“Health insurers increasingly are building and staffing bricks-and-mortar retail centers to potentially expand their membership base and, most importantly for now, enhance their brand image with the public.
The retail approach represents a major pivot in insurer tactics to grow their books of business brought on by changes in how consumers get insurance thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer, said Thursday that about 42,000 customers around the state received insurance renewal letters with incorrect rates, some showing cost increases of more than 100 percent.
The Chapel Hill company has been flooded with calls since Wednesday from irate customers who began receiving their renewal notices this week. Blue Cross officials soon realized the insurance rates were incorrectly transferred from the company’s database to the computer-generated renewal notices.”

“Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, the law has been an often potent and divisive political issue, and has sparked an unprecedented amount of political and campaign advertising, particularly from candidates and groups that oppose the law. According to Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), no other federal program or policy has resulted in the kind of advertising the ACA has caused, namely the combination of new insurance “product” advertising and sustained political advertising across multiple election cycles.”

“Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic party’s nomination for President in 2016, is giving a speech at this week’s annual meeting of the powerful Advanced Medical Technology Association, or AdvaMed, in her hometown as the lobby prepares to derail a tax key to funding the Affordable Care Act.
The former U.S. Secretary of State, who has yet to officially declare her presidential candidacy, is also in Chicago to campaign for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who is in a tight race with billionaire Republican Bruce Rauner as the incumbent gains momentum here. During her visit, which has been kept under wraps until this week, Clinton has been given a prime spot during the three-day AdvaMed event, delivering a keynote at Wednesday’s midday plenary session at Chicago’s McCormick Place.”

“U.S. small businesses are dropping health insurance for their workers, as Obamacare lets them send employees to new marketplaces where they can often get subsidies from the government to buy coverage.
WellPoint Inc. (WLP)’s small business insurance products lost 300,000 people this year, the company said today. Business owners are dropping coverage they previously bought through WellPoint and other insurers, and instead sending employees to shop for it on the government exchanges created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare.”

“Do you suppose any of the 2014 candidates will find time in the closing week to talk about Obamacare again, in the midst of all the other slow rolling disasters? (Aside from the occasional Root and Branch repeal call, that is.) If they do, they might want to mention a new study from the Medical Group Management Association which has some rather depressing figures in terms of medical services availability next year for participants. Barbara Boland has the story.
Over 214,000 doctors won’t participate in the new plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA,) analysis of a new survey by Medical Group Management Association shows. That number of 214,524, estimated by American Action Forum, is through May 2014, but appears to be growing due to plans that force doctors to take on burdensome costs. It’s also about a quarter of the total number of 893,851 active professional physicians reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
In January, an estimated 70% of California’s physicians were not participating in Covered California plans.”

“For health policy wonks, the end of the year isn’t just the holiday season. With the falling temperatures will come a renewed “doc fix” debate, as Congress deliberates on ways to avoid a scheduled double-digit (24 percent last year) cut in Medicare’s physician payments. And avoid it they will. As health economist Austin Frakt put bluntly: “Good luck getting physicians to keep Medicare patients if the payments are suddenly cut 24 percent.””

“A caucus of seven nervous Democratic senators, led by Mark Begich of Alaska, has been pushing a plan to “reform” the Affordable Care Act by allowing insurers to offer an even skimpier insurance plan than the skimpiest permitted now. .
The idea of their “Expanded Consumer Choice Act” is to create a new “copper” tier of health plan permitted in the individual and small-business markets under the ACA. The copper tier would undercut the current tiers of health plans by covering only 50% of expected health costs. Under the current law, the stingiest “bronze” tier covers 60% of costs.”

“Aetna Inc. (AET), the third-largest U.S. health insurer, raised its profit forecast for the year as enrollment increases.
Operating earnings this year will be $6.60 to $6.70 a share, above the previous forecast of $6.45 to $6.60, the Hartford, Connecticut-based company said today in a statement.”

“Now that many people finally have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, some are running into a new problem: They can’t find a doctor who will take them as patients.
Because these exchange plans often have lower reimbursement rates, some doctors are limiting how many new patients they take with these policies, physician groups and other experts say.”