Who Needs the Healthcare.gov Website?

HEALTHCARE DOT GOV 2

Op-ed by Kenton Henry

If the administration and main stream media will not tell you–I will:

You can go through me–or any licensed health insurance agent or broker to acquire health insurance. NOW. And this is whether you qualify for a subsidy or not. And, importantly, there will be no, I repeat – $0 difference in your cost (premium) for doing so vs. the government website Healthcare.gov or a private insurance company’s. Period. Now where have you heard “Period” before and it turned out to be true? Well . . . in this case it is.

There is only ONE reason to go to the still basically inoperable, security in doubt, aforementioned federal government health insurance website known as The Marketplace:

1) You qualify for a subsidy of your 2014 health insurance premium and you would like to take advantage of that subsidy as you pay your premiums. I.e., you qualify and would like the premium you pay to your insurance company to be reduced by the amount of your subsidy as you pay the premium. (This as opposed to paying the gross premium (cost before your subsidy is applied) then declaring your subsidy on your 2014 tax return and having your tax liability reduced accordingly.)

If you this does not describe you – there is absolutely no reason to go to healthcare.gov!

Neither do you need to go through a state appointed, federally funded Navigator, hired by the State and required to complete only 20 hours of online education and be subjected to no background check. Why replicate and risk the possible insecurity of your personal information which includes your address; birth date; social security number and reported income by going through someone not even vetted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or the Center for Medicare Services (CMS)? As the Secretary for HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, admitted under oath and questioning from Texas Senator John Cornyn during Congressional, hearings just last week – “It is possible (for a convicted felon to be hired as a Navigator and take your personal and vital information).”

This begs the question: Why is the administration and main stream media not advertising, and barely mentioning, that a health insurance shopper can go through a licensed and vetted insurance agent who has passed a background check with every company with whom they are appointed and do so at no additional cost? Or that the shopper can then have all the expertise that that agent’s time in the industry (27 years in my case) brings to bear on their needs and situation? Or how about a “go to” advocate in their behalf they can call whenever there is an issue relating to claims; rates or general service related issues such as changes in address or dependents. This as opposed to a different unknown service rep at the end of a toll free number each time they call an insurance company directly?

I will let you speculate on the answers to these questions but (while the purpose of this blog is to educate the follower on issues relating to health and Medicare insurance) indulge me while I for once engage in a little shameless self-promotion on behalf of myself and all licensed agents and brokers:

If you reside in Texas; Indiana; or Ohio – please visit my website at http://allplaninsurance.com and click on the bold red “Get A Quote!” button on the home page or–better yet–call me toll free @ 800.856.6556 and let’s have an intelligent dialogue about your true wants and needs relative to coverage and then get some meaningful quotes and information for you. All without submitting the equivalent of a home mortgage application!

If you reside in any other state – do yourself a favor and call a well recommended licensed health insurance agent or broker in your community.

Again, call me even if you do qualify for a subsidy. I can help you just the same and–as without a subsidy–your cost for insurance will be the same. If you do not want to take the subsidy now but would rather take it on your 2014 tax return (when you actually know what your income will have been) we can apply for you now and have your coverage issued immediately.

If you want the subsidy applied upfront, to reduce the premium you pay each month, we will still have to enter the healthcare.gov website. But we will do so only after we have obtained your gross quotes via my website. I know the formula and can do a pretty fair job of estimating your net premium (after your subsidy is applied). If this scenario describes you,  as the federal website is still inoperable, we should wait and see if HHS and CMS have the site fixed and secure by November 30th as promised. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and–if so–we should sail (wink, wink) through the application and have your coverage issued by January 1. But remember, if all government deadlines remain as now, we will need to complete your application no later than December 15th!

Admin. – Kenton Henry

http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

How Do I Calculate My Obamacare Premium Subsidy?

Well folks, here we are into the third week since the highly touted, much anticipated opening of the federal and state exchanges for purposes of enrolling in a health care act compliant insurance plan for 2014. And guess what? While a few state exchanges are experiencing some, generally small, measure of success – the federal exchange, or Marketplace, remains a dismal failure. It is, however, an excellent painful and protracted self-flagellating exercise in frustration. For an analogy–imagine having a root canal absent anesthesia while listening to Debbie Boone’s, “You Light Up My Life” on a continuous sound track loop through the entire procedure. Just to make the comparison more accurate, imagine you are Dustin Hoffman’s character who is tortured with a dentist’s drill in the movie Marathon Man but your experience is enhanced as your hygienist pulls your toe nails out with a pair of needle nose pliers in order to distract you from your oral discomfort. And that, I believe, is a pretty fair comparison to the enjoyment of opening an account and obtaining quotes for health insurance in the Marketplace to date. The tax payer’s cost to deliver this electronic equivalent of a Halloween visit to a House of Horrors? Current estimates are over $500 million and growing as desperate measures are being made to fix all its glitches as this goes to press. This after the Department of Health and Human Services accepted the low bid of $55 million with a ceiling of $93.7 million from Canadian software company, CGI Federal. Canadian? Really? All that U.S. taxpayer money to a Canadian firm? (I’m not even going there.)

But relax, dear patient. Let’s apply a little Novocain to your orifice. Let’s give you a subsidy to help ease the pain you will suffer when you see the highly inflated cost of health insurance you are now commanded to purchase under threat of penalty.

People making between 100 and 400 percent of federal poverty level can qualify for the premium tax credit health insurance subsidy. Federal poverty level changes every year, and is based on your income and family size.

Using 2013 FPL levels, you’ll qualify as an individual with an income range of $11,490-$45,960, a couple with an income of $15,510-$62,040, and a family of three earning $19,530-$78,120.

Just how do you calculate your subsidy?

In order to calculate how much your premium tax credit (subsidy) will be – you have to know 2 things:

(A) Your expected contribution toward the cost of your health insurance (available at the end of this article); and

(B) The cost of your BENCHMARK health plan. (Your health insurance exchange–assuming you succeed in opening an account and obtaining quotes–can tell you which plan this is and how much it costs. Your benchmark plan is the silver-tiered health plan with the second lowest monthly premiums in your area. The Affordable Care Act classifies health plans based on how much of your health care costs they’re expected to cover. A bronze health plan will cover about 60 percent of the average person’s health care costs. A silver health plan will cover about 70 percent.)

Your subsidy amount is the difference between your expected contribution and the cost of the benchmark plan. But just because the benchmark plan is used to calculate your subsidy doesn’t mean you have to buy the benchmark plan. You may buy any plan listed on your health insurance exchange, but your subsidy amount stays the same.

If you choose a more expensive plan, you’ll pay the difference plus your expected contribution. If you choose a plan that’s cheaper than the benchmark plan, you’ll pay less since the subsidy money will cover a larger portion of the monthly premium. If you choose a plan so cheap that costs less than your subsidy, you won’t have to pay anything for health insurance. However, you won’t get the excess subsidy back.

If you’re trying to save money so you choose a plan with a lower value, (like a bronze plan instead of a silver plan), you’ll likely have higher coinsurance and copays when you use your health insurance.

