Rate Increases for 2017 Medical Insurance Plans

There will be a significant rate increase for 2017 plans. The reasons given are the end of funding that was available in the first three years to offset rates, the rise in specialty medication and claims from those who enroll during Special Enrollment Periods.

In regard to the specialty medication, sometimes pharmaceutical companies are raising prices of medications when the need for a medication increases. Newer specialty medications can approach $100,000 per course of treatment and/or per year.

Below is the press release from Covered California on July 19, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California unveiled its rates for 2017 on Tuesday and announced that some health insurance plans will be expanding into new areas throughout the state to compete for consumers in California.

The statewide weighted average change will be 13.2 percent, up from approximately four percent in each of the last two years. However, most consumers will see a much smaller increase — or pay less next year — if they switch to another plan.

“Shopping is going to be more important this year than ever before,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “Almost 80 percent of our consumers will either be able to pay less than they are paying now, or see their rates go up by no more than 5 percent, if they shop and buy the lowest-cost plan at their same benefit level. That’s the power of shopping.”

Lee said the opportunities to shop and save show that California has succeeded in building a competitive marketplace for health insurance, with rate increases that are still below trends in the individual market before the Affordable Care Act was passed.

“This is a new era of health care, where the consumer is in the driver’s seat with the power to look easily for a better deal, and where subsidies help absorb the impact of rate changes,” Lee said. “These options did not exist before the Affordable Care Act.”

Some consumers who choose to keep their plan will see a significant increase in their premium for 2017, while others will see a more modest increase, depending on where they live and what insurance plan they have. Consumers will begin receiving notices in October, when they will have an opportunity to review their new rates and change plans for their 2017 health coverage.

For many of those insured, the bulk of the premium increase will be absorbed by the subsidy paid by the government to help enrollees buy health insurance. Approximately 90 percent of Covered California enrollees get help to pay for their premiums. The average subsidy covers roughly 77 percent of the consumer’s monthly premium, and while premiums will rise, the subsidies will rise as well.

“Even though the average rate increase is larger this year than the last two years, the three-year average increase is 7 percent — substantially better than rate trends before the Affordable Care Act was enacted,” Lee said.

Lee said the average rate increase reflects the cost of medical care for consumers, not excessive profit.

“Under the new rules of the Affordable Care Act, insurers face strict limits on the amount of profit they can make selling health insurance,” Lee said. “So, while all plans are experiencing different cost pressures, we can be confident their rate increases are directly linked to health care costs, not administration or profit, which averaged 1.5 percent across our contracted plans.”

For consumers who get a tax credit to lower their costs — which is about 90 percent of those who sign up through Covered California — the amount they pay is impacted not only by the premium choice, but by changes in their tax credit. While the average rate increase is higher than past years, Covered California’s risk mix — the ratio of consumers who are healthy vs. sick — remains one of the best in the nation according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Programs-and-Initiatives/Premium-Stabilization-Programs/index.html).

Other reasons for rate increases include:
A one-year adjustment due to the end of a funding mechanism in the Affordable Care Act known as reinsurance, which was designed to moderate rate increases during the first three years when exchanges were being established. The American Academy of Actuaries estimates this will add between 4 percent and 7 percent to premiums for 2017.
Special enrollment by some consumers who may be enrolling in health insurance only after they become sick or need care, which seems to have had a significant impact on rates for two insurance plans.
The rising cost of health care, especially specialty drugs.
Pent-up demand for health care now being accessed by those who were locked out of the health care system before the Affordable Care Act was enacted.
Lee said Covered California is working to address some of these issues on multiple fronts. The exchange is aggressively marketing to attract healthy consumers year-round, and it is working to ensure special enrollment is available only to those who meet qualifying circumstances. It is also sampling the special enrollment population to better understand how to make any further improvements needed.

“We work hard to build a robust exchange that drives competition by attracting as many consumers as possible,” Lee said. “Now, consistent with the vision of the Affordable Care Act, we will redouble our efforts to make sure our consumers and potential consumers understand the importance of signing up during open enrollment and remaining covered throughout the year.”

Lee said Covered California’s 11 health insurers are competing across the state for its 1.4 million members.

“The sheer number of enrollees and their overall health means consumers in the individual market are benefiting from competition,” Lee said.

Below is the complete list of the companies selected for the 2017 exchange:
Anthem Blue Cross of California
Blue Shield of California
Chinese Community Health Plan
Health Net
Kaiser Permanente
L.A. Care Health Plan
Molina Healthcare
Oscar Health Plan of California
Sharp Health Plan
Valley Health Plan
Western Health Advantage
Rate details by pricing regions can be found in “Covered California’s Health Insurance Companies and Plan Rates for 2017,” posted online at:http://coveredca.com/news/pdfs/CoveredCA-2017-rate-booklet.pdf

The preliminary rates are subject to a 60-day public comment period and regulatory review by the California Department of Managed Health Care. In addition, the California Department of Insurance will review Health Net’s EPO.

Some insurance carriers will be increasing their coverage areas in 2017:
Oscar will be entering the market in San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
Molina will expand into Orange County.
Kaiser will be available in Santa Cruz County.
With the expansion of its current carriers, almost all consumers (92.6 percent) will be able to choose from three or more carriers, and all will have at least two to select from.

In addition, more than 93 percent of hospitals in California will be available through at least one Covered California health insurance company in 2017, and 74 percent will be available in three or more plans.

Covered California also is improving its patient-centered benefit designs by increasing a consumer’s access to care by reducing the number of services that are subject to a consumer’s deductible.

Starting in 2017, consumers in Silver 70 plans will save as much as $55 on an urgent care visit and $10 on a primary care visit. In addition, consumers in Silver, Gold and Platinum plans will pay a flat copay for emergency room visits without having to satisfy a deductible, which could save them thousands of dollars.

These improvements build on features already in place that ensure most outpatient services in Silver, Gold and Platinum plans are not subject to a deductible, including primary care visits, specialist visits, lab tests, X-rays and imaging. In addition, some Enhanced Silver plans have little or no deductible and very low copays, such as $3 for an office visit. Even consumers in Covered California’s most affordable Bronze plans are allowed to see their doctor or a specialist three times before the visits are subject to the deductible.

In addition, the contract with health insurers for 2017 ensures consumers select or are provisionally assigned a primary care physician within 60 days of effectuation so they have an established source of care.

“Health care reform isn’t just about making insurance affordable, it’s about doing things to make it easier for consumers to get the right care at the right time,” Lee said.

In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that California’s uninsured rate had fallen to 8.1 percent at the end of 2015, down from 17 percent at the end of 2013, right before the Affordable Care Act began offering coverage.

“We can all be very proud of the extraordinary gains we have made in reducing California’s uninsured rate to a historic low,” Lee said.

