacare "Repeal and Replace" Fiasco

Three strikes and you're out.

On Monday, Senate Republicans approved proceeding to debate on "repealing and replacing" Obamacare by a vote of 50-50-1, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote.

Strike One
Yesterday, Senate Republicans failed to approve the bill they had been working on for over a month, which included the Cruz amendment that would have bifurcated the individual health market into separate healthy and sick pools. The vote was 43-57. Of course, all Democrats voted no. The nine Republicans voting against the leadership bill included Collins (ME), Corker (TN), Cotton (AR), Graham (SC), Heller (NV), Lee (UT), Moran (KS), Murkowski (AK), and Paul (KY).

Interestingly, West Virginia’s Capito, who had expressed lots of reservations about the Senate bill, did not vote against it.

The list of those voting no included both the most conservative and the most moderate. Both Maine and Kansas have not expanded Medicaid. Yet, Collins and Moran both voted no, at least in part, because of the impact the long-range caps on Medicaid would have on the large senior populations (nursing home payments) benefiting from the baseline Medicaid program in their states.

Lee and Paul voted no because the Senate bill didn’t go far enough to reduce the cost of insurance. Paul’s objective is complete repeal generally wanting to go back to 2013. Lee also wants a wide-open market.

The rest, in one way or another, just saw the Senate bill as leaving too much trauma in its wake, with the CBO estimating that 22 million fewer would ultimately be covered, and are generally are calling for a return to the "regular order" committee process and bipartisan negotiations with Democrats. The problem with that approach is that most of the 43 Republican Senators that voted for the bill want nothing to do with an agreement that makes Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer happy.

All of this was made more complicated this week when the Senate parliamentarian ruled key provisions in the Senate bill out of order under budget reconciliation rules. These included the six-month lockout substitute for the individual mandate, association health plans, and going from 3:1 age rating to 5:1 age rating.

Strike Two
Repeal, with a two-year period within which to create a replacement, also failed, on a 45 to 55 vote. This time the Republican no votes included Alexander (TN), Capito (WV), Collins (ME), Heller (NV), McCain (AZ), Murkowski (AK), and Portman (OH).

The Last Attempt:
Now, McConnell will likely proceed to pass a “skinny” bill that only repeals provisions that arguably have unanimous support among Republicans: Repealing the medical device tax, the employer mandate, and the individual mandate.

His purpose is to just pass something that would keep this alive by having a bill to take back to the House for a conference. His hope is that he can ultimately hash out an agreement with the House. But that is nuts. The House bill is arguably even more conservative than the Senate bill. What makes McConnell think by bringing the Freedom Caucus back into these discussions that he can find a way to keep his moderate Republicans onside?

No one knows if this “skinny” strategy has 50 votes and won’t until the vote is taken.

Even if McConnell can pass the "skinny" option, I just can’t see a viable end game here for Republicans on their own.

There is also a zero chance of any kind of bipartisan agreement so long as a substantial majority of Republicans––as well as the Twitter in Chief––find a “bailout” of Obamacare unacceptable.

Let me also suggest that the Jeff Sessions fiasco has relevance here.

President Trump has said repeatedly that Obamacare is imploding. Any attempts now by the Secretary of HHS to administratively shore it up would likely put Secretary Price in the same boat that Attorney General Sessions is sitting in right now.

And, if we needed any more complications, the Anthem CEO’s comments this morning won’t help. He said, “We don’t believe we have been heard,” when referring to the largest Blue Cross carrier’s warnings to Congress and the administration about the precarious state of the individual health insurance market. He also said uncertainty over whether the $7 billion in low-income cost sharing subsidies would be paid by the Trump administration would lead to 20 points more in rate increases on top of the average 20% rate increases Anthem has already applied for. He also said that Anthem would consider getting out of more states if the Obamacare insurance exchanges aren't quickly stabilized.

The Anthem comments just underscore that the only thing a successful "skinny" strategy on the part of Republicans could lead to is a 2018 individual market fiasco, particularly for the individual market participants who don't get a subsidy.

