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Should You Move to Get the Best Obamacare?

11 October 2012 in Trading Ideas

With the presidential election seemingly down to a four-week dogfight, the viability of President Obama’s national health-care law, known derisively as Obamacare, has quickly returned to the headlines.

(The Repeal Obamacare motif, which contains stocks of companies intended to perform  well in a market if the law was overturned, is off 0.2% in the past month, in line with the S&P 500’s 0.1% decline.)

However, recent actions by states to define their respective “essential” health benefits under the law suggests that thinking of Obamacare as a single, unified plan of coverage is far from reality.

An article last week by Kaiser Health News highlights how states are thinking differently about defining the minimum coverage their residents will be entitled to in 2014 under the federal health law.

The states were given the power to decide their own specific benefits within the 10 broad essential categories of benefits covered by Obamacare, and while that has caused foot-dragging by states (mostly the red ones) which claim this is another Obamacare headache, for certain state residents the differences in coverage could make a huge difference in health care costs.

California and Washington, for example, will require coverage of acupuncture. Arkansas wants to cover prevention counseling for women at high risk of breast cancer but doesn’t want to require coverage of expensive infertility treatments.

Oregon, meanwhile, won’t require coverage of bariatric surgery for obesity but insurers will have to cover cochlear implants for hearing.

So far, most states are attempting to minimize disruption to the insurance marketplace, according to the Kaiser article. This also allows states to maintain health benefits that they’ve been requiring insurers to offer.

While that’s good news for some advocacy groups that had feared losing certain coverages, others see a missed opportunity for a national standard.

“We’re pleased to see states choosing benchmark plans that will preserve cancer coverage guarantees that we have fought hard to enact at the state level,” Stephen Finan, senior director of policy of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told Kaiser Health. “But we remain committed to urging a national standard that ensures a consistent level of quality coverage for people with cancer in any state.”

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