There’s another reason to choose a silver-tier plan. There’s a different subsidy that lowers copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for some low-income people. Eligible people can use it in addition to the premium tax credit subsidy. However, it’s only available to people who choose a silver-tier plan.

One question I am frequently asked is, “Do I have to wait until I file my income tax return in order to get the subsidy?”

Answer: “No”

You can get the premium tax credit in advance. If your income is so low you don’t have to file a tax return, you can still get the subsidy. But bear in mind–if you underestimate your income and take a subsidy–you will be forced to pay it back or, if you are due a refund, have it reduce such respectively when you file your return. (Income verification was put back in 2014 subsidy provisions after being suspended for one year along with the Administration’s one year suspension of the mandate that large employers must purchase health insurance for their employees. And remember–the IRS is in charge of monitoring your enrollment and expenditure.)

Consider opting to get the subsidy along with your tax refund if:

  • Your income is very      close to 400 percent of FPL.
  • Your income varies from      year to year so you’re not sure how much you’ll make.

When the subsidy is paid in advance, the amount of the subsidy is based on an estimate of your income for the coming year. If the estimate is wrong, the subsidy amount will be incorrect.

If you earn less than estimated, the advanced subsidy will be lower than it should have been. You’ll get the rest as a tax refund.

If you earn more than estimated, the government will send too much subsidy money to your health insurance company. You’ll have to pay back part or all of the excess subsidy money when you file your taxes. Even worse, if your actual income ended up more than 400 percent of FPL, you’ll have to pay back every penny of the subsidy. This could be thousands of dollars.

If you get your subsidy when you file your income taxes rather than in advance, you’ll get the correct subsidy amount because you’ll know exactly how much you earned that year. You won’t have to pay any of it back.

The Marketplace’s software will (supposedly) calculate your subsidy. Perhaps, as time goes by, it will even do so accurately. But for those of you who scored at least 600 on your high school SAT math test and enjoy such things – here is the exact formula for keeping the government honest:

  1. Figure out how your income compares to FPL.
  2. Find your expected contribution rate in the table below.
  3. Calculate the dollar amount you’re expected to contribute.
  4. Find your subsidy amount by subtracting your expected contribution from the cost of the benchmark plan.

Here is an example:

Mary is single with an income of $22,800 per year. FPL for 2013 is $11,490 for single people.

  1. To figure out how Mary’s income compares to FPL, use: income ÷ FPL x 100.
    $22,800 ÷ $11,490 x 100 = 198.4.
    Mary’s income is 198 percent of FPL.
  2. Using the table below, Mary is expected to contribute 4-6.3 percent of her income. Since she’s almost at the top of her category in the table, she uses the 6.3 percent figure.
  3. To calculate how much Mary is expected to contribute, use this equation: 6.3 ÷ 100 x income.
    6.3 ÷ 100 x $22,800 = $1,436.
    Mary is expected to contribute $1,436 per year, or about $120 per month,      toward the cost of her health insurance. The premium tax credit subsidy      pays the rest of the cost of the benchmark health plan.
  4. The benchmark health plan at Mary’s health insurance exchange costs $3,900 per year or $325 per month. Use this equation to figure out the subsidy amount: cost of the benchmark plan – expected contribution = amount of the subsidy.
    $3,900 – $1,436 = $2,464.
    Mary’s premium tax credit subsidy will be $2,464 per year or about $205 per month.

If Mary chooses the benchmark plan, or another $325 per month plan, she’ll pay $120 per month for her health insurance. If she chooses a plan costing $425 per month, she’ll pay $220 monthly for her health insurance. If she chooses a plan costing $225 per month, she’ll only pay $20 per month for her health insurance.

FEDERAL POVERTY LIMIT BASED ON NUMBER OF FAMILY IN HOUSEHOLD:

(Click on image to enlarge.)

FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL GUIDELINES 2013

Table of Your Expected Contribution Percentage:

If your income is

Your expected contribution will be

100%-133% of FPL

2% of your income

133%-150% of FPL

3%-4% of your income

150%-200% of FPL

4%-6.3% of your income

200%-250% of FPL

6.3%-8.05% of your income

250%-300% of FPL

8.05%-9.5% of your income

300%-400% of FPL

9.5% of your income

 

I hope your weather is not as beautiful as it is here in my part of Texas on this Sunday afternoon. If so, you are probably regretting you took the time to get this far into this hopefully informative piece. If it is – do not blame me and certainly–do not shoot the messenger.

As for me, I’m getting out on my motor bike and will take my mind off this monumental cross I bear being . . .

Yours in disclosure,

Admin. – Kenton Henry

http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

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10/14/2013 @ 11:39AM |1,067,949 views

Obamacare’s Website Is Crashing Because It Doesn’t Want You To Know How Costly Its Plans Are

                        Avik Roy, Contributor

The Healthcare.gov website requires that individuals looking for coverage enter personal information before comparing plans. IT experts believe that this requirement is causing the website to crash.

A growing consensus of IT experts, outside and inside the government, have figured out a principal reason why the website for Obamacare’s federally-sponsored insurance exchange is crashing. Healthcare.gov forces you to create an account and enter detailed personal information before you can start shopping. This, in turn, creates a massive traffic bottleneck, as the government verifies your information and decides whether or not you’re eligible for subsidies. HHS bureaucrats knew this would make the website run more slowly. But they were more afraid that letting people see the underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans would scare people away.

HHS didn’t want users to see Obamacare’s true costs

“Healthcare.gov was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” report Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in the Wall Street Journal. “But that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said.” Why was it delayed? “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.” (Emphasis added.)

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How Obamacare’s Exchanges Turned Into A ‘Third World Experience’ Avik Roy Contributor

Double Down: Obamacare Will Increase Avg. Individual-Market Insurance Premiums By 99% For Men, 62% For Women Avik Roy Contributor

CMS on Obamacare’s Health Insurance Exchanges: ‘Let’s Just Make Sure It’s Not a Third-World Experience’ Avik Roy Contributor

Enrollment In Obamacare’s Federal Exchange, So Far, May Only Be In ‘Single Digits’ Avik Roy Contributor

As you know if you’ve been following this space, Obamacare’s bevy of mandates, regulations, taxes, and fees drives up the cost of the insurance plans that are offered under the law’s public exchanges. A Manhattan Institute analysis I helped conduct found that, on average, the cheapest plan offered in a given state, under Obamacare, will be 99 percent more expensive for men, and 62 percent more expensive for women, than the cheapest plan offered under the old system. And those disparities are even wider for healthy people.

That raises an obvious question. If 50 million people are uninsured today, mainly because insurance is too expensive, why is it better to make coverage even costlier?

Political objectives trumped operational objectives

The answer is that Obamacare wasn’t designed to help healthy people with average incomes get health insurance. It was designed to force those people to pay more for coverage, in order to subsidize insurance for people with incomes near the poverty line, and those with chronic or costly medical conditions.

But the laws’ supporters and enforcers don’t want you to know that, because it would violate the President’s incessantly repeated promise that nothing would change for the people that Obamacare doesn’t directly help. If you shop for Obamacare-based coverage without knowing if you qualify for subsidies, you might be discouraged by the law’s steep costs.

