“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.

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“It’s not a news flash that health insurance can be complex and confusing. But the health insurance maze can be a problem, especially if you have never had health insurance before or have not had it for a long time. That’s the case for about half of the uninsured and for many people enrolling in the new insurance marketplaces set up under the Affordable Care Act.
Consider:
37% of enrollees don’t know the amount of their deductible. The deductibles in the plans sold on the exchanges are large; on average $2,300 for single coverage in the most popular plan, a Silver plan. For many people their deductible will be as important to their family budgets and their ability to get health care as the premium they pay, especially if they get a premium subsidy as most do in the exchanges. If people don’t understand their deductibles and copays they may pick a plan based solely on the premium and be in for a nasty surprise when they begin to use care and their deductible hits.

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“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.

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“Unlike the financial services industry, health care companies lack measures to adequately prevent identity theft, even as they continue to digitize medical records and other sensitive information.
Twelve years ago, when Nikki Burton was 17, she tried to donate blood for the first time. She was denied without explanation. Perplexed, the Portland, Ore. resident called Red Cross headquarters to inquire, only to learn that her Social Security number had been used to receive treatment at a free AIDS clinic in California, rendering her ineligible to donate blood.
Years later, she wondered if, when asked whether she had any preexisting conditions, that instance of fraud might show up. So she called the Red Cross again. The organization told her that it no longer asked for Social Security numbers and she could donate blood without it. “I said, that’s fine for you guys to receive the donation, but that doesn’t solve the problem of that information existing in your system,” Burton says.

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“Federal officials are floating the idea of expanding Medicare’s Pioneer model for accountable care organizations, but they might struggle to recruit any new participants.
Some prominent ACO leaders shared their skepticism in letters to the CMS that the agency released this month. The program, designed and administered by the CMS Innovation Center, is the government’s earliest and most aggressive test under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of new financial incentives for hospitals and doctors to hold down medical costs and meet quality targets.
The Pioneer initiative’s rules put doctors and hospitals at too much risk of losing money with too little control, officials with Universal American, CHE Trinity Health, St. Vincent’s Health Partners, the Franciscan Alliance and others said in the comment letters to federal officials.
Pioneers must agree to accept potential losses with the promise of bonuses after the first year.

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“Unhappy with the choices her insurance broker was offering, Denver publishing company owner Rebecca Askew went to Colorado’s small business health insurance exchange last fall. She found exactly what she’d been hoping for: affordable insurance options tailored to the diverse needs of her 12 employees.
But Askew is in a tiny minority. Only 2 percent of all eligible businesses have checked out so-called SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) exchanges in the 15 states where they have been available since last October under the Affordable Care Act. Even fewer purchased policies.
In November, three more state-run SHOP exchanges are slated to open, and the federal government will unveil exchanges for the 32 states that chose not to run their own.
SHOP exchanges were supposed to open nationwide on Oct. 1, the same day as exchanges offering health insurance for individuals.

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“Republicans vying to wrest the Kentucky House from Democratic control for the first time in nearly a century promised Tuesday to try to repeal the state’s Medicaid expansion and rein in other parts of the federal health care overhaul.
House Republican leaders made stops in western Kentucky as part of a multi-day tour to promote their legislative agenda, called the “Handshake with Kentucky.” They said they would push for legislation prohibiting mandatory participation in a workplace union and for a revamped state tax code and creation of medical expert panels to review proposed medical malpractice claims before they could be pursued in court.
“If the people of Kentucky entrust us with the majority, we are committing to immediately begin debate with the intention of passing each of these pieces of legislation,” House GOP Floor Leader Jeff Hoover said.
State Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon called them “warmed over” ideas repackaged to get Republicans to the polls.
“It’s not lea

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“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.”

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“Medicaid expansion is expanding profits for a bunch of hospitals.
A new analysis of major for-profit health systems found that hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid eligibility under Obamacare are seeing far fewer uninsured patients, a large rise in paying patients and more revenue as a consequence—which stands in stark contrast to hospitals in nonexpansion states.
For example, there was about a 47 percent decrease in the rate of admissions of uninsured or self-paying patients at the hospitals in expansion states in the first half of 2014. Yet, hospitals in nonexpansion states either saw a slight reduction in such admissions or no decreases at all, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute. ”

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“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.”

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