UPDATE 1-Two U.S. hospital chains dismiss Obamacare technical woes

Source Link:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/05/hospitals-reform-idUSL2N0IQ1JN20131105

Tue Nov 5, 2013 2:49pm EST

By Susan Kelly

Nov 5 (Reuters) – Two U.S. hospital operators said on Tuesday technology problems bedeviling the federal government’s online health insurance marketplace were gradually diminishing and will not stop them from pushing ahead with plans to provide care to those who sign up.

“If any company had three years’ notice about having a website functioning for a major product launch on October 1, it would have worked. It’s frustrating that it did not work,” hospital operator Tenet Healthcare Corp’s Chief Executive Trevor Fetter said in an interview with Reuters following the company’s third-quarter earnings conference call.

While the glitches that have prevented many potential health plan enrollees from signing up are disappointing, “we’re not terribly concerned about it,” Fetter said.

That is because those uninsured patients will not be able to access the new plans until January anyway, so there is still plenty of time to sign up, he said.

Fetter said problems with online access to the federal insurance exchange have been lessening, and patients can also enroll through call centers, where waiting times have been coming down. State exchanges such as the one set up in California are working much better and are offering a selection of affordable plans, he added.

“This is a really important innovation,” Fetter said. “I wouldn’t judge it by the initial performance of the federal website.”

HCA Holdings Inc Chief Executive Richard Bracken said issues with the federal website have not deterred the company from its own plans to contract with insurers to provide care to new patients.

Ninety-seven percent of HCA’s U.S. hospitals have an exchange contract with access to a bronze level insurance plan, he said. Such plans have the lowest premiums.

“We are well-positioned to participate and provide healthcare services,” Bracken said on the company’s earnings conference call.

Tenet said it has contracts with about three-quarters of all the exchange plans that are offered in its markets.


Hospital companies have a lot riding on the success of the insurance exchanges. Hospitals are struggling with declining admissions as many Americans have stayed away from the doctor due to lack of insurance or high deductible on their plans.

The companies expect patient admissions to grow and bad debts to decline as more patients gain insurance to pay for their care.

Tenet shares fell about 9 percent on Tuesday, to $43.96, after it provided a disappointing outlook for the fourth quarter when it released its third-quarter results on Monday.

HCA, the largest publicly owned U.S. hospital operator, was one of the only hospital chains to report a modest increase of less than 1 percent in admissions to its facilities in the third quarter. Its shares fell 2.5 percent Tuesday to $46.53.

Jefferies & Co analyst Brian Tanquilut said he believes hospitals in 2014 will benefit primarily from more people being eligible for the Medicaid health insurance program that serves the poor.

“The health reform story is intact, but near term, the volume headwinds, which have been hampering hospitals for five years, continue to persist,” he said.


The Health-Care Trilemma: How Obamacare is changing insurance premiums

Source Link:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/10/29/the-health-care-trilemma-how-obamacare-is-changing-insurance-premiums/

By Ezra Klein, Published: October 29 at 2:28 pmE-mail the writer

The White House’s biggest frustration right now is that Obamacare’s technical failures are obscuring its great success: Premiums are much lower than the Congressional Budget Office estimated when the law first passed.

In a new report for the liberal Center for American Progress, Topher Spiro and Jonathan Gruber quantify exactly how much lower. Spiro and Gruber find that the average individual premium in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces was projected to be $4,700 in 2014. In fact, it’s more like $3,936 — $764, or 16 percent, lower than expected.

That’s a big deal in terms of cheaper premiums, but it’s also a big deal in terms of the budget: If the savings hold, the Affordable Care Act will cost $190 billion less than the CBO estimated over the next decade.

At the same time, people who are currently buying insurance in the individual market are moving to the Obamacare’s insurance exchanges and many are reporting that they’re seeing significantly higher premiums for very similar plans.

This almost seems like a paradox: How can premiums in Obamacare both be lower than expected and, for some people, higher than they were before?

In any conversation like this, a disclaimer is necessary. When people talk about “premiums under Obamacare,” they’re not talking about premiums for people who get insurance through their employers, or through Medicaid, or through Medicare. They’re talking about the so-called “individual market,” which serves about 5 percent of the country now, and which, if Obamacare succeeds, will serve about 10 percent of the population. So we’re talking about insurance premiums for a small minority of the population. But it’s still millions of people.

