ACA Roundup: Obama Apologizes for Cancelled Health Plans

A look at this week's news about the Affordable Care Act

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President Obama Apologizes for Cancelled Health Plans

In campaigning for the Affordable Care Act, President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that they would be able to keep their existing health insurance plans. But as large insurers continue to send hundreds of thousands of policy cancellation letters, many Americans who bought insurance through the private market are now left with little choice but to use the exchange, where comparable plans can be more expensive than what they had before. In an interview with NBC News on Nov. 7, President Obama apologized for making this promise. "I am sorry that they...are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," Mr. Obama said. "We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this." He did not offer any specific details about what help would be offered. About 5 percent of the population or approximately 15.4 million people have coverage through the private insurance market, reports The Wall Street Journal. According to experts, almost all of these policies will be terminated by the end of 2014 to comply with new rules set out by the Affordable Care Act. "Obviously, we didn't do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law," Mr. Obama said. Debates continue about whether to extend the 2014 open enrollment period as well as the 2014 penalty for not enrolling. 

Obama Administration Puts 2008 Mental Health Parity Law Into Effect

The Affordable Care Act requires all insurance companies, whether participating in the private market or on the exchanges, to cover 10 essential health benefits, including mental health and substance abuse coverage. On Nov. 8, the Obama administration announced that all insurers must require equal mental and medical health coverage, putting the 2008 Mental Health Parity law into effect. In reality, this means that any patient seeking mental or substance abuse treatment will have the same benefits structure as they would for medical or surgical expenses, reports The New York Times. The law does not apply to low-income patients on Medicaid or seniors on Medicare, however there is a push for these plans to meet the same parity requirements. The significance of the law goes beyond the Affordable Care Act. A recent rise in gun violence has led to a greater effort to provide those suffering from mental health issues with the ability to seek treatment. "If an individual poses a threat to himself or others, he cannot be told he will get the care he needs as soon as his insurance company decides what 'parity' means," explained Conn. Senator Richard Blumenthal. 

Reports from the U.S. News & World Report Hospital of Tomorrow Forum

Healthcare professionals met in Washington, D.C., Nov. 4-6 for the first U.S. News & World Report Hospital of Tomorrow forum at the Omni Shoreham Hotel to discuss the future of American hospitals and the healthcare industry. The conference offered a series of break-out sessions to address specific changes in the hospital industry, from "Solving the Staffing Dilemmas" and "Telemedicine's Expansive Potential" to "Inside the U.S. News Rankings" and "Fixing End-of-Life Care." Some panels, such as "Absorbing the Newly Insured," specifically focused upon how hospitals must adapt to the changes brought forth by the Affordable Care Act. For more information, including detailed reports from each break-out session, visit http://health.usnews.com/health-news/hospital-of-tomorrow

Low Enrollment Numbers from State Exchanges

Reports from 13 of the 15 states running their own health insurance exchanges show that only 139,170 people have enrolled, according to USA Today. Numbers from the federal exchange will be announced this week, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that enrollment numbers are expected to be "quite low." But according to Alan Weil, Executive Director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, it's too soon to predict the outcome of the 2014 open enrollment period. "It's pretty unusual for people to buy a product this far in advance of being able to use it," Weil explained. The major difference between those making accounts and those enrolling may be an indicator that more will sign up soon. Though some 139,000 people have enrolled in state exchanges, approximately 757,000 have created accounts. 


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