Category Archives: Health & Human Services

Big rate hikes for health insurance will slam Washingtonians

O laughs

Obamacare going as planned…

This is not happening just in Washington. I have health insurance with BCBS OK and pay $550/month – up from $380/month last year. I have no co-pays (I pay the full contracted price when I walk through the doctor’s door) and a $6,800 annual deductible. BCBS informed me that my wonderful plan is being eliminated and I will soon receive my options for next year. I can hardly wait to see how much I get slammed.

From MyNorthwest.com: Open enrollment for health insurance in 2018 starts on Nov. 1 and thousands of people in Washington state will see big increases in their premiums.

The state’s insurance commissioner will officially release rates next week, and his office is warning that hundreds of thousands of people who do not get their insurance through an employer, will see a rate hike in the double digits.

Some 330,000 Washingtonians don’t get health insurance through an employer.

“I’m one of the folks who has to go out and get insurance on my own,” said Edward Weatherly, who is currently working a temp job. His monthly premiums?  “It costs me about $430 a month,” Weatherly said.

And the state’s insurance commissioner, Mike Kreidler, says rates for 2018 will go up – by a lot. “We’re looking at rate increases that are going to be in the 20s (percentage). We haven’t seen that, except going back before the Affordable Care Act,” Kreidler said.

The ones hardest hit will be the middle class – people who don’t qualify for a subsidy.

“It’s that person who doesn’t receive any help that I’m worried about. That’s going (to) say, ‘I’m going to hit the wall and I can’t afford this any longer,’” Kriedler said.

Weatherly is one of those individuals. He says it’s already difficult to make ends meet. “In addition to the rent, it’s pretty tough every month,” Weatherly said. “And there have been a couple of times I’ve thought about letting the insurance go.”

It gets worse – the insurance commissioner says people who are not subsidized with the most popular “Silver Plan” could see even more dramatic rate hikes. “On top of the mid-20 percent rate increase, they could see a 9 to 27 percent (increase) on top of that,” Kreidler said.

He says one reason for the steep increases is the uncertainty coming out of Washington, D.C. “I don’t care if they call it ‘Trumpcare’ whatever it is. But you’ve got to do something to make sure you’re taking care of the people. Access to affordable quality health insurance,” he said.

Weatherly says he’s hoping for a change.

I’m hoping we just get to a point where it becomes a right. So many things that we argue about, at both the national and the state level, that to me in the overall scheme of things don’t mean anything. It’s not life and death. Whereas health insurance, to me, is life and death,” Weatherly said.

The state insurance commissioner plans to release official rate hikes Thursday. Where you live could also impact how much your rates will go up, and the rates will be broken down by region, insurer and plan.

DCG

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Washington state’s health-exchange rates to jump 24 percent

Shocker, not.

From Seattle Times: Washingtonians buying insurance through the state’s health-insurance exchange will see the largest premium increases next year since the exchange was created in 2013.

The Washington Health Benefit Exchange board this week approved rate increases averaging 24 percent. The rates, first approved by the state’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner, will impact about 180,000 customers.

“We at the exchange understand that, yes, this is going to create a challenging environment that is going to be difficult” for customers, said Michael Marchand, chief marketing officer and spokesman for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which was created after the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010.

Customers of the exchange will also have fewer insurance providers to choose from in 2018. In King and Pierce counties the number drops from seven to four, Snohomish County goes from six to three and Kitsap County from four to three.

Rate increases averaged 11 percent last year, 4 percent in 2016 and 1 percent in 2015.

Read the rest of the story here.

DCG

Planned Parenthood Will Close 4 Iowa Clinics Due To New State Restrictions

mammograms

Don’t’ believe the fearmongering of this article from Refinery29. There are still PLENTY of health care clinics in Iowa. My quick search found the following:

The Iowa Association of Rural Health Clinics has a list of over 140 rural health clinics in Iowa. And of course, there are the countless other municipal health care clinics as well as private health care facilities.

Plenty of facilities for Iowa residents to receive “vital health services” that only Planned Parenthood can provide.

From Yahoo (Refinery29): Following in Texas’ disastrous footsteps, four Planned Parenthood clinics will close in Iowa because of the state government’s actions to partially defund the health organization. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad signed a health and human services budget that discontinued the state’s federal Medicaid family planning waiver and replaced it with a state program that excludes any clinic that offers abortions.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced on Thursday that it will close one third of its 12 health centers in Iowa this summer, leaving an estimated 14,600 patients in Quad Cities, Burlington, Keokuk, and Sioux City without their current healthcare provider.

Iowa’s $1.77 billion health and human services budget keeps roughly the same amount of funds for family planning as the previous year, but places new restrictions on which facilities can receive money to cover low-income patients’ health care. Because the Hyde Amendment already prevents federal funds from paying for abortion, the budget change is the latest attempt by Republican politicians to shut down abortion providers.