The conversation over these premiums has been confused to the point of being outright misleading. It’s become common, for instance, for the Affordable Care Act’s critics to compare prices sticker prices in the individual market to the prices in the exchanges now. Since it was routine before for a quarter of people to be turned away or quoted a higher price after revealing their health history, this isn’t just comparing apples to oranges. It’s comparing apples to oranges that many people couldn’t even buy.

The right way to understand this is to think of premiums as a “trilemma” between comprehensiveness, accessibility, and affordability. Imagine this as a triangle:

premium trilemmaIn the individual market, insurance premiums depend on the balance you strike between these values. A plan could have extremely comprehensive benefits and be extremely cheap so long as it’s not open to people who are sick, or are likely to get sick. That would look like this:

trilemma firstYou could also imagine a plan that was open to all comers and very affordable — so long as it didn’t cover much. That might look like this:

affordable accessiblePrior to the Affordable Care Act, insurance in the individual market kept costs down by turning the away the sick, raising prices on the likely-to-get-sick, and offering, in many cases, pretty stingy benefits. So let’s say it was here:

insurance market nowThe Affordable Care Act makes individual market insurance both more accessible and more comprehensive. The accessibility comes from barring discrimination based on health status and limiting discrimination based on age. The comprehensiveness comes from setting minimum standards about what insurance needs to cover and what kind of limits it can set for out-of-pocket expenses, etc.

aca triangleWhat’s important to understand about this trilemma is that it means, roughly, that every change has winners and losers. Put bluntly, the Affordable Care Act’s changes are raising insurance premiums for some people who did well under the old system and lowering them for many of the people who were locked out or discriminated against.

A good example of the tradeoffs is the case of Dianne Barrette, a 56-year-old Florida woman who’s been featured in the media because her current plan will cost 10 times more under Obamacare. As Erik Wemple discovered, her old plan was health insurance in name only. It didn’t cover inpatient hospital care, it didn’t cover ambulance services, and so forth. Under Obamacare, all plans have to cover those benefits. So Barrette’s old plan was extremely affordable — $56 a month — because it covered basically nothing. Her new plan is much more expensive but also much more generous.

But it’s not all zero sum. The law pumps a trillion dollars of subsidies into the market to help people making less than 400 percent of the poverty line — which is $94,200 for a family of four — afford insurance. So now the actual premiums people are paying exist on a continuum, with some people seeing premiums increases and some people paying literally nothing at all:

subsidies aca triangleThe final factor here is increased transparency and competition among insurers — which should bring down premiums over time. Spiro and Gruber credit competition for Obamacare’s lower-than-expected premiums. We’ll see if it sticks.

So the bottom line is that Obamacare makes insurance more accessible and more comprehensive, which raises average premiums, but it adds subsidies and competitive markets, which lower premiums. Whether premiums are higher or lower for an individual person depends on their precise situation. But premiums are, in general, lower than was expected when Obamacare passed.

One thing to note about the media coverage around this is that some of the old plans in the individual market are being canceled or moved onto the exchanges at a time when the exchanges aren’t really working. So we’re hearing from people losing something but we’re not hearing much yet from the people who’re gaining insurance, or lower-priced insurance, through the law. That’s another consequence of the web site’s failures, but it’s a temporary one. There will be some losers under Obamacare, but because of the subsidies, many more winners.

Medicaid Expansion Is Set for Ohioans

Source Link:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/us/medicaid-expansion-is-set-for-ohioans.html?_r=0&pagewanted=print


COLUMBUS, Ohio — As a Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee in the 1990s, John R. Kasich wielded a ferocious budget ax. On Monday, as Ohio’s governor, Mr. Kasich defied his party’s majorities in the state legislature to push through a multibillion dollar expansion of Medicaid under President Obama’s health care law.

By a 5-2 vote, an obscure committee, the Controlling Board, which normally oversees relatively small adjustments to the state budget, accepted $2.5 billion in extra Medicaid funds from the federal government. The money, recently approved by Medicaid administrators in Washington, will provide coverage for 275,000 Ohioans who have not been eligible for the program, the Kasich administration said.

