Why Health-Insurance Rates Increasing and Policyholders Losing Coverage in WA


Two promises of ObamaCare are proving to be false in Washington state, says a leading think tank. 



June 6, 2013-

Hundreds of thousands of Washington state residents – individual policyholders and small group insurance members – are learning two promises of ObamaCare are false.

They won’t be able to keep the same coverage they had before passage of the controversial Affordable Care Act (ACA), and their rates are increasing.

“It is estimated that potentially 650,000 Washingtonians now covered in the individual and small group insurance markets will be forced to change their plans,” said Dr. Roger Stark, the Washington Policy Center (WPC) health care analyst, in June 2013. “These consumers will receive a notice from their insurance company that the law now forbids them from keeping their existing plans.

“They will be presented with a menu of allowable insurance plan options,” he added. “Their deductibles and benefits will change, most likely in the upward direction. Unfortunately, people’s choices will be sharply limited, with less innovation and choices.”

Depending on the provisos in their ACA plan, the WPC analyst says their out-of-pocket costs will range from zero to a 70 percent increase.

Conflicting reports – confusion

He said conflicting news-media reports on comparing health insurance plans have led to confusion among patients: “You must read carefully but you’ll find the media comparisons are based on erroneous assumptions – apples to oranges examples.”

Previously, healthcare insurance was regulated by Washington state’s insurance commissioner. Coverage and premium rates were created by the insurance companies, and subject to state approval. Once approved, any premium increase could be monitored. They were either approved or denied.

But now, it’s a different ballgame. The government, including the Internal Revenue Service, is assuming control.

But the ObamaCare shell game is not confusing all his supporters — even a union now demands “repeal or complete reform” of ObamaCare

Insurance companies are required to provide qualified health plans subject to approval by the state insurance commissioner and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

All of this is mired in thousands of pages in new regulations.

So, if you’re enrolled in an individual plan, you’ll have to learn whether you get to keep your coverage. The WPC analyst predicts you’ll pay a 5 to 10 percent increase.

However, if you have to switch plans, you’ll have to compare benefits between the old and new coverage.

If you want more benefits as some required by ObamaCare, you’ll pay a premium increase.

More exorbitant costs

ObamaCare requires you buy IRS-monitored health insurance for $4,500 or pay a $700 tax.

Insurance companies will be required to sell coverage to any person – no matter what the pre-existing condition is. That has unfortunate consequences for the majority.

“Many young and healthy people will wait until they are sick or injured to buy insurance,” says Dr. Stark. “People who are responsible and purchase insurance before they become sick will find their premiums skyrocketing, as they are forced to pay the health costs of those who wait to buy coverage.”

WPC (www.washingtonpolicy.org) is an authoritative think tank based in Seattle with satellite offices in the Olympia and Spokane.

From the Coach’s Corner, related articles:

“You know we’re going to control the insurance companies.”

-Joe Biden


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




Was 5th Time Around be the Charm for Washington State Voters?

We’ll soon know if lawmakers will listen to voters on taxes as the Legislature convenes Jan. 14

Updated Jan. 12, 2013

In terms of time management and aggravation, people in Seattle and throughout Washington dislike having to perform the same chore twice. Especially, when the chore is necessitated by politicians’ disingenuous behavior. 

But when it comes to taxes, many lawmakers in the Washington State Legislature mistakenly think it’s OK to annoy voters on the same issue over and over again.  

Five times in the past two decades, voters have passed initiatives directing the Legislature not to raise taxes without a two-thirds majority or voter approval. The initiatives require that lawmakers wait two years before voting to circumvent the will of the people.  

So, just like clockwork — as soon as the two-year period expires — guess what? The merry-go-round ride starts again, as lawmakers proceed to violate the will of the people. Repeatedly, voters complain they don’t enjoy the rides and have passed tax initiatives.  

Voters most-recently spoke on Election Day in 2012 when they easily passed I-1185. In approving the initiative, voters also told the legislators to rescind their two tax hikes passed in the 2012 session. 

On many occasions over the years, lawmakers haven’t been transparent in their behavior. Fortunately, the state’s leading think tank – the Washington Policy Center (WPC) – uses terrific investigative techniques to inform the electorate with excellent analyses about lawmakers’ chicanery. 