If you had set out to design the perfect nightmare you couldn’t do it this well.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Post-Republican Obamacare Market Will Be "Stable" and Very Profitable for Health Insurers

Predictions that the individual health insurance market will now implode are misplaced.

First, in the wake of the Republican collapse of efforts to replace Obamacare, Medicaid will continue on unaffected. The Obama Medicaid expansion is fully funded for years to come. The nineteen states that did not take the expansion will continue to be on the outside looking in as their taxpayers continue to fund the expansion in the 31 states that did expand. And, health insurers will continue to enjoy that growth in their business as states continue to benefit from the open-ended federal funding.

The individual health insurance market will not collapse.

With about 3,000 counties in the U.S., I can't give you an absolute guarantee that there won't be a few that will not have an insurance carrier serving the Obamacare market in 2018. But generally, the vast majority of people eligible for subsidies will have at least one carrier to buy from.

The Kaiser Family Foundation is out with a recent study looking at medical loss ratios in the first quarter of 2017. They concluded that "individual market insurers on average are on a path toward regaining profitability in 2017."

I wouldn't go so far as to say that participating health plans will generally make money in 2017––the first quarter medical loss ratio is always better early on as consumers satisfy their ever-growing Obamacare deductibles.

But I do think 2018 could be a decent bottom line year for most Obamacare exchange insurers. And, 2019 should be just fine.

Does this mean the Obamacare insurance exchanges are working well?

No.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Senate Republican Obamacare "Repeal and Replace" Bill Dead––Good Riddance To An Awful Public Policy Proposal

The Senate Republican Obamacare "repeal and replace" legislation––just like the House version––was an awful bill. Individual health insurance costs wouldn't have gone down they would have gone up and both bills would have screwed a lot of low-income people. The latest Cruz amendment bifurcating the market with the sick in one place and the healthy in another was the most cynical kind of public policy.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

What's Really Behind the Cruz Amendment to the Republican Senate Plan to Replace Obamacare?

A Cunning Strategy to Back Door Risk Pools and Market Segmentation 

 

Ted Cruz has offered an amendment—since included in the latest Republican Senate draft—that would enable health insurance plans to offer stripped down coverage outside the current Obamacare compliant individual market. Anytime spent covered by them would be considered a break in service and subject the consumer to the six-month lockout provision should they want to get into the standard market. Carriers offering these plans could not deny pre-existing conditions but could up-rate sicker people.

Critics, including the health insurance industry trade associations, have come out against the idea because it would bifurcate the market into two separate pools—the healthier “Cruz pool” and the standard individual market subject to all of the current Obamacare consumer protections.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Senate Republican Obamacare Repeal and Replace Bill Will Not Reduce the Cost of Health Insurance

At the core of Republican objectives for the "repealing and replacing" of Obamacare is bringing down the cost of health insurance––not just the premiums but the out-of-pocket costs people pay as well.

If implemented, the Senate Republican bill may actually end up increasing costs compared to Obamacare.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Here's Who Gets the Blame If Obamacare Fails (Hint It's Not Obama)

With Obamacare's individual health insurance market struggling, the debate has shifted to who takes the blame if it fails.
 
Supporters of the law are willing to admit that it is failing but that it's Trump's fault.
 
Trump's constant undermining of the ACA is giving his opponents ammunition in the blame game. 
 
 
 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How ObamaCare Could Become ZombieCare

The individual health insurance market is becoming more unstable as last year's rate increases are beginning to take their toll on the health of the risk pools––particularly among the almost half of the consumers in the market that are not eligible for subsidies.

The Trump administration is making an already bad situation worse.

President Trump is wrong when he says the system will suddenly "explode" forcing Democrats to beg him to fix Obamacare––actually it will be mostly his constituents who will be begging for relief.