The vote was an extraordinary — and possibly illegal, critics in Mr. Kasich’s own party said — end run by the governor around the General Assembly. Mr. Kasich, who initially declared himself an opponent of the Affordable Care Act and who has declined to set up a state online health insurance marketplace, has argued all year that his sense of Christian compassion, not to mention cool economic practicality, favored extending Medicaid to poor adults and those with disabilities who do not currently qualify.

But Republican majorities in both houses of the General Assembly blocked expansion. Opponents expressed disbelief that Washington would keep its promises under the health care law to pay almost all of the costs of expanding Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor, and worried that Ohio taxpayers would have to pay.

A budget sent to the governor by the General Assembly forbade Medicaid expansion without lawmakers’ approval. Mr. Kasich vetoed that item. At least three bills to expand Medicaid have failed.

Mr. Kasich, who has championed job creation as he prepares for a re-election campaign next year in his swing state, has argued that expanding Medicaid eligibility will be an economic booster shot, because companies will be lured to Ohio by a healthier work force. Expansion is supported by state hospitals, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Under the Affordable Care Act, low-income workers are to receive federal subsidies to buy insurance starting in 2014. But there is a “coverage gap” for some who earn less than the poverty level but do not currently qualify for Medicaid. The federal law allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility to people with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $15,860 for an individual. The 2012 Supreme Court decision that upheld the law also allowed states to opt out of Medicaid expansion.

With Monday’s vote, Ohio became the 25th state plus the District of Columbia to expand Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Nearly a dozen Republican governors have moved to do so, despite the efforts of Congressional Republicans to “defund” the health care law. Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, a Republican, waged a long and finally successful fight to expand Medicaid. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett reversed himself and recently endorsed a Medicaid expansion plan in defiance of the State House.

Mr. Kasich, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 and is thought by some analysts to still harbor ambitions in that direction, proposed expanding Medicaid in his budget address in February. He was represented at Monday’s hearing by Greg Moody, of the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation.

The office’s Web site, makes the administration’s case for Medicaid expansion. “No matter what Ohio decides on Medicaid, health insurance premiums are going up as a result of Obamacare,” it said. “It would make a bad situation far worse if Ohio does not extend Medicaid coverage and reclaim its share of federal taxes to support jobs here in Ohio — jobs that will be created in other states with our money if Ohio does not extend coverage.”

The seven-member controlling board includes the state budget director and six senior members of the Legislature appointed by both parties. As of this weekend, the outcome of the vote seemed uncertain. But on Monday morning, House Speaker William G. Batchelder replaced two members of his party who opposed Medicaid expansion. One of the new members voted for the expansion, the other against.

Mr. Batchelder was one of 39 House Republicans who protested last week that the governor’s decision to take the matter to the Controlling Board violated state law. Speculation around the Ohio Statehouse was that Republican leaders wanted to support the governor but did not want to submit to a roll-call vote exposing their troops to reprisals by Tea Party groups staunchly opposed to the federal health care law.

Immediately after the vote, the conservative 1851 Center for Constitutional Law announced it would sue over the decision to go through the Controlling Board. Maurice Thompson, director of the center, called it a vote “of a small oligarchy” of legislators, “some of whom were switched out at the last minute for politically expedient reasons.”

Mr. Batchelder said in a statement that he replaced two members because both men were candidates to succeed him, and he did not want their competition to influence the decision.

Mr. Kasich said the vote built on efforts by his administration to improve Medicaid. His administration says it has lowered the program’s rate of increase in costs to 3.3 percent annually from almost 9 percent a year before he took office.

“Together with the General Assembly we’ve improved both the quality of care from Medicaid and its value for taxpayers,” Mr. Kasich said in a statement. “Today’s action takes another positive step in this mutual effort.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 23, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the center that announced it would sue over  the Ohio legislature’s acceptance of $2.5 billion in extra Medicaid funds. It is the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, not the Buckeye Institute.

Five Things You Don’t Know About Health-Care Reform


Insurance sign-ups are just around the corner for millions of Americans under health-care reform, yet there’s still much people don’t know about this landmark legislation, particularly those changes occurring over the next decade inside hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices.