“Just in case a translation for these votes is really needed, lawmakers should focus their attention on balancing the 2013-15 without tax increases,” blogged Jason Mercier, WPC’s director, Center for Government Reform. His piece was entitled, “Olympia: Can you hear taxpayers now?” 

He also wrote:

“Since I-1185 was anything but new policy (most recently passed by 64% of the voters in 2010) our policy analysis advised voters to treat the decision as an opportunity to clearly frame the budget debate and send a message to Olympia that voters weren’t kidding the last four times they adopted this requirement with the hope that our elected officials will feel some obligation to their constituents to end this debate once and for all by referring the question to voters in the form of a constitutional amendment.”

Prior to the 2012 election, WPC queried 128 candidates and lawmakers:

“If Initiative 1185 is adopted, would you vote to allow the people of Washington to have the opportunity to vote on a state constitution amendment to require a supermajority vote in the legislature to raise taxes?”

Unfortunately, only 109 of them – 52 percent — responded. See their replies here. (WPC will update the survey to show which of them were elected.)

Recently, in a Tacoma News Tribune op-ed, Mr. Mercier also called for even-more legislative action:

“A constitutional amendment would provide the public and businesses with predictability about whether this tax protection will exist from year to year and whether or not the four-time (pending fifth) approval of the voters for this policy was a fluke or actually reflects their consistent and ongoing desire for lawmakers to build a strong public consensus on the need for any proposed tax increase.

“With voters and lawmakers repeatedly enacting the supermajority vote for taxes requirement over the past 20 years, what could be more representative of the public will than allowing a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment to help end this debate once and for all?” he asked.

Good question.

From the Coach’s Corner, WPC has often been a great source of information for this portal – here’s a handful of articles:

“The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes.” 

-Lao Tzu

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Will State Lawmakers Heed New SBA Data, Small Business Concerns?

Jan. 26, 2012

There’s more evidence that small business plays a pivotal role in creating jobs in Washington and other states, according to the Office of Advocacy in the Small Business Administration (SBA). The Office of Advocacy released small business data for each of the 50 states.

SBA believes the new data is “an invaluable resource for small businesses, legislators, academics, government officials, and policymakers in each state.”

Why?

“Small businesses are the foundation of economic growth in Washington and in our nation” said Dr. Winslow Sargeant, Chief Counsel for Advocacy. “By supporting policies that promote innovation and entrepreneurship, we help small businesses tackle these challenging economic times. These statistics are a resource for a path to economic growth.”

As for Washington state, the report explains “small business employment; business starts and closings; bank lending; business ownership by minorities, women, and veterans; and firm and employment change by major industry and firm size.”

Salient data about small business:

  • There were 532,162 small businesses in Washington in 2009. Of these, 142,854 were employers and they accounted for 53.3 percent of private sector jobs in the state. Small firms made up 98.1 percent of the state’s employers.
  • Throughout 2010, the number of opening establishments was lower than closing establishments and the net employment change from this turnover was negative.
  • Washington’s real gross state product increased 0.7 percent and private-sector employment decreased 1.8 percent in 2010. By comparison, real GDP in the United States decreased 1.3 percent and private sector employment declined by 0.8 percent.
  • Self-employment in Washington surged over the last decade. Female self-employment fared the best compared with other demographic groups during the decade.

To promote entrepreneurship, this week the Washington Policy Center sent state lawmakers in the 2012 legislative session these recommendations:

  1. Revisit the voluntary settlement agreement as passed by the state Senate in 2011 – $1.2 billion
  2. Reform the displaced worker retraining program
  3. Simplify sales taxes by using an ‘origin based’ tax (as opposed to a ‘destination based’ tax) and creating a flat rate for out-of-state businesses
  4. Review regulations to ensure that Washington rules don’t exceed federal regulations
  5. Enact Tort Reform
  6. Do no harm in transportation policy – do not reduce road lane capacity
  7. Do not follow Seattle in enacting statewide paid sick leave

In addition, Gov. Gregoire suggested her strategies to aid small business — business and occupation tax relief.

How has the Legislature responded? Lawmakers have ignored their $1.5 budget-deficit crisis.

Instead, lawmakers are considering other matters – mandating paid sick leave and safe leave, banning plastic bags, abolishing the death penalty and gay marriage.

