80 million could lose group health insurance policies next year

Earth to Obama: This is not "transformative." This is disaster.

Fox News:

Almost 80 million people with employer health plans could find their coverage canceled because they are not compliant with ObamaCare, several experts predicted.

Their losses would be in addition to the millions who found their individual coverage cancelled for the same reason.

Stan Veuger of the American Enterprise Institute said that in addition to the individual cancellations, "at least half the people on employer plans would by 2014 start losing plans as well." There are approximately 157 million employer health care policy holders.

Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute added, "the administration estimated that approximately 78 million Americans with employer sponsored insurance would lose their existing coverage due to the Affordable Care Act."

Last week, an analysis by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, showed the administration anticipates half to two-thirds of small businesses would have policies canceled or be compelled to send workers onto the ObamaCare exchanges. They predicted up to 100 million small and large business policies could be canceled next year.

According to projections the administration itself issued back in July 2010, it was clear officials knew the impact of ObamaCare three years ago.

In fact, according to the Federal Register, its mid-range estimate was that by the end of 2014, 76 percent of small group plans would be cancelled, along with 55 percent of large employer plans.

The reason behind the losses is that current plans don't meet the requirements of ObamaCare, which dictate that each plan must cover a list of essential benefits, whether people want them or not.

"Things like maternity care or acupuncture or extensive drug coverage," said Veuger. "And so now the law is going to force them to buy policies that they could have gotten in the past if they wanted to but they chose not to."

Some plans already have been canceled and employers are getting sticker shock at the new, higher prices under ObamaCare.

One of them is David Allen, president of a company bearing his name in Boulder, Colorado. He told a Congressional hearing recently that his carrier discontinued his company policy because it wasn't compliant with ObamaCare.

"It does not meet the minimum standards as stipulated under the law. Due to this one change," he said, "our premiums are now scheduled to increase by 52.3 percent in January 2014."

A couple of things not mentioned in the Fox article. First, most employers are going to keep offering insurance to employees. Some that pay for the entire policy will continue to do so, absorbing the price increase. Others will force employees to pay part of the monthly premium via deductions from their paycheck. Those that do this already will probably be forced to increase the amount paid by the employee. Many employees who carry their spouse and kids on their policies may see that option discontinued.

Then there are the employers who are going to throw up their hands and give up - cancelling insurance altogether and forcing their employees on to the exchanges:

• Millions of Americans have seen their individual coverage canceled and are scrambling to find new policies. Many are learning that their new coverage will probably cost more via higher premiums and deductibles ... if they can break through the error messages to the HealthCare.gov website. The president's tepid "fix" last week would allow (but not require) insurers to renew old individual policies for a year, if state regulators are on board with that. On Friday, Illinois officials announced they would allow this temporary remedy. Now we'll see how Illinois insurers respond. Whatever happens, this move is only a delay. A complete overhaul of the federal law is still urgently needed.

• People who gain coverage through smaller employers are at risk of getting cancellation notices next year. Here's why: Many businesses with fewer than 50 employees buy coverage in the small-group market. These plans can temporarily keep offering coverage that didn't meet expensive Obamacare requirements. When that ends next year, though, many employers may cancel policies because Obamacare coverage will likely boost costs.

• Hospitals are bracing for financial turbulence as out-of-pocket deductibles climb and people find themselves liable for more of their medical bills before insurance kicks in, The Tribune's Peter Frost reports.

In the past, hospitals could count on insurers to pay 80 to 90 percent of the cost of services, leaving the rest to patients. For patients with high-deductible plans, however, the insurer's share drops to as low as 60 percent, with consumers on the hook for the balance. And if patients can't pay? Hospitals can write it off as bad debt or, in some cases, charity care. But many hospitals are already operating on thin margins. Add them to the list of potential Obamacare losers in waiting.

The president's attempts to mitigate the political impact of all of this probably isn't going to work. Despite delaying the deadline for insurance companies to publish their rates next year beyond the November election, those cancellation notices and company letters informing employees they're going to be paying more for their insurance will start going out in late summer and early fall. That's plenty of time for the negative impact to be felt by angry voters.

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