[…] Anyway, assuming that we’re talking about contraceptives for women, new health insurance policies – except those that are exempt based on religious reasons – will cover contraception with no copays or deductibles. Non-grandfathered plans (grandfathered means that the policy was in effect prior to the PPACA being signed into law and that the plan has not made any significant changes since then) will have to start covering contraceptives as of each plan’s renewal date. This is similar to how the state maternity mandate worked in Colorado last year. New policies had to start covering maternity on January 1, 2011. But existing policies added it throughout the year as each plan renewed (for example, my family’s health insurance plan renews each year in November, so our maternity coverage didn’t begin until November 2011). This brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation website has a lot of good information regarding contraceptive coverage and should help to clarify the issue a bit. […]
Affordable Care Act (ACA)
[…] On the upside, the Urban Institute report gives Colorado props for making good overall progress on setting up the health benefits exchange. Despite the political hot seat that health care reform has been for the past few years, Colorado lawmakers managed to work together to create the framework for our health benefits exchange last year. We have a board of directors in place and the state is moving forward as fast as possible to get things in place for the exchange to be up and running in 2014. A lot is still unknown with regards to the future of the ACA, since the Supreme Court still has to issue their ruling in June regarding the legality of the individual mandate. But if the ACA remains in place and the health insurance exchanges become reality across the country, it’s safe to say that Colorado will be ahead of the curve in terms of getting the bugs ironed out.
The Urban Institute report notes that Colorado had a head start on a lot of the reform issues thanks to the 2008 Blue Ribbon Commission Report. Remember back when that was the big news in health care reform in Colorado? Before health care reform became such a divisive topic across the country, Colorado was working to come up with solutions to many of the problems with our health care system. Some of the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission are very similar to the new guidelines in the ACA, and Colorado had been taking active steps for the past four years to implement the Blue Ribbon recommendations. If the ACA remains in place, it should be a bit easier for Colorado to make the necessary transitions over the next few years, thanks to the progress the state has already made on its own.
[…] The collaboration between Cigna and CSHP will focus on improving patient outcomes, making healthcare more accessible and affordable, and improving patient satisfaction. One of the key components of the Cigna program is registered nurses working at the medical offices who will serve as care coordinators. These care coordinators will follow up with recently hospitalized patients to try to avoid preventable re-hospitalizations (costly and definitely not likely to result in a satisfied patient). They will also work with patients who have chronic illnesses to make sure the patients are filling their prescriptions, receiving needed office visits and screenings, and getting referrals to disease management programs that could help to prevent the conditions from worsening. The hands-on approach that the medical offices will be taking is likely to result in fewer re-hospitalizations and better overall compliance with medical advice.
Hopefully the program will also provide guidance for patients who aren’t filling prescriptions because they cannot afford to do so (for example, a referral to pharmaceutical company programs that provide free medications to people who can’t afford them), and help to address issues like lack of transportation or inability to fit medical office visits into inflexible work schedules. Some people truly just need a reminder to go get a screening test or refill a prescription. Others have more significant obstacles preventing them from doing so. […]
[…] Guaranteed-issue health insurance is expensive. When it’s enacted without a mandate requiring people to buy it, the premiums can become out of reach very quickly. In Colorado, group health insurance (all eligible employees are guaranteed enrollment, regardless of medical history) is significantly more expensive than individual health insurance (medical underwriting applies until 2014 when the guaranteed issue provisions of the ACA kick in). But since employers usually pay at least a chunk of the premiums, people aren’t generally aware of the full cost of group health insurance. In the individual market, that cost will be more transparent (subsidies – also created by the ACA – will be a significant help for a lot of families).
Any way you look at it, the claims expenses will be high once all health insurance is guaranteed issue. I would assume that individual health insurance premiums will start to look more like group premiums as the years go by. The goal of increasing premiums for late enrollees should be three-fold: To make the practice of waiting to purchase health insurance until one is sick seem less attractive; to make sure that there are enough total premium dollars collected to pay for the total claims submitted; and to make things as fair as possible for people who opt to have health insurance all the time, even when they’re perfectly healthy. Those people should not be paying the lion’s share of the total premiums.
I agree with Jason that if this model were used, it should be up to the carriers – with regulatory oversight – to set the premium adjustments rather than having the government set the prices. But I think that if we use this model to try to accomplish all three of those goals I outlined, the premium adjustments for late enrollees would have to be pretty significant.
[…] Unfortunately, the eligibility guidelines will eliminate all but the very lowest income people. In order to qualify, an applicant has to have an income of no more than 10% of the Federal Poverty Level – that amounts to $90 a month for a single person or $125/month for a married couple. As low as those numbers are, officials estimate that there are 50,000 adults in Colorado who would qualify based on those income requirements. And the Medicaid program only has room to enroll 10,000 of them – hence the lottery system.
I have to wonder what percentage of those 50,000 people will submit applications though? Back when the ACA created high risk pool health insurance programs in every state, they predicted that up to 375,000 people might enroll in 2010 alone. But as of early 2012, the high risk pools had actually enrolled about 50,000 people. Obviously cost is an issue – the high risk pools have significant premiums that may be out of reach for a lot of uninsured people, and that shouldn’t be a factor for the Medicaid expansion program. But there’s still the problem of getting information out to the people who might qualify, and getting them to submit applications – especially if they know that submitting an application is no guarantee of coverage, since the program is going to use a lottery to select 10,000 people to enroll.
