United Health bails out

A few weeks ago, UnitedHealth announced that it was dropping out of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges in at least 16 states.  The insurer sells individual ACA plans in 34 states, although it hasnt yet confirmed which state markets it will be leaving.  UnitedHealth is also withdrawing from some state insurance markets that were designed for small businesses as well.

The announcement didn’t come as a huge surprise – UnitedHealth had previously warned in November of losses in the individual insurance markets.  CEO Stephen Hemsley said that the company would end up selling “Obamacare” plans in only a handful of states, noting that the exchange market was proving to be smaller and riskier than the insurance giant had anticipated.  UnitedHealth and other insurers have publicly stated that insuring customers on ACA exchanges was more expensive than they expected.  It’s not entirely clear why that came as a surprise since the cohort of individual insurance purchasers was already known to be sicker than the average beneficiary.

The insurance giant had nearly 800,000 customers on ACA insurance exchange plans as of the end of March, although they make up a small part of the company’s total membership of 47.7 million subscribers.  Despite the losses from the ACA markets, UnitedHealth posted profits that beat investor estimates thanks to it’s consulting and technology arm, Optum.

The company admits that it may have rushed into the ACA insurance markets too soon and too quickly. Other insurers, like Cigna and Aetna, cautiously entered the markets.  They may have benefited from letting the markets shake out a bit before entering the game.  Incidentally, Cigna and Aetna have announced plans to enter a few new markets this year.

So what does it mean for consumers?  Well, people who are currently enrolled in a UnitedHealth plan will need to choose a new insurance plan during the next open enrollment plan.  The ultimate impact will vary by state.  UnitedHealth’s departure from some markets may leave some slim pickings.  In some parts of Florida and Oklahoma, consumers will only be left with one option. In markets where UnitedHealth was a relatively small player, consumers will have more options to choose from.

And what does it mean for the Affordable Care Act at large? Well, UnitedHealth isn’t ditching the individual market entirely. so it may very well get it’s ACA house in order and re-enter some markets in the future.  Furthermore, other insurers may expand their options into some of the markets abandoned by UnitedHealth.  But the individual insurance markets were designed to invite competition and allow capitalism a greater foothold in the marketplace.  Just because one company partially failed at that, doesn’t mean it’s the end of the ACA as we know it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mondays are a drag…

provided without commentary

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case of the Mondays?

Almost died laughing at this one…

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too hot to handle?

Out of respect for the Boston Marathon, Monday’s normally scheduled someecard was postponed for today.  As someone who lived in Boston during the marathon bombings, posting a someecard about marathon running seems a little insensitive.  You may disagree – it’s fine; just let it go.

This card came to mind because I heard someone yesterday say “It’s hot outside” and I thought to myself – it’s 75 degrees in April with almost no humidity, that’s actually a picture perfect day in Southeastern Louisiana.  Just wait until July…

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free time

This post speaks to me in so many ways…

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The cautionary tale of Flint

A few weeks ago, the New England Journal of Medicine published a piece by David Bellinger about the lead contamination of water in Flint.  Bellinger calls it a abject public health failure.  It’s a good article about the health problems associated with lead poisoning, and Bellinger dives a little into the financial problems that led to such a crisis.

I’ve been trying to come up with a good post about what has occurred in Flint, although with all of the information out there in the mainstream media, and along with this article, I honestly don’t think much commentary is needed.

But I will add this.  Flint is not the end of this crisis; it is only the beginning.  It is but a cautionary tale. There are hundreds if not thousands of communities just like Flint – once great industrial centers that have fallen into poverty and with it their infrastructure.  That decline is  due to a variety of factors – many of which are politically charged and I won’t get into that now – but whatever the reason, Flint is not alone.

During this election cycle, I keep hearing that voters are angry – angry at the government for the economy, for changing social values, for terrorism, for corporate greed – whatever the reason.  But what I don’t hear is enough people being angry that the government – whether local, state, or federal – is not investing enough in infrastructure and therefore  no longer protecting its own people.  I don’t hear enough people being angry that the government literally poisoned its own people in Flint.  And I certainly don’t hear enough people asking which communities are next.
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Ellen speaks out

Ellen Degeneres spoke out yesterday about Mississippi’s recently passed religious freedom law, using her opening to discuss the topic.  The law allows people with religious objections to deny LGBT people marriage, adoption and foster care services, fire or refuse to employ them, and decline to rent or sell them property. While Degeneres noted that she’s not a particularly political person, the religious freedom law isn’t about politics.  “This is human rights,” she says.

She goes on in her very Ellen way to talk about the law but she hits the nail on the head when she says,

…that is the definition of discrimination.  It is also something that the supreme court already ruled on when they made marriage a right for everyone.  Everyone.

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