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Friday, January 31, 2014

Obamacare Roundup: Great enrollments for Wellpoint; "Bette from Spokane" debunked

Via Joan McCarter, we learn that Wellpoint, which runs a number of for-profit Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance plans, reported on an investor's conference call that it expects to add over one million new policyholders this year and that its enrollments are much better than expectations. Of 500,000 enrolled so far, fully 80% of them came to the company via the exchanges. Of that amount, 2/3 were eligible to receive subsidies for their insurance premiums.

Of course, for those of us who support single payer, giving money to private insurers is a mixed blessing. We'd be better off without them, but under our current political situation, this is the best we will be able to do for the uninsured for a while. As McCarter points out, stories like this mean that Obamacare is going to be unrepealable soon, if it isn't already.

Meanwhile, if you could stomach listening to the first Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday, you heard Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodger (R-WA) tell the plight of a woman she called "Bette in Spokane," who supposedly had to pay "nearly $700 per month" more for her health insurance, after her insurance company canceled her old plan.

As with many other such stories, this one has collapsed under scrutiny. As the linked article shows, Bette Grenier had had a catastrophic plan canceled, and she only compared it to the price of a Gold-level policy her insurer suggested as a replacement. Not only were cheaper policies available, she told the paper she would not go on the state exchange to look for a policy, even though this would likely have saved her even more money compared to the one her insurance company offered. She told the paper she and her husband planned to go without insurance.

As Paul Krugman (who pointed me to the Spokane link) notes, there is a reason why catastrophic plans aren't allowed: "If you’re allowed to have insurance that barely covers anything, that’s almost the same as not participating at all." Which appears to be exactly what's happening in this case.

Cross-posted at Angry Bear.


  1. I am one of those "experts" brought in the fix the federal exchange, so I am intimately familiar with it. The insurers I have dealt with all have the same policies available without going through an exchange. The ONLY reason for the exchanges is that the law requires going through an exchange to get a subsidy. We have spent $800M to do what could be done through our tax returns, AND which are done through our tax returns, because the subsidies are based on ESTIMATES of this year's income, and corrections will be done on our tax returns next year.

    As for single-payer, CGI Federal is the US subsidiary of a Canadian company. We do have Canadians working on the project. They talk about how long it takes to actually GET service in Canada, and how it is great when they are here, because if they need care they can get it immediately, and Canada will pay for it, but it would take months to be seen at home.

    Catastrophic plans are what true insurance is all about. Insurance is NOT for normal day-to-day expenses.

    1. Virtually everyone enjoying "untrue" insurance via their employer (i.e. plans that covers day-to-day expenses) would beg to differ with you. They clamor to keep their whatever-it-is-but-don't-call-it-insurance plans every year, as evidenced by the minimal number of people who elect to give it up and the outcries that erupt when employers make any changes to those policies.

      But continue on about how insurance is "supposed" to be for only what you want it to be for.

  2. The experts brought in to fix the exchange have done a great job. works seamlessly, some of the insurers sights don't function as well. A vast selection of policies, rates and coverage exist. The rates, far from being onerous, are spectacular. My wife and I are going to jettison our current BC/BS that currently costs~ $1200.00/mo. for a similar policy on the federal exchange costing ~ 25% of that. This thing is working.

    1. Thank you. It is much like a duck -- all smooth on the surface, but paddling like crazy underneath!

      Just last night we did FOUR deployments to various test environments. And with the contract going to a new company, we have to deal with the transition.