Even though the income requirements are extremely low and the program only has the means to insure 20% of the eligible population, this is another step that Colorado is taking to try to insure more people. We’re slowing making progress there, due largely to the state’s efforts to expand access to public health insurance programs. We have a long way to go (currently ranked 24th out of 50 states for the percentage of our population that’s uninsured) but small changes like this one are better than no change at all.
[…] When I browsed around on most of the mainstream media regarding the Supreme Court and the ACA, I kept seeing predictions that the Court will ultimately find the individual mandate unconstitutional and either strike down that part of the law or return the whole ACA back to congress for a re-do (based on perceived negativity towards the law on the part of the Justices). But interestingly enough, all three blog posts in the HWR that dealt with this issue had the opposite opinion (and of course, at this point, all we can do is speculate and have opinions – nobody really knows how the Court will rule). They all take the position that the court is likely to rule in favor of the ACA and the individual mandate, or at least that the reports saying that the mandate is doomed are greatly exaggerated.
Sage’s article also notes that the Justices seem to be well aware of the problem of adverse selection (an issue that we’ve written about numerous times – guaranteed issue without a mandate either results in significant adverse selection or exorbitant health insurance premiums and few options for coverage). This is one of the major concerns that arises if we talk about doing away with the individual mandate, so it’s good that the Supreme Court is taking it into consideration (Sage notes that the lower courts didn’t seem to do so).
Now we just have to wait three months to see who’s right.
[…] Although a lot of Americans have a problem with the idea of the government telling them they have to purchase a product like health insurance (and of course, there is concern that such a precedent could pave the way for other mandates that we haven’t thought of yet), the problem of providing unreimbursed healthcare for uninsured patients is a very real issue for providers. And unfortunately, the end result is that hospital overhead is higher (to cover the unreimbursed care) and those higher charges end up being passed on to health insurance carriers. Which means that health insurance premiums increase to cover the higher claims expenses. There is no “free” care. For all but the most wealthy among us, “self-insuring” really just means relying on luck. And luck doesn’t usually hold out forever.
Soon after the ACA was signed into law in 2010, Colorado’s Attorney General John Suthers joined with AGs from around the country (26 states in all) to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of the individual mandate. It was particularly interesting in Colorado because there were only a handful of states where the governor and the AG disagreed about the legality of the individual mandate – Colorado was one of them.
The fight over the constitutionality of the ACA has been winding through the court system for the last two years, and has predictably made its way to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for and against the ACA next week. The 26 AGs who filed the lawsuit challenging the ACA requested that all of them be allowed to sit in on the arguments, but the Supreme Court granted them six seats instead. John Suthers is one of the six AGs who will be allowed to sit in the Supreme Court chambers next week to hear the ACA arguments.
The Supreme Court schedule for the oral arguments includes 90 minutes on Monday, March 26th to discuss whether to throw out the challenges to the ACA on a technicality. Then on Tuesday, they’re planning a two-hour session where the federal government and the plaintiffs can present their arguments for and against the legality of the individual mandate. Then on Wednesday, the court will be hearing arguments for 90 minutes regarding whether the rest of the ACA could […]
[…] My guess is that increased HIT will eventually (after the hiccups and bugs are worked out) result in more efficient care, better coordination of care between multiple doctors, fewer medical errors, and more streamlined health insurance claim processing. After reading the articles by McCormick et al and Mostashari, I think it’s clear that there’s some controversy in terms of whether HIT will lead to lower costs. I do think that HIT is coming one way or the other. It’s 2012. Most Americans are walking around with a touch screen mini computer in their pockets. We expect lightening fast internet connections and instant access to virtually any data we can think of. HIT will have to keep up, simply because technology keeps improving and it has to follow suit. But we’d be wise to carefully consider empirical data as much as possible in order to implement systems that have the best chance of success in terms of improving care and also lowering costs.
[…] Starting in 2014, health insurance will be guaranteed issue and all of us will be required to have coverage. But until then, individual health insurance is priced based on medical underwriting and (in most cases) slightly less comprehensive benefits than group policies. That’s why it’s less expensive to have an individual policy than a group policy or a guaranteed issue policy like CoverColorado. If health insurance carriers (both individual and group) don’t go over their claims closely and utilize preauthorizations, they run the risk of being defrauded – which will only drive premiums higher than they already are. If they don’t use the specific legal-eze required by state regulations, they will run afoul of the Division of Insurance.
There are plenty of examples of health insurance carriers using unfair or deceptive practices. We’re lucky in Colorado to have a strong Division of Insurance that works hard to protect consumers. Regulations that protect patients and insureds from unfair business practices are largely beneficial (and tend to weed out the shady insurance carriers). But Jaan’s article highlights the fact that health insurance carriers also have to protect themselves. If they don’t, they will end up with premiums that are far higher than the rest of their competition – and that isn’t sustainable.
[…] One of the most interesting parts of the interview is the discussion about Americans’ awareness of the ACA details, and their expectation of whether the bill will impact them directly. Karen notes that a poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation last August found that only half of uninsured Americans had a good understanding of the main provisions of the ACA. This is particularly interesting because the 50 million uninsured people in this country were one of the primary groups that the ACA was aiming to help. In addition, 47 percent of the uninsured felt that the ACA wasn’t going to affect them directly. I have to wonder if there is any overlap between the people who are unaware of how the major provisions in the ACA work, and the people who have expressed an opinion – one way or the other – about whether they support or oppose the ACA. Karen also pointed out that a lot of Americans are getting their information about the ACA from sources like talk radio and cable TV programs. The likelihood that this information is biased and/or overly hyped in one direction or the other is quite high. […]