So, by analyzing your income first, if you qualify for heavy subsidies, the website can advertise those subsidies to you instead of just hitting you with Obamacare’s steep premiums. For example, the site could advertise plans that cost “$0″ or “$30″ instead of explaining that the plan really costs $200, and that you’re getting a subsidy of $200 or $170. But you’ll have to be at or near the poverty line to gain subsidies of that size; most people will either not qualify for a subsidy, or qualify for a small one that, net-net, doesn’t make up for the law’s cost hikes.

This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.

Subsidy verification created a traffic bottleneck

Comparable private-sector e-commerce sites, like eHealthInsurance.com, allow you to shop for plans and compare prices simply by entering your age and your ZIP code. After you’ve selected a plan you like, you fill out an on-line application. That substantially winnows down the number of people who rely on the site for network-intensive tasks.

The federal government’s decision to force people to apply before shopping, Weaver and Radnofsky write, “proved crucial because, before users can begin shopping for coverage, they must cross a busy digital junction in which data are swapped among separate computer systems built or run by contractors including CGI Group Inc., the healthcare.gov developer, Quality Software Services Inc., a UnitedHealth Group Inc. unit; and credit-checker Experian PLC. If any part of the web of systems fails to work properly, it could lead to a traffic jam blocking most users from the marketplace.”

Jay Angoff, a former federal official at the agency that oversees the exchange, told the Journal that he was surprised by the decision. “People should be able to get quotes” without entering all of that information upfront.

Weaver and Radnofsky say that the core problem stems from “the slate of registration systems [that] intersect with Oracle Identity Manager, a software component embedded in a government identity-checking system.” The main Healthcare.gov web page collects information using the CGI Group technology. Then that data is transferred to a system built by Quailty Software Services. QSS then sends data to Experian, the credit-history firm. But the key “identity management system” employed by QSS was designed by Oracle, and according to the Journal’s sources, the Oracle software isn’t playing nicely with the other information systems.

Oracle hotly denies these claims. “Our software is the identical product deployed in most of the world’s most complex systems…our software is running properly,” said an Oracle spokeswoman in a statement.

‘It’s awful, just awful’

Robert Pear and colleagues at the New York Times have a piece up today detailing the serious problems with the federal exchange, problems that may get worse, not better. They confirm what we already knew: that the Obama administration refused to delay the implementation of the exchanges, despite the well-known problems, because they were afraid of the political blowback. “Former government officials say the White House, which was calling the shots, feared that any backtracking would further embolden Republican critics who were trying to repeal the health care law.”

As I documented last week, IT and insurance experts have been saying for at least eight months that implementation of the exchanges was going badly, that as early as February officials were warning of a “third world experience.” The Times’ sources are just as blunt. “These are not glitches,” said one insurance executive. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our [conference calls with the administration], people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.’”

“We foresee a train wreck,” said another executive in a February interview with the Times. “We don’t have the IT specifications. The level of angst in health plans is growing by leaps and bounds. The political people in the administration do not understand how far behind they are.” Richard Foster, the former chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said last week that “so much testing of the new system was so far behind schedule, I was not confident it would work well.”

Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer at CMS who made the “third world experience” comment, was told by his superiors that failure to meet the October 1 launch deadline “was not an option,” according to the Times.

White House knowingly chose to court disaster

Think about it. It’s quite possible that much of this disaster could have been avoided if the Obama administration had been willing to be open with the public about the degree to which Obamacare escalates the cost of health insurance. If they had, then a number of the problems with the exchange’s software architecture would never have arisen. But that would require admitting that the “Affordable Care Act” was not accurately named.

The White House knew that its people on the front lines, people like Henry Chao, were worried that the exchanges would get botched. They saw the Congressional Research Service memorandum detailing that the administration has missed half of the statutory deadlines assigned by the law. But they were more afraid of the P.R. disaster of disclosing Obamacare’s high premiums than they were of the P.R. disaster of crashing websites. What you see is the result.

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Tech experts: Health exchange site needs total overhaul

Kelly Kennedy, USA TODAY 5:36 p.m. EDT October 17, 2013Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius calls the rollout of the health care exchanges rocky. (Photo: Jose Luis Magana, AP)

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WASHINGTON — The federal health care exchange was built using 10-year-old technology that may require constant fixes and updates for the next six months and the eventual overhaul of the entire system, technology experts told USA TODAY.

The site could be perfect, but if the systems from which it draws data are not up to speed, it doesn’t matter, said John Engates, chief technology officer at Rackspace, a cloud computer service provider.

“It is a core problem in the sense of it’s fundamental to this thing actually working, but it’s not necessarily a problem that the people who wrote HealthCare.gov can get to,” Engates said. “Even if they had a perfect system, it still won’t work.”

Recent changes have made the exchanges easier to use, but they still require clearing the computer’s cache several times, stopping a pop-up blocker, talking to people via Web chat who suggest waiting until the server is not busy, opening links in new windows and clicking on every available possibility on a page in the hopes of not receiving an error message. With those changes, it took one hour to navigate the HealthCare.gov enrollment process Wednesday.

Those steps shouldn’t be necessary, experts said.

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: What does it mean for you?

“I have never seen a website — in the last five years — require you to delete the cache in an effort to resolve errors,” said Dan Schuyler, a director at Leavitt Partners, a health care group by former Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt. “This is a very early Web 1.0 type of fix.”

“The application could be fundamentally flawed,” said Jeff Kim, president of CDNetworks, a content-delivery network. “They may be using 1990s technology in 2.0 world.”

Outsiders acknowledged they can’t see the whole system, but they said they feared HHS built a system that will need an expensive overhaul that would cause more headaches for people trying to buy insurance.

“I will be the first to tell you that the website launch was rockier than we wanted it to be,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, adding that people have until Dec. 15 to enroll to ensure coverage beginning Jan. 1.

HHS officials did not respond to a request about the nature of the problems. However, they reiterated that wait times have been reduced or even eliminated as they continue to work to fix the system. As of Thursday, the site had received 17 million unique visitors.

“We continue to work around the clock to improve the consumer experience on HealthCare.gov,” HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said. “We are seeing progress: wait times to begin the online process have been virtually eliminated, and more consumers are creating accounts, completing applications and ultimately enrolling in coverage if they choose to do so at this time. However, we will not stop addressing issues and improving the system until the doors to HealthCare.gov are wide open.”

OBAMACARE: A tough sell for Native Americans

Engates said HHS has been opaque about the problems, and the tech industry doesn’t know the extent of the issues. “There’s no secrets leaking out,” he said. “I’m sure everyone’s looking for something to change the direction of the conversation, but it’s just not there.”

“I think it’s a data problem,” Kim said. “It always comes down to that.”

And if that’s the case, the problems are beyond “rocky,” he said. Instead, it would require a “fundamental re-architecture.” In the meantime, “I think they’re just trying to shore up as quickly as possible. They don’t have time to start from scratch.”

“If I was them, and I’m just conjecturing, I would probably come up with some manual way of saying, ‘Only people with the last name starting with ‘A’ can sign up today,” he said.

But come March 31, when the first enrollment period ends, the “shore up” period may become a “re-architecting” period, Kim said.

