ACA Roundup: Less Than a Day to Enroll for Jan. 2014 Coverage

The latest news about Obamacare.

Part of the HealthCare.gov website is photographed in Washington, on Nov. 29, 2013.
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Enroll Now for Jan. 2014 Coverage

If you're still looking for health coverage for January, it's time to narrow down your options. The official deadline to enroll for a health plan on state exchanges or through healthcare.gov, the federal exchange website, for coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2014, is today, Dec. 23. The 2014 open enrollment period lasts through March 31, 2014, at which point those who have not enrolled will be penalized (for 2014 the penalty for individuals is $95 or 1 percent of annual income, whichever is greater). Despite the approaching deadline, America's Health Insurance Plans, the national health insurance trade association, announced a payment extension for those who enroll by Dec. 23: Now, those who sign-up will have until Jan. 10, 2014 to pay their first month's premium bill. However, some state-run exchanges are pushing back the deadline to enroll altogether. Maryland Health Connection, Maryland's official state exchange, has announced that residents may enroll as late as Dec. 27, reports The Associated Press. In California, residents must pay the first premium bill by Jan. 6, reports The Los Angeles Times. Take a moment to explore the deadlines in your state

Obama Appoints Microsoft Exec. Kurt DelBene to Succeed Jeff Zients

Jeff Zients, known as President Obama's "Mr. Fix it," will be succeeded by Microsoft Executive Kurt DelBene as Zients prepares to transition into his new role as the Director of the National Economic Council. Endorsed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, DelBene will oversee improvements to healthcare.gov, the federal exchange website, for at least the first six months of 2014, reports Politico

Troubled Rollout of Cuidadodesalud.gov

There are over 10 million uninsured Latinos who are eligible for an Obamacare exchange plan, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, but technological setbacks may hinder their ability to sign-up. Cuidadodesalud.gov, the Spanish version of the federal exchange website, launched in early December after a two-month delay. According to a report from the global communications agency TogoRun, nine of the 17 state-based exchanges do not currently offer a Spanish version of their websites, and only 10 of 120 federally-funded navigator organizations offer a Spanish website or Spanish social-media presence.  "What's a 'premium'? What's 'cost-sharing'? What's a 'subsidy'? To not have this information in their primary language, that I think is disenfranchising," explains Jon Tilton, Senior Vice President of TogoRun. Despite these hurdles, a recent report from nonprofit Transamerica Center for Health Studies claims that 5 percent of Latinos enrolled in an exchange plan versus 1 percent of whites. The survey, conducted on Nov. 4-11, collected responses from 1,0005 individuals, 161 of them Latino. 

The Problem with Stand-Alone Dental Plans

10 essential health benefits define the Affordable Care Act. Unlike other essential health benefits though, pediatric dental care may be sold as a stand-alone or separate plan on the health insurance exchanges, making federal subsidies for them unavailable. Though all Americans are required to buy medical coverage for 2014 and beyond, no one is required to buy dental care for themselves or for their children, reports The New York Times. Tooth decay is the leading chronic disease amongst children, with 14 percent between the ages of 6 and 19 having untreated cavities. And according to the American Dental Association, only 25.2 percent of uninsured children saw a dentist in 2011, down from 31.5 percent in 2003.  The problem has created quite a stir amongst dentists and industry leaders alike. "Kids' dental shouldn't be the stepchild of plans the exchanges are offering," says Kathleen Hamilton, Director of governmental affairs at the Children's Partnership in Sacramento.

The 4.8 Million Americans Left Behind Despite Obamacare

In one of her latest blog posts, Washington Post reporter Sarah Kliff explores several recent Kaiser Family Foundation reports on the population left behind as a result of 23 states still opting not to expand their Medicaid programs. "Too poor to qualify for insurance subsidies" and "shut out of the traditional Medicaid program," what's left is a population of about 4.8 million who tend to be young, minority, single adults. Approximately half of them or 2.6 million have part-time or full-time jobs, and half of those jobs are in the agricultural industry. Of the total 4.8 million, 37 percent of them are between the ages of 35-54 years-old, but almost half of them (49 percent) are in either "excellent or very good" health. Kliff offers that as the "silver lining" of a situation which leaves a large population of Americans without the benefit of affordable healthcare in 2014.