“NORTHPORT, Maine – By the time Laura Tasheiko discovered the lump in her left breast, it was larger than a grape. Tasheiko, 61, an artist who makes a living selling oil paintings of Maine’s snowy woods, lighthouses and rocky coastline, was terrified: She had no health insurance and little cash to spare.
Laura Tasheiko, 61, sits in her home in Northport, Maine (Photo by Joel Page for USA TODAY).
But that was nearly six years ago, and the state Medicaid program was generous then. Tasheiko was eligible because of her modest income, and MaineCare, as it is called, paid for all of her treatment, including the surgery, an $18,000 drug to treat nerve damage that made it impossible to hold a paintbrush, physical therapy and continuing checkups.
But while much of America saw an expansion of coverage this year, low-income Maine residents like Tasheiko lost benefits. On Jan. 1, just as the Affordable Care Act was being rolled out nationwide, MaineCare terminated her coverage, leaving her and thousands of others without insurance.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to shrink Medicaid instead of expanding it was a radical departure from a decade-long effort to cover more people in this small rural state of farmers, lobstermen, craftsmen and other seasonal workers, which at least until recently, boasted one of the lowest rates of uninsured in the nation.”
“The District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington on Thursday said the full 11-member court will rehear (PDF) the controversial case that ruled Americans could not receive subsidies to help pay for plans on federally run health insurance exchanges. Oral arguments will begin Dec. 17.
The court’s decision to rehear the case en banc, which experts said is rare for the D.C. appellate court, vacates the judgment issued earlier this summer. On July 22, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 in Halbig v. Burwell that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act forbade people with lower incomes from receiving tax subsidies from insurance marketplaces run by the federal government, effectively making those subsidies illegal in 36 states.
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act greeted the D.C. court’s initial ruling with praise, saying the judges upheld the text of the law. The law’s supporters, however, argued the court read the text too narrowly and applied an unreasonable and inaccurate interpretation of exchange subsidies.
The July ruling dealt a fresh blow to President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, which relies on the insurance subsidies to make coverage more affordable for millions of people. However, the Obama administration vowed at the time to petition for a full court review of the decision.”
“The disputes between Oracle and Oregon are forcing the state to grow more dependent on the federal government to manage health insurance sign-ups.
“We needed some extra services from Oracle in order to do some additional development on the Medicaid side, but they declined to offer any service beyond their current contract,” transition project director Tina Edlund said Tuesday. “We moved those services over to the state data center.”
Edlund’s team is working to move the state health exchange to the federal healthcare.gov, and also move the Medicaid eligibility determination function to the Oregon Health Authority, both jobs Cover Oregon was supposed to handle. Oracle and Oregon are suing each other in state and federal courts, seeking to blame the other for the failure of those projects.”
“Utah Gov. Gary Herbert isn’t backing down from insisting on a work requirement in his Healthy Utah alternative to Medicaid expansion, even though Pennsylvania’s governor dropped the same mandate to win federal approval.
“We’re always keeping an eye on what’s happening in other states that are in a similar situation. That said, we’re not always reactive,” Herbert spokesman Marty Carpenter said Tuesday. “It’s still a very important element of the deal to the governor.”
Last week, the Obama administration announced it had signed off on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to use the money available under the Affordable Care Act to provide health care coverage to low-income uninsured residents.
Corbett’s Healthy PA plan is close to what fellow Republican Herbert has proposed, except that the Pennsylvania governor dropped a requirement that able-bodied recipients look for a job.”
“Two years ago, Massachusetts set what was considered an ambitious goal: The state would not let that persistent monster, rising health care costs, increase faster than the economy as a whole. Today, the results of the first full year are out and there’s reason to for many to celebrate.
The number that will go down in the history books is 2.3 percent. It’s well below a state-imposed benchmark for health care cost growth of 3.6 percent, and well below the increases seen for at least a decade.
“So all of that’s really good news,” says Aron Boros, executive director at the Center for Health Information and Analysis (CHIA), which is releasing the first calculation of state health care expenditures. “It really seems like…the growth in health care spending is slowing.”
Why? It could be the pressure to comply with of the federal health law in its first year.
“We have to believe that’s the [first] year,” Boros says, “that insurers and providers are trying their hardest to keep cost increases down.”
But then, health care spending growth slowed across the U.S., not just in Massachusetts, last year.
“There’s not strong evidence that it’s different in Massachusetts; we really seem to be in line with those national trends,” Boros adds. “People are either going to doctors and hospitals a little less frequently, or they’re going to lower-cost settings a little more frequently.”
