Aetna CEO: Obamacare Fails to Attract the Uninsured

Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014 08:35 PM

By John Morgan

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Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini says Obamacare has failed in one of its primary goals — attracting the uninsured — and has managed mostly to simply move people who already had private coverage to public coverage where the government subsidizes their medical costs.

In an interview with CNBC, Bertolini said it is possible the insurance giant, with more than $27 billion in revenues, could pull out of the Obamacare program altogether.

“We see only 11 percent of the (enrolled) population is actually people that were firmly uninsured that are now insured. So [Obamacare] didn’t really eat into the uninsured population.”

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Bertolini made it clear Aetna intends not to lose money on its Obamacare accounts — or else.

He said the company expects to submit its 2015 rates for Obamacare on May 15.

“Are they going to be double-digit [increases] or are we going to get beat up because they’re double-digit or are we just going to have to pull out of the program?” he asked.

Bertolini does not see the government-mandated program, required under the Affordable Care Act, collapsing, however.

By 2020, Aetna estimates, 75 million people in the U.S. will be covered by health-care insurance from exchanges.

“Some portion of that will be public exchanges — probably 20 million to 25 million people will be [served by] public exchanges — the rest will be private exchanges.

“We’re going to have individuals buying health care with a subsidy from their government or a subsidy from their employer,” Bertolini predicted.

The Dallas Morning News reported that U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, gave up his health insurance for 2014 in protest against the law, saying Obamacare has made coverage too expensive.

Gohmert’s protest is partly symbolic, because the federal government subsidizes the health care for Congress in any event under a directive from the Obama administration.

But Gohmert and other critics are against the subsidies also, saying they “smacked of special treatment,” the Morning News reported. House Republicans tried to kill the subsidies, but were blocked by the Democratic Senate.

A Bloomberg opinion piece said Obamacare may be sustainable, but only because of the prospect of a massive taxpayer bailout under the law’s “risk corridor” provisions. The piece was written by Ramesh Ponnuru, a Bloomberg columnist who is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor at National Review.

“If insurers pay out more than 108 percent of the premiums they collect from customers in Obamacare’s exchanges, taxpayers are on the hook for about 75 percent of the extra cost. If the insurers make profits that are more than 108 percent of their collections, they have to pay back a similar proportion,” Ponnuru said in the Bloomberg report.

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