It’s a workforce thing. All the attention is on politics, or who will receive what benefits and where the money will come from. But the most important question is who will deliver the care and how it will be done. Most of the change will be accomplished by the health-care workforce. Transforming health care is a huge management challenge. Many clinicians and staff will have to fundamentally change their professional objectives and standards, daily routines, compensation, patient relationships, and employer relationships. The scope of health-care reform and current market pressures are unparalleled in any other industry; the re-engineering of health-care workforce roles now underway may completely change relationships between patients and clinicians in the next decade.

Biggest long-term problem: clinician shortages.An additional 30 million Americans will receive health-care coverage by the end of the decade, during a time when a further 15 million patients will become eligible for Medicare. Who will take care of all those people? By 2020, a shortage of 91,500 primary care and specialist physicians is predicted. Shortages of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who could help fill in the gaps in primary care, also are predicted. Without enough clinicians, effective health-care reform could be stifled.

Getting paid to keep you well, rather than cure your illness. Changes in compensation for doctors and nurses will dramatically transform from quantity of work to quality of work. Until very recently, compensation and reimbursement were entirely based on the volume of patients and treatments. Now they’re beginning to reflect value-based benchmarks that will increase every year. Some of these include patient satisfaction, readmission rates, health risk assessments, and patient wellness, among other benchmarks. For hospitals, making sure patients are satisfied will become a pocketbook issue. For clinicians, careful disease management and preventive care to keep patients out of the hospital could directly affect how much they are paid.

Independent doctors’ practices are quickly fading. Physicians who hang a shingle outside a private office are becoming rarer. A recent survey showed that 55 percent of practicing physicians work for someone else, usually a hospital or a practice owned by a hospital or health system. That figure grew 8 percent in one year. Meanwhile, nearly 40 percent of physicians younger than 45 have never worked in private practice. Doctors are moving to employed positions in hospitals and health systems in search of greater stability in the rapidly changing health-care environment.

Your doctor may not be a doctor. One of the most striking changes for consumers may be team-based care, with physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists, pharmacists, and others working together to improve quality of care and lower costs. If your health-care provider employs a team approach, when you make an appointment with your doctor you may instead see a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, depending on a quick assessment of your health status. In more than a dozen states, nurse practitioners can diagnose, treat, or prescribe with no physician involvement. Laws and regulations on the scope of practice for these clinicians are changing rapidly.

Health-care reform isn’t just about getting coverage for millions of people who don’t have it. It’s also about changing the way health care is delivered to reduce costs and improve patient care. Unless we can accomplish those two goals, increasing coverage will become prohibitively expensive. Transforming health-care delivery requires the active participation of America’s 16-million member health-care workforce.

Salka is President and CEO of AMN Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest health care staffing companies.

Branding Obamacare: ‘New York State of Health’

WebMD News from Kaiser Health News

By Phil Galewitz


Some folks like to get away, Take a holiday from the neighborhood. Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood. But I’m takin’ a Greyhound on the Hudson River line. I’m in a New York state of mind

… er … make that “New York State of Health.”  Playing off the title of Billy Joel’s iconic 1976 song, the officials running New York’s health insurance exchange announced Tuesday that they have chosen New York State of Health as the brand name of their new onlinemarketplace.

“We wanted a name that was distinctive and unique to New York and is emotional and not just functional description,” said Leo Mamorsky, executive group account director with DDB New York  which is handling advertising  for the exchange.

In their first YouTube ad, there are scenes of Manhattan, Niagara Falls and people in rural and suburban settings. Joel’s song, though, is not on the video. Joel grew up in Hicksville, N.Y., and lives in the Hamptons.

New York is the latest state attempting to brand the new marketplaces. The marketplaces, one of the key ways the health care law extends coverage to the uninsured, open for enrollment Oct. 1, selling policies that will take effect Jan. 1. New York exchange officials announced last month that average premiums sold on the exchange would be about half the price they are today for individuals who buy their own insurance.

“In creating a name, we wanted it to be meaningful, memorable and capture the essence of what it is to be a New Yorker – that unique ‘can do’ attitude and state of mind,” said Donna Frescatore, New York  State of Health’s executive director. “We’re confident the ‘NY State of Health’ name and campaign will inspire New Yorkers who are uninsured or underinsured to explore the options and choose the plan that fits their needs.”