About Covered California
Covered California is the state’s marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Covered California, in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services, helps individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance that is available on a sliding-scale basis to reduce insurance costs or whether they are eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Small businesses can purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the new market work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the Governor and the Legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.

This article is from the Los Angeles Times date July 20, 2016

California Obamacare rates to jump

Premiums are set to go up an average of 13.2% next year. Rising medical costs are one reason, officials say.

BY MELODY PETERSEN AND NOAM N. LEVEY

Premiums for Californians’ Obamacare health coverage will rise an average of 13.2% next year — more than three times the increase of the last two years and a jump that is bound to stir debate in an election year.

The big increases come after two years in which California officials had boasted that the program helped insure hundreds of thousands people in the state while keeping costs moderately in check.

Premiums in the insurance program called Covered California rose just 4% in 2016 after rising 4.2% in 2015 — the first year that exchange officials negotiated with insurers. The program insures 1.4 million Californians.

On Tuesday, officials blamed next year’s premium hikes in the program on rising costs of medical care, including expensive specialty drugs and the end of a mechanism that held down rates for the first three years of Obamacare.

Two of the state’s biggest insurers — Blue Shield of California and Anthem Inc. — asked for the biggest hikes. Blue Shield’s premiums will jump an average of more than 19%, according to officials, and Anthem’s rates will rise more than 16%.

For consumers, the effect will depend on whether they get taxpayer-supported subsidies for their premiums and whether they are willing to switch to less-expensive plans that may come with higher co-pays and deductibles. Changing plans could also mean a new network of physicians, which could be disruptive to care for those with chronic conditions.

The rates vary significantly by region and insurer. Los Angeles and the rest of southwest Los Angeles County will see an average increase of almost 14%.

Blue Shield’s preferred provider organization rate in Los Angeles, chosen by 21% of those using the exchange, is increasing by an average of 19.5%. For a 40-year-old single person making $17,820 to $23,760, choosing a silver level plan, the monthly rate currently is $122, while the government pays Blue Shield $196. Next year that same person would pay $170, while the government would chip in $211 a month.

“We’re paying more for less,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog in Santa Monica. “Insurers are limiting access to doctors and hospitals while also demanding a higher price.”

Horacio Chavez, 34, of Boyle Heights said he made less than $25,000 last year as an education coordinator at a youth center. He currently pays a $100 premium for a Covered California plan that he uses for an annual checkup and a safety net in case of emergencies.

“I do want healthcare — I want the peace of mind that if anything happens to me that there’s some kind of coverage,” Chavez said. But “a 13% hike … that’s going to affect people.”

He said he’s already barely making ends meet trying to pay his rent, student loans from the University of Chicago, car payments and his health insurance premium.

“I’m already living check to check,” Chavez said.

Covered California officials defended the system Tuesday, saying that the competition among insurers offering coverage on the exchange was working to keep rates lower than they otherwise would be.

“California has a very competitive marketplace,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.

Obamacare has significantly reduced the number of uninsured Californians. Since the state’s health insurance exchange began offering coverage in 2014, the share of Californians without health insurance has fallen from 17% at the end of 2013 to 8.1% at the end of last year, according to officials.

Rates are expected to jump in other states too, although complete details won’t be available until later this year.

An analysis of 14 metro areas that have already announced their 2017 premiums found an average jump of 11%. The changes ranged from a decrease of 14% in Providence, R.I., to an increase of 26% in Portland, Ore., according to the analysis by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

The federal healthcare-  .gov   exchange provides insurance under the Affordable Care Act in 38 states. California and a few other states operate their own exchanges.

Around the country, several insurers, including giant UnitedHealth, have stopped selling health plans on the exchanges, and a number of new nonprofit health insurance co-ops have gone out of business.

Those decisions have fueled charges from the law’s critics that Obamacare isn’t working.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is pushing a number of specific steps to ease price pressure on consumers, including allowing Americans ages 55 to 64 to buy into Medicare.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has argued the health law should be repealed.

The health law’s next enrollment period begins a week before election day.

The state and federal health insurance exchanges provide coverage to about 12 million people nationally, representing just a fraction of the nation’s total insurance market. The vast majority of Americans — more than 250 million people — are in health plans purchased through an employer or provided by a government plan such as Medicare or Medicaid.

But the exchanges are a pillar of the Affordable Care Act’s program for guaranteeing Americans’ insurance coverage. And monthly premiums have become a closely watched barometer of how the law is performing.

Covered California’s Lee told the House Ways and Means Committee on July 12 that 2017 would be “a transitional year” for Obamacare, with rates seeing “significant adjustments” across the nation.

He said one reason for the increase was the end of a program designed to keep rates down during the insurance exchange’s first three years. The program had assessed a fee on all health insurers and then redistributed those funds among carriers whose members had the highest medical expenses, Lee said.

Lee added that some insurers had also not charged enough in the first two years because they didn’t have full data on the medical costs or health status of those signing up. Now they’re adjusting to account for those higher costs.

Mia Campitelli, a Blue Shield spokeswoman, said Tuesday that the insurer’s average 19.9% premium increase was “driven by our members using more healthcare services than we expected,” as well as the phaseout of the federal mechanism that had kept rates down in the law’s early years.

Anthem spokesman Darrel Ng said: “Factors such as increased use of medical services and added costs of drugs and medical therapies put upward pressure on rates and underscore the additional work that needs to be done to moderate the growth in healthcare costs.”

The financial pain for most Californians getting insurance through the exchange will be muted because 90% get taxpayer assistance to cover the premiums.

Americans making less than four times the federal poverty level — about $47,000 for a single adult or $97,000 for a family of four — qualify for the assistance.

Nonetheless, Americans who make too much to qualify for subsidies are likely to feel the brunt of the higher premiums. That will probably increase pressure on the new president — Democrat or Republican — to review the exchanges in 2017 for ways to make health plans more affordable.

A year ago, Lee wrote an op-ed in The Times saying that Covered California’s power in negotiating with insurers was allowing Obamacare to work in the state.

“We now have the full picture in California, where we are proving that health insurance exchanges can keep prices in check,” he wrote.

Though the Affordable Care Act has improved care for millions of Americans — for example, insurance companies can no longer set lifetime limits on care or exclude anyone because of a preexisting condition — the 6-year-old law contains few controls on overall costs.

Spending on the country’s medical system averages more than $10,000 for every American, according to statistics released by the Obama administration this month, far higher than any other nation. melody.petersen

@ latimes.com   noam.levey@latimes.com   Times staff writer Soumya Karlamangla contributed to this report.

RICH PEDRONCELLI Associated Press

“CALIFORNIA has a very competitive marketplace,” said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. Above, Lee discusses the program last year.

