A CalPERS panel has recommended the lowest average health plan premium increase since 1998, at 3.03%. CalPERS' decision to award contracts to more insurers could have helped lower the increase. Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento Bee's "The State Worker."
Government Accountability Office reports say that while officials have made significant progress in developing regulatory framework and guidance for health insurance exchanges, several key deadlines have been missed and there still is major work to complete. Wall Street Journal et al.
Los Angeles might award Blue Shield of California a three-year contract to provide health coverage for city workers. Blue Shield's bid would cost nearly $9 million less than a proposal by Anthem Blue Cross, which holds the current contract. Los Angeles Times.
Aetna has announced it will stop selling individual health insurance plans in California at the end of 2013, withdrawing as the Affordable Care Act begins to reshape the health insurance market in 2014. Aetna has about 49,000 individual policyholders in the state, making up a small portion of the insurer's business. Affected policyholders will be able to enroll in other plans by the end of this year. The company said it will continue selling health insurance in California to Medicare beneficiaries and employers, as well as dental and life insurance plans. Wall Street Journal.
On Friday, CMS issued a proposed rule last week that outlines guidelines for the health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. The guidelines seek to clarify oversight of premium assistance programs and provide other technical details. Modern Healthcare, CQ HealthBeat.
The number of health plans available through the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges will vary sharply by state. For example, 13 insurers are expected to offer plans through California's exchange, while Maine residents will choose between two insurers. New York Times.
Last week, San Francisco's Health Service System voted 4-2 to approve Kaiser Permanente's proposed health premium rate hike of more than 5% for city workers in 2014 and immediately "begin negotiations for 2015." The board told Kaiser officials that more detailed financial accounting would be necessary. An analysis released by San Francisco last month found that the insurance company took in $87 million more from city workers and their dependents between 2010 and 2012 than it cost to serve them. Los Angeles Times.
Anthem Blue Cross and the University of California have announced an agreement to add five UC medical centers and 5,000 affiliated physicians to Anthem's offerings in Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange. The five medical centers are UC-San Francisco Medical Center, UC-Davis Medical Center and hospitals at UCLA, UC-Irvine and UC-San Diego. San Francisco Business Times' "Bay Area Biz Talk."
Rep. Darrel Issa of California sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, accusing the department of violating a ban on the use of federal funds for an "in-person assisters" program in states that will operate their own health insurance exchanges. The Hill's "Healthwatch."
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is urging Covered California to bar Anthem Blue Cross from the health exchange's small business market because the insurer imposed several "excessive and unreasonable" rate hikes. Los Angeles Times et al.
California advocacy group Consumer Watchdog has filed a lawsuit against UnitedHealthcare, alleging that the insurer's mail-order prescription program is discriminatory under state civil rights law and threatens the health and safety of HIV/AIDS patients. The lawsuit is seeking statewide class certification, a court order to prevent implementation of the mail-order requirement, damages and attorney's fees. Sacramento Business Journal, Payers & Providers.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders argues that the Affordable Care Act will lead to higher premiums in the individual market "because in 2014 insurance companies cannot turn down or charge higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions." She adds, "Plus Obamacare threw in some goodies, such as no co-payments for contraception and preventive care." Saunders argues, "A lot of uninsured Californians are hungry for the security that health coverage provides. For those people, higher premiums should seem like a reasonable trade-off." San Francisco Chronicle.
A study published in Health Affairs predicts that about 30 million U.S. residents still will lack health coverage by 2016. However, that figure is expected to shrink gradually after 2016, as enrollment in state insurance exchanges increases. Washington Post's "Wonkblog," National Journal.
A Los Angeles Times editorial argues that state lawmakers and Gov. Brown's administration must ensure that Covered California -- the state's health insurance exchange -- and counties provide newly eligible health insurance consumers with "hassle-free customer service." Because the Affordable Care Act's success depends on more Americans obtaining health coverage, the state should "make sure that whether applicants contacted Covered California or a county welfare office, they could be enrolled on the spot in whatever insurance program they were eligible for." Los Angeles Times.
An Accenture Research report finds that about 20% of U.S. residents in the next four years will obtain health coverage through privately operated exchanges. The report cites estimates that 25% of businesses are considering using a private exchange in the next five years. The Hill's "Healthwatch."