HHS Secretary Testifies About Troubled Rollout
On Wednesday, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee about the troubled rollout of healthcare.gov, the federal online health insurance exchange. The New York Times reported that. Sebelius "came across as a hapless official, aloof from many operational decisions about the website." In her testimony, she expressed how surprised she was at the technical problems which have dominated public discussions about Obama's signature health law since its launch in early October. Sebelius pointed fingers at Terremark, part of Verizon Communications, as well as Marilyn B. Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for the website's malfunctions before taking the blame herself. "Hold me accountable for the debacle," she said. "I'm responsible." She admitted that testing of healthcare.gov began just two weeks before the site launched, and that there is still no data on how many Americans have been able to successfully enroll in health plans from the site.
U.S. News Launches Medicare Product
What's the best Medicare plan for you? Yesterday, the Heath Rankings team launched its latest health site, the U.S. News Best Medicare Plans, to help consumers navigate options when choosing a Medicare plan. The site evaluates all insurance companies and their plans offered by state. The site also directs consumers to helpful articles about such things as the difference between Medicare and Medigap, the hidden costs of Medicare, and how to pick specific plans such as Medicare Part D.
Pennsylvanian Governor on Path to Expand Medicaid
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has launched a campaign for his plan to push for the state to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor. Corbett's vision is to use Medicaid dollars to bring low-income individuals onto the health insurance exchange, where they could receive help in purchasing a plan of their choosing. His plan, called "Healthy Pennsylvania," is "not putting 500,000 more people into an entitlement program," Corbett explained. "It's putting them in a program where they are invested in the program, they are invested in their health care, in a way where a person in Medicaid may not have that same personal investment." Corbett's call to push low-income individuals onto the health exchange isn't new. Last month, the federal government approved an Arkansas plan to allow Medicaid beneficiaries to purchase health insurance on the exchange. However, the difference between the Arkansas plan and the proposed Pennsylvania plan are in the details. Among other things, Corbett wants to add a job training element, reports Kaiser Health News.
Insurance Companies turn to Mobile Apps for Wellness Programs
Large insurers have begun to jump into the mobile app market, using it to attract customers, while also providing them with tips on how to lead healthier lives, reports Kaiser Health News. Cigna has partnered with MyFitnessPal, a company with over 40 million users that helps people who want to stay fit or lose weight. Aetna has partnered with Get Active!, a program created by Shape Up, that offers users exercise and diet trackers. Users can also compete with one another in setting and meeting goals. In addition, Aetna also offers iTriage, an app that allows users to look up symptoms and search for doctors. And United Healthcare has teamed up with Novu, a tech company that has created a program that provides seniors with health evaluations and "LifeScores."
Major Insurers Cancel Policies to Meet ACA Requirements
Because the Affordable Care Act has changed the basic requirements of any insurance plan, many insurers are terminating plans that are not already in line with the new legislation. Only those with "grandfathered" plans may keep their existing coverage, but in time, those plans may also be done away with. According to the Miami Herald in conjunction with Kaiser Health News, Florida Blue, the largest insurer in the state, has sent 300,000 cancellation notices, but has 30,000 members who will be able to keep their "grandfathered" plans. However, the insurer will not be accepting new members to those plans. According to Julie Bataille, press director for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "there's nothing in the health care law that makes insurers force people out of plans that they were enrolled in before the law." But "the truth is that insurers are upgrading their plans" to meet requirements of the health law.