Costs top healthcare concerns

This article from the Los Angeles Times, dated June 11, 2016 indicates that the cost of healthcare is a primary concern for our country. It also indicates that there is much confusion regarding Obamacare.

In my opinion the cost of healthcare will decrease significantly when physicians understand nutrition, exercise and psychological well being and will be able to effectively communicate this to patients. Everyone must be responsible for incorporating this in their lives.

USC DORNSIFE/LOS ANGELES TIMES POLL
Costs top healthcare concerns
A poll finds state residents more worried about rising prices than access.
BY DAVID LAUTER
WASHINGTON — Six years after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, the health reform law has gained acceptance from a majority of California voters, but the cost of getting healthcare remains a major concern, eclipsing worries about having insurance, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll.

The widespread worry about costs indicates a potential shift in the debate over healthcare, at least in this heavily Democratic state.

Nationally, the political debate has been stuck for most of the last six years on Republican efforts to block Obamacare, but that gridlock could lessen after the election.

In both parties, lawmakers increasingly have been hearing complaints from their constituents about the cost of care, and polls have found that prescription drug prices, surprise medical bills and other pocketbook issues concern voters more than the future of the health law.

Echoing that national trend, almost two-thirds of voters in the USC/Times survey say they worry “very much” about rising health costs, with only 10% saying that is not something they worry about.

Just slightly more than half say that lack of insurance is something they worry about a lot, and roughly three in 10 say they were not worried about it.

Latinos, however, were an exception, reporting equal levels of unease about cost and having insurance — three-quarters said they were very worried about each.

Cost concerns were most widespread among those in their 50s and early 60s. Indeed, that age group consistently showed the highest levels of anxiety on a series of healthcare concerns.

By contrast, those over age 65, most of whom are covered by Medicare, were the least likely to express worry about healthcare issues.

For a significant number of voters, the healthcare law itself takes blame for rising costs. Just over half of those surveyed said they believed that costs for average Americans have “gone up a lot” because of the law, compared with roughly one-third who said that the law had not caused that to happen.

As with many aspects of the healthcare debate, partisanship plays a big role in shaping beliefs about rising costs: Republicans by overwhelming margins blame the law, while Democrats were split closely on whether it’s responsible.

Most Americans have been forced to confront increased costs for health coverage for years — a trend that began long before the passage of the reform law.

Employers have continued to shift costs to their workers, mostly in the form of higher deductibles and co-payments. Although those higher costs may not have been caused by the new law, many blame it.

The law clearly has raised costs for one relatively small slice of Americans — mostly healthy, self-employed people with middle-class or higher incomes who were previously able to buy low-cost policies on the private market.

The new law requires those people to buy more comprehensive policies, which provide greater coverage, but at a higher price. Covering sicker customers who used to be denied insurance has also led insurers to raise some premiums.

Low- and middle-income Americans get subsidies under the law that lower their monthly premiums, but higher-income Americans do not.

More than three-quarters of California voters acknowledge the biggest effect the law has had — reducing the number of Americans who lack health coverage. By 77% to 15%, voters said that the law had achieved that goal.

Since the new law’s coverage expansion began in 2014, some 20 million previously uninsured Americans have gained coverage, and the share of American adults under age 65 who are uninsured has dropped from one in five to about one in eight, according to numerous private and government surveys.

But on that point, too, partisanship colors perceptions. Among Republicans, 28% in the current survey said that the new law had not led to more people having insurance. Among Republicans who identify with the tea party, 48% took that view, compared with 31% who said the law had reduced the number of uninsured.

The public’s view remains split on another of the law’s major accomplishments, as well — ending the ability of insurers to deny health coverage because of preexisting health conditions. The poll found 59% of voters saying that coverage could no longer be denied, while 21% said that had not happened.

On that question, the division did not appear primarily partisan. Instead, some of the groups whom the new law was designed to help most appeared least aware of one of its central elements.

Latinos, those younger than 30 and people with incomes under $30,000 were all less aware of the change regarding preexisting health conditions than whites and those who were older or more affluent. Among Latinos, for example, though 48% said the law had accomplished that goal, 30% said it had not.

That lack of awareness of one of the law’s main achievements marks a “messaging failure” by the law’s supporters, said Anna Greenberg, the Democratic pollster whose firm forms half of the bipartisan team that produced the survey for USC and The Times.

The White House and its allies have struggled at times to convey a message about the law, in part because for many Americans, it remains an abstraction.

Just over half of those surveyed said the law had no effect on themselves or their families. That’s by design: The law was written to cover the uninsured while minimizing the effect on people who get coverage through their jobs, as most working-age Americans do.

That has cost Obama politically. The views that most Americans have of the law have been shaped less by direct experience than by partisanship, according to Drew Altman, the president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has carefully tracked opinion about the health law.

Only about four in 10 of those who supported the law in the poll also said it had made their own families’ healthcare better.

Overall, 53% of the state’s voters favor the law, with 31% favoring it strongly. An additional 12% said they opposed it because it did not go far enough, while 27% said they opposed it because it went too far.

Those who said the law did not go far enough do not consistently back liberal views on how to replace it.

Only 40%, for example, supported a single-payer system — the sort of healthcare solution advocated by Sen. Bernie Sanders in his campaign for president.

By contrast, those who support the law backed the single-payer idea 69% to10%. Overall, just over half of the state’s voters supported it, with about one-quarter opposed.

The state’s voters divided evenly on the question of whether to repeal the law’s requirement that people have insurance.

Opinion on that question split along predictable partisan lines with one significant exception — Latinos, who generally back the law, also supported repeal of the mandate, by 57%-37%.

Most California voters have a positive view of their own healthcare and a somewhat positive view of healthcare in the state, the poll found. Seven in 10 rated their own healthcare as “excellent” or “good” while just under three in 10 called their care “fair” or “poor.”

Ratings were highest among those earning more than $100,000 a year and among those aged 65 and older, which reflects the generally positive view that Americans have of Medicare.

Asked about the state of healthcare in California, 44% called it excellent or good, while 34% said fair and 14% poor.

Ratings were gloomier about healthcare nationwide, with only 30% calling it either excellent or good, 39% fair and 25% poor.

The poll for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles Times was conducted jointly by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and the Republican firm American Viewpoint. It questioned 1,500 registered California voters from May 19-31. The margin of sampling error is 2.9 points in either direction for the full sample. david.lauter

@ latimes.com  .
DAVID BUTOW For The Times

 

Strengthening the Marketplace – Actions to Improve the Risk Pool

Below are recommendations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The goal is to improve the risk pool and therefore rates and benefits for Affordable Care Act Plans.

It is noteworthy to read the information on Short Term Medical Plans below which might cause discontinuation of these plans.