Despite being a fan favorite for decades, “New York State of Mind” was never a hit song and was never released as a single. Joel famously played the song at The Concert For New York City, the October 2001 benefit for the New York City Fire and Police Departments and the loved ones of first responders killed during the terrorist attack on Sept 11. He reprised that theme, playing it during his Dec. 12, 2012 concert at Madison Square Garden to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy, where he changed the lyrics to include places like “Breezy Point.”

New York officials said Joel was not consulted about their marketing effort. They said they had no plans to use Joel or his song in their ads.

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

Source Link:  http://www.webmd.com/health-insurance/ny/20130820/with-a-nod-to-billy-joel-ny-brands-obamacare-marketplace?src=RSS_PUBLIC


IRS website offers information about Affordable Care Act

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013 7:07 pm

Richard Craver/Winston-Salem Journal

The Internal Revenue Service has create a website – www.irs.gov/aca — aimed at providing information about how the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act will affect individuals, families and businesses from a tax provision perspective.

The home page has three sections, which explain the tax benefits and responsibilities for individuals and families, employers and other organizations, with links and information for each group. The site provides information about tax provisions that are in effect now and those that will go into effect in 2014 and beyond.

Topics include premium tax credits for individuals, new benefits and responsibilities for employers, and tax provisions for insurers, tax-exempt organizations and certain other business types.

Incoming Med School Students to be Well-Versed in Affordable Care Act

By Jeff Saperstone

|  Tuesday, Aug 20, 2013  |  Updated 7:28 PM EDT

You could call them the Affordable Care Act class. Incoming medical students at Quinnipiac University’s new medical school will graduate when the new law is fully in effect.

While they are beginning their studies they’re also very aware about the changes coming to the nation’s health care system.

“It’s opportunities as well as challenges,” said Benjamin Cramer, a Quinnipiac University medical student.

Cramer said a lot of questions remain about how ACA will impact patient care. He wants to open a clinic in a rural community, a region he sees as the most in need.

“Financially I’m not extremely concerned about how it will affect me personally but I am concerned about how it will affect my patients,” Cramer said.

He is concerned about patients who will still have a hard time accessing affordable insurance.

Students believe there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the new law but some say it’s good thing to expand coverage.

“It’s very complex,” Daniell Vottalico said. “I think that some sort of change is needed and we have to start somewhere.”

Over the years, medical students nationwide have opted to enter into higher paying specialties, which has created a shortage of primary care doctors.

One of the missions at the new medical school at Quinnipiac University is to graduate more primary care doctors.

That happens to be the same goal of the Affordable Care Act. Supporters of the law believe that if there are more primary care physicians that could mean more patients will be able to get preventative care rather than expensive trips to the emergency room.

“The hope is for those of us who go that route is that there will be more support in general for primary care through the Affordable Care Act,” William Berger said.

Source Link:  http://www.nbcconnecticut.com/news/local/Incoming-Med-School-Classes-to-be-Well-Versed-in-Affordable-Care-Act-220430251.html

Low prices seen luring young adults to Obamacare: study

By Sharon Begley

NEW YORK | Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:03am EDT

(Reuters) – If uninsured young Americans shun the new health plans offered under President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, it will be because the insurance costs too much and not because they don’t expect to need much medical care, according to a study released on Wednesday.

What uninsured young adults do when state exchanges created under “Obamacare” open on October 1 will be one of the most important factors in determining the success of the president’s signature domestic policy achievement. If too few young people, who tend to be relatively healthy, sign up for coverage, then premiums might not cover the medical costs of sicker people who do enroll.

“Contrary to commonly held beliefs, young adults do want affordable health coverage,” said Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund. The group’s study dispels the notion that young adults don’t think they need coverage because they feel invincible, said lead author Sara Collins.

Up to 82 percent of nearly 16 million uninsured young U.S. adults would qualify for federal subsidies or Medicaid under Obamacare, meaning that affordability is less likely to impede enrollment in health insurance via state exchanges, the study concludes. Those ages 19 to 29 will eventually enroll in large numbers, it predicts, without specifying how many years it could take.

That optimistic conclusion comes from what young adults do when offered an opportunity to buy health insurance through their jobs. In such cases, 67 percent took the coverage.

