Category Archives: Insurance

Journalist explains the importance of covering the financial toxicity Medicare members face

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.

Photo by Derek K. Miller via Flickr

Photo: Derek K. Miller via Flickr

To the uninitiated, Medicare, Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicare supplement plans can seem simple enough: Medicare covers 80% of hospital and physician costs and MA and supplement plans cover the rest.

But in reality, Medicare and its associated additional plans can be incredibly complex to navigate. This is one of many lessons that Kate Yandell has learned since 2018, when she began reporting on Medicare beneficiaries’ financial challenges after a cancer diagnosis. Continue reading

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

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.

"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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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