Date

2016-06-08

Title

Strengthening the Marketplace – Actions to Improve the Risk Pool

Contact

press@cms.hhs.gov

Strengthening the Marketplace – Actions to Improve the Risk Pool

With millions of Americans insured through the Health Insurance Marketplaces, it’s clear that Marketplace coverage is a product consumers want and need and an important business for insurers, with several major issuers expanding their Marketplace presence.  At the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we are constantly monitoring the health of the Marketplace and are always looking to make improvements that benefit both consumers and issuers. Over the past several months, HHS has taken a series of actions to strengthen the Marketplace risk pool, limit upward pressure on rates, and ensure a strong Marketplace for the long term. We believe those actions are bringing positive results. As part of our continued commitment to the long-term strength of the Marketplace, we are announcing new measures to ensure that the Marketplace continues to provide affordable coverage for millions of Americans.

During the month of June, HHS will make three announcements regarding our ongoing efforts to: strengthen the risk pool by spreading the costs of care over a diverse mix of enrollees, work with issuers and state Departments of Insurance to improve coverage options, and step up Marketplace outreach, especially to young adults and uninsured families in advance of Open Enrollment 4.

Today, HHS is announcing a series of actions to strengthen the Marketplace risk pool. These actions include:

·         Curbing abuses of short-term plans that exploit gaps in current rules to use medical underwriting to keep some of the healthiest consumers out of the Affordable Care Act’s single risk pool.

·         Improving the risk adjustment program to more accurately reflect the cost of partial-year enrollees and to incorporate prescription drug utilization data that provide a more complete picture of enrollees’ health status. These improvements will ensure that the program continues to work as intended to compensate issuers with higher-risk enrollees and thereby help issuers sustainably serve all types of consumers.

·         Helping consumers who turn 65 make the transition to Medicare, so that older consumers are served by the program designed for them and their health needs.

·         Beginning full implementation of the Special Enrollment Confirmation Process, which ensures that eligible individuals continue to have access to coverage through Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs), but prevents people from misusing the system to enroll in coverage only if they get sick.

·         Continuing our efforts to reduce data-matching issues (DMIs). CMS outreach, education, and operational improvements have contributed to a sharp reduction in total data matching issues generated and an almost 40 percent year-over-year increase in documents submitted to help resolve income and citizenship and immigration data matching issues. Improving the resolution of DMIs benefits the risk pool because it keeps eligible consumers, often younger and healthier consumers less motivated to overcome obstacles such as extra paperwork, from losing coverage mid-year.

Risk Pool Actions

Curbing Abuse of Short-Term Limited Duration Plans
Short-term limited duration coverage is health care coverage issued for a short period of time.  Because short-term limited duration plans are designed to fill only very short coverage gaps, this coverage is not subject to any of the key rules governing the ACA’s single risk pool: they can be priced based on health status (medically underwritten), can discriminate against consumers with pre-existing conditions, and do not have to cover essential health benefits.  Some issuers are now offering short-term limited duration plans to consumers as their primary form of health coverage for periods that last nearly 12 months, allowing them to target only the healthiest consumers while avoiding consumer protections. As highlighted in recent press accounts, by keeping these consumers out of the ACA single risk pool, such abuses of limited duration coverage increase costs for everyone else, and they could have a greater impact over time if allowed to become more widespread.

Today, the Department of Labor, Department of Treasury, and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule to revise the definition of short-term, limited duration coverage.  Under the new rules, short-term policies may be offered only for less than three months, and coverage cannot be renewed at the end of the three month period. The proposed rule also improves transparency for consumers by requiring issuers to provide notice to consumers that the coverage is not minimum essential coverage, does not satisfy the health coverage requirement of the ACA, and will not prevent the consumer from owing a tax penalty. The proposed changes will help strengthen the risk pool by ensuring that short term limited duration plans are used only as intended, to fill truly temporary gaps in coverage.

Maturing the Risk Adjustment Program
By reducing incentives for issuers to try to design products that attract a disproportionately healthy risk pool, risk adjustment lets them design products that meet the needs of all consumers, protecting consumers’ access to a range of robust options.  Updating risk adjustment to more accurately assess every enrollee’s risk makes it more effective in achieving this goal. Earlier this year, CMS made a number of changes to improve the stability, predictability, and accuracy of the risk adjustment program for issuers. These changes include better modeling of costs for preventive services, changes to the data update schedule, and earlier reporting of preliminary risk adjustment data where available.  We also published a Risk Adjustment White Paper and hosted a conference on March 31, 2016 to solicit feedback from issuers, consumers, and other stakeholders on additional areas for improvement.

Building off the Risk Adjustment White Paper and stakeholder feedback, today we are announcing two additional important changes to risk adjustment that we intend to propose in future rulemaking. First, we intend to propose that, beginning for the 2017 benefit year, the risk adjustment model include an adjustment factor for partial-year enrollees.  By more accurately accounting for the costs of short term enrollees in ACA-compliant risk pool, this change will support the Marketplace’s important role as a source of coverage for people who are between jobs, experiencing life transitions, or otherwise need coverage for part of the year.  Second, we intend to propose that, beginning for the 2018 benefit year, prescription drug utilization data be incorporated in risk adjustment, as a source of information about individuals’ health status and the severity of their conditions.  We are also considering proposing additional changes to the model for 2018 and beyond.

Transitioning Consumers to Medicare
The Marketplace serves as an essential backstop for consumers as they transition between different types of coverage over their lifetime.  For example, many early retirees access Marketplace coverage until they become eligible for Medicare when they turn 65.  But once individuals turn 65, most people should end their Marketplace coverage and switch to Medicare.  In fact, if consumers do not enroll in Medicare Part B when they turn 65, they could face financial consequences for years into the future, because they could owe higher Medicare premiums.  Meanwhile, the Marketplace is intended to serve consumers who are not Medicare eligible, and continued enrollment by individuals who are eligible for Medicare can raise costs for other consumers.

To make sure consumers understand the steps they need to take to move to Medicare, this summer the Marketplace will start contacting enrollees as they near their 65th birthday. This outreach will provide consumers with the information they need to enroll in Medicare if they are eligible and end their Marketplace coverage if they choose to.   This builds off the changes we made to the HealthCare.gov application this year which included new pop ups with reminders for consumers who are about to turn 65 that they may be eligible for Medicare.

Implementing the Special Enrollment Confirmation Process
Over the last several months, the Marketplace has taken a number of steps to ensure that Special Enrollment Periods (SEPs) are there for consumers when they need them while avoiding misuse or abuse.  We’ve strengthened our rulesand clarified our processes for SEPs, so that the people who need to can still easily get coverage, while making it hard for anyone thinking about taking advantage. We also eliminated 7 SEPs, including the SEP for individuals who paid the tax penalty for not having health insurance, contributing to an almost 30 percent year-over-year drop in the number of SEP enrollments during the three months after Open Enrollment.

