ACA Roundup: Consumers Flood State Health Insurance Exchanges

A roundup of the latest news about Obamacare.

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 Consumers Overwhelm Online Exchanges

On Tuesday, federal and state health insurance exchanges opened to the public and the computer glitches began. "In the last two days, 7 million Americans have visited HealthCare.gov to learn about their options," Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters told the Washington Post. "Experts are working around the clock and were able to expand system capacity somewhat overnight, cutting by one-third the volume of people waiting to apply," she continued. State exchanges, including Maryland, Washington and California, have also experienced computer glitches and site malfunctions as customers flooded the sites. Despite the glitches, the system crashes are a testament to just how much interest there is in signing up, particularly since the cut-off to enroll for coverage beginning January 1st is over two months away.

A Doctor's Predictions About the 'Obamacare Era'

The Affordable Care will fundamentally change aspects of modern medical practice. But NPR reports, from the perspective of one doctor, those changes will mostly be good. Welcome to the age of big data, where you may receive ads geared towards the types of medication you take or your health conditions. "Think Amazon or Netflix," the article suggests. And, as millions of people gain health insurance over the next four years, consumers can expect to see a rise in physicians assistants and nurse practitioners to take care of a rapidly growing patient population. WBut there will be costs, particularly to those who practice medicine. "The traditional doctor-patient relationship in which a single doctor gets to know you over years will become a luxury," and that is "the saddest aspect of all our changes" according to Dr. John Henning Schumann, a primary care doctor from Tulsa, Okla.

Survey: Health Insurers Turning to Mobile Solutions

According to a new survey released by PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute, the new health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act are already giving insurers and tech companies alike an opportunity for innovation, U.S. News reports. The survey, released in mid-September, found that 25 percent of insurers offering plans on the state-run marketplaces are entering the individual market for the first time, a sign that competition may be fierce (and premium prices low). But even those who have long-standing histories in the industry are tapping into new ways to attract that young, healthier, insurance-buying population. The survey reported that almost 90 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 said they would use social media tools for "health-related activities." As such, insurers are going mobile in order to target this group.

D.C. Medicaid Provider Payments Halted until Government Reopens

The government shutdown has closed national parks and furloughed thousands of federal workers, but it also has put a halt to payments for the District of Columbia's Medicaid providers. The program helps roughly 220,000 low-income and disabled residents pay for healthcare, reports the Wall Street Journal. That means that more than $89 million worth of monthly health payments and the weekly $23 million for doctors and providers has been put on hold. The city has encouraged providers to continue submitting claims as it plans to file payments when the government reopens, so the effect of the shutdown has not been felt just yet. But, according to Wayne Turnage, director of the District of Columbia Department of Health Care Finance, "it'll be cataclysmic if things go beyond two weeks."

Hospital Contributes $2 Million to Sign-Up Low-Income Adults for Insurance

Wisconsin is among the 26 states that opted not to expand their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. To help local residents, the University of Wisconsin Hospital is contributing $2 million to United Way of Dane Country to establish a program, called HealthConnect, that will pay for health plans purchased on the state's health insurance exchange. Some 7,300 adults with incomes between 100 and 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($11,490 to $15,281) will qualify, according to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.


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