Defunding Planned Parenthood and forcing clinics to shutter keeps low-income women from accessing vital health services such as contraception and cancer screenings, as the organization says abortions make up roughly 3% all services it performs.

Back in 2011, Texas took similarly drastic measures, cutting its family planning budget by more than $70 million and directing it away from clinics that provided abortion. Across the state, 25% of all family planning clinics closed, and about 30,000 fewer women had access to a health clinic two years later.

Clinic closures in the Lone Star State also forced women to drive four times farther to have an abortion. A Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) study found that Texas women whose closest clinic stayed open drove an average of 22 miles, while women whose closest clinic closed drove an average of 85 miles for health services. The women furthest from an open clinic had to drive more than 250 miles.

Iowa’s new regulations forced clinics to close right away, which foreshadows what will happen if the healthcare bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives earlier in May becomes law. The GOP’s American Health Care Act proposes cutting off Medicaid reimbursements Planned Parenthood currently receives for treating low-income patients for one year unless its clinics stop performing abortions.

“We have seen what happens in states like Texas, and now in Iowa, when politicians attack access to care at Planned Parenthood — it’s devastating, and sometimes deadly, for the women who are left with nowhere to turn for care,” Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement to Refinery29. “I am concerned about the health and well-being of the people in Iowa who now can no longer turn to their trusted health care provider.”

Texas has already proven that when a state cuts off Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid funds, it forces clinics to close and keeps women from getting the health services they need. Now, Iowa has followed suit and essential care for women is at stake in one more state.

DCG

Aetna drops last 2 state markets under Affordable Care Act

Obama_laughing

Obamacare going as planned. Let’s hope we can get rid of this monstrosity.

From Yahoo: While Republicans rewrite the Affordable Care Act in Washington, the future of the current law has grown hazier with the nation’s third-largest health insurer completely divorcing itself from state-based insurance markets.

Aetna said late Wednesday that it won’t sell individual coverage next year in its two remaining states — Nebraska and Delaware — after projecting a $200 million loss this year. It had already dropped Iowa and Virginia for next year. The insurer once sold the coverage in 15 states, but slashed that to four after losing about $450 million in 2016.

The government-backed marketplaces are a pillar of the Obama-era federal law because they allow millions of people to buy health insurance with help from income-based tax credits. But insurers like Humana, and now Aetna, have been fleeing that market, and the remaining coverage options are growing thin. Other companies like the Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer Anthem say they are wary of returning without a guarantee that the government will provide cost-sharing subsidies that reduce expenses like co-payments. Those are separate from the tax credits that help pay premiums.

The White House has assured lawmakers it will continue paying the subsidies, but it has offered no long-term guarantee.

About 12 million people bought coverage for this year on the exchanges, and every market had at least one insurer offering coverage. But a growing number were down to one.

Companies are in the middle of figuring out their prices and coverage plans for next year, and insurance experts expect some holes to develop in those marketplaces.

“All it takes is one insurance company to exit, and that can create panic for other insurers and they pull out too,” said Cynthia Cox, a health insurance expert for the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care. “Insurers don’t want to be the last one holding the bag.”

The federal law prevents insurers from rejecting patients based on their health, so if competitors pull out, the last insurer may be left covering all the high-cost patients in that market.

Metropolitan or highly populated areas are still expected to draw several insurers. But rural areas may not be attractive to insurers looking to cut losses. They generally have a smaller, older population.

Ultimately, insurers with the most common brand in health insurance, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, will decide the fate of the marketplaces. Many of those plans specialize in individual insurance and have a long-standing presence in their markets. They also are the only remaining option on exchanges in nearly a third of the nation’s more than 3,100 counties.

DCG

Candlelight vigils and funerals are being planned to highlight those who, activists say, will die under Trumpcare

hyperbole

From Vocativ: Activists are planning several protests around the country — at elected representatives’ offices and places of worship — to mourn for those they say will die if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

Protesters are holding candlelight vigils, symbolic funerals, and die-in demonstrations to protest President Trump and the Republican Party’s efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare with a new bill, called the American Health Care Act or AHCA. The first vote by the House of Representatives on the measure is scheduled for Thursday.

One of the more grim protests being planned will be held in Des Moines, Iowa, in front of Republican Congressman David Young’s office. Organizers say the event is “a vigil to mourn the deaths of the Iowans and Americans that will die if Trumpcare is passed. Almost 200 Iowans are projected to die each year, 2000 total over the next decade. We need to make sure David Young knows what he would be voting for.”

Organizing For Action, the political advocacy group that grew out of President Obama’s first presidential campaign, is planning a funeral procession in New York’s Staten Island with an effigy of Trump as the grim reaper. The protest, planned for Thursday, will march to Representative Dan Donovan’s office.

