Health Care Overhaul

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Advocacy Group Says State (Mostly) Doing A Good Job …

State health agencies' call centers are doing a pretty good job, according to survey.

State health agencies' call centers are doing a pretty good job, according to survey.

That’s a headline that gets your attention, right? It’s somewhat unusual for an advocacy group to praise state agencies. But you see the ellipsis … the complete story is more like this: The advocacy group Health Access says four state health agencies are — mostly — doing a good job in customer service. It’s still intriguing.

Health Access conducted a survey with an eye toward 2014 when the federal health care overhaul rolls out. Potentially millions of people will access health insurance for the first time and state health agencies are likely to be swamped with calls.

Health Access says they wanted to establish a baseline of where the state is now. It used a “mystery calling” approach. A dozen people posing as consumers made more than 200 calls to four state agencies and asked common consumer questions, such as: “How do I sign up for Medi-Cal?” or “My doctor referred me to a specialist, but I have to wait a long time. Can you help me?” Continue reading

Checks in the Mail: Millions to Receive $1.3 Billion in Health Insurance Rebates

By: Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News

(Robin DeGrassi James: Flickr)

(Robin DeGrassi James: Flickr)

Millions of consumers and small businesses will receive an estimated $1.3 billion in rebates from their health plans this summer under a provision of the health care law that effectively limits what insurers can charge for administration and profits, a new study projects.

Almost one third of people who bought their own insurance last year will get rebates averaging $127, according to an analysis of state data by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

“This alone is not going to make health insurance affordable for large numbers of people, but it is getting excess administrative cost out of the system,” says Larry Levitt, a study author.

The percentage of consumers and businesses in line for rebates varies widely by state. In Texas, for example, 92 percent of consumers who purchased individual policies are expected to get rebates because insurers spent too little of their premium dollars on medical care. But in Vermont, Rhode Island, Iowa and Hawaii, insurers are likely to owe less than 1 percent of consumers who bought policies on the individual market. Continue reading

Opposition to the Federal Health Law: Tea Party, Republicans and … the Green Party

Green Party Backs A Single-Payer System

The Green Party opposes the federal health law, but for different reasons than you might think. (Mark Wilson: Getty Images)

The Green Party opposes the federal health law, because it doesn't go far enough. (Mark Wilson: Getty Images)

The platform of California’s third largest political party — the Green Party — includes legalizing marijuana, ending the death penalty and offering free, community bicycles. Now, add this to the Party’s list of solemn commitments:

“We’re hoping the individual mandate will be struck down,” says Barry Hermanson, the Green Party’s candidate for California’s 12th Congressional District. “It is extraordinary that now Congress is saying individuals must purchase a product from a private company. There’s no precedent for this.”

For Hermanson, and other Greens, being compelled to buy a product from an industry they find repugnant is a bit like a school requiring kids to hand over their lunch money to the playground bullies.

“I have no trust they have my best interest and the general populace interest in mind,” he said. Continue reading

Just in Time for the Weekend! Background on Health Care in California

(alycat: Flickr)

(alycat: Flickr)

Admit it. The Supreme Court’s scrutiny of the health care overhaul has piqued your interest. You’ve read or heard stories about the oral arguments. But you feel guilty. You haven’t been able to keep up on how the federal health care law is playing out in the Golden State. State of Health is here to help.

We’ve rounded up four stories — filed by KQED Health Reporter Sarah Varney over the last 10 months — to help give you an overview. These stories all have to do with how California is moving forward in implementing the Affordable Care Act. Yes, the Supreme Court might overturn the ACA, but then again, it might not. Presuming the law goes forward, California is in a better position than most states to meet the 2014 full implementation.

In just under 22 minutes, you can get up to speed on where California stands. So put on your headphones and listen to the following stories: Continue reading