Millions have already enrolled in 2015 health policies, deadline still 7 weeks off

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ACA health reform logoBy Julie Rovner
KHN

What a difference a year makes.

With its technical troubles largely behind it, healthcare.gov enrolled 1.9 million new customers for health insurance between Nov. 15 and Dec. 18.

At the same time, another 4.5 million existing policyholders either re-enrolled or were automatically renewed into their existing policy or a similar one beginning Jan. 1.

“We still have a ways to go and a lot of work before Feb. 15,” the deadline for open enrollment, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told reporters Tuesday. “But we do have an encouraging start.”

Burwell said of those who were re-enrolled, percentages “somewhere in the mid- to high-30s” logged into the system and either renewed their old plans or changed to a different one. The rest were automatically re-upped. Continue reading

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Oh no! Technical difficulties and you missed the signup deadline.

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What you can do if you weren’t able to meet the December 23 deadline for coverage starting January 1st because of technical problems?

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The Washington Health Benefit Exchange today announced guidance for residents who have made an effort to receive health coverage through www.wahealthplanfinder.org before the Dec. 23 deadline, but who were unable to complete their applications due to a technical error associated with the Washington Healthplanfinder system.

If a technical error kept you from signing up, you  will have a 60-day special enrollment opportunity through Feb. 23, 2015 to receive retroactive coverage that begins on Jan. 1.

These residents will have a 60-day special enrollment opportunity through Feb. 23, 2015 to receive retroactive coverage that begins on Jan. 1.

The retroactive option applies to applications started or submitted by 4:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 23. Individuals will have their insurance benefits retroactively configured to the start of the year. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – December 24th

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Global health news – December 24th

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FDA eases ban on blood donations from gay men | Reuters

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RedBloodCellsScientific evidence shows the move will not create risks for the nation’s blood supply, the FDA said. The policy change is expected to boost the supply of donated blood by hundreds of thousands of pints per year.

via FDA eases ban on blood donations from gay men | Reuters.

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Docs face cuts in Medicaid pay, but patients may pay the price

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ScissorsBy Phil Galewitz
KHN

Andy Pasternak, a family doctor in Reno, Nev., has seen more than 100 new Medicaid patients this year after the state expanded the insurance program under the Affordable Care Act.

But he won’t be taking any new ones after Dec. 31.  That’s when the law’s two-year pay raise for primary care doctors like him who see Medicaid patients expires, resulting in fee reductions of 43 percent on average across the country, according to the nonpartisan Urban Institute.

“We will lose money when they come to the office.“

I don’t want to do this,” Pasternak said about his refusal to see more Medicaid patients next year. But when the temporary pay raise goes away, he and other Nevada doctors will see their fees drop from $75 on average to less than $50 for routine office visits.

“We will lose money when they come to the office,” he said.

Experts fear other doctors will respond the same way as Pasternak, making it harder for millions of poor Americans to find doctors. The pay raise was intended to entice more physicians to treat patients as the program expanded in many states.

In the last year, Medicaid enrollment grew by almost 10 million and now covers more than 68 million people nationwide. 

The challenge is to convince physicians not just to continue accepting such patients but to take on more without getting paid what they’re used to, said Dr. J. Mario Molina, CEO of Molina Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest Medicaid insurers. Continue reading

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More than 6 million sign up for Obamacare so far – POLITICO

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ACA health reform logoThe pace puts HHS well on its way to its goal of having more than 9 million people covered in state and federal exchanges in 2015. The sign-up season ends Feb. 15.

Nearly 2 million of those 6,394,046 people were newcomers who were signing up for the first time through HealthCare.gov.

via HHS reports 6 million signups so far for Obamacare next year – Jennifer Haberkorn and Rachana Pradhan – POLITICO.

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Washington residents have ’til 5 p.m. to enroll on exchange for coverage starting January 1

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Washington Healthplanfinder Reminds Residents to Get Enrolled by 5 p.m. Today

Renewing Customers Must Also Take Action to Avoid a Gap in Coverage

 The Washington Health Benefit Exchange is reminding residents today to select and pay for a Qualified Health Plan through www.wahealthplanfinder.org by 5 p.m. for coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2015.

As of yesterday, more than 92,000 residents have enrolled for coverage that starts in 2015, with 22,710 of those customers enrolling for the first time in a Qualified Health Plan.

