A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Quality/Access"

With New Health Law, Shopping Around Can Be Crucial

Margot Sanger-Katz and Amanda Cox, NY Times
Fri, 2014-09-19
"If you bought health insurance at an Affordable Care Act marketplace this year, it really pays to look around before renewing your coverage for next year. The system is set up to encourage people to renew the policies that they bought last year — and there are clear advantages to doing so, such as being able to keep your current doctors. But an Upshot analysis of data from the McKinsey Center for U.S. Health System Reform shows that in many places premiums are going up by double-digit percentages within many of the most popular plans. But other plans, hoping to attract customers, are increasing their prices substantially less. In some markets, plans are even cutting prices."

Staggered launch could help Md. 'kick the tires' of its new health exchange website

Meredith Cohn, Baltimore Sun
Fri, 2014-09-19
"A day after Maryland committed to a gradual launch of its health exchange, state officials are still working out some key details — including where the opening day sign-up will be held — but experts say it could be a way to avoid a repeat of last year's botched rollout. Several health experts said the approach that limits enrollment in the first few days could allow Maryland to "kick the tires" on its new website. "It's a controlled way to open enrollment," said Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "They can work with a controlled number of people for the first couple of days to see how this works in practice. I'm assuming there is some plan at the end of the day when people gather in a room and compare notes and say we need to fix this or that.""

Lawmakers call for more complete information on Medicaid privatization program going forward

Cole Avery, NOLA.com
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Lawmakers told officials with the Department of Health and Hospitals on Wednesday they needed to provide more complete information going forward about Bayou Health, Gov. Bobby Jindal's Medicaid privatization program. The Legislative Audit Advisory Council heard testimony from DHH and the Legislative Auditor's Office about an audit that raised a number of questions about the program. Auditors testified 74 percent of the transparency report was based on self-reported data with no corroborating documentation."

Missouri's Medicaid Applicants Get Put On Hold

Samantha Liss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Enrolling in Missouri’s Medicaid program has not been easy. Many applicants have experienced a barrage of problems when trying to sign up for the program, including long delays until coverage kicks in, lost paperwork and a lack of one-on-one interaction with caseworkers. State officials have blamed a new computer system used to process Medicaid applications. But there is another reason why some Missourians struggle to get help. When Deborah Weaver, 28, had issues enrolling in the state’s Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, a switch from her Medicaid disability coverage, she was directed to use a toll-free number, 1-855-373-4636. When she called, Weaver endured long waits and received no guidance."

The Problems With the Census Bureau’s New Estimates on How Many Americans Have Health Insurance

Edmund Haislmaier
The Heritage Foundation
Wed, 2014-09-17
"If you are looking for information on how Americans are engaging with the Affordable Care Act, the Census Bureau’s recently released latest annual estimates of health insurance coverage is probably not the place to look—at least for now. The Census Bureau, which derives its information on healthcare from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement—the same survey where it asks how many toilets, computers, microwaves, etc., people have in their homes—does provide some useful insights. It catalogues the demographic characteristics of the population based on participation in different types of health insurance coverage—government health care programs, private employer and individual plans, and the uninsured.

Vermont Takes Exchange Offline For Repairs Until Open Enrollment

http://www.insidehealthpolicy.com/vermont-takes-exchange-offline-repairs-until-open-enrollment
Wed, 2014-09-17
"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.

Companies race to adjust health-care benefits as Affordable Care Act takes hold

Aaron Gregg
Washington Post
Tue, 2014-09-16
"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."

More Details Likely On SHOP Enrollment; Tavenner On Hill On Heels Of GAO Report

Amy Lotvin, Inside Health Policy
Tue, 2014-09-16
"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.

ACA open enrollment for 2015 causing anxiety for plans, providers

Paul Demko
Modern Healthcare
Mon, 2014-09-15
"During the 2014 open enrollment for Obamacare coverage, Mary Denson, 21, a student at Columbia (Mo.) College, qualified for a federal premium subsidy that reduced her premium contribution for buying health insurance to less than $20 a month. But she fears that when she renews her coverage for 2015, she won't have enough income from her nanny job to reach the subsidy income threshold of 100% of the federal poverty level and continue qualifying for premium tax credits. She isn't eligible for Medicaid because Missouri hasn't expanded that program for low-income adults. Denson says she's considering looking for another job to reach the $11,670 income threshold but worries she may have to drop classes. Without the subsidy, her coverage would cost nearly $400 a month, far more than she can afford. “I'm just going to have to re-apply and pretty much hope that I make the cut again,” Denson said."

Voters Still Think Cost, Quality of Care Will Worsen Under Obamacare

Rasmussen Reports
Mon, 2014-09-15
"It’s been nearly a year since the national health care law officially took effect, and voter attitudes about its impact on the cost and quality of care remain basically unchanged and negative. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% of Likely U.S. Voters think the cost of health care will go up under the law. Only 19% expect those costs to go down, while 17% say they will stay about the same."

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