On a good note, he said, after looking at available code, the site is “very secure.”

Clearing the cache, which has helped make it easier for some people to enroll, could ultimately strain the system more, Kim said. That’s because a “cookie” is stored on a person’s computer that contains data, such as the person’s name and address, that can then be quickly accessed when that person gets on the website again instead of having to be retrieved from the government’s server.

But as HHS fixes errors, the cookies may not correspond with the updated website, so rather than allowing someone to quickly log in, they instead cause an error message. And every time a person clears his computer’s cache, the government’s website has to work that much harder to grab more data.

Requiring people who may not be Web savvy to use the site in any way other than a step-by-step easy process defeats the point of the whole system, Schuyler said. That includes laws mandating that insurers provide clear explanations about policies to people may make sound decisions and understand what they’re buying.

“Most consumers will have no idea what ‘clearing the cache’ is and this will just cause more confusion and frustration,” he said.

So far, the site’s problems have not driven away potential customers, according to a poll conducted by uSamp — United Sample Inc. The survey found that among the 832 people who attempted to log in, 38% received an error message, 50% were asked to try again later, 25% were unable to create an account, 31% were told the system was down, and 19% had no problems. About 83% said they would try again later, while 15% said they would wait until they heard the website was working well. About 70% of those who said they had no issues said they still waited to enroll because they want to think about their options.

Engates said he believes most of the problems are caused by systems integration with other sites, such as the IRS. And that could be causing some of the problems people see as they make it past the initial application process. It’s a series of questions meant to verify a person’s identity and income. But after that questionnaire, visitors often encounter a series of error messages, or the page a person tries to click to doesn’t come up. The data requests to other sites could be causing those problems, Engates said, which would mean the problem isn’t with the HHS site itself.

“Maybe the site is submitting a request for more data, and that puts you in that trap again,” he said. “It’s a giant integration problem that they have to solve.”

And as they try to fix those problems, there’s another issue lurking in the background: Some HHS personnel were named essential, and not subject to furloughs because of the government shutdown. But that didn’t apply to the other organizations they were working with, Engates said. So as HHS techs work around the clock to fix the problems, IRS techs may be prohibited from working at all.

In the meantime, HHS personnel can’t say anything about the situation, it can be played politically as “bad,” he said. If they say it will take two weeks to fix, they will be criticized because it’s taking too long. But he expects that it’s a problem that will be resolved soon, especially as the volume of visitors goes down.

“If you can get the system below some sort of threshold, it will perform as it’s supposed to,” Engates said. “It won’t get any worse. It’s going to get better little by little by little.”

http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

That Giant “Sucking Sound” Is Your Providers Exiting Your Preferred Provider Network!

Op-Ed by Kenton Henry, Administrator

I have just completed my Affordable Care Act (ACA) training and certification in order to offer ACA compliant plans to my clients, and the public in general, beginning October 1. However, even in this final hour with only eight days until the new plans are to be available – the insurance companies have still not released the premiums the insure will pay for these options. “Any day now” is what I am being told. However, I will share with you a thing or two I do know based on what I have studied.

Most of it came as no surprise to me. One major company (whose name I cannot divulge as the information they provided was yet to be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) who will be in charge of the Federal-Run Exchange–Marketplace–in Texas, Indiana and Ohio–where I have clients) previewed plans. The lowest plan deductible available was $1,500. All plans will be limited to a maximum out-of-pocket of $6,350 per individual and $12,700 per family. While older people will probably find a $1,500 deductible acceptable in terms of affordability, I am not certain how twenty year olds are going to feel about that. I certainly don’t think that and higher deductible options will be an incentive for them to enroll even with the convenience of doctor’s office co-pays and prescription drug cards. I can almost guarantee you that unless they receive a subsidy – they won’t be signing up.

Beyond that, the benefits sounded perfectly acceptable until I came to the part about “special care centers”. It turns out, at least with this company (which happens to be a very large, conspicuous player in the Texas health insurance market we’ll just refer to as company XYZ)when you are in need of a special surgical procedure such as a hip or knee replacement: “You may only receive one by going to an ‘XYZ Approved Hip and Knee Replacement Center'”. I have had a hip replacement and had it at the relatively young age of 49 and I don’t know about you but I didn’t want just anyone performing mine. I still had dreams of remaining very active and athletic to the point of partaking in very aggressive martial arts training among other activities such as mountain biking. Fortunately, I have been able to do so but would I had I gone to some “Preferred” (discount) provider who agreed to accept lesser fees for greater patient volume?

To underscore my concern relative to an obvious attempt to ration our selection of providers, if not the procedures themselves, I received an email today informing me the primary Medicare Advantage Plan I enrolled my clients in last year is having an inordinate number of Primary Care Physicians drop out of its network and that I should be prepared to re-shop their Advantage Plan. The problem is, if this very large nationally recognized plan is experiencing this kind of “provider drop-out” – what can I expect from smaller companies with less capital? Again, I have had to delete their name as the information was proprietary and for “agent use only” but the letter they sent their clients is attached below. If you are one of my current Medicare clients I placed with this plan – you may have already read this. Otherwise, I apologize for breaking the news to you like this.

Our feature article appeared in today’s New York Times (September 23rd) and describes how patient options will be restricted as a result of the ACA. Think about it. If the insurance companies have no choice in who they insure and must cover any and all pre-existing conditions . . . and if they are informed by the Department of Health and Human Services their profit and, more specifically, the ratio of claims they must pay relative to the premium they take in, i.e., 80% to 20% – how else can they manage losses except to restrict access to procedures, providers and what your providers are paid? Something had to give.

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Letter to Medicare Advantage Clients

Update to Physician Network Changes

At  ————- , we manage the physician networks for our plans to help meet the evolving needs of health care consumers. This includes adjusting the size and composition of our physician network as we strive to meet the specific needs of Medicare Advantage and/or Medicaid plan members.

As a result, in the coming months, select physicians for one or more of your Medicare Advantage and/or Medicaid members will no longer participate in our Medicare and Medicaid plan networks. Please note: these changes do not affect members enrolled in Medicare Supplement or commercial plans.

Member transitions
We know that members are impacted when we make changes to our network, and are taking steps to support members with smooth transitions to new care providers as appropriate to help ensure continuity of care.

We will be sending letters to affected members to notify them of care providers that will no longer participate in the —————– Medicare and Medicaid plan network as early as January 1, 2014 (network changes for New Jersey Medicaid plans have an October, 2013 effective date.) When appropriate, letters will suggest new care providers for members to consider for their ongoing care. Members are encouraged to call the number on their member ID card if they need help with identifying a new care provider.

In some plans, members may choose to continue seeing their current care providers on an out-of-network basis, in accordance with their out-of-network benefits. These changes have no impact on plan benefits, and members undergoing a treatment plan will be able to continue seeing out-of-network care providers consistent with federal requirements.

Provider directories
These network changes will be reflected in our online provider directory as of October 1, 2013. It is highly encouraged to refer to the online provider directory in all cases to confirm care provider network and panel status for all potential enrollees, as changes may not be reflected in previously printed and/or downloaded directories.