Interest surrounding the Dec. 23 deadline has been strong with approximately 30,000 calls to the Customer Support Center since Friday, Dec. 19. Nearly 7,000 customers enrolled in a Qualified Health Plan from Friday to Sunday alone.

“It’s critical that residents finalize their enrollment by 5 p.m. – including payment for their health plan – if they want their coverage to start on Jan. 1,” said Richard Onizuka, CEO for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. Continue reading

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Is your heart doctor out? If so, you may be better off.

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Heart monitor tracingBy Jordan Rau
KHN

If your cardiologist is away at a conference when you’re having a stabbing feeling in your chest, don’t fret. You may be more likely to live.

study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found frail patients admitted to teaching hospitals with two common types of heart problems were more likely to survive on days when national cardiology conferences were going on.

The researchers also discovered that heart-attack patients who were at higher risk of dying were less likely to undergo angioplasties when conferences were occurring, yet their mortality rates were the same as similar patients admitted at other times.

An angioplasty—in which a doctor unblocks an artery with an inflatable balloon inserted by a small tube—is one of the most common medical procedures for cardiac patients.

The conclusions about teaching hospitals surprised even the authors, who had begun their inquiry anticipating that death would be more common during cardiology meetings because hospital staffs were more short-handed than usual. Finding the opposite, the researchers speculated that for very weak patients, aggressive treatments may exceed the benefits. Continue reading

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Health news headlines – December 23rd

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EKG tracing

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Global health news – December 23rd

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Doctors In Massachusetts Now Required To Offer End-Of-Life Counseling | CommonHealth

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Map of BostonThe state will review whether hospitals are following the rule and compliance could become an issue in a facility’s licensing review. But the state is not focused on enforcement right now.

via Doctors In Massachusetts Now Required To Offer End-Of-Life Counseling | CommonHealth.

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Analysis finds no nationwide increase in health insurance Marketplace Premiums – The Commonwealth Fund

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ACA health reform logoA new analysis of costs for health plans offered through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces has good news for many people signing up in the second enrollment period: Nationwide, marketplace premiums for 2015 did not increase at all from 2014, though average premiums grew substantially in some states and fell in others.

The researchers also found that average premiums for the second-lowest-cost silver plan—the benchmark for calculating the federal subsidy in a given state—were unchanged.

Meanwhile, the average deductible for a marketplace plan increased 1 percent year to year.

Analysis Finds No Nationwide Increase in Health Insurance Marketplace Premiums – The Commonwealth Fund.

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Which Washington hospitals penalized for having high rates of medical mistakes?

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Kaiser Health News

Medicare is penalizing 721 hospitals with high rates of potentially avoidable mistakes that can harm patients, known as “hospital-acquired conditions” or HACs

Penalized hospitals will have their Medicare payments reduced by 1 percent over the fiscal year that runs from October 2014 through September 2015.

To determine penalties, Medicare evaluated three types of HACs.

  • One is central-line associated bloodstream infections, or CLABSIs.
  • The second is catheter-associated urinary tract infections, or CAUTIs.
  • The final one, Serious Complications, is based on eight types of injuries, including blood clots, bed sores and falls.

Here are the Washington state hospitals that are being penalized:

Cascade Valley Hospital Arlington WA Snohomish
Deaconess Medical Center Spokane WA Spokane
Harborview Medical Center Seattle WA King
Kadlec Regional Medical Center Richland WA Benton
Multicare Auburn Medical Center Auburn WA King
Multicare Good Samaritan Hospital Puyallup WA Pierce
Northwest Hospital & Medical Center Seattle WA King
Peacehealth St Joseph Medical Center Bellingham WA Whatcom
Providence Holy Family Hospital Spokane WA Spokane
Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center Spokane WA Spokane
Providence St Mary Medical Center Walla Walla WA Walla Walla
Swedish Medical Center – First Hill/Ballard Seattle WA King
Swedish Medical Center / Cherry Hill Seattle WA King
Trios Health Kennewick WA Benton
Valley Medical Center Renton WA King
Wenatchee Valley Hospital Wenatchee WA Chelan
Yakima Regional Medical And Cardiac Center Yakima WA Yakima

Please contact Kaiser Health News to send comments or ideas for future topics for the Insuring Your Health column.

khn_logo_lightKaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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