ACA Roundup: Enrollment Numbers Quadruple on Healthcare.gov

A roundup of the latest news about Obamacare.

Part of the HealthCare.gov website is photographed in Washington, on Nov. 29, 2013.
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Enrollment Numbers Quadruple on Healthcare.gov

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services released a report on Wednesday that almost 365,000 Americans have enrolled in a health plan on either the federal- or state-based exchanges, reports U.S. News. In October, 26,694 Americans enrolled through Healthcare.gov; in November, another 110,410 signed on. "More and more Americans are finding that quality, affordable coverage is within reach and that they'll no longer need to worry about barriers they may have faced in the past -- like being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius when the report was released. But insurers are continuing to face issues with incomplete, duplicate or inaccurate files sent from the federal exchange site, reports USA TODAY. According to HHS, as many as 1 in 4 applications could have contained errors before the website fixes in late November, and now, HHS says that 1 in 10 applications still may contain errors or be "orphans" -- applications filed by customers who think they've enrolled, but whose applications have not been received by HHS or an insurer. Effectively, there is no record of them on the back-end.

Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan in Effect through Jan. 2014

The Obama Administration has announced a one-month extension of an insurance program for Americans with pre-existing conditions, to ensure they have enough time to switch plans without temporarily losing coverage. Established in 2010, the $5 billion Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan was designed to cushion the shift to the exchanges. Customers now have until the end of January to purchase an exchange plan. The administration has also urged insurers to allow new customers with pre-existing conditions to begin coverage even before sending in their first premium check, or to make partial premium payments. Other recommendations include allowing those with expired health plans to fill prescriptions while they wait for their new coverage to take effect, reports The Washington Post.

Democrats Urge N.C. Governor to Expand Medicaid

On Dec. 9, the White House press office arranged a call for state Democrats to voice their frustrations about North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory's refusal to expand Medicaid, the federal program for the poor. In addition to excluding thousands of residents who would have qualified, McCrory's decision may also cost North Carolina $2.5 billion, according to a recent Common Wealth Fund report. In Durham alone, 61,000 residents who would have been eligible now can't enroll, reports U.S. News. "I know Gov. McCrory. I know he's a caring individual, but I think he's gone too far to the right on this," explained Durham Mayor Bill Bell. "Our residents are missing out on an opportunity here." 

Narrow Networks in California Exchange Plans

How have insurance companies kept premium prices low in the 2014 individual health insurance market? By slashing doctor and hospital networks, reports Kaiser Health News in conjunction with Capital Public Radio. Diana Shore, 62, wasn't fazed by a letter from Blue Shield of California explaining that her monthly premium was increasing a bit. But the shocker came in learning that the doctors whom she has been seeing for more 20 years and the San Francisco hospitals she's been receiving care in would no longer be in her plan's network. According to Blue Shield, the doctor network will be slashed in half and the hospital network will be trimmed by 75 percent in 2014. Patrick Johnston, president of the California Association of Health Plans, notes that the federal Affordable Care Act requires more benefits -- like free preventative care -- than most insurance plans have provided up until now. So, to keep health plans affordable for buyers on the individual market, one of the few cost variables to work with is doctor contracts.  “Transitioning might mean looking or having difficulty signing up exactly the same doctors,” he says.

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