It is important to note that when searching for an in-network provider on the online directory, a provider’s “Accepting New Patients” status must indicate “OPEN“, even if the potential enrollee is an existing patient.

Talking points for member inquiries
Please refer to the Physician Network Changes – Frequently Asked Questions for Member Discussions that provide additional information and may be used in the event you receive any member inquiries.

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Lower Health Insurance Premiums to Come at Cost of Fewer Choices

By ROBERT PEAR

Published: September 22, 2013

WASHINGTON — Federal officials often say that health insurance will cost consumers less than expected under President Obama’s health care law. But they rarely mention one big reason: many insurers are significantly limiting the choices of doctors and hospitals available to consumers.                        

From California to Illinois to New Hampshire, and in many states in between, insurers are driving down premiums by restricting the number of providers who will treat patients in their new health plans.

When insurance marketplaces open on Oct. 1, most of those shopping for coverage will be low- and moderate-income people for whom price is paramount. To hold down costs, insurers say, they have created smaller networks of doctors and hospitals than are typically found in commercial insurance. And those health care providers will, in many cases, be paid less than what they have been receiving from commercial insurers.

Some consumer advocates and health care providers are increasingly concerned. Decades of experience with Medicaid, the program for low-income people, show that having an insurance card does not guarantee access to specialists or other providers.

Consumers should be prepared for “much tighter, narrower networks” of doctors and hospitals, said Adam M. Linker, a health policy analyst at the North Carolina Justice Center, a statewide advocacy group.

“That can be positive for consumers if it holds down premiums and drives people to higher-quality providers,” Mr. Linker said. “But there is also a risk because, under some health plans, consumers can end up with astronomical costs if they go to providers outside the network.”

Insurers say that with a smaller array of doctors and hospitals, they can offer lower-cost policies and have more control over the quality of health care providers. They also say that having insurance with a limited network of providers is better than having no coverage at all.

Cigna illustrates the strategy of many insurers. It intends to participate next year in the insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Tennessee and Texas.

“The networks will be narrower than the networks typically offered to large groups of employees in the commercial market,” said Joseph Mondy, a spokesman for Cigna.

The current concerns echo some of the criticism that sank the Clinton administration’s plan for universal coverage in 1993-94. Republicans said the Clinton proposals threatened to limit patients’ options, their access to care and their choice of doctors.

At the same time, House
Republicans are continuing to attack the new health law and are threatening to hold up a spending bill unless money is taken away from the health care program.

Dr. Bruce Siegel, the president of America’s Essential Hospitals, formerly known as the National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems, said insurers were telling his members: “We don’t want you in our network. We are worried about having your patients, who are sick and have complicated conditions.”

In some cases, Dr. Siegel said, “health plans will cover only selected services at our hospitals, like trauma care, or they offer rock-bottom payment rates.”

In New Hampshire, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a unit of WellPoint, one of the nation’s largest insurers, has touched off a furor by excluding 10 of the state’s 26 hospitals from the health plans that it will sell through the insurance exchange.

Christopher R. Dugan, a spokesman for Anthem, said that premiums for this “select provider network” were about 25 percent lower than they would have been for a product using a broad network of doctors and hospitals.

Anthem is the only commercial carrier offering health plans in the New Hampshire exchange.

Peter L. Gosline, the chief executive of Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, N.H., said his hospital had been excluded from the network without any discussions or negotiations.

“Many consumers will have to drive 30 minutes to an hour to reach other doctors and hospitals,” Mr. Gosline said. “It’s very inconvenient for patients, and at times it’s a hardship.”

State Senator Andy Sanborn, a Republican who is chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said, “The people of New Hampshire are really upset about this.”

Many physician groups in New Hampshire are owned by hospitals, so when an insurer excludes a hospital from its network, it often excludes the doctors as well.

David Sandor, a vice president of the Health Care Service Corporation, which offers Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, said: “In the health insurance exchange, most individuals will be making choices based on costs. Our exchange products will have smaller provider networks that cost less than bigger plans with a larger selection of doctors and hospitals.”

Premiums will vary across the country, but federal officials said that consumers in many states would be able to buy insurance on the exchange for less than $300 a month — and less than $100 a month per person after taking account of federal subsidies.

“Competition and consumer choice are actually making insurance affordable,” Mr. Obama said recently.

Many insurers are cutting costs by slicing doctors’ fees.

Dr. Barbara L. McAneny, a cancer specialist in Albuquerque, said that insurers in the New Mexico exchange were generally paying doctors at Medicare levels, which she said were “often below our cost of doing business, and definitely below commercial rates.”

Outsiders might expect insurance companies to expand their networks to treat additional patients next year. But many insurers see advantages in narrow networks, saying they can steer patients to less expensive doctors and hospitals that provide high-quality care.

Even though insurers will be forbidden to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, they could subtly discourage the enrollment of sicker patients by limiting the size of their provider networks.

“If a health plan has a narrow network that excludes many doctors, that may shoo away patients with expensive pre-existing conditions who have established relationships with doctors,” said Mark E. Rust, the chairman of the national health care practice at Barnes & Thornburg, a law firm. “Some insurers do not want those patients who, for medical reasons, require a broad network of providers.”

In a new study, the Health Research Institute of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting company, says that “insurers passed over major medical centers” when selecting providers in California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, among other states.

“Doing so enables health plans to offer lower premiums,” the study said. “But the use of narrow networks may also lead to higher out-of-pocket expenses, especially if a patient has a complex medical problem that’s being treated at a hospital that has been excluded from their health plan.”

In California, the statewide Blue Shield plan has developed a network specifically for consumers shopping in the insurance exchange.

Juan Carlos Davila, an executive vice president of Blue Shield of California, said the network for its exchange plans had 30,000 doctors, or 53 percent of the 57,000 doctors in its broadest commercial network, and 235 hospitals, or 78 percent of the 302 hospitals in its broadest network.

Mr. Davila said the new network did not include the five medical centers of the University of California or the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center near Beverly Hills.

“We expect to have the broadest and deepest network of any plan in California,” Mr. Davila said. “But not many folks who are uninsured or near the poverty line live in wealthy communities like Beverly Hills.”

Daniel R. Hawkins Jr., a senior vice president of the National Association of Community Health Centers, which represents 9,000 clinics around the country, said: “We serve the very population that will gain coverage — low-income, working class uninsured people. But insurers have shown little interest in including us in their provider networks.”

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http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

A Timely Warning! Do Not Underestimate Your Income In Order To Qualify For Health Insurance Subsidy! (inadvertantly or otherwise)

Attention! All potential visitors to your state’s insurance “Marketplace” (formerly health insurance exchange) should heed this warning as the time approaches when you may go there to apply for coverage. Do not underestimate your 2014 (and subsequent tax years) income or you could owe a “sizable” refund to the government. This will occur if you accept their subsidy based on an income later proven to be larger than what you estimated for subsidy purposes.

 
As today’s feature article explains by example:
If a family of four receives a year-end bonus that puts them over the 400% (of the Federal Poverty Level) income threshold – they could owe a repayment of more than $7,000!