For those who declined, the chief reasons were that they were covered by a family member (54 percent) or couldn’t afford the premiums (22 percent). Only 5 percent turned down coverage because they felt they were unlikely to need much medical care.

That price, not feeling they will never get sick, is the main barrier to young adults buying health insurance, said Aaron Smith, co-founder of Young Invincibles, a non-profit that runs education campaigns and conducts research on issues important to 18-to-34-year olds. “Price is the biggest hurdle.”

The group was not involved in the Commonwealth study but has received government funding to help people enroll in Obamacare insurance.


The Commonwealth study also pointed to what happened when Massachusetts institutedhealthcare reform in 2007, requiring -like Obamacare – that everyone have insurance or pay a penalty. In the first year, the uninsured rate for 19-to-26-year olds fell from 21 percent to 8 percent.

“Based on Massachusetts, there is reason to believe young adults will come to the (state insurance) marketplaces and sign up,” said the Commonwealth’s Blumenthal.

A greater barrier than affordability may be that very few young adults are aware that the new coverage will be an option in less than six weeks.

Confirming other surveys, a Commonwealth poll found that only 27 percent of the 19-to-29-year olds were aware of the state health insurance marketplaces. Awareness was lowest among the uninsured (19 percent knew about the marketplaces) and people with low to moderate incomes (18 percent).

Those groups are most likely to benefit from the federal subsidies available to help people with incomes less than four times the poverty level ($45,960 for an individual) buy policies on the exchanges.

The survey, with 1,885 respondents, was done in March, and young adults’ awareness may be higher now since several states as well as the federal government have begun advertising andmarketing campaigns to tell the uninsured about the exchanges. The survey has a margin of sampling error of 3.2 percentage points.

The report also found that 15 million adults ages 19 to 25 (half of this age group) were on a parent’s health insurance policy in the prior 12 months, up from 13.7 million in 2011. Of the 15 million, an estimated 7.8 million got that coverage through the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers allow children up to age 26 to stay on a parent’s policy.

Partly as a result, the number of uninsured young adults dropped from 18.1 million in 2011 to 15.7 million in 2013.

(Reporting by Sharon Begley; Editing by Michele Gershberg and Lisa Shumaker)

Source Link:  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/21/us-usa-healthcare-youth-idUSBRE97K03S20130821?feedType=RSS&feedName=healthNews


Sebelius talks up health care reform in Houston

By Lora Hines | August 19, 2013

It was the buzz on news websites. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was going to make a “major announcement” in Houston regarding the health care law.

But Sebelius didn’t unveil a plan to extend Medicaid coverage to uninsured Texans – something Gov. Rick Perryopposes. Nor did she announce a breakthrough to establish a Texas solution for health care reform.

Instead, Sebelius met with Houston officials, plus health care, business and community leaders, continuing what Perry has described as an “Obamacare” promotion tour.

The “major announcement” that the secretary’s handlers promised afterward – was the kickoff of a nationwide video contest to inform young adults about their need to buy health coverage.

Library meeting

Monday’s meeting with about two dozen people at the downtown Julia Ideson Library included U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, and Dr. Robert Robbins, CEO of the Texas Medical Center. Sebelius said her office would work with advocacy groups and community health centers to ensure enrollment of uninsured residents into health coverage would operate as smoothly as possible.

Earlier this month, Sebelius, held similar meetings in Austin and San Antonio to discuss implementation of the 2010 federal health care law.

After Monday’s meeting, the secretary held a brief news conference, saying she has traveled the state to meet officials, including Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who “are eager to fully implement the Affordable Care Act.”

Sebelius reiterated much of what she has said about the law and again acknowledged that she knows Perry and other state leaders don’t want to participate in it. Perry will not expand Medicaid to include about 1.5 million uninsured Texans. Nor is he willing to establish a state insurance marketplace, forcing federal officials to create one for Texas.

No longer a debate

“This is the law,” Sebelius repeated. “It’s really not a political debate anymore.”

The insurance marketplaces open on Oct. 1. Navigators will help the uninsured understand the health insurance marketplaces and enroll in coverage.

Despite Texas’ current stance, Sebelius said the state’s opportunity to expand Medicaid remains open.