Continuing that work, today we are announcing that, consistent with the process we announced in February, starting June 17 individuals enrolling in coverage through Special Enrollment Periods will be asked to provide certain documents. We are also providing models of the eligibility notices that consumers will receive with the list of documents that people enrolling through a Special Enrollment Period will need to prove their eligibility for their SEP. Consumers should provide the appropriate documents by the deadline listed in their notice to confirm eligibility for a Special Enrollment Period to avoid any disruptions to their coverage.

Reducing the Impact of Data Matching Issues
CMS takes very seriously its obligation to ensure that access to coverage and financial assistance are limited to those individuals who are indeed eligible.  The Marketplace verifies eligibility for most consumers through electronic trusted data sources, but if consumers’ data cannot be matched electronically we generate a data matching issue to request additional information from enrollees.  Consumers who do not provide the necessary information will have their coverage or financial assistance ended or modified.

Unfortunately, eligible individuals sometimes lose coverage or financial assistance through the Marketplace during the year because they have trouble finding documents or navigating the data matching process. In addition to the direct impact on consumers, avoidable terminations due to data-matching issues also negatively impact the risk pool, since younger, healthier individuals appear to be less likely to persevere through the data matching process. In fact, in 2015, younger open enrollment consumers who experienced a data matching issue were about a quarter less likely to resolve their problem than older consumers.

This year, CMS made a range of improvements to the data matching process to help consumers avoid generating data matching issues in the first place and to help them resolve these issues once generated.  More recently, we have also intensified our outreach, and partnered with issuers so that they are reaching out to consumers about data-matching issues as well. These efforts are beginning to pay off, with a sharp reduction in total data-matching issues generated and an almost 40 percent year-over-year increase in the number of documents consumers have submitted to resolve these issues. Continued progress in this area should benefit both directly affected consumers and other consumers who will benefit from a stronger risk pool.

 

Roberts again shows independent streak

COLLAPSE MENU
PRINT
EMAIL
TEXT SIZE
SAVE
ZOOM IN
ZOOM OUT
HELP
SHARE
PRINTED VIEW
TRANSLATE
AUDIO
This article from the Los Angeles Times dated June 26, 2015 is a follow up to the Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

WASHINGTON — Since becoming chief justice 10 years ago, John G. Roberts Jr. has been determined to show that the court he leads is made up of impartial jurists, not politicians in robes.   In the phrase he used at his confirmation hearings, each justice is “like an umpire” at a baseball game — not favoring one team over the other.   On Thursday, Roberts showed again his willingness to brush aside partisan politics and forge a middle ground on some of nation’s most divisive issues, writing a 6-3 decision that upheld the broad reach of President Obama’s healthcare law.   It was the second time in three years that Roberts had led the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama-care. The decision surprised and disappointed some of the conservatives who had once hailed his appointment.   “We might as well call the law … RobertsCare,” said Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank in Washington.   When Roberts spoke of being an umpire, “a lot of people on the left sneered,” said Neal Katyal, who served as acting U.S. solicitor general in Obama’s first term. “Today’s decision shows he really meant what he said. It’s a profound statement about the difference between law and politics.”   Roberts cringes at the regular references to the “conservative bloc” or the “liberal wing” of the court. Last year, he was pleased when the justices were able to agree unanimously in a much higher percentage of their cases.   Thursday’s decision sent a particularly loud message about a nonpartisan court because the chief justice gave a generous reading to a liberal law passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress.   But the decision is not a sign that Roberts has become a liberal or shifted strongly to the left, as some allege.   On the same day, Roberts joined three conservatives in dissent when the majority held that the Fair Housing Act forbids practices that have a “discriminatory effect” on racial minorities even if there is no intentional discrimination. In 2013, he voted with conservatives to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act.   His decisions on easing campaign finance rules, including Citizens United, which gave corporations and unions the ability to make unlimited contributions to political causes, firmly established Roberts’ record as a conservative.   But on most issues, the chief justice has shown himself to be most comfortable in the moderate middle and unwilling to push the law too far to the right or too quickly.   In April, he joined with the court’s four liberal justices to uphold a Florida law that prohibited elected judges from personally soliciting campaign contributions. Roberts supports the 1st Amendment right to spend freely on campaigns, but judges are not politicians, he said.   In other alliances with liberals, he helped forge a 6-3 majority to rule that a police officer may not detain a car stopped for a traffic violation so a drug-sniffing dog may be brought to the scene. He also joined a 5-4 opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that freed a Florida fisherman from federal obstruction-of-justice charges for having tossed overboard several undersized red grouper.   Further evidence on how Roberts sees his role could come as early as Friday in the court’s decision on gay marriage. It’s widely expected that a majority of justices will declare the right of gays and lesbians to marry nationwide, but given Roberts’ growing independent streak, combined with the impact that case will undoubtedly have on his legacy, some are wondering whether the chief justice will find a way to side with liberals in what would be a landmark decision.   Roberts’ reasoning in the healthcare case showed several of his characteristic traits — a desire for moderation as well as a concern over the real-world impact of the court’s decisions, particularly on business.   Had the justices ruled for the conservative activists who sued the administration, more than 6.4 million people could have lost their health coverage. That in turn could “well push a state’s individual insurance market into a death spiral,” Roberts said.   It would be “implausible,” he said, to think the Congress that passed the healthcare law intended to limit its tax subsidies to the 13 states that established an exchange, or marketplace, of their own.   He rejected the claim brought by conservative activists who pointed to one part of the law that said subsidies were limited to insurance policies bought on an exchange “established by the state.” This hyper-technical reading of one phrase did not make sense and was contradicted by other parts of the law, he said.   “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” he wrote.   Duke Law professor Neil Siegel called the majority opinion “a masterpiece of legal craft, good sense and fidelity to the law at a time when political polarization threatens to spill over into the judiciary.”   But the three conservative dissenters accused the majority of “interpretive jiggery-pokery” and “somersaults of statutory interpretation” to fix a political, not legal, problem.   “This court’s two decisions on the [healthcare] act will surely be remembered through the years,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. “And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.”   In most cases, Roberts is still more likely to vote with the court’s conservatives. University of Chicago Law professor David Strauss said the final word about the Roberts court wouldn’t come until it weighs in on broad major issues like abortion and race.   “But the chief justice has made it clear that he meant what he said in his confirmation hearings: The big decisions should be made by the people who won an election, whether the court agrees with them or not, as long the justices don’t have to distort the law to do that,” Strauss said. david.savage@latimes.com

Getty Images   CHIEF JUSTICE reenforced his statement that each justice is “like an umpire.”