See my op-ed at CNBC.com

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Is Anthem Exiting the Obamacare Exchanges? The Trump Administration Needs to Decide if They Are In or Out

Bloomberg is out with a report that Anthem may exit most of their Obamacare exchange markets next year:
Anthem, Inc. is likely to pull back from Obamacare’s individual insurance markets in a big way for next year, according to a report from analysts who said they met with the company, a move that could limit coverage options for consumers at a politically crucial time for the law.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Trump and the GOP Should Face It: There's Only One Option Left to Fix Health Care

I've been saying for years that Obamacare will never be "repealed and replaced," but it will have to be fundamentally fixed, and that fix will inevitably have to be bipartisan.

But with the developments of the past week, I learned something new: Trump and the Republican leadership are ideologically closer to most Democrats than they are to their own far right wing in the House and Senate.

See my post at CNBC.com


Monday, March 13, 2017

Let’s Not Let the Republicans Make the Obamacare Replacement Debate About the Congressional Budget Office—Fewer People Will Be Covered and Many Will See Big Cost Increases

If you carve a huge chunk of revenue out of Obamacare and shift more subsidies to the middle class it should not be a surprise that the lower income folks will pay the price


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that 14 million of people would lose coverage in 2018, 21 million in 2020, and 24 million in 2026 if the House Republican plan is allowed to significantly amend the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare).

In my last post, I called the House Republican bill "mind boggling" for the negative impact I believe it would have on the number of those uninsured and the viability of the individual insurance market. Guess the CBO agrees with me.

The CBO's report came after the Brookings Institute estimated 15 million people would lose Medicaid and individual health insurance coverage at the end of ten years under the Republican plan. The arguably more business oriented S&P Global estimated between 6 million and 10 million people would lose coverage between 2020 and 2024.

Republicans are jumping on the CBO estimate reminding us that the CBO’s Obamacare projections haven’t been perfect in the past.

This is not the issue.

What Republicans are proposing, and how those proposals will impact how many people have insurance in this country, is the issue.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The House Republican Obamacare Replacement Plan: Mind Boggling

It won't work.

Obamacare works for the poorest that have affordable health insurance because all of the program's subsidies tilt in their favor.

Obamacare doesn't work well for the working and middle class who get much less support––particularly those who earn more than 400% of the federal poverty level, who constitute 40% of the population and don't get any help.

Because so many don't do well under the law, only about 40% of the subsidy eligible have signed up and, with so many insurers losing lots of money, the scheme is not financially sustainable because not enough healthy people are on the rolls to pay for the sick.

To fix it, House Republicans are proposing a very attractive program for the better off and, with the Medicaid rollback, gutting the program for the poor to be able to pay for it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Cockroach Proposal––Selling Insurance Across State Lines

I call support for giving insurance companies the ability to sell insurance across state lines the cockroach proposal.

As bad as it is, you just can't kill the damn thing!

Last night, President Trump once again listed this idea in his address to Congress as one of his health care talking points.

Here is a post about the idea I published on this blog a year ago in the midst of the Republican presidential primary:

Any candidate that suggests such a scheme only shows how unsophisticated he and his advisers are when it comes to understanding how the insurance markets really work––or could work. 

I gave a speech to 750 health insurance brokers and consultants in DC last week.

When selling health insurance across state lines, something Trump and a number of other Republican presidential candidates have been pushing, was mentioned the audience literally laughed. That's what health insurance professionals who spend their days in the market think of it!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Obamacare's Insurance Exchanges Are Self-Destructing––and That is Why Obamacare Needs to Be Fixed in 2017

Obamacare was self-destructing the day before Donald Trump was elected, and the Republican victory, with their talk of "repeal and replace," has only accelerated things.

Aetna's CEO recently said that the Obamacare insurance exchanges are in a "death spiral."

Cynthia Cox, of the "non-partisan" Kaiser Family Foundation responded that the insurance exchanges "are not really in a death spiral yet." She would know more than the Aetna CEO whose company lost $450 million in the Obamacare individual market last year.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Rethink 'repeal and replace'

This is an op-ed that I authored in USA Today––two years ago.

Wouldn't change a word of it:

Rethink 'repeal and replace': Column
Robert Laszewski
7:29 PM ET January 14, 2015

Obey health care customers, not political orthodoxy,  when proposing Obamacare fixes

The Republicans seem determined to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. They simply cannot bring themselves to consider fixing what they have come to revile.