She then traveled to Legacy Community Health Services‘ Montrose clinic, where she announced the launch of a video contest to educate young people about the health care law. Contestants have until Sept. 23 to submit videos to raise awareness about the law and encourage young people to enroll for coverage. The grand prize is $6,500.

Source Link:  http://www.chron.com/news/health/article/Sebelius-talks-up-health-care-reform-in-Houston-4744844.php

AFLAC Incorporated : Aflac Launches Enhanced Health Care Reform Website for Employers

08/16/2013 | 10:25am US/Eastern

COLUMBUS, Ga., Aug. 16, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Health care reform is a puzzle to many U.S. employers and their employees. To help them better understand how to assemble the pieces, Aflac, the No. 1 provider of voluntary and guaranteed renewable insurance in the U.S.(1), has enhanced its health care reform website with materials that explain the legislation in clear, easy-to-understand language.

“Business leaders are confused about health care reform and for good reason – it is complex and as the law is implemented, it can be increasingly difficult for them to understand their options and the specific actions they need to take,” said Michael Zuna, Aflac executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “By using the tools on our site and speaking to our nationwide network of agents, employers can not only stay up to date and understand key decision points, but also obtain information that will help them make the best benefits decisions for their organizations and employees.”

Site visitors will find a variety of tools and resources designed to help employers understand health care reform and how the law affects both businesses and workers. Materials include:

    --  Health Care Reform Communications Toolkit: Provides employers with the
        resources they need to meet the October 1 deadline for informing
        employees about the Health Insurance Marketplace.The kit features:
        --  A PowerPoint presentation with a high-level reform overview of the
        --  Two sets of email and letter templates - one for employers who will
            offer health insurance and one for those who won't.
        --  FAQs that address changes to employee benefits plans.
        --  Videos highlighting Health Insurance Marketplace basics and levels
            of coverage.
    --  Employer's Guide: Explains health care reform and its effect on U.S.
    --  HCR Essentials: A quick guide to HCR information for employers.
    --  Consumer-Driven Health Care Insights: Features tips for helping
        employees understand reform.

Answering Questions, Outlining Solutions

Aflac put additional efforts into developing even more robust health care reform materials after the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report revealed that employers and workers are having continued trouble understanding the legislation.(2)

Fully 55 percent of employees who took part in the Aflac WorkForces Report said they’d done nothing to prepare for reform-driven changes to their benefits plans, and 76 percent agreed health care reform is too complicated to understand. Employers find reform puzzling too: Just 27 percent said they understand the legislation very or extremely well.

“Aflac is dedicated to helping employers and employees comprehend the changing benefits and health insurance landscape by providing regular updates and new tools throughout the implementation of the ACA,” Zuna said. “Employers can look to Aflac as a partner in demystifying the law, helping educate employees on the resulting changes and providing much-needed voluntary benefits that can help offset rising health care costs.”

Employers who want straight forward and easy-to-understand advice about health care reform should visit aflac.com/healthcare_reform.

About Aflac
When a policyholder gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fast. For nearly six decades, Aflac insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the United States, Aflac is the number one provider of guaranteed-renewable insurance. In Japan, Aflac is the number one life insurance company in terms of individual policies in force. Aflac individual and group insurance products provide protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. For seven consecutive years, Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere magazine as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. In 2013, FORTUNE magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for the 15th consecutive year. Also, in 2013, FORTUNE magazine included Aflac on its list of Most Admired Companies for the 12th time, ranking the company number one in the life and health insurance category. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac, visit aflac.com or espanol.aflac.com.

This material is intended to provide general information about an evolving topic and does not constitute legal, tax or accounting advice regarding any specific situation. Aflac cannot anticipate all the facts that a particular employer or individual will have to consider in their benefits decision-making process. We strongly encourage readers to discuss their HCR situations with their advisors to determine the actions they need to take or to visit healthcare.gov (which may also be contacted at 1-800-318-2596) for additional information.

(1 )The NU 200 Industry Leaders,” National Underwriter, September 19, 2011
(2) The 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report was conducted by Research Now on behalf of Aflac,http://www.aflac.com/aflac_workforces_report/2013/executive_summmary.aspx – accessed July 19, 2013

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