Healthcare Hits Hollywood
Funny or Die will release its first video surrounding the Affordable Care Act on Sept. 30th, the day before the exchanges open nationwide, the Los Angeles Times reports. In July, celebrities including Amy Poehler, Jason Derulo, Michael Cera, Jennifer Hudson and Mike Farah (the President of Production at Funny or Die) met with President Obama to discuss how to help the government reach its goal of 7 million enrollees in 2014. "The simplest way to put it was, they had spent all this time and energy and money on the biggest movie of their lives and had no marketing budget in which to promote it. I just thought that was the craziest thing I'd ever heard," Farah tells the LA Times. Farah's comedy website targets young adults, averaging 19 million unique users per month. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that young enrollees will represent over 40 percent of the targeted 7 million enrollees for 2014.
President Obama, President Clinton, Join Forces to Discuss Obamacare
President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton participated Wednesday in a televised conversation about health care and health insurance, offering details about premiums and taking on critics of Obamacare. "I can tell you right now that in many states across the country, if you're, say, a 27-year-old young woman, don't have health insurance, you get on that exchange, you're going to be able to purchase high-quality health insurance for less than the cost of your cell phone bill," Obama at the health care forum in New York. "There were many people who speculated that when this law came into place, that it would add to the cost, and there would be a lot more part-time workers instead of full-time workers," Clinton said. "I'll save the president some time and energy on this: So far, that's not true."
HHS Releases First Look at Insurance Premiums in Federal Exchange
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its first official report on premium rates for the 36 states being run by the federal exchange. Though the report did not release the names of insurers, it showed how rates would be much lower than initially expected. On average, the federally-facilitated state exchanges will offer 53 qualified health plans. However, the report did not account for every plan being offered, but rather highlighted the lowest cost plans that will be available. Criticism of the report has come from both sides. David Axene, a health care consultant and fellow of the Society of Actuaries, the North American organization for professionals analyzing financial risk, said that the report "doesn't give a complete story as to what the customer's going to be seeing."
Lower Cost and Less Choice?
According to a recent article in the New York Times, reporter Robert Pear provides a rationale behind how exchange plans have been made more affordable. Though many may be able to afford coverage through the exchange, many insurers have decreased network coverage to bring down the price of premiums. Consumers should beware that big and small insurers alike are cutting down network sizes to lower prices. Joseph Mondy, speaking on behalf of Cigna, explained how "networks wills be narrower than the networks typically offered to large groups of employees in the commercial market." According to Juan Carlos Davila, an executive vice president of Blue Shield of California, its physician network has been cut by 53 percent and its hospital size to 78 percent of its commercial network. In other words, those buying Blue Shield coverage in California will be limited to 30,000 doctors as opposed to 57,000 and will only be able to choose among 235 hospitals instead of the 302 available.
8 People Who Will be Affected by the ACA
A team of health journalists from the Washington Post profiled the stories of eight Americans who are trying to figure out how the new healthcare law could work for them. Some, like Arianna Griffin from Silver Spring, Md., are concerned about not being able to afford an insurance plan, having a salary just several thousand dollars above the federal cut-off for subsidies. Others like Irwin Hoenig, a self-employed 63 year old, has not bothered with health insurance since 1997 and plans to pay the penalty. The profiles also include people whose lives will be positively affected by the health care law, like 51-year-old Emilia Rosa of Takoma Park, Md., who earns less than $22,000 a year cleaning houses but would be eligible for a subsidy to defray her health insurance costs.
D.C. Health Link Issues
Starting on Oct. 1st, Americans will be able to peruse insurance plans from the comfort of their couches. But in the capitol, a technical problem with the DC Health Link exchange website will make the process of enrolling online a bit more complicated. On Tuesday, DC Health Link announced that though residents will be able to purchase insurance plans during October, the system will not be able to calculate subsidy amounts, the Washington Post reported. Those who are between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line are eligible to receive these tax credits to help pay for their monthly insurance premiums. If you live in Washington, D.C., and are signing up in October, beware that subsidies will be calculated "off-line by experts" and mailed in early November.
Report: Consumers May be Overwhelmed by Too Many Choices
According to a report released from the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, consumers will have an average of 53 qualified health plans to chose from on the exchange, which may make people feel overwhelmed by the choices. "Now people have options that they've never had before," Douglas Hough, an associate scientist at John Hopkins School of Public Health, tells U.S. News & World Report. Faced with too much choice, Hough suggests that consumers may be drawn to well-known insurers or in some cases, decide against purchasing insurance altogether. Other consumers may balk at paying money every month for a service that they don't use all the time. "You don't want them to have to write a check every month. That just brings out, 'I keep paying this health insurance, and I'm not getting anything from it," he explains. The scientist suggests the solution may be in direct deposit payments, a strategy that would mimic how employers pay for employee insurance by deducting it from their paychecks.
Online Sign-Up Delayed for Small Businesses
The Obama administration said on Thursday that small business owners who want to buy coverage for their employees via specially designed online markets will have to wait until "sometime in November," the Associated Press reported. They will still be able to start shopping when the marketplaces open on Oct. 1, and will still be able to get coverage for their employees by Jan. 1. Another glitch will affect Spanish-speaking consumers: The government told Hispanic groups on Wednesday that the Spanish-language version of the healthcare.gov site will not be ready for a few more weeks.