The result: Health insurance premiums were basically flat overall in the state in 2013.
“2013 was a year in which we were able to exhale,” says Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. But he’s worried the break on rates was short-lived. This year, Hurst’s members are reporting premium increases that average 12 percent.”
“From Halbig to Sovaldi, this summer was a busy one for health policy and politics. We’ve made it easy to catch up, collecting all of the top stories you clicked on over the past few months. Together, they tell a story about the state of healthcare in the U.S., and offer clues as to where things may be headed when Congress returns in the fall.
Among them: The political battle over Obmacare has become more complicated for Republicans since the government cleaned up the Healthcare.gov mess, and with midterm elections around the corner, the focus will be on how much either party continues to attack or ignore the law. There are policy, legal and business matters to be settled as well – the employer mandate is under attack from the left and the right, the courts have been a wildcard for the health law to this point and could continue to be so, and employers and employees are finding themselves wading through the on-the-ground impacts of the law. That doesn’t even get to our top three storylines of the summer, so be sure to click through to find out what tops the list.”
“Thursday’s announcement that Pennsylvania will expand its Medicaid program brings the country one state closer to the original expansion outlined under Obamacare. But because of the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision making the expansion a voluntary program, there are still 23 states that haven’t expanded public health insurance to all of their low-income residents.
The expansion in Pennsylvania will add about 500,000 low-income to adults to the Medicaid rolls. According to numbers from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 281,000 of those people were falling into what’s known as the “coverage gap”— people who don’t qualify for Medicaid but also don’t get subsidies for purchasing insurance on their own, either. About 4.5 million people across the country fall into this coverage gap, according to Kaiser.”
“The Assembly this week approved a bill to limit narrow networks in California’s health plans.
The legislation already passed a Senate vote and is expected to get concurrence today on the Senate floor and move to the governor’s desk for final approval.
SB 964 by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) directs the Department of Managed Health Care to develop standardized methodologies for health insurers to file required annual reports on timeliness compliance, and requires DMHC to review and post findings on those reports. It also eliminates an exemption on Medi-Cal managed care plan audits and requires DMHC to coordinate those plans’ surveys, as well.
“I introduced the bill in response to complaints we’ve heard about inadequate networks in the Medi-Cal program, as well as at Covered California,” Hernandez said. “By increasing oversight and network adequacy enforcement, SB 964 will help consumers select the right plan for themselves and access the care they need.”
Assembly member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) introduced the measure Tuesday on the Assembly floor, and said the bill came in response to numerous public complaints.
“Since 2012 there have been hundreds of complaints about access and inadequate networks,” Bonta said.”
“The price tag of the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange fiasco continues to grow.
As Clyde Hamstreet, the corporate turnaround expert hired to lead Cover Oregon in April, wraps up his work he leaves behind a stabilized agency – and a hefty bill.
Initially signed to a $100,000 contract, Hamstreet ended up staying longer than expected, with two associates joining him at Cover Oregon after Gov. John Kitzhaber essentially forced out three top officials there in a public display of house-cleaning.
Through July, Hamstreet has billed $598,699 on an amended $750,00 contract. He hasn’t submitted his August invoice. He says the price tag was driven by the exchange’s increasing needs, as his firm stayed longer and did more than initially planned.
“We didn’t do this job to make a lot of money off the state,” he said Thursday. “Our philosophy was to try and help get the boat righted and try to help clean things up and basically help the state. … It turned out to be a bigger engagement than I expected.””
“A lack of transparency in describing and fixing technical problems became an issue in Thursday’s Washington Health Benefit Exchange Board meeting.
Board member Bill Hinkle grew testy at what he said was mutual staff back-patting and excuses for the problems still plaguing thousands of accounts.
“C’mon you guys, let’s quit blowing smoke here,” Hinkle said. “I’m tired of patting people on the back….We’re not doing great yet.”
Board member Teresa Mosqueda pressed staff for numbers of enrollees affected by technical problems.
“We really need to have the data in front of us to manage some of these issues,” she said. “I’m going to ask this question again – what is the total number of individuals affected by this, so we have a sense of how well we’re doing?”
The answer appeared to stun some board members: Glitches and technical problems have affected as many as 28,000 people trying to buy health insurance through the Washington Healthplanfinder online marketplace, said associate operations director Brad Finnegan.
In answer to a question, Finnegan conceded that that means one out of every five people has had a problem.”