Being against the president's namesake legislation has been a big winner in at least two out of the past three elections. But now that Republicans are in charge of the Congress, just attacking Obamacare won't work. They have to put something on the table.

However, they need to come up with something better. An effort to repeal and replace Obamacare would be a huge political mistake. There is no issue that presents a worse political minefield than health care. Each and every potential reform means somebody will be losing something and will be very motivated to stop it.

See the remainder of the op-ed here. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Reports of the Demise of Obamacare Repeal and Replace Are Greatly Exaggerated

Many recent press reports have centered around the notion that Republicans are stuck in the mud trying to get their repeal and replace promises moving.

That line appeared to be reinforced over the weekend when President Trump said, in a pre-Super Bowl interview, that the process could draw out into next year. My sense is that what Trump was talking about was the fact that the whole process, that includes implementing the replacement, could take well past 2017. Trump, never one for getting the details right, was taken literally by the press looking to write stories about how the whole process was foundering.

Speaker Paul Ryan quickly countered in his press briefing that Republicans will legislate a repeal and replace of Obamacare this year.

As I have reported to you a number of times, that process, especially the replace part, will be very difficult to achieve given the need to have at least eight Democrats onside with a complete replace bill.

But, I can also tell you that the repeal part is still on track to occur this spring, as I have been reporting for some time, likely in March.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How Republicans and Democrats Could Come to a Bipartisan Compromise Over Obamacare

It's not a question of whether or not Republicans and Democrats will come to a compromise over replacing Obamacare.

The Republican attempts to repeal and replace aside, the law is unsustainable in its current form.

Since it will take 60 Senate votes, and the Republicans only have 52 seats, there is no way we can get to a solution to the Obamacare conundrum without a bipartisan compromise.

So, what might that look like?

See my op-ed at CNBC.com 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is the Trump Administration on Its Way to Its Own "If You Like Your Health Plan You Can Keep It" Fiasco?

On Friday night the administration issued an executive order giving Trump administration appointees enormous flexibility in modifying how the Obamacare individual health insurance market works.

Specifically, President Trump has given his administration the power "to waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of [Obamacare]."

The administration has not been clear about just exactly what it is they now want to do.

Their action raises a basic question: Why grant this flexibility if it is not their intent to materially change the way Obamacare works in the individual health insurance market?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Repeal and Replace" Obamacare: How Will All of This Sort Itself Out?

Will the Republicans Follow Through on Their Promise to Repeal Obamacare?
Yes.

You have probably been reading press stories that bring into question whether or not Republicans will actually keep their campaign promise to "repeal" the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In fact, there is much discussion going on among Congressional Republicans about repealing key funding elements of the ACA as part of a budget process prior to having a replacement ready to pass the Congress.

But, they will defund the core elements of Obamacare sooner rather than later on their way to replacement. They have to. Repealing Obamacare as a first priority was a core campaign promise. If Congressional Republicans and President Trump fail to do this they will suffer a precipitous drop in credibility with their base.

Do Republicans Have a Replacement Plan?

Friday, January 13, 2017

Fixing Health Insurance Reform is a Zero Sum Game: The Only Way Republicans Can Lower Costs is to Provide Less Coverage––Wrong!

Don't Underestimate the Value of Rearranging the Deck Chairs

Anna Wilde Mathews and Louise Radnofsky have a well-done story in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. They point out that a relatively few sicker people account for most of the cost of care:
Congress has begun the work of replacing the Affordable Care Act, and that means lawmakers will soon face the thorny dilemma that confronts every effort to overhaul health insurance: Sick people are expensive to cover, and someone has to pay.
That is right.

But, this statement would seem to infer, as I have observed the general discussion about fixing Obamacare has often inferred, that there is a certain cost to health insurance and that Republicans can rearrange the deck chairs any way they want but the cost will be the same.

Wrong!

What I think this story, and the general discussion about how to cover people in the future is missing, is that Obamacare is so flawed that by itself it is manufacturing plan premium levels that are at least 30% to 40% higher than they need to be.
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