 
Admin. – Kenton Henry
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FEATURE ARTICLE:

 
Los Angeles Times

Consumers could be surprised at tax time due to federal health law

By Chad Terhune
September 9, 2013, 1:00 p.m.
Some families may end up owing Uncle Sam a sizable refund if they accept government help on buying health insurance next year under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
A study published Monday in Health Affairs estimates that 38% of families that qualify for federal premium subsidies might have to repay some portion if changes in their household income aren’t reported to the government.
These subsidies are a crucial part of the federal healthcare law intended to help make insurance more affordable for lower- and middle-income people. Individuals earning less than $46,000 a year, and families below $94,000 annually may qualify for these premium tax credits.
But a raise, bonus or other unexpected income during the year could alter a person’s eligibility and subsidy amount, triggering a repayment when the person files income tax forms for 2014. Some policy experts worry that experience could sour people on the healthcare expansion.
“There’s the potential for some sizable repayments,” said Ken Jacobs, the study’s lead author and chairman of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education.
“Even if a small number of people owe a lot of money back that could generate fear of taking the subsidies. You don’t want to scare people from enrolling,” Jacobs added.
At particular risk of refunds, researchers said, are people who are near the eligibility cutoff for the subsidies. The tax credits are on a sliding scale basis up to 400% of the federal poverty line.
For instance, a family of four in California that receives a year-end bonus that puts them over that 400% income threshold could be required to repay more than $7,000, according to Jacobs.
The subsidy repayments are capped for lower-income people under the law.
The study said prompt notification of income changes so the subsidies can be adjusted could reduce the number of people who owe repayments by as much as 41%. Also, the size of the typical repayment could be cut by as much as 60%, according to the study.
“Timely reporting will make a very big difference,” Jacobs said.
In most cases, the federal government will pay the monthly subsidy directly to the customer’s private health insurer and the policyholder will pay any remaining premium.
In Washington, D.C., Jacobs said, the district’s exchange has set the default subsidy to 85% of the full amount to give people some financial cushion against receiving too much throughout the year. Even in that case, he said, consumers can still elect to take the full amount if they want.
Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said the state’s health exchange will work hard to educate residents about how the subsidies work and the importance of promptly reporting changes in income to avoid surprises later on.
“We don’t want to be on the paternalistic side of saying, ‘We think you should save more to the end,'” Lee said. “But we do want to reach out and let people know what the risks are. It is a big deal.”


http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

Navigator Vs. Insurance Broker: Who To Go To For Your New Affordable Care Act Health Insurance?

By Kenton Henry, Administrator

 
Let me preface this article with an admission. I am a health insurance broker and have been for 27 years. So consider that as you weigh the comparison suggested in the title of this piece.

 
Very shortly (October 1 to be exact) you are going to be able to enroll in a new Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant health insurance plan to be effective January 1. Having health insurance at that time is no longer an option – it is a mandate. You probably know this by now and there is no need to review the details and I will not be addressing the penalties for not having coverage next year and beyond. Rather, I will be addressing your options for enrolling and factors you might want to weigh before electing the path you take to enrollment. I will strive to be as objective as possible in light of my preface.

 
First, let’s consider going through an insurance agent or broker like myself. Before I could consider selling my first health insurance policy back in 1986, I had to study for and pass my state’s insurance exam in order to obtain my license. I did this initially in Indiana and again in 1991 when I moved to Texas. While not the Bar Exam or Medical Board Exams – on both occasions they were comprehensive tests and I recall spending weeks of self-study in the quiet of the local library for the first and–after 5 years of experience–another week and a 40 hour prep course to boot for the second. They covered my knowledge of things not the benefit of common sense–and they were certainly not IQ tests–but measured my grasp of esoteric insurance laws, regulations, the principles and components of insurance and ethics among other topics. Next, I had to be appointed with an insurance company before I could represent their products. In addition to an application, an appointment entailed a thorough background and credit check. Approximately twenty years ago, every company with whom I applied to for an appointment made it mandatory I purchase errors and omissions coverage just as required of your attorney or doctor. Every person is fallible and the insurance makes certain an agent’s clients can be compensated for any negligence or unintentional mistake on the agent’s part resulting in the client’s harm. Fortunately, I have never had to file a claim with my E & O company nor have I had a complaint filed against me with a state insurance commission. I must also undergo and complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education every 24 months in order to keep my license. A record of this is made the State Insurance Commissioner. My license binds me to the same rules and regulations regarding my client’s privacy, confidentiality and personal information as the aforementioned professionals with whom you share the same type of information. Any compromise in it could result in revocation of my license not to mention civil liability on my part.

 
Who pays for these tests, licenses, continuing education and insurance? I do. It comes out of my personal income. Not to mention the cost of all my supplies, office overhead and gas utilized in seeing my clients at their convenience. Oh yeah . . . and I pay for my own health insurance. And I have never minded these expenses. These are merely the costs of doing business and I was happy to pay them when compared to the alternative which would have required being someone’s employee. So these are pretty much the facts as to my professional background, what is required of me and the protection afforded you by such.

 
Before contrasting this with the alternative – consider:
“The 2010 (ACA) law is intended to prod millions of Americans to buy health insurance, many for the first time. Those seeking coverage must provide details on citizenship, family size and income to determine whether they’re eligible for subsidies, and complete a form that can stretch to seven pages.” – Bloomberg 08.23.13

 
And the alternative to licensed agent or broker? As of October 1st, you will also have the option of going through a “Navigator” hired by your state and whose compensation will be subsidized with federal funds. (Clue: federal funds is code for your tax dollars). The Navigator’s job is to be educate you as to your options and help you elect one before being turned over to an enroller, otherwise known as a customer service representative. The latter will make this happen mechanically and it will most likely be accomplished by you going to a link and completing an electronic enrollment form estimated to be up to 21 pages or greater in length. (We don’t know yet. They and the premiums for coverage are yet to be released.)

 
While the requirements will vary from state to state, the federal requirements for Navigators are 20 hours of training. The federal health insurance exchange will apply in Texas, Indiana and Ohio. These are three of four states where I am licensed. There will be no background checks involved in the hiring process for Navigators as we are told there is no time for such. The administration says “we need to get as many people as possible to sign up as quickly as possible.” The Navigators will not be licensed. They will not pay for errors and omissions insurance. You will pay for their supplies, their insurance and their benefits.

 
I certainly don’t have to be your agent but these are factors you might want to consider before seeking assistance in enrolling in your new health insurance plan. If you feel I have unfairly or otherwise misrepresented things, please feel free to comment as much. In the feature articles below, some opposing or off-setting opinions are expressed–mostly by administration officials.

