What’s New in Health Care Reform: Nov. 2

Pediatric-Patient-with-DoctorWhat'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.

Why the U.S. Still Trails Many Wealthy Nations in Access to Care

Even with Obamacare, the United States still ranks poorly among comparable countries in insurance coverage. Even in 2016, when the rate of insured is the best it has ever been in the United States, Americans still have a greater percent of the population uninsured than pretty much any other industrialized nation in the world. Access is about more than insurance, though. Every few years, the Commonwealth Fund conducts an international survey of patients. The last time the fund fielded the survey was in 2013, and it sampled patients in 11 different countries, all of them on the high end of the worldwide socioeconomic spectrum. Via NY Times.

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Rates Rise again for Obamacare Health Plans, but So Do Subsidies

The cost of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is expected to rise an average of 22% in 2017, according to information released by the Obama administration. Still, federal subsidies will also rise, meaning that few people are likely to have to pay the full cost after the rate increases to get insurance coverage. Via NPR.

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Enrolling People in Obamacare Means Talking about Cost

The 3.5 million uninsured people that the administration hopes will sign up for Obamacare this year generally worry about cost and may lack knowledge about the marketplace, according to analysts and advocates. The Affordable Care Act has put the nation’s uninsured rate to a historic low, but there are still roughly 24 million uninsured people in the United States. Of that group, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 10.7 million will be eligible for financial assistance this year. Officials expect about one-third of that group to sign up for an Obamacare plan during the three-month open enrollment period beginning Nov. 1. Via Morning Consult.

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ACA Deadline Extended for Those Who Lost Their Health Plans

Open enrollment for 2017 begins Nov. 1. the Obama administration wants consumers with discontinued plans on the health law’s exchanges to select a new plan by Dec. 15. That is the main deadline most will have to abide by to get health coverage starting Jan. 1. But for those who realize the deadline too late, there is some breathing room. Individuals whose plans are being discontinued next year because their insurer is leaving the exchange will be eligible for a special enrollment period, according to officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That means later deadlines and the ability to sign up for coverage outside the regular sign up season that runs from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Minnesota’s Health Insurance Premium Hike Is Fourth-Highest in Nation

Minnesota’s 59% premium increases on its individual health insurance market have been shocking consumers and politicians alike, but they’re not even the highest in the country. New figures released show an average premium increase of 25% in the 39 states using the federal HealthCare.gov insurance exchange. Minnesota uses a state-run exchange, MNsure. Among the 43 states with available data, Minnesota has the fourth-highest premium increase, behind Tennessee, Oklahoma, and the 116% increase in Arizona. All three states use HealthCare.gov. Via Pioneer Press.

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Health Law Tax Penalty? I’ll Take It, Millions Say

The architects of the Affordable Care Act thought they had a blunt instrument to force people — even young and healthy ones — to buy insurance through the law’s online marketplaces: a tax penalty for those who remain uninsured. It has not worked all that well, and that is at least partly to blame for soaring premiums next year on some of the health law’s insurance exchanges. Via NY Times.

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ACA’s Big Price Hike Reflects Challenges of Expanding Coverage Amid Political Static

Soaring insurance prices for the coming year under the Affordable Care Act place intense pressure on the next president to follow through with campaign promises for a new round of changes to the nation’s health-care system after years of bitter stalemate. The revelation this week by the Obama administration that premiums will increase by 25 percent, on average, for a popular group of plans sold through HealthCare.gov immediately became tinder for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. The lashing was nothing new; during the six years since the law was passed, partisan hostility repeatedly has hobbled the daunting task of creating federal rules and ways for millions of Americans to buy coverage. Via Washington Post.

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House GOP Shifts Focus to DOJ in ‘Insurer Bailout’ Fight

House Republicans this week sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch seeking details on the administration’s potential talks with health insurers about settlements in lawsuits related to the Affordable Care Act. Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee sent the letter, following up on previous letters sent to the Department of Health and Human Services about the issue. The lawmakers are against the administration using taxpayer money to settle lawsuits with insurers over an Affordable Care Act program under which insurers say they are due payments. Via Morning Consult.


Seniors' Teeth Need Dental Care, but Insurance Coverage is Rare

Aging can take a toll on teeth, and for many older people paying for dental services is a serious concern because they can't rely on their Medicare coverage. Low-income seniors in particular are struggling. More than a third with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (about $23,000 annually) had untreated tooth decay between 2011 and 2014, according to an analysis of federal data by the American Dental Association. Via NPR.

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Dayton Should Quit if Health Insurance Woes Aren't Fixed

Efforts to help some Minnesotans weather a looming spike in their health insurance costs were stymied again by another round of election-year finger-pointing. DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said it's up to legislative leaders to set politics aside and find a short-term fix. But Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt accused the governor of a "dereliction of leadership" on the issue. Via MPR.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. He leads strategies for corporate communications, public relations, and new media innovations. Andy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2003. Outside of work, Andy can be found running, hiking, snapping photos, and most importantly, spending time with his family.