Tag Archives: Health care reform

Join us for a webcast next week on how rural Americans will use the insurance marketplaces

Since Oct. 1, most of the coverage of the health insurance marketplaces has properly focused on how well the exchanges are working (or not).

One issue that has not been explored much is how the marketplaces will affect rural Americans. AHCJ will sponsor a webcast on this topic titled, “How will rural Americans tap into the insurance marketplaces?” The webcast will be on Thursday, Oct. 17, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

The panelists will be Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky; Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association; and Jim Doyle, who covers the business of health care for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act is help make health insurance coverage affordable and accessible for the approximately 60 million Americans who live in rural areas. The federal Department of Health and Human Services has said the health insurance marketplaces will help to lower costs by increasing competition, especially in the 29 mostly rural states where a single insurer currently dominates more than half of the health insurance market, HHS said in a fact sheet. Continue reading

Reference tool for covering insurance exchanges

The other day we gave you a Twitter list of many of the state-based health insurance reforms (courtesy of Huffington Post’s Jeff Young), and here (hat tip for Phil Galewitz) we’ve got a complete list of the exchange websites and call center numbers.

It was compiled by State Reform (a project of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the National Academy of State Health Policy).  It also has a handy reference of which are state, federal or partnership exchanges.

Health reform D-Day? Or not for a few more months?

At the AHCJ event we had in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago, I talked about why there’s nothing magical about Oct. 1 – and why it’s also such a pivotal day.

From a strictly policy viewpoint, today is just the start of a six-month open enrollment period that ends March 31. We won’t really know for some time how many people the exchanges are enrolling or what the emerging risk pool looks like (men versus women, older versus younger, sicker versus healthier). We will probably hear about people having problems getting on the exchange websites or call centers – we won’t necessarily hear as much about people who don’t encounter problems. We’ll find out about glitches – computer problems, call center snags. Some may be serious – but if they are fixed relatively quickly, they aren’t fatal. The Medicare drug benefit had all sorts of snags when it opened, but within a few weeks it was working quite well.

But that’s the staid policy viewpoint and all of us know that – as the government shuts down, as the “Obamacare wars” are well into year 4 – this is not just a policy story. Even the wonkiest, most policy-minded reporters among us know this is a political story, a political dynamic, too. So we aren’t going to be deluged with press releases that say “Health insurance exchanges open – let’s give it six months to make a judgment.” We’re going to be hit with a tidal wave of advocates and enemies trying to seize the message and declare victory or defeat. It will be a battle of the “I told you sos.”

And since the enrollment period – with all its problems and challenges – will go on for three months until the actual health coverage begins on Jan. 1, that’s three more months to focus on problems without being able to point to benefits. That lag will be politically challenging for supporters of the law.

It won’t just be politicians and advocates making snap judgments – some of us may also face pressure from editors to come up with a grand and definitive and immediate answer – it’s working, or it flopped. By, like, noon.

Try hard to keep your eye not just on what happens in the coming hours – but the far more important question of what’s going to happen in the coming weeks, months and years.

History gives perspective to changes in health care system

While most of us are focused on the opening of the insurance marketplaces on Tuesday, Catherine Hollander, in the National Journal, takes a broader look at the history of changes in our health care system and how the Affordable Care Act might change things over time.

She asserts that the ACA is not the first or even biggest transformation of our health care system:

“Two overhauls were more radical than Obamacare will be next year: the dramatic rise of employer-sponsored insurance during the World War II era, and the adoption of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

A look forward at what health reform could mean for the country explains the coverage gaps left by the decisions to expand or not expand Medicaid in the states. The system will experience insurance reforms, more patients for doctors to see, innovations designed to save money and improve care and possibly a change in perception of people being rated on the state of their health.

Hollander, putting things into perspective, points out there is still a lot we don’t know about how Obamacare is going to play out and whether it can shift the entire health care system.

(Hat tip to Phil Galewitz)

Employer survey shows continued move toward less comprehensive health insurance coverage

Photo by Thomas Hawk via Flickr.com.

Almost every day there is news about the strategies employers are using as they prepare for the Affordable Care Act. Wednesday was a good example. The National Business Group on Health (NBGH) reported that health care costs for its members – large employers – would rise by 7 percent next year, as Helen Adamopoulos wrote at Becker’s Hospital Review. That means 2014 will be the third straight year of 7 percent increases, said NBGH president and chief executive officer Helen Darling.

Just as the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust survey showed last week, the NBGH results demonstrate that employers are shifting more responsibility and costs to workers and families.

Jerry Geisel at Business Insurance via Modern Healthcare pointed out that 22 percent of employers responding to the NBGH survey said they will offer only a consumer-directed health plan (CDHP) next year. “More large employers are reducing the type of health care plans they offer as they try to keep better control of their costs, according to a survey released Wednesday,” he wrote.

In an article for Kaiser Health News, Jay Hancock led with the fact that NBGH’s large employer members are considering moving retirees and part-time workers into health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading