A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Exchanges"

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."

Low-Wage Workers Feel the Pinch on Health Insurance

Drew Altman
Wall Street Journal
Fri, 2014-09-19
"We did not see big changes in employer-based coverage in the Kaiser-HRET annual Employer Health Benefit Survey released last week. Mostly this is good news, particularly on the cost side where premiums increased just 3%. But one long-term trend that is not so good is how this market works for firms with relatively large shares of lower-wage workers (which we define as firms where at least 35% of employees earn less than $23,000). These low-wage firms often do not offer health benefits at all. And, as the chart below shows, when they do offer coverage, it has lower premiums on average (likely meaning skimpier coverage) and requires workers to pay more for it. Workers in low-wage firms pay an average of $6,472 for family coverage, compared with $4,693 for workers in higher wage firms."

Government Insider Warned of HealthCare.gov Security Risks: ‘I Am Tired of the Cover-Ups’

Sharyl Attkisson
The Daily Signal
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Government insiders who flagged security issues prior to the launch of HealthCare.gov were right to be concerned. That’s according to a new audit by the Government Accountability Office, which concluded that security weaknesses are putting “the sensitive personal information” contained by HealthCare.gov and its related systems at risk. As the Obama administration prepared to launch the website last fall, one of those insiders voiced concern about the vulnerabilities and complained about “cover-ups” masking the severity of the problems."

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.""

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."

Big Health Insurance: Obamacare's Worst Bad Guys

Ryan Ellis
Forbes magazine
Wed, 2014-09-17
"Very few industries in bed with Obamacare come off smelling like a rose. But if one had to pick a bad actor above all others, it would probably be Big Health Insurance. America’s largest and most influential health insurance companies actively supported passage of Obamacare in Congress, and continue to do so today. That’s not surprising, since the heart of Obamacare is a mandate on Americans to purchase the product the health insurance companies are selling (the individual mandate). The “essential minimum coverage” on “qualified health insurance plans” as dictated by the Department of Health and Human Services tend to emphasize first dollar insurance coverage whenever possible, which increases insurance company profits. Worst of all, insurance companies are the beneficiaries of a giant taxpayer bailout that makes their Obamacare participation a “heads they win, tails taxpayers lose” kind of scenario."

Obamacare Team Knew About Security Flaws but Rolled Out Website Anyway, Documents Show

Melissa Quinn
The Daily Signal
Wed, 2014-09-17
"Just days before the security of the Obamacare website is the subject of a new report by an independent government agency, a watchdog group today released documents showing federal health officials knew about security vulnerabilities in the run-up to the site’s shaky launch last fall. Judicial Watch said it obtained 94 pages of government documents detailing HealthCare.gov’s “massive” security risks. The documents, the watchdog said, show that officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and a subordinate agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, decided to roll out the online insurance exchange despite knowledge of the security flaws."

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.

Health Law Shows Little Effect In Lowering Children's Uninsured Rate, Study Finds

Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News
Wed, 2014-09-17
"The uninsured rate for kids under age 18 hasn’t budged under the health law, according to a new study, even though they’re subject to the law’s requirement to have insurance just as their parents and older siblings are. Many of those children are likely eligible for coverage under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The Urban Institute's health reform monitoring survey analyzed data on approximately 2,500 children, comparing the uninsured rate in June 2014 with the previous year, before the health insurance marketplaces opened and the individual mandate took effect. It found that rates remained statistically unchanged at just over 7 percent for both time periods."

GAO Proposes Healthcare.gov Security Fixes; GOP Outraged By Continued Risks

Amy Lotven, Inside Health Policy
Wed, 2014-09-17
"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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