“Nine months after Americans began signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a challenging new phase is emerging as confused enrollees clamor for help in understanding their coverage.
Nonprofit organizations across the country are being swamped by consumers with questions. Many are low-income, have never had insurance and have little knowledge of the health-care system. The rampant confusion poses a potential hurdle for the success of the health law: If many Americans don’t understand how health insurance works, that could hurt their ability to use their benefits — or to keep their coverage altogether.
Community organizations are scrambling to keep up with the larger-than-anticipated demand, but they are stretched thin. A federal program to help consumers has also run out of money.
“We are hearing this in probably every state that we work in,” said Christine Barber, a senior policy analyst with Community Catalyst, a Boston-based advocacy organization that works with community groups in more than 40 states. “ ‘Okay, I have my card. What do I do now?’ ””
“Looking for a place where Obamacare doesn’t exist? Try moving to the U.S. Territories, where the Obama administration just provided a pretty big waiver from the law’s major coverage provisions.
The Affordable Care Act’s design dealt a pretty big problem to the territories. It required insurers there to comply with the law’s major market reforms — guaranteed coverage, mandated benefits, limits on profits, etc. — without requiring residents to get coverage or providing subsidies to help them afford coverage. The territories — Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands — have been warning for years that would destroy their insurance markets. The individual mandate and the subsidies are the major ways the ACA tries to bring healthy people into the individual insurance market to balance out sick patients who can no longer be denied coverage.
That was until Wednesday, when the Obama administration told the territories that the coverage requirements actually don’t apply to them. The exemption was posted on a Health and Human Services Web site on Thursday.
It’s an apparent reversal from last July, when a HHS official told the territories there was nothing HHS could do to help them out.”
“”Responding to inquiries from federal officials, the California health department has released a plan it says will dramatically slash its backlog of Medi-Cal applications within six weeks.
For months, the state has labored under the largest such pile-up in the country, with 900,000 pending cases reported in May—the combined result of unexpectedly high application numbers and bug-ridden computer systems.
In a letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Monday, the California Department of Health Care Services said that it had reduced its application backlog to 600,000 by the start of this month. State officials also outlined a plan for technology fixes and administrative workarounds that they project will nearly halve that figure by the end of August—with most of those applications being processed within the allowed 45-day window. The letter was made public Tuesday.”
“RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolinians came out in droves for Obamacare enrollment, signing up at a rate that beat nearly every other red state. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to come out for the law — or the Democratic senator who supported it — at the voting booth in November.
More than any other state, North Carolina may represent the huge disconnect between Obamacare’s success in getting people health insurance and its failure to help the Democratic politicians who voted for the law.
The Tar Heel State signed up more than 357,000 people — one-third of those eligible for the new health insurance exchange. Yet President Barack Obama’s health law remains a major liability for Sen. Kay Hagan, who faces one of the toughest reelection races for any Senate Democrat this year, a true toss-up fight against North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. He misses no chance to tie her to Obama and the Affordable Care Act, forcing her to calibrate both how to defend a law she voted for and how to distance herself from it.”
“While enrollment in private health insurance through online marketplaces may be closed until Nov. 15, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program added almost a million new patients in May, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Between April and May 928,628 people signed up for Medicaid or CHIP across the 48 states that reported data, up from 805,038 who joined in April but down from the 1.4 million who joined in March. The May figures, released Friday, bring total enrollment to nearly 66 million.
Medicaid is jointly funded by states and the federal government to serve low-income children, parents, the elderly and disabled people. The program was expanded through the Affordable Care Act to childless adults earning up to about $15,856 for a single household, though states can choose whether to expand. Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have done so. CHIP, which is also jointly funded, serves children in families with incomes that are too high to qualify for Medicaid.”
“There’s been quite a bit of bad news about Obamacare in recent weeks:
•a SCOTUS smackdown on the contraception mandate overreach,
•the possibility of an even more momentous court decision being handed down next week,
•worrying signs of more rate shock to face Exchange plan buyers next fall, with many states seeing double-digit premium increases, and
•a bleak picture of Obamacare’s unfolding fiscal disaster.
In that context, it should be no surprise that progressives are cheering the purported good news that the number of uninsured appears to be declining since last summer:
•A Commonwealth Fund survey released in June shows 9.5 million fewer uninsured adults age 18 and older;
•A RAND survey released in April found a decline of 9.3 million uninsured non-elderly adults;
•An Urban Institute survey released in June shows a decline of 8 million uninsured non-elderly adults, and
•Gallup shows a decline in the percentage of adults (18 and older) who are uninsured of 3.7 percentage points since the fourth quarter of 2013 (equivalent to 8.8 million adults).
As Jonathan Cohen snarkily concludes: “Obamacare Haters, Your Case Just Got Weaker.” I don’t view myself as an Obamacare hater, but I freely concede I am a great Obamacare skeptic. Let’s unpack the available evidence to see what we really know (and don’t) about Obamacare’s impact on the number of uninsured.
My conclusion is that anyone who says they are certain we have hit the CBO target of a 12 million reduction in the average daily number of uninsured in 2014 has cherry-picked the evidence.”
“About 5 percent of Americans who were uninsured last year got coverage in 2014, and more than half of those — about 2.8 percent of the population — obtained their plan through an Obamacare exchange, according to a Gallup poll released Monday. The poll, taken after the close of the first enrollment season, pegged the uninsured rate at more than 13 percent.”
“Congressional budget scorekeepers estimated Thursday that only a fraction of the people without health insurance in 2016 will actually pay a penalty under ObamaCare’s individual mandate.
In a new analysis, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said only 4 million of the 30 million who are expected to be uninsured in 2016 will pay a fine.”
“Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday said he wants to use Medicaid funding under the federal health-care law to expand coverage in his state, but that any expansion of it would have to come on his own terms.
The proposal is the latest from a small group of mostly Republican governors pursuing alternative ways to tap billions of dollars in federal Medicaid money available under the Affordable Care Act. Most GOP governors are refusing the additional federal money outright, while those who have wanted to expand Medicaid faced objections from GOP-led legislatures.”
“Massachusetts pioneered universal health care in 2006. Under then-Governor Mitt Romney, it was the first state to guarantee access to insurance — and drove its uninsured rate down to just 4 percent.
Which makes it baffling that Massachusetts did arguably the worst of any state in implementing Obamacare. Like a handful of ardent Obamacare supporters in other states, Massachusetts officials tried to pull off an ambitious launch — and failed badly.”