Obamacare

California Obamacare Patients Can Expect Few Choices, As Well as a "Real Disaster"

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Covered California
Covered California

As Peter Suderman documented yesterday, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, a member of President Obama's own party, sees a potential for "real disaster" as poorly screened enrollment counselors gain access to sensitive patient data through Covered California, the state health exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act. Making matters worse, options for private health care coverage are dwindling to the point that residents of California, the most populous state in the union, will have very little to pick from should they choose to put their personal data at risk by shopping for coverage through Covered California — or elsewhere, for that matter.

In a July 2 press release from the California Department of Insurance, Jones revealed that United Healthcare will follow Aetna's exit from the state at the end of the year.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today expressed concern about the negative impact on consumers as a second health insurer — United Healthcare — announced its exit from California's individual market.

"United Healthcare's decision to exit the California individual health insurance market is bad news for consumers," said Commissioner Jones. "While both United Healthcare and Aetna have a very small share of California's individual health insurance market, their departure means less choice, less competition, and more market consolidation by the remaining big three health insurers — Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, and Kaiser — which means an increased likelihood of even higher prices from those health insurers downstream."

Jones credibly suggests that special tax breaks given Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield make it hard for other companies to compete in that state, even if they're national giants, like both United Healthcare and Aetna. For its part, United Healthcare just says, "Our individual business in California has always been relatively small and we currently serve less than 8,000 individual customers across the state. Over the years, it has become more difficult to administer these plans in a cost-effective way for our members in California."

Of course, one of the keys to operating in a cost-effective way is being able to charge for the services you provide. United Healthcare's calculations might have been affected when Jones recommended that Anthem Blue Cross be excluded from participating in the small business exchange because he thinks the company's rate hikes are too high. California officials don't have the authority to explicitly block rate hikes, so they seek to punish the insurer otherwise — and, presumably, to fire a shot across the bow of Anthem's remaining competitors. Meanwhile, Jones frets that few insurerers are willing to offer products through Covered California.

The Los Angeles Times reports that both companies withdrawing from California had already opted out of participating in the state health exchange, and that their departure means they can't return for at least five years, under state regulations.

So California health insurance customers are left with three big providers standing. Three, that is, if officials even let them offer their products — and don't drive them to abandon the state.

No wonder even union leaders are losing faith in Obamacare.

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  1. I’m still trying to get on SugarFree’s “Testamonials” list:

    SugarFree, you’re a waste of $3.48 worth of chemicals that could otherwise be made into two nails and some perfectly good soap.

    SugarFree, your sense of morality is as disfunctional as your endocrine system.

    SugarFree wants Cleveland Browns as his pallbearers, so they can let him down one last time.

    The Golden Girls: How One TV Show Turned SugarFree Diabetic

    1. SugarFree, your sense of morality is as disfunctional as your endocrine system.

      Nice

    2. The way to get on the list is to:
      1) Not inform him that you want on the list, and
      2) Describe using very dramatic imagery, the effect his writing has on you.

      1. Describe using very dramatic imagery, the effect his writing has on you

        SugarFree, your writing gets me as wet as Aquaman in the Little Mermaid section of Toys R Us.

  2. You evilmonger, Obamacare is wonderful!

    /Harry Reid

    1. You evilmonger, Obamacare should be wonderful but I haven’t read it yet!

      /N. Pelosi

  3. Well, the left has been complaining about consumers having too many choices. So I guess they’re reducing some of them for us.

  4. “their departure means less choice, less competition, and more market consolidation by the remaining big three health insurers”

    Bend that cost curve, people! BEND IT!!

    1. They could bend a cost-curve to any angle. 30 degrees, 32 degrees, you name it … 31.

      1. 350 degrees …

  5. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today expressed concern about the negative impact on consumers as a second health insurer ? United Healthcare ? announced its exit from California’s individual market.

    Ha ha!

    /Nelson Muntz

  6. a potential for “real disaster” as poorly screened enrollment counselors gain access to sensitive patient data

    If only we could find the right MIDDLE MEN.

  7. This is all a feature, folks.

    1) Accelerate the decades long decline of private health insurance.
    2) Lament the market failures that occur when the market collapses.
    3) Sace the day with your amazing new shiny single-payer plan.

    Even if this isn’t their original intention, that’s how they’ll start spinning it to their base when it all goes to shit.

    1. It may be a feature for them in the long run. Time will tell. But make no mistake, this wasn’t what they planned. They didn’t have a plan. They were just morons who had power and had to do “something”.

      1. Oh they had a plan alright, the plan was…

        Pas something, anything that could be called Health Care Reform which could be used as a rallying cry in the Midterms and then subsequently in the Obama Reelection campaign. Details are irrelivant because any failures of the law will be blamed on Republican obstructionism and racism in response to the first black president.

        They didn’t give a damn what the law said or how it would effect anyone, they just cared how it impacted the electoral calculus and on that front it was at worst a partial success.

        1. Yup. They knew that if they didn’t pass it, Obama’s sorry ass was toast. They had to give liberals their pony or face a primary challenge or low turnout in 2012. So they gave them their pony but put off implementing it until 2014. That way liberals had their pony but it wouldn’t be able to eat the furniture and shit all over the floor until after liberals turned out for Obama.

          Now the bill is coming do and they are panicking.

      2. But the Obama narrator at the beginning said the had a Plan!

        1. And that there are 12 Obama models?

          They were too stupid to get some GOP buy-in for political cover, leaving themselves open to blame for all failures of it. If they could have foregone the thrill of rubbing their enemies’ faces in their loss and tossed them enough of a bone for the media to call it “bipartisan”, they wouldn’t be in this political mess.

          1. Which is why they’ve been forced to point to an old Heritage paper to say it was a Republican plan to fake some bipartisanism.

            They were too fucking stupid to take the “moderate, bipartisan” hints from the media begging them to throw a few RINOs some goodies to buy political cover.

          2. It kills me. The moron twins from Maine for fucking dying to get a piece of being a part of history and have the NYTimes write fawning profiles of their courage. But the Dems were so fucking arrogant and stupid they couldn’t get a single RINO to sell out and vote for the bill.

            That might be the biggest piece of political incompetence in my lifetime.

            1. That might be the biggest piece of political incompetence in my lifetime.

              TOP. MEN.

            2. Stealing that 60th Senate seat may have been the worst thing to happen to the Dems. It made them think they could do it alone.

              1. They figured once they got it in, it would be all days of wine and roses. It wouldn’t matter if they lost the 2010 midterms. For some reason it never dawned on them that by acting alone, they now owned the healthcare system and would be set up to be blamed for every problem their plan created.

                1. Actually, I think they believed that whoever created the plan they didn’t read had set up a system that wouldn’t have any problems.

                  “Government control = efficiency = ‘What can go wrong?'”

                2. Nah, the Democrats just figured that their friends in the press would reliably blame the GOP no matter what actual facts might interfere. With extra helpings of scorn for the GOP’s obvious corporate proxies, those eeeevil greedy insurance companies who obstruct society by insist on actual coherent rules and laws and stuff rather than just Doing The Right Thing like they’re told.

                  So far it seems to be working.

    2. Of course, single-payer won’t sace the day.

      That having been said, I’ll renew my call for single-payer legal care. Because there’s no lawyer who does anything worth more than minimum wage.

  8. So basically, the “death spiral” has already begun.

    Humans can anticipate the future and act accordingly.

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