WIN MCNAMEE Associated Press   JOHN G. ROBERTS JR. says he dislikes the references to the “conservative bloc” or the “liberal wing” of the U.S. Supreme Court, which he’s led for a decade.

Cancellation of Individual and Family Medical Policies For Non Payment of Premium

Insurance Companies no longer reinstate individual and family plans for non payment of premium.

Individual and family plans can only be purchased during open enrollment which is closed until November2015.

Individuals and families who qualify for a Special Enrollment Period can purchase plans. Non payment of premium is not a qualification for a Special Enrollment Period.

The Internal Revenue Service will impose a penalty if you do not have a medical insurance plan that may amount to thousands of dollars.

Please pay your premiums when your bill is received.

If you have not paid your premium by this time of the month, I would strongly encourage you to call the membership services number on your ID card and pay the bill. A late or lost check may result in a cancellation for non payment.

Health Insurance Review

If you would like to review your health insurance policy moving forward into 2104 please send me an e mail with various dates and times beginning 12/9 that you would be available for a phone appointment.

Thanks,

Dennis David

Certified Covered California Agent # 2000001789

Please take a moment and click the URL to view my website dennisdavidhealthplans.com. It helps my business grow!

 

LIFE  HEALTH  DISABILITY  ANNUITIES  LONG TERM CARE

COMMERCIAL    WORKERS COMPENSATION

Thank you for your business!

Your referrals are always appreciated!

Please let me know if you have changed your e mail address.

I do not receive text messages.

Dennis David
PO Box 548
Culver City, CA 90232
Voice 310 836 9893
Fax 310 836 3840

CA License #0668857
Texas License #1774174

President Obama’s Fix for Cancelled Plans

Last week President Obama stated that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will not result in a loss of coverage for certain individual and family health insurance policyholders. I will explain the significance of his statement and other facts.

I am not making a political statement nor have I ever made a political statement in any e mail or blog. My intent is to provide honest information  and nothing more.

The ACA does require that those with medical conditions cannot be denied or charged more premium, it eliminates lifetime maximums on policies and provides other coverage which is beneficial. These are very positive changes.

This e mail does not apply to groups, Medicare or individual and family grandfathered plans in effect before March 23, 2010. If an individual or family plan was effective prior to March 23, 2010 and was changed after that date the grandfathered status is lost, it is now a non grandfathered plan and this e mail applies.

The controversy is that on many occasions President Obama stated that if you like your plan you can keep it. This is not the case.

All individual and family non grandfathered plans of Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Health Net and Kaiser are being cancelled and migrated on January 1, 2014.  These plans will be changed to an ACA compliant plan. As long as your premium is paid you will not have a lapse in coverage.

 The issue is whether this new plan is more advantageous than your current plan. Many supporters of the ACA have stated that the reason for the change is positive because current non grandfathered plans are “substandard”.  Although the new ACA compliant plans may have more coverage than the current non grandfathered plan, the substandard label is generally defined as lacking some coverage such as hospitalization, doctors office visits, maternity and prescriptions. The overwhelming majority of health plans in effect in California have these benefits. In fact all of my clients have these benefits so these plans are not substandard.

There are many cases including my own where the new migrated plans will cause some degradation of the plan. Here are some examples where one or more of the following may happen;

Increased deductibles for the medical and prescriptions

Increased Annual Out of Pocket Expense

Increased premium

Decreased hospital network

Decreased physician network

Loss of certain prescriptions

In response to the public outcry President Obama stated that the ACA will not dictate that the non grandfathered plans be cancelled on January 1, 2104 and be allowed to remain in effect for one more year. I applaud the decision to keep the plans but the plans should be able to remain in effect permanently if the person so chooses. In addition I am disappointed that it took the President so long to make this decision. It is very late in the year which adds pressure to the decision making process of whether to wait until we know if the plans will remain in effect, keep the migrated plan or investigate other options.

The decision by President Obama does not guarantee that the non grandfathered plans can remain. Continuation of the plans for another year has to be approved by the State of California (on several levels) and the insurance companies that must provide a benefit analysis of the plan differences (current versus migrated) to approximately one million Californians. I have communicated with Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California and Health Net, they have not decided what course to take.

This has resulted in more confusion and further delays the ability I have to help you with your choice of coverage. At this point if you make a choice to change your plan you may not have the opportunity to go back to your current  non grandfathered plan if the State and insurance companies agree to the President’s fix.

Several states have decided they will not reverse course and will continue the process of cancellations and migrations.

I am still waiting for approval of new Anthem Blue Cross and Cigna individual and family plans. They are important considerations for your health insurance choice in 2014.

 If you are not eligible for a federal subsidy to help with your health insurance costs there is no reason to apply to Covered California the Health Insurance Exchange/Marketplace. You will have more options in the open market.

Information on subsidy is attached.

 Stay tuned.

Certified Covered California Agent # 2000001789
Please take a moment and click the URL to view my website dennisdavidhealthplans.com. It helps my business grow!

 

LIFE  HEALTH  DISABILITY  ANNUITIES  LONG TERM CARE

COMMERCIAL    WORKERS COMPENSATION

Thank you for your business!

Your referrals are always appreciated!

Please let me know if you have changed your e mail address.

I do not receive text messages.

Dennis David
PO Box 548
Culver City, CA 90232
Voice 310 836 9893
Fax 310 836 3840

CA License #0668857
Texas License #1774174

Insurance Sticker Shock

 

Following is an article from the Los Angeles Times dated October 27, 2013 which discusses the premium increases that have resulted from the Affordable Care Act.

I have two comments on the article. First, Peter Lee, The Executive Director of Covered California, The Health Insurance Exchange/Marketplace is quoted.

“People could have kept their cheaper, bad coverage, and those people wouldn’t have been part of the common risk pool,” Lee said. “We are better off all being in this together. We are transforming the individual market and making it better.”

None of my clients have cheaper bad coverage. My clients who have older grandfathered plans will in general have good coverage at a lesser premium with a more extensive network of doctors and hospitals than those who have been forced to move to newer plans. Personally, I am losing my plan and I wish that my plan was grandfathered.

I disagree with another quote.  “We believe the prices are higher than they should be,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica advocacy group. “This is giving a bad name to the Affordable Care Act.”

Everyone wants lower insurance premiums, however, the Affordable Care Act dictates how insurance companies set premiums. I posted a blog on June 24, 2013 which addresses this issue. It is hard to defend the Affordable Care Act in this regard.

Many middle-class Californians with individual health plans learn the new law requires policies that cover more — and cost more

BY CHAD TERHUNE

Thousands of Californians are discovering what Obamacare will cost them — and many don’t like what they see.