When will Washington’s Legislature demonstrate wisdom?

From the Coach’s Corner, also read:

WPC Hits Target, but Will Washington State Legislature?

Washington: A Balanced Budget Is No Longer Enough

Does the Federal Reserve Understand Small Business?

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit.  Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad. 

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Columnist Terry Corbell is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services (many are available online). For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule Terry Corbell as a speaker, why don’t you contact him today?

WPC Hits Target, but Will Washington State Legislature?



Dec. 7, 2011 –


The clock is ticking. The state government spends $41 million each day but the Washington State Legislature has made little, if any, progress in its 30-day special session to solve a $2 billion deficit. Meantime, Office of Financial Management Director Marty Brown sent an email to lawmakers warning them action is needed – now.

No floor votes. Nada. Nothing.

At the request of Gov. Chris Gregoire, the special session started Nov. 28. The state is scheduled to spend more money than it will have for policies, programs and salaries.

Earlier, the governor proposed a half cent sales tax increase to raise about $500 million. The events prompted this Biz Coach piece: Budget Debate: Will Legislature Read Seattle News Media Headlines?

Actually, more than balancing the budget, the state needs to reform government for a healthy economic environment.

“While it’s true that state revenues are projected to grow by $2 billion over the previous budget cycle, this time there’s no federal bailout to prop up past overspending,” said a WPC press release.  “Some in Olympia are talking tax increases, yet our state’s fragile economy, and especially small businesses, are struggling to survive as it is.”

The Washington Policy Center (WPC) has some ideas worth adopting – the suggestions were sent in a  letter to Governor Gregoire.

WPC’s recommendations:

  1. Provide the governor discretionary authority to cut spending. Adopt performance-based Priorities of government budgeting to control the rate of spending growth.
  2. Restore the legislature’s ability to amend collective bargaining agreements.
  3. Direct state managers to use more competitive contracting.
  4. Repeal unaffordable programs instead of suspending them.
  5. Bring state employee health care premium contributions in line with those of the private sector.
  6. Ask state lawmakers to set aside a 5 percent reserve when adopting the next biennial budget.

Following its statewide conference to discuss small business issues, WPC sent the legislature these recommendations:

  1. Revisit the voluntary settlement agreement as passed by the state Senate in 2011 – $1.2 billion
  2. Reform the displaced worker retraining program
  3. Simplify sales taxes by using an ‘origin based’ tax (as opposed to a ‘destination based’ tax) and creating a flat rate for out-of-state businesses
  4. Review regulations to ensure that Washington rules don’t exceed federal regulations
  5. Enact Tort Reform
  6. Do no harm in transportation policy – do not reduce road lane capacity
  7. Do not follow Seattle in enacting statewide paid sick leave

From the Coach’s Corner, see WPC’s Coverage of the special legislative session here.

Here are related columns:

“There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.”

Will Rogers

 

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

I-1082 Will Stabilize Worker’s Compensation in Washington



Oct. 13, 2010 –


Washington state will benefit three ways if Initiative 1082 passes, according to the highly respected Washington Policy Center (WPC).

WPC released a study that shows I-1082 will “help keep premium increases in check, encourage innovation in rehabilitating injured workers, and most importantly, provide safer workplaces.” That means employers and workers will benefit.

The WPC points out the four goals of I-1082:

  1. Maintain existing benefit levels for injured workers while improving their opportunity to return to work.
  2. Eliminate the requirement that workers pay one-half of their medical coverage for on-the-job injuries.
  3. Open up the current state-run industrial insurance system to competition from private industrial insurance providers, with a July 1, 2012 start date for an open market.
  4. Maintain a “best practices” approach to worker safety as developed by both private and public sectors

The WPC study (Citizens Guide to Initiative 1082: To Reform Workers’ Compensation in Washington) concludes that Washington state is a “high benefit, high cost state system.”

It explains how the current government system “is on a shaky financial footing.”

The study also asserts “punishes a business community that has produced safer workplaces over the last two decades, and has been rewarded with steadily increasing insurance rates.”

