Author Archives: Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Report discusses how ‘public option’ may put pressure on commercial health plans

"Competition in Health Insurance: A Comprehensive Study of U.S. Markets", American Medical Association, 2020

Source: “Competition in Health Insurance: A Comprehensive Study of U.S. Markets,” American Medical Association, 2020.

A new report from the Congressional Budget Office hasn’t received wide coverage, so far but may become an important resource for journalists in the coming months if Democrats in the U.S. Congress seek to increase competition in health insurance markets nationwide. It also could be a useful resource if any state seeks to develop a public option. Continue reading

New health insurance subsidies will require strong explanatory journalism skills

Number eligible for subsidies, American Rescue Plan, KFF.

American Rescue Plan, KFF.

On Thursday, some 7 million uninsured Americans became eligible for free health insurance under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) that President Biden signed into law in March, Dylan Scott reported at Vox. Other reports showed that some 11 million Americans became eligible for assistance paying for their health insurance premiums.

Scott’s reporting was based on what he said were new federal projections shared exclusively with Vox. When the ARP took effect on April 1, it greatly expanded eligibility for premium-payment assistance (also called subsidies or premium tax credits) under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to help individuals and families pay for health insurance coverage bought on the federal marketplace (at healthcare.gov) and on the state-run marketplaces, he noted. Continue reading

Resources for journalists on how the American Rescue Plan will reduce the number of uninsured Americans

American Rescue Plan Act: Health Coverage Provisions Explained,

Source: “American Rescue Plan Act: Health Coverage Provisions Explained,” from the Center for Children and Families and the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at the Georgetown Health Policy Institute, March 11, 2021.The American Rescue Plan reduces the maximum income contribution households would need to pay for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, limiting the top level to 8.5% of income.

Included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) that President Biden signed into law last Thursday is an estimated $34 billion to fund the Affordable Care Act’s most significant expansion since Congress passed the ACA in 2010.

The new law is expected to extend health insurance coverage to about 2.5 million uninsured Americans, according to a recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office.

“The American Rescue Plan will be the biggest coverage expansion in the 11-year history of the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” said a spokesperson for the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Now that the bill is signed into law, HHS will provide additional information about implementation. Continue reading

Help your audience by explaining the nuances in Medicare Advantage and Medigap plans

In 2015, 25% of people with Medicare had a Medigap supplemental policy.

Source: Medigap Enrollment and Consumer Protections Vary Across States, KFF report, July 11, 2018.In 2015, 25% of people with Medicare had a Medigap supplemental policy.

Reading the news about COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts in recent weeks, I learned that my home county of Barnstable (better known as Cape Cod) is the oldest in Massachusetts by residents’ age. The average age of the county’s 213,000 residents is 53.3 years — among the highest in the nation.

That fact helps explain why we see so many television advertisements for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans all day every day during certain times of the year.

Regardless of where these ads run, the problem for senior citizens is that the spots do not tell the whole story about MA. Like most advertisements, they highlight the good news and leave out the bad. Health care journalists have an essential role to play during enrollment season in reporting on how each eligible individual can choose the most appropriate Medicare coverage, despite the advice from aging celebrities on TV. Continue reading

As ACA marketplaces reopen for a special enrollment, health care journalists have a bigger role than ever

According to a KFF report on marketplace eligibility among the uninsured, more than half of the uninsured who could get a free bronze plan live in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, or Georgia. Other states with large shares of uninsured residents who could sign up for a no-premium bronze plan include Alabama, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

Source: Marketplace Eligibility Among the Uninsured: Implications for a Broadened Enrollment Period and ACA Outreach, KFF, Jan. 27, 2021.According to a KFF report on marketplace eligibility among the uninsured, more than half of the uninsured who could get a free bronze plan live in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, or Georgia. Other states with large shares of uninsured residents who could sign up for a no-premium bronze plan include Alabama, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

On Monday, the Biden administration reopened the marketplaces for the Affordable Care Act for three months under a special open enrollment period.

As health care journalists we may want to consider the civic duty we have to explain some of the problems consumers are likely to face during this special enrollment period (SEP) through May 15.

One of our primary obligations may be to explain how consumers can avoid getting ripped off or being stuck with a health insurance policy that does not provide the full coverage consumers need. (See details below on how scammers have preyed on consumers seeking ACA-compliant coverage.) Continue reading

Biden’s executive orders reopen ACA exchanges, initiate review,  amid pandemic

masks drying on a line

Photo: Chris Zúniga via Flickr

President Biden took a big step to aid those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic and their employer-sponsored health insurance ordering the federal marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act to reopen on Feb. 15 for a special three-month enrollment period.

Biden’s orders and his comments are online at WhiteHouse.gov. Continue reading