Nov 19

Obama Supporters Meet Obamacare

The Beginning Of The End For The Affordable Care Act? Largest US Health Insurer May Exit ObamaCare:

Tracking the slow motion trainwreck of Obamacare has become one of our preferred hobbies: below is just a random sample of headlines covering just the most recent tribulations of the “we have to pass it to find out what’s in it” Unaffordable Care Act:

But the most surprising article we wrote was our explanation from three weeks ago explaining why “Your Health Insurance Premiums Are About To Go Through The Roof” showing that even insurance companies have been unable to earn a profit under Obamacare, as shown in the following chart:

mckinsey healthcare 1

This was a stunning revelation because, after all, the Affordable Care Act was largely drafted by the insurance industry itself, and if for whatever reason, it itself was unable to capitalize on Obamacare, then it has truly been a disaster.

Today we got confirmation of this when none other than the U.S.’s biggest health insurer, UnitedHealth, cut its 2015 earnings forecast with a warning that it was considering pulling out of Obamacare, just one month after saying it would expand its presence in the program.

According to Bloomberg, “UnitedHealth Group would scale back marketing efforts for plans it’s selling this year under the Affordable Care Act, and may quit the business entirely in 2017 because it has proven to be more costly than expected.

This was precisely what we cautioned on November 2.

Fast forward to today when UnitedHealth said in a statement that “the company is evaluating the viability of the insurance exchange product segment and will determine during the first half of 2016 to what extent it can continue to serve the public exchange markets in 2017.”

Needless to say, the implications for Obamacare – which has seen a surge in tangential problems in recent months – are dire: “A pull-back would deal a significant blow to President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. While UnitedHealth has been slower than some of its rivals to sell Obamacare policies since new government-run marketplaces for the plans opened in late 2013, the announcement may indicate that other insurers are struggling, said Sheryl Skolnick, an analyst at Mizuho Securities.

“If one of the largest and presumably, by reputation and experience, the most sophisticated of the health plans out there can’t make money on the exchanges, then one has to question whether the exchange as an institution is a viable enterprise,” Skolnick said.

UnitedHealth further said it suspended marketing its individual exchange plans and is cutting or eliminating commissions for brokers who sell the coverage.

What is surprising is that for UnitedHealth, its Obamacare-facing exposure is relatively limited: the company covers fewer than 550,000 people on the Obamacare exchanges. About 9.9 million people had insurance through the U.S.- and state-run insurance markets as of June 30. This means that all other insurance companies must be getting crushed, something which the market also noticed earlier today hitting the stocks of not only hospitals, such as CYH, HCA, LPNT, THC and UHS but also home health care providers as well such as AFAM, AMED, GTIV and LHCG.

What is perhaps even more perplexing is the abrupt shift in posture: just last month, UnitedHealth had struck a more optimistic note. I think we’ll see strikingly better performance on the insurance exchange business” next year, Chief Financial Officer David Wichmann told analysts on an Oct. 15 conference call.”

Perhaps he had not seen the P&L? Oh well, he certainly did in the subsequently 4 weeks.

The rest of the story is well-known and has been covered here extensively in the past: the inability of businesses to turn a profit from Obamacare has meant that about a dozen non-profit “co-op” plans created under the Affordable Care Act have failed, after charging too little to cover the cost of patients’ medical care, and because an Obama administration fund designed to stabilize the market paid out just 12.6 percent of what insurers requested. And Anthem last month said some rivals were offering premiums too low to provide the coverage patients require and book a profit.

At the end of the day, the worst news is not for the corporations, since Obamacare is not going away any time soon. It simply means that what until now were supposedly Affordable plans under Obamacare, will soon become (even more) Unaffordable as insurer after insurer hikes premiums dramatically in order to make the biggest US governmental intrusion into the private sector in recent decades profitable to shareholders.

Or, as we explained three weeks ago, “Your Health Insurance Premiums Are About To Go Through The Roof


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