The study’s most salient points:

  1. Research shows that more competition in industrial insurance would help keep premiums in check, encourage innovation in rehabilitating injured workers and provide safer workplaces.
  2. States that have recently introduced a competitive industrial insurance market have seen costs decline and customer satisfaction increase.
  3. As written, I-1082 relieves employees from paying for industrial insurance premiums. As in the other 49 states, businesses would pay 100% of the cost.
  4. I-1082 would not address every detail of the transition to a “hybrid” industrial insurance market, but would set mechanisms in place to do so.
  5. As written, I-1082 does not alter the benefit levels of injured workers in any way.

Proponents argue that Washington state is only one of four state-government monopolies in the nation. They lament Washington’s worker’s comp increases while Oregon has had the same rates for the last two decades. They point to the state’s second-highest cost per worker, and “the third most generous benefit package in the nation.”

From the Coach’s Corner, for more information, here are three I-1082 resource links:


Small Business Success Is Key for Washington’s Sustainability

 

April 6, 2010

Washington state’s small business owners are getting a first-hand look at ways to improve their economic environment, thanks to the Washington Policy Center (WPC).  The think tank is taking 24 ideas on the road and sharing them in 24 locales around the state.

“Small businesses are the backbone of Washington’s economy,” wrote Carl Gipson, director of WPC’s Center for Small Business. “We are committed to helping improve the small business climate in our state, and going on a tour of Washington is a great way to get the conversation started.”

The topics in the WPC tour range from unemployment insurance to state taxes. They’re included in the WPC report, Lead the Way: Small Business and the Road to Recovery. The ideas were provided by small business owners throughout the state in late 2009.

Mr. Gipson provides this ominous reminder: “Recent data shows Washington’s small business failure rate is the second-highest in the nation.”

To be candid, this Biz Coach site has long voiced concerns about government behavior – the theft of economic freedom and political freedom — so I really appreciate Mr. Gipson’s observation:

“The proper function of taxation is to raise money for core functions of government, not to direct the behavior of its citizens,” he wrote.

“This is true whether government is big or small, and this is true for lawmakers at all levels of government,” he added. “Many lawmakers think of the tax code as a way to penalize ‘bad’ behaviors and reward ‘good’ ones. They have sought incessantly to guide, micromanage and steer the economy by manipulating the tax laws.”

Then, there’s this reminder: “The State Auditor has conducted 23 audits as of December, 2009, ‘identifying billions of dollars in unnecessary spending, potential cost savings and economic benefits and recommending numerous ways to improve state and local government operations’,” he wrote.

“Too often, policymakers act without considering or measuring the impact of their decisions on the owners of mom-and-pop businesses, even though those are the very businesses that are disproportionately hampered by the regulations and taxes they impose,” wrote Mr. Gipson.

And he shares some history about the impact of small business.

“During the 2003-2004 recovery period from the recession from the early 2000s, businesses with fewer than 500 employees hired almost 1.9 million workers, while businesses with more than 500 employees laid off over 200,000 workers,” he wrote. “In Washington, using both the state government’s and Washington Policy Center’s definition of small business (fewer than 50 employees), small businesses make up 96 percent of all registered businesses while employees of small businesses account for 41 percent of the state’s workforce.”

Here is the WPC tour schedule: www.washingtonpolicy.org/leadtheway

WPC’s Web site: www.washingtonpolicy.org

From the Coach’s Corner, a reminder if you need business counseling at no charge, consider the Small Business Development Center nearest you (SBDC).

Why Not Transparency for Good, Open Government in Washington State?

 

March 24, 2010

Even after concluding its regular 2010 legislative session and after nearly two weeks of a special session, there is no balanced budget. There are no efficiencies. Worse, there is little transparency about taxpayer assets. The Legislature hasn’t learned to stop chasing ill health.

By extension, it’s clear that Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown is not passing the transparency test of good, open government. She has failed to spearhead passage of a balanced budget and has largely ignored efficiencies, such as the Opportunities for Washington, recommended by a prominent member of her own party – State Auditor Brian Sonntag.

Instead of focusing on successfully ending the special session, The Seattle Times reports she sent a letter to Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna demanding that he stop his health-care efforts and accused him of being “far outside the mainstream interests” of the state. But my straw poll of businesses and consumers shows a majority in favor of his position.

Meantime, here’s a news flash: There is furtive, dubious activity under her leadership – everything from secretly raising taxes; gutting The Taxpayer Protection Act, Initiative 960; and passing ghost tax bills. There are no efforts to create a good economic environment and private sector jobs.