These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years.

Although recent criticism of the healthcare law has focused on website glitches and early enrollment snags, experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama’s signature legislation.

“This is when the actual sticker shock comes into play for people,” said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “There are winners and losers under the Affordable Care Act.”

Fullerton resident Jennifer Harris thought she had a great deal, paying $98 a month for an individual plan through Health Net Inc. She got a rude surprise this month when the company said it would cancel her policy at the end of this year. Her current plan does not conform with the new federal rules, which require more generous levels of coverage.

Now Harris, a self-employed lawyer, must shop for replacement insurance. The cheapest plan she has found will cost her $238 a month. She and her husband don’t qualify for federal premium subsidies because they earn too much money, about $80,000 a year combined.

“It doesn’t seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to every- body else,” said Harris, who is three months pregnant. “This increase is simply not affordable.”

On balance, many Americans will benefit from the healthcare expansion. They are guaranteed coverage regardless of their medical history. And lower-income families will gain access to comprehensive coverage at little or no cost.

The federal government picks up much of the tab through an expansion of Medicaid and subsidies to people earning up to four times the federal poverty level. That’s up to $46,000 for an individual or $94,000 for a family of four.

But middle-income consumers face an estimated 30% rate increase, on average, in California due to several factors tied to the healthcare law.

Some may elect to go without coverage if they feel prices are too high. Penalties for opting out are very small initially. Defections could cause rates to skyrocket if a diverse mix of people don’t sign up for health insurance.

Pam Kehaly, president of Anthem Blue Cross in California, said she received a recent letter from a young woman complaining about a 50% rate hike related to the healthcare law.

“She said, ‘I was all for Obamacare until I found out I was paying for it,’ ” Kehaly said.

Nearly 2 million Californians have individual insurance, and several hundred thousand of them are losing their health plans in a matter of weeks.

Blue Shield of California sent termination letters to 119,000 customers last month whose plans don’t meet the new federal requirements. About two-thirds of those people will experience a rate increase from switching to a new health plan, according to the company.

HMO giant Kaiser Permanente is canceling coverage for about half of its individual customers, or 160,000 people, and offering to automatically enroll them in the most comparable health plan available.

The 16 million Californians who get health insurance through their employers aren’t affected. Neither are individuals who have “grandfathered” policies bought before March 2010, when the healthcare law was enacted. It’s estimated that about half of policyholders in the individual market have those older plans.

All these cancellations were prompted by a requirement from Covered California, the state’s new insurance exchange. The state didn’t want to give insurance companies the opportunity to hold on to the healthiest patients for up to a year, keeping them out of the larger risk pool that will influence future rates.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said the state and insurers agreed that clearing the decks by Jan. 1 was best for consumers in the long run despite the initial disruption. Lee has heard the complaints — even from his sister-in-law, who recently groused about her 50% rate increase.

“People could have kept their cheaper, bad coverage, and those people wouldn’t have been part of the common risk pool,” Lee said. “We are better off all being in this together. We are transforming the individual market and making it better.”

Lee said consumers need to consider all their options. They don’t have to stick with their current company, and higher premiums are only part of the cost equation. Lee said some of these rate hikes will be partially offset by smaller deductibles and lower limits on out-of-pocket medical expenses in the new plans.

Still, many are frustrated at being forced to give up the plans they have now. They frequently cite assurances given by Obama that Americans could hold on to their health insurance despite the massive overhaul.

“All we’ve been hearing the last three years is if you like your policy you can keep it,” said Deborah Cavallaro, a real estate agent in Westchester. “I’m infuriated because I was lied to.”

Supporters of the healthcare law say Obama was referring to people who are insured through their employers or through government programs such as Medicare. Still, they acknowledge the confusion and anger from individual policyholders who are being forced to change.

Cavallaro received her cancellation notice from Anthem Blue Cross this month. The company said a comparable Bronze plan would cost her 65% more, or $484 a month. She doubts she’ll qualify for much in premium subsidies, if any. Regardless, she resents losing the ability to pick and choose the benefits she wants to pay for.

“I just won’t have health insurance because I can’t pay this increase,” she said.

Most Americans are required to have health coverage starting next year or pay a fine of $95 per adult or1% of their income, whichever is greater. The fines increase over time.

A number of factors are driving up rates. In a report this year, consultants hired by the state said the influx of sicker patients as a result of guaranteed coverage was the biggest single reason for higher premiums. Bob Cos-way, a principal and consulting actuary at Milliman Inc. in San Diego, estimated that the average individual premium in 2014 will rise 27% because of that difference alone.

Individual policies must also cover a higher percentage of overall medical costs and include 10 “essential health benefits,” such as prescription drugs and mental health services. The aim is to fill gaps in coverage and provide consumers more peace of mind. But those expanded benefits have to be paid for with higher premiums.

The federal law also adjusts how rates are set by age, a change that gives older consumers a break and shifts more costs to younger people. Rates by age can vary by only 3 to 1 starting next year as opposed to 6 to1 in some cases now in California. People in their 20s just starting their careers may earn so little they qualify for subsidies. But that might not be the case for consumers who are slightly older and earning more.

“It has the effect of benefiting people in their 50s and 60s and shifting costs to people in their 20s and 30s,” said Patrick Johnston, president of the California Assn. of Health Plans. “Benefits are being increased for all, but it’s not government subsidies for all. Some will pay more.”

Rates would be going up regardless of changes from the healthcare expansion. The average individual premium will climb 9% next year because of rising healthcare costs and increases in medical provider reimbursement, according to Milliman’s estimates.

Some consumer groups have questioned whether insurers are inflating their rates under the guise of the healthcare law changes.

“We believe the prices are higher than they should be,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica advocacy group. “This is giving a bad name to the Affordable Care Act.”

State regulators checked the insurance companies’ math and underlying cost projections for next year, but they don’t have the authority to deny increases. Under federal rules, insurers can be ordered to issue rebates if they don’t spend a minimum amount of every premium dollar on customers’ medical care.

“The rates aren’t going up because insurance companies are pocketing more money,” Lee said. “That is what it takes to pay the claims and deliver the healthcare.”

Javier Lopez, 38 and a self-employed aerospace engineer in Huntington Beach, pays about $750 a month for an Anthem Blue Cross plan for his family of four. His premiums may rise nearly 20% next year for a new policy because his current plan is being phased out.

Lopez says he’s willing to absorb that one-year jump if it means the government can rein in future rate hikes.

“I’m hoping with this reform,” Lopez said, “we won’t see big increases year after year.” chad.terhune@latimes.com   Twitter: @chadterhune

Errors mar doctors’ list on exchange

I have regularly sent information to my clients about the problems with provider finders which are critical in the Health Care Reform decision making process.