 

 

Admin. – Kenton Henry

 
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Coming Articles: Biggest Traps of the Affordable Care Act for Medicare Recipients
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Feature Articles:

 
BLOOMBERG August 23, 2013

 
State Laws Hinder Obamacare Effort to Enroll Uninsured
By Alex Nussbaum & Alex Wayne – Aug 23, 2013 2:32 PM CT

 
New laws passed by a dozen Republican-led states, the latest in Missouri last month, may make that harder, imposing licensing exams, fines that can run as high as $1,000 and training that almost doubles the hours required by the federal government. Republicans say the measures will protect consumers. Obamacare supporters say they’ll undermine the effort to get as many people as possible enrolled.
The rules are “like voter intimidation,” said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., who supports Obama’s act. “In many, many cases these laws may be a direct interference with outreach assistance and that’s going to be quite serious.”
The Obama administration awarded 105 grants last week, steering money to hospitals, social-service agencies, local clinics and other groups. The navigators are meant to offer “unbiased information” to help people through the complexities of the new system, with its deductibles, copays, provider networks and tax credits, according to an Aug. 15 statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
October Deadline
The grants were issued barely a month before the online exchanges are scheduled to open for enrollment on Oct. 1. The administration has said about 7 million people may enroll next year and it needs to motivate millions of young, healthy customers to sign up to keep the markets financially stable.
The state laws may complicate that task. The restrictions go farthest in a handful of states like Georgia and Missouri, where Republican legislators have already refused to set up the new insurance websites or spend money to promote the law.
In Florida this week, Governor Rick Scott told a Miami audience that federal privacy protections for consumers working with navigators were “behind schedule and inadequate.” He urged people to use brokers and agents instead.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, a Republican, believes navigators need state regulation because they’ll give advice on “a highly complicated and highly important topic,” his spokesman, Brian Robinson, said in an e-mail. They will also handle personal information that is open to abuse.
Consumer Protection
“This is a consumer protection issue more than anything,” said Kenneth Statz, an insurance broker on the legislative council of the National Association of Health Underwriters, a Washington-based group representing agents and brokers. “We just want to make sure that somebody who is sitting down with a consumer, trying to help them make this major decision, is going to be properly prepared.”
The state laws have passed with the backing of insurance agents and brokers, who view the online exchanges as competition and navigators as potential rivals with an unfair advantage absent new rules.
States require agents to be licensed and undergo periodic training, said Statz, who’s based in Brecksville, Ohio. He also has to carry insurance to protect clients who may be hurt by bad advice or malpractice, he said.
The 2010 law is intended to prod millions of Americans to buy health insurance, many for the first time. Those seeking coverage must provide details on citizenship, family size and income to determine whether they’re eligible for subsidies, and complete a form that can stretch to seven pages.
Federal Requirements:
While states controlled by Democrats such as Maryland, New York, Minnesota and Illinois have also passed rules, these generally follow federal requirements, said Mark Dorley, a health-policy researcher at George Washington University.
Other states have been more restrictive.
Georgia’s navigators need a license from the insurance commissioner. Each person assisting the uninsured has to pay a $50 application fee, complete 35 hours of training — 15 more than the federal requirement — pass an exam, and complete a criminal background check. Licenses must be renewed every year, requiring another $50 and 15 more hours of training.
Missouri defines navigators more broadly than the federal government, said Andrea Routh, executive director of the Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance in Jefferson City. Violating certification requirements risks a $1,000 fine.
Seeking License
Routh’s group, which seeks to educate people on the health law, didn’t apply for a grant. It may seek a license just to be safe, she said.
“Anyone who does outreach and education, or anybody who assists anyone with enrollment had better be checking that law to see if they need to be licensed,” she said.
Missouri voters approved a ballot initiative last year barring Governor Jay Nixon, a Democrat, from setting up the exchange without the assent of the Republican-controlled legislature, which has declined to act so far.
The rules may scare off churches, clinics or others who want to help, said Cindy Zeldin, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future. The Atlanta-based nonprofit was part of a group that won a $2.1 million grant.
Georgia’s law implies “navigators are somehow problematic,” she said in a telephone interview, “rather than that they’re groups that likely have a history of working in communities and are trusted.”
‘In Conversations’
The Obama administration has been “in conversations with states” to ensure their laws don’t hinder the effort, said Chiquita Brooks-Lasure, a deputy director at the federal health department, in an Aug. 15 conference call with reporters.
The federal law doesn’t require background checks, though navigators must provide quarterly reports and can lose their grants in cases of fraud or abuse. The administration is requiring them to undergo an initial 20 hours of training.
Some people opposed to Obama’s overhaul “want to see it fail,” said Missouri Health’s Routh. “If you put a lot of barriers in place that make it tough for nonprofits to go out and educate people and assist them in understanding the exchange, that may be one way to have it fail.”
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The Washington Post
Health and Science
States scramble to get health-care law’s insurance marketplaces up and running
By Sarah Kliff and Sandhya Somashekhar, Published: August 24
With a key deadline approaching, state officials across the country are scrambling to get the Affordable Care Act’s complex computer systems up and running, reviewing contingency plans and, in some places, preparing for delays.
Oct. 1 is the scheduled launch date for the health-care law’s insurance marketplaces — online sites where uninsured people will be able to shop for coverage, sometimes using a government subsidy to purchase a plan. An estimated 7 million people are expected to use these portals to purchase health coverage in 2014.
The task is unprecedented in its complexity, requiring state and federal data systems to transmit reams of information between one another. Some officials in charge of setting up the systems say that the tight deadlines have forced them to take shortcuts when it comes to testing and that some of the bells and whistles will not be ready.
“There’s a certain level of panic about how much needs to be accomplished but a general sense that the bare minimum to get the system functional will be done,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “It will by no means be as smooth and as seamless as people expected.”
Oregon announced this month that it will delay consumers’ direct access to its marketplace, opening the Web site only to brokers and consumer-assistance agents in order to shield consumers from opening-day glitches.
“Even though we’re testing now, once you actually have the system up, you don’t know what the bugs will be,” said Amy Fauver, spokeswoman for Cover Oregon, the state agency implementing the law there.
In California, which has the nation’s largest uninsured population, health officials have begun hinting that they may have a similar problem.
“It’s a complex system, and there’s a lot of navigation that needs to happen,” said Oscar Hidalgo, a spokesman for Covered California. He said the agency will know by early September whether the system will be ready in time.
If not, he said, customers will still be able to log on to the Web site and peruse insurance plans and view prices. When they get to the final step, however, they will not be able to sign up. They will have to contact a customer service representative to complete the final enrollment step.
Officials with the District of Columbia’s Health Link decided to put off building a Spanish version of its Web site until later this year, giving its staff bandwidth to complete other tasks they see more critical to the launch.
Until then, the District will have bilingual call-center workers and in-person helpers who will be able to help Spanish speakers navigate the site.
The hiccups are troubling to advocates, who worry that there will be mistakes that result in people being erroneously rejected by Medicaid or denied subsidies to which they are entitled. They are concerned that impediments will discourage the uninsured from signing up for coverage.
“There will be something up and running, but there will be serious, serious difficulties with it” that could result in delays and errors initially, said Robert H. Bonthius Jr., a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. “It’s an extremely ambitious program, well-intentioned, that is going to be very difficult to accomplish, and it’s going to be months and maybe years before it really gets sorted out.”
With a key deadline approaching, state officials across the country are scrambling to get the Affordable Care Act’s complex computer systems up and running, reviewing contingency plans and, in some places, preparing for delays.
Oct. 1 is the scheduled launch date for the health-care law’s insurance marketplaces — online sites where uninsured people will be able to shop for coverage, sometimes using a government subsidy to purchase a plan. An estimated 7 million people are expected to use these portals to purchase health coverage in 2014.
See how the states have sided on some of the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act:
The task is unprecedented in its complexity, requiring state and federal data systems to transmit reams of information between one another. Some officials in charge of setting up the systems say that the tight deadlines have forced them to take shortcuts when it comes to testing and that some of the bells and whistles will not be ready.
“There’s a certain level of panic about how much needs to be accomplished but a general sense that the bare minimum to get the system functional will be done,” said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors. “It will by no means be as smooth and as seamless as people expected.”
Oregon announced this month that it will delay consumers’ direct access to its marketplace, opening the Web site only to brokers and consumer-assistance agents in order to shield consumers from opening-day glitches.
“Even though we’re testing now, once you actually have the system up, you don’t know what the bugs will be,” said Amy Fauver, spokeswoman for Cover Oregon, the state agency implementing the law there.
In California, which has the nation’s largest uninsured population, health officials have begun hinting that they may have a similar problem.
“It’s a complex system, and there’s a lot of navigation that needs to happen,” said Oscar Hidalgo, a spokesman for Covered California. He said the agency will know by early September whether the system will be ready in time.
If not, he said, customers will still be able to log on to the Web site and peruse insurance plans and view prices. When they get to the final step, however, they will not be able to sign up. They will have to contact a customer service representative to complete the final enrollment step.
Officials with the District of Columbia’s Health Link decided to put off building a Spanish version of its Web site until later this year, giving its staff bandwidth to complete other tasks they see more critical to the launch.
Until then, the District will have bilingual call-center workers and in-person helpers who will be able to help Spanish speakers navigate the site.
The hiccups are troubling to advocates, who worry that there will be mistakes that result in people being erroneously rejected by Medicaid or denied subsidies to which they are entitled. They are concerned that impediments will discourage the uninsured from signing up for coverage.
“There will be something up and running, but there will be serious, serious difficulties with it” that could result in delays and errors initially, said Robert H. Bonthius Jr., a lawyer at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. “It’s an extremely ambitious program, well-intentioned, that is going to be very difficult to accomplish, and it’s going to be months and maybe years before it really gets sorted out.”
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http://allplanhealthinsurance.com