Actively highlighting the disingenuous behavior has been Jason Mercier, director of the Center for Government Reform at the Washington Policy Center (WPC), the nonpartisan think tank.

After seeing this TVW video posted on the Washington Policy Blog in which Speaker Brown denies knowing why Mr. Mercier has repeatedly raised concerns about legislative transparency, how could she be so disconnected?

Most state newspapers have commented to no avail, such as The Seattle Times in Gov. Gregoire: Use veto to keep transparency and in The Washington State Senate and the age of hubris.

When Gov. Gregoire failed to honor the request, the newspaper ran this editorial, Governor, Legislature should have kept two-thirds rule on taxes.

Even The Olympian commented in A bad example of legislative ‘transparency’.

There are plenty of other indications about the absence of transparency. How could she not have noticed any of WPC’s analysis? See for yourself at www.washingtonpolicy.org.

Plus, I’ve written numerous Biz Coach columns on the issue.

I cited $65 million in waste in this column, “Will Government Policies Ever Promote Economic And Political Liberty?” State employees are allowed to carry forward and cash out their unused sick leave.

You see, the state paid $65.3 million in unused sick leave from 2007 to 2009. And state workers have received millions of dollars in this budget cycle. This is a perk you will rarely, if ever, see for taxpayers in the private sector.

The largest employer in Washington, 17.6 percent of the workforce, is government. The retail sector is second with 10.8 percent. In the state’s 2009 comprehensive annual financial report, government expenses outgrew revenue.

Another eye-opener in the report: “Governmental activities resulted in a decrease in the state of Washington’s net assets of $2.2 billion.”

Because of the extravagant spending, the gap in unfunded Washington’s retiree health benefits is $7.9 billon.

Meantime, ranking member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Sen. Joe Zarelli, has unsuccessfully argued in favor of transparency with Committee Chair, Sen. Margarita Prentice. This TVW video illustrates violations of legislative transparency standards.

All of this employee pork, unnecessary spending, and violations of transparency standards are why WPC is advocating a constitutional amendment for transparency:

BE IT RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, IN LEGISLATIVE SESSION ASSEMBLED:

THAT, Transparency and public disclosure in the legislative process is vital to a representative democracy.  THAT, At the next general election to be held in this state the secretary of state shall submit to the qualified voters of the state for their approval and ratification, or rejection, a new section amending Article 2, an amendment to Article 2, section 19, and an amendment to Article 2, section 22 of the Constitution of the state of Washington to read as follows:

Article II, new section.  No bill shall be eligible for a public hearing until 72 hours after introduction.  No bill shall be eligible for legislative action of any kind unless it has first been subject to a public hearing in the same session of consideration.  No bill shall be eligible for legislative action on the floor of either house until 72 hours after it has been placed on the floor calendar.  This section may be suspended with two-thirds of the members elected to the house in which it is pending suspend this requirement, and every individual consideration of a bill or action suspending the requirement shall be recorded in the journal of the respective house. 

Article II, section 19. No bill shall embrace more than one subject, and that shall be expressed in the title.  No bill shall be eligible for public hearing or legislative consideration of any kind unless the bill shall lay forth in full the changes to any act or sections of law. Title only bills shall be prohibited.

Article II, section 22. No bill shall be eligible for final passage in either house unless copies of the bill in the form to be passed shall have been made available to the members of that house and the public for at least twenty-four hours, unless two-thirds of the members elected to the house in which it is pending suspend this requirement, and every individual consideration of a bill or action suspending the requirement shall be recorded in the journal of the respective house.  No bill shall become a law unless on its final passage the vote be taken by yeas and nays, the names of the members voting for and against the same be entered on the journal of each house, and a majority of the members elected to each house be recorded thereon as voting in its favor.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the secretary of state shall cause notice of this constitutional amendment to be published at least four times during the four weeks next preceding the election in every legal newspaper in the state.

 Let’s have a discussion about WPC’s suggestion. Implementing transparency is the right thing to do and will promote good, open government in Washington state. Stop chasing ill health.

From the Coach’s Corner, courtesy of Enterprise Washington, click here to find your legislators’ phone number and email address.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.