“Congress’ investigative arm said Tuesday (Sept. 16) that healthcare.gov continues to face security weaknesses, leaving the site subject to “increased and unnecessary” risk of unauthorized access, disclosure or modification of the information collected and maintained. CMS pledged to implement some of the fixes proposed by the Government Accountability Office, but GOP lawmakers used the opportunity to again blast the administration’s handling of Obamacare.
GAO recommended six ways CMS could put in place an effective information security program, and another 22 technical recommendations that could improve the effectiveness of information security controls.”

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“Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) said Tuesday (Sept. 16) that the state has shut down its exchange website as it scrambles to finish operational and other improvements by Nov. 15, but the state expects the site to be “restored to full, improved operation before the start of open enrollment.”
The state made the decision to shut down the site after consulting with CMS, Shumlin said in a statement. The state also announced a number of management changes that will remove oversight of the exchange from the Department of Vermont Health Access and install Lawrence Miller, a senior advisor to the governor, as the person responsible for operational leadership of Vermont Health Connect. The Department of Vermont Health Access oversees the state’s Medicaid program.
“As all Vermonters know, we’ve had disappointment after disappointment with the Vermont Health Connect website,” Shumlin said. “I have been very frustrated that the website remains incomplete.

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“Morning Consult’s healthcare poll finds that while a majority of voters (54%) are concerned about security breaches in the health exchange websites, 52% currently believe that the information on the exchange websites is secure. Further, a plurality of voters would choose to sign up for health insurance online over a paper application or over the phone.
This poll was conducted from September 12-13, 2014, among a national sample of 2,188 registered voters. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.1 percentage points. You can see the full results here (http://bit.ly/1BMkPRm).
A majority of voters (54%) are concerned about security breaches in the health exchange websites— Interestingly, a majority of both voters who approve of President Obama and those who disapprove of the President indicate they are concerned about security breaches in the exchange websites.”

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“Federal health officials said Monday that more than 100,000 immigrants who bought health-care plans through the federal insurance exchange will have their coverage cut off at the end of the month, because they failed to provide proof by the Sept. 5 deadline that their citizenship or immigration status makes them eligible for insurance on the marketplace.
Those individuals can still send in the needed information to the federal exchange and if they are found eligible, they will be able to regain coverage, officials said. They will be considered under a special category reserved for people who have experienced a major life change, such as having a baby or getting divorced or losing a job with health insurance.”

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“At a hearing to discuss the rising costs of healthcare benefits for Miami-Dade County, Fla., employees this year, a labor union consultant raised his hand to ask what seemed like a basic question.
Could the committee charged with reducing Miami-Dade labor’s healthcare expenses look at the spreadsheet showing the rates that the county pays local hospitals and doctors for medical services to employees?
“We really need to understand where the money is being spent in order to be insightful about benefit design changes,’’ said Duane Fitch, a healthcare consultant for SEIU Local 1991, which represents physicians and nurses at the county-owned Jackson Health System.”

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“Large businesses expect to pay between 4 and 5 percent more for health-care benefits for their employees in 2015 after making adjustments to their plans, according to employer surveys conducted this summer.
Few employers plan to stop providing benefits with the advent of federal health insurance mandates, as some once feared, but a third say they are considering cutting or reducing subsidies for employee family members, and the data suggest that employees are paying more each year in out-of-pocket health care expenses.”

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“Despite the success of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, state Democrats are having a hard time winning over even those Republicans who admit they are benefiting from the law.
The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors.
“I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.”
But Ms.

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“The Obama administration bragged about its enrollment numbers in the compulsory ObamaCare system, but the lack of eligibility-confirmation systems in the exchanges may take a big bite out of those numbers shortly. Just how big a bite is anyone’s guess, however, with warnings to multiple groups that either their coverage or their subsidies may stop at any time. Last night, HHS warned that 115,000 people currently covered by ObamaCare might lose their insurance thanks to immigration issues:”

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“This week exchangers could get data on enrollment in the small business exchanges operated by the federal government as Mayra Alvarez, director of CCIIO’s State Exchange Group, will testify at a House Small Business Committee hearing Thursday on SHOP exchange implementation. CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner will also return to the House to face the Oversight Committee on Thursday on healthcare.gov security concerns, one day after the Government Accountability Office’s planned Sept. 17 release of a report on that controversial subject.
Academics and researchers are also diving into new data out Tuesday (Sept. 16) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau on the number of uninsured. The CDC’s early release of data from the National Health Interview Survey found that the uninsured rate for adults ages 18 to 64 had dipped from 20.4 percent in 2013 to 18.4 percent in the first three months of 2014.

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“House Ways & Means health subcommittee chair Kevin Brady (R-TX) questions HHS’ authority to settle hospitals’ appeals of denied inpatient claims and is urging HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell to retract what he views as an “ill thought” settlement process. Brady wants Burwell to work with lawmakers to come up with a different “fair, transparent and conclusive settlement process.”
Brady wrote to Burwell Tuesday (Sept. 16) that he is dismayed by HHS’ reluctance to work with the committee on an equitable settlement process that is fully legal, adding that the “lack of engagement makes it challenging for the Congress to solve the current appeals problems and prevent similar problems in the future.”
CMS announced late last month (Aug. 29) that it will pay hospitals 68 percent of denied inpatient status claims in the appeals queue if hospitals take them out of the backlogged appeals process.

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