Your More Affordable 2014 Health Insurance Exchange Plan is Likely to Work Like an HMO or Medicaid

By Kenton Henry

If you have ever been covered on an employer’s group health insurance plan, you may have had to select your medical providers from a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO). If you were enrolled in a plan of this type – it was probably because it was your only option or because you were young and thought yourself bullet proof. And the reason is – most older people would not elect an HMO if given a choice. Because if your plan utilizes one – you either see a provider within the network or you have no coverage at all. Most older people know that when your health problem is anything more than a common runny nose (which is all young people believe they’re ever going to suffer from) – a person wants to be able to select their own doctor or hospital.

 
Has your income ever been at the poverty level or below? If so then you probably qualified for Medicaid. That’s the government’s health plan administered by the states for the poor. And if you were covered by Medicaid, you know how difficult it was to find doctor’s to take Medicaid, get into an appointment or see a specialist.

 
Now comes Obamacare. And when the premiums for the new health care compliant plans become available for individuals and families to choose from October 1 for a January 1 effect date – be prepared for sticker shock. Without going into projections of an unknown quantity, suffice it to say, the word on the insurance street is the cost of these plans is going to make people in most states “have a cow”!

 
So naturally, you’re going to review the lowest cost plans – the bronze or “catastrophic” options and hope they meet your needs. And when you do – you best hope you ARE young and bullet proof because you are probably going to find your selection of providers is going to be what you had available in a larger group plan HMO divided by 10 . . . or more. Be prepared to wait a long time for appointments and heaven forbid you need to see a specialist or a special procedure because–if you do–you are probably going to have to get the President to issue another of his executive orders to make it happen.

 
And what if you’re not young and bullet proof? Get used to rationing. Because Obamacare doesn’t like specialists and who do you want to see when you have a serious problem? Who do you think is going to authorize a more sophisticated (expensive) procedure? I love my family doctor but when he thinks I need a more expensive procedure – he refers me to a neurologist or an orthopedic surgeon, etc. But be prepared for your new health plan pre-certification department to tell you – “There must be a pill for that.”

 
In conclusion, you’d better hope you qualify for the subsidy so you can add all or a portion of your premium to the national debt. If not . . . be prepared to pay Cadillac prices for what at best will be an Oldsmobile.

 
(For more a perhaps more objective take on this – go to:
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL; BUSINESS AUGUST 14, 2013:
Many Health Insurers to Limit Choices of Doctors, Hospitals
By Anna Wilde Mathews @ http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323446404579010800462478682.html

 

http://allplaninsurance.com

What will my health insurance premiums go to January 1?

07.23.2013
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What will your health insurance premiums be come January 1? If you are covered by a small business (less than 50 employees)group plan – projections are you can expect your company’s premiums to increase by a minimum of 8%. If you are not covered by an employer group plan, you will be forced to buy from a federal, state or partnership (between the two) exchange or directly from the private market. While premiums are predicted to go down in as many as 10 states, that leaves 40 where potentially they will not. The question remains – what will your premiums go to? The federal exchange which–will be the source for plans in 34 states which are not creating their own exchange–is yet to release their premiums for the plans which must be available by October 1st. The word is that you better qualify for a subsidy or you are looking at rates at least 30% higher for those currently covered.
As our feature article details, the debate still continues as to how accurate and complete is the information we are being fed as to what our costs will be.
Admin. – Kenton Henry
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Feature Article:
GOP: Obama administration selective with health law data
By Tom Howell Jr. – The Washington Times
Congressional Republicans on Monday accused the Obama administration of withholding data on insurance premiums because it would undermine positive trends the White House touted last week while promoting the health care law.
Citing news reports, three senior GOP senators and the chairmen of House health-related committees said the administration has collected premium filings for 34 states that will use a federally run or federal-state partnership exchange — a market where those without employer-based insurance can buy coverage with the help of government subsidies — but it will not release the information until September as it negotiates the final rates.
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“We believe it is essential that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide transparent pricing as soon as possible for the millions of Americans who will be impacted by this law,” they said in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, arguing many Americans’ premiums will rise under the Affordable Care Act.
They also accused the Obama administration of negotiating rates in secret, something the Wall Street Journal editorial page described as “running Obamacare as a black-ops mission.”
Supporters of the law have been buoyed by news out of New York, where officials last week said premiums on the state’s health care exchange in 2014 will be about 50 percent lower than last year’s direct-pay rates for individuals.
The Obama administration then released a report showing that, on average, premiums would drop by 18 percent in about 10 states and the District of Columbia. Those states have made information available for the individual market in 2014, when their health exchanges open under “Obamacare.”
Since then, Republicans have cited states where early data suggest that premiums will rise.
“Instead of selectively highlighting provisions and data that paint a rosy picture, we encourage the administration to give the American people as much information as possible so they can plan and prepare, and so that we can continue the necessary oversight,” the senior Republicans said in their letter.

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