Indivisible, an organization made up of former Congressional staffers, is also organizing a series of candlelight vigils for the estimated 24,000 people who will die yearly if the GOP plan is passed as it currently stands. One demonstration, to be held at a San Diego church, will “pray for mercy for the sick and suffering in San Diego and across America.”

In Cincinnati, nearly 100 people have said they will attend a “die-in” protest on Wednesday. Each participant is instructed to lie down on the ground while holding a sign stating their hypothetical cause of death. Among the suggestions are “I died from a bacterial infection because I couldn’t afford to go to the doctor” and “My cervical cancer wasn’t discovered in time because I couldn’t go to Planned Parenthood.”

The American Health Care Act is scheduled for a floor vote in the House of Representatives on March 23. President Trump and his administration have reportedly held a series of phone calls and meeting intended to pressure Republicans opposed to the bill to fall in line.  Several Republican lawmakers have come out against the bill, which they say fails to live up to promises of a full Obamacare repeal.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, some 24 million Americans are estimated to lose health insurance over the next decade if the plan goes through.

DCG

UN warned Trump that ObamaCare repeal could violate international law

United Nations

From Fox News: The United Nations warned the Trump administration earlier this year that repealing ObamaCare without providing an adequate replacement would be a violation of multiple international laws, according to a new report.

Though the Trump administration is likely to ignore the U.N. warning, The Washington Post reported the Office of the U.N. High Commission on Human Rights in Geneva sent an “urgent appeal” on Feb 2.

The Post reported that the confidential, five-page memo cautioned that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act would put the U.S. “at odds with its international obligations.”

The warning was sent to the State Department and reportedly said the U.N. expressed “serious concern” about the prospective loss of health coverage for 30 million people, that in turn could violate “the right to social security of the people in the United States.”

Congressional Republicans failed in March to pass an ObamaCare replacement bill. A new proposal is emerging on Capitol Hill, but it’s unclear when it might be considered and how sweeping it may be.

A spokesman for the U.N.’s human rights office in Geneva confirmed the authenticity of the letter, which was sent by Dainius Puras, a Lithuanian doctor who serves the U.N. as “Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.”

Xabier Celaya, a spokesman for the U.N., said Puras cannot comment on his ObamaCare letter until it becomes public in June.

Though the report calls out the Trump administration, there’s very little the U.N. can actually do. 

According to the report, the letter sent to the Trump administration also was supposed to be shared with the majority and minority leaders in both houses of Congress — but that did not happen.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer’s office said they never received the letter, as did officials in House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. The letter from Puras did make its way to the Department of Health and Human Services, where an unnamed employee supposedly leaked it.

DCG

President Trump signs law restoring states’ right to defund Planned Parenthood

On his first full day of work in the White House on January 23, 2017, a day after the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Trump fulfilled a campaign promise by signing an executive order to defund overseas abortion agencies. {See “Trump fulfills 3 promises in first day of work as POTUS, including defund International Planned Parenthood”)

On April 3, 2017, President Trump put an end to the U.S.’s $75 million funding  of a United Nations abortion agency — the UN Population Fund.

Ten days later on April 13, 2017, President Trump signed into law a joint Congressional resolution, H.J.Res. 43, enabling states to defund Planned Parenthood and other abortion mills.

H.J.Res. 43 repeals one of Obama’s last malevolent acts as POTUS.

In December 2016, Obama had bestowed his parting gift to the abortion industry with a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule banning states from withholding Title X federal “family planning” grants to abortion clinics. At the time, HHS explained that the rule was created in reaction to states that tried to stop funding abortion providers.

H.J.Res. 43, that President Trump signed into law, reads:

Providing for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule submitted by Secretary of Health and Human Services relating to compliance with title X requirements by project recipients in selecting subrecipients.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Secretary of Health and Human Services relating to compliance with title X requirements by project recipients in selecting subrecipients (81 Fed. Reg. 91852; December 19, 2016), and such rule shall have no force or effect.

On April 14, 2017, speaking for all pro-lifers, Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, said:

“Today we thank President Donald Trump for restoring states’ freedom to direct taxpayer dollars away from abortion providers in favor of supporting community health centers that deliver comprehensive women’s care, and already outnumber abortion providers 20 to 1.”

Applauding H.J.Res. 43, Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser urges Congress to take up more legislation to strip Planned Parenthood and abortion providers of other federal funds like Medicaid reimbursements, and redirect those federal funds to health providers that do not perform abortions.

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) introduced H.J. Res. 43 to the U.S. House of Representatives, which nullified the HHS rule. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) sponsored H.J. Res. 43 in the Senate. The measure passed the House easily and then narrowly passed the Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence as the tie-breaking vote.

If the Trump administration never does anything else, H.J. Res. 43 alone is a confirmation of the rightness of our votes last November 8 for Trump-Pence.

And don’t let anyone tell you that Republicans are no different from the party of  Demonrats.

~Eowyn