What’s New in Health Care Reform: Jan. 6

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What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.


Rules Eased on Providing Mental Health Records for Background Checks

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for people to pass along mental health records for people legally banned from owning a firearm. Some health providers, courts and state officials have been hesitant to share records because of strict privacy laws. As a result, the federal background check system, known as the NCIS, has significant gaps on people disqualified from owning guns because of mental illnesses. New rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are intended to make it clear that legal authorities can pass along mental health records that could be valuable in a background check. Via The Hill.

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Many See I.R.S. Penalties as More Affordable Than Insurance

Mr. Murphy, an engineer in Sulphur Springs, Tex., estimates that under the Affordable Care Act, he will face a penalty of $1,800 for going uninsured in 2016. But in his view, paying that penalty is worth it if he can avoid buying an insurance policy that costs $2,900 or more. All he has to do is stay healthy. Via NY Times. 

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Obamacare Supporters Don’t Like Talking About It – But the Individuals Mandate is Working

But recent enrollment data shows that the mandate is working. The exact type of people the requirement was meant to target — young, healthy adults who might forgo coverage were it not for a government fine — signed up in record numbers this year. Via Vox.

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Even Insured Can Face Crushing Medical Debt, Study Finds

The number of uninsured Americans has fallen by an estimated 15 million since 2013, thanks largely to the Affordable Care Act. But a new survey, the first detailed study of Americans struggling with medical bills, shows that insurance often fails as a safety net. Health plans often require hundreds or thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket payments — sums that can create a cascade of financial troubles for the many households living paycheck to paycheck. Via NY Times.

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Health Care Repeal Vote to Open a Political Year in Congress

It's been like a long-delayed New Year's resolution for Republicans. But 2016 will finally be the year when they put legislation on President Barack Obama's desk repealing his health care law. The bill undoing the president's prized overhaul will be the first order of business when the House reconvenes this coming week, marking a sharply partisan start on Capitol Hill to a congressional year in which legislating may take a back seat to politics. Via Yahoo! News.


Obamacare Insurers Sweeten Plans with Free Doctor Visits

Health insurers in several big cities will take some pain out of doctor visits in 2016. The plans will offer free visits to primary care doctors in their networks. You read that right. Doctor visits without copays. Or coinsurance. And no expensive deductible to pay off first either. In Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, and more than a dozen other markets, people seeking coverage through the insurance exchanges can choose health plans providing free doctor visits, a benefit once considered unthinkable. The change is rolling out in a limited number of plans following reports that high copays and deductibles have discouraged many Americans who signed up for private coverage the past two years from using their new insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Via NPR.

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Obama Administration Details HealthCare.Gov Renewals

The Obama administration said that about 3.6 million users of HealthCare.gov came back to the site to renew their health plans before a mid-December deadline, and that it has automatically renewed existing coverage for around 2.4 million more who didn't. The renewal numbers have been closely watched as a sign of how shoppers who used the site to get coverage in 2015 respond to significant price fluctuations for 2016 in many of the three dozen states where the site sells coverage to people who don’t have access to insurance through a job or government program. Via Wall Street Journal.

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More People Turn to Faith-Based Groups for Health Coverage

A growing number of people are turning to health-care ministries to cover their medical expenses instead of buying traditional insurance, a trend that could challenge the stability of the Affordable Care Act. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Medicare is Changing: What’s New for Beneficiaries

Whether it's coverage for end-of-life counseling or an experimental payment scheme for common surgeries, Medicare in 2016 is undergoing some of the biggest changes in its 50 years. Via AP.


These Were the Most Important Obamacare Stories of 2015

The Affordable Care Act survived a near-death experience, made major progress, and faced some significant setbacks in 2015, the fifth year since President Barack Obama's historic health care reform program became law. Via Huffington Post.

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Kelley Schreiber

Kelley Schreiber is a Marketing Channel Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. She is the principle editor and writer of Insights and leads social media and direct marketing strategy. Kelley has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2013. Outside of work, you can find Kelley running, traveling, playing with her new kitten, and exploring new foods.