Below is an article from the Los Angeles Times dated October 17, 2013 which discusses this issue.

Covered California apologizes as consumers are left in dark over providers.

BY CHAD TERHUNE

Checking up on a doctor is becoming a major snag for Obamacare shoppers in California.

Three weeks into open enrollment, the state’s insurance exchange, Covered California, has pulled its online directory of medical providers after acknowledging there are serious problems with the information. The California Medical Assn. says it found mistakes such as obstetricians labeled as ophthalmologists and the wrong doctors described as fluent in Russian and Farsi.

Anthem Blue Cross, the state’s largest for-profit health insurer, has shut down a similar physician search tool on its website until it can be updated for new plans for sale now under the federal healthcare law. And consumers say calling other insurers and doctor’s offices around the state often yields confusing or conflicting answers, leaving them largely in the dark.

“Nobody can give me a straight answer,” said Larry Greenfield, a 47-year-old musician in Fountain Valley. He said he has checked online and called insurers to no avail as he tries to choose between different exchange policies. “I don’t want to be forced to buy something if I don’t know what I’m getting.”

Overall, Covered California’s website and enrollment system appear to have recovered from some early computer glitches to post a solid start for sign-ups. The insurance exchange announced this week that nearly 95,000 applications for health coverage have been started since Oct.1. Officials won’t disclose how many applications have ac- tually been completed.

Some consumers may be holding off until more details are available on what doctors and hospitals are included in the health plan networks. That could put a damper on enrollment for the time being.

This information is particularly important because many insurers reduced their provider networks in the exchange in an effort to hold down rates. Blue Shield of California says it will include about half of its contracted doctors. In contrast, HMO giant Kaiser Permanente is making its full network of doctors available.

For months, Covered California has promised a convenient online search tool to help people find their preferred medical providers. But it wasn’t available when enrollment launched Oct. 1, and it’s been offline since Oct. 9 while fixes are being made. An exchange spokesman said it might be restored sometime in the next week.

“We knew this would be a heavy lift,” said exchange spokesman Larry Hicks. “We do apologize for the inconsistency in the provider tool and we appreciate consumers’ patience.”

Some insurers directly asked doctors whether they wanted to sign new contracts for treating exchange patients. In other instances, it’s been less clear. Under state law, insurance companies can also add doctors who are currently in their network to other products such as those in Covered California. The insurers must merely send a notice giving physicians the opportunity to opt out.

“Some doctors are listed as exchange providers when they are not aware of ever signing up, which was one of the fears we had,” said Dr. Richard Thorp, a general internist and president of the California Medical Assn., which represents about 37,000 doctors. “It’s important for this information to be accurate so consumers can have faith in it.”

Many people don’t want to lose a long-standing relationship with a family doctor or well-regarded specialist. Others express concern about having to pay more out of pocket if providers they want to see regularly are outside the network.

Greenfield, a professional violinist, is set to lose his Kaiser insurance through a musicians’ union at year-end.

He researched his options at Covered California and liked a plan from Anthem Blue Cross that costs $267 a month starting in January.

But he couldn’t find any information online about what doctors are included, and the company’s customer-service center couldn’t help him either.

Then he turned to a Gold-level plan from Health Net Inc. for $356 a month. The company’s website listed one of his doctors as being in the network, but the hospital that she’s affiliated with was excluded.

Greenfield called Health Net’s service center to reconcile that but couldn’t get a definitive answer.

A Health Net spokesman said its online search tool reflects the new exchange plans and the company urges consumers to call for more information.

Anthem said its physician database should be back up shortly.

Jef Kurfess of Westlake Village has been shopping for health plans on Covered California for his two adult sons and possibly for his wife. He says he hit many of the same roadblocks while searching for local doctors and a nearby hospital.

“Getting an incredibly inexpensive plan with no doctors you want to see will be a rude shock for people,” Kurfess said. “I can’t proceed to make a knowledgeable selection.” chad.terhune@latimes.com   Twitter: @chadterhune

Health Care Reform Update

As of today systems are still not working properly and critical information is not available.

Among a host of other issues with Covered California’s website, the provider finder is incomplete and inaccurate. This was supposed to be rectified this past weekend. I tried the provider finder this morning and it is still flawed. This is a significant issue, you need to know that your doctors and hospitals of choice are participating in a given plan. Although your providers know of  which plans they are participants today almost all are not familiar with the networks that will be available in 2014. I am told that the provider finder will be functioning properly in mid October.

For the individual and family plan market I will be enrolling those who are subsidy eligible in Covered California. I have previously sent a document that has a graph of household income based on Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI)  for 2012 and the number of household dependents which is used to determine subsidy. I have attached the documents once again. Please have your tax preparer determine your MAGI. If you fall within the guidelines for a subsidy please let me know. If you do not know your MAGI you cannot accurately determine subsidy.

If you do not qualify for a subsidy there is no reason to enroll through Covered California. I will help you choose among open market plans that are Affordable Care Act (ACA) compatible. I do not have enough information at this time to help you in your decision making. Anthem Blue Cross and Cigna have filed rates and benefits with the California Department of Insurance which has not approved the plans. I am told that November 1st is a likely date for that information to become available. It is important to know what Anthem Blue Cross and Cigna will have to offer.

Open enrollment for a January 1, 2014 effective date ends on December 15, 2013, however, open enrollment will continue until March 31, 2014.

If you have a small group plan you can enroll in the SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) anytime beginning with an effective date of January 1, 2014.  You can enroll in the SHOP any time afterwards, for example, when your current group plan renews. The small group market has the same issues as the individual market in that the provider finder is not functioning properly and some companies that will not participate in the SHOP do not have rate and benefit approval.

If you have Medicare your rates and benefits are not governed by the ACA.

 

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers:

The Dennis L. David Insurance Agency | Long Term Care Insurance, Los Angeles Medical Insurance, Anthem Blue Cross Healthcare Insurance, Whole & Term Life Insurance Policies, Cigna, Disability Insurance, Blue Shield of CA, Group Health Plans, Aetna, Group Medical Insurance, Skilled Nursing Insurance, Medicare Supplement Insurance, Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans, In-Home Care, Disabled Work Insurance, Disability Benefits, Culver City Health & Life Insurance, Family & Individual Health Insurance, Health Care Reform & Affordable Care Act Assistance, Obamacare, Covered CA Health Insurance, Health Plans, Kaiser Insurance, Genworth Life, John Hancock Life, Culver City Long Term Care & Disability, Employee Benefits, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Marina Del Rey, West Los Angeles, Los Angeles, El Segundo, Sherman Oaks, Encino, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles County CA, California

CA Insurance License Number:  0668857

TX Insurance License Number:  1774174