Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, announced the recipients of $37 million in education and outreach grants on Tuesday. It’s a critical step in the drive toward the full implementation of the federal health law on Jan. 1. “This program now belongs to California … and to Californians, and we have to make it work,” said Dr. Robert Ross, a Covered California board member.
The grants were awarded to 48 lead organizations, which will be supported by 226 community partner groups. They will focus on education and outreach to the 5.3 million Californians the exchange seeks to enroll, with an estimated 2.6 million of those people eligible for subsidies to help them afford insurance. Five of the recipients will target their outreach to small businesses.
Californians will be able to shop for insurance on the new marketplace starting Oct. 1, with coverage going into effect on Jan. 1. Most people must have insurance or pay a penalty. In 2014 the penalty is $95 per person or 1 percent of income (whichever is greater), and the penalty rises to $695 or 2.5 percent of income (again, whichever is greater) by 2016. Continue reading
For you wonks out there, Kaiser Health News has a fascinating Friday afternoon read for you.
In a piece titled “Bloggers See Own Reflections in Oregon Medicaid Study,” reporter Jordan Rau describes how this week’s news about Oregon’s Medicaid Experiment quickly became “a Rorschach test for how partisans and health policy wonks view the health care law.”
With no money for better food, no money for good shoes to go on walks, no rain gear, no walkman for listening to music as a distraction while walking, change is harder.
To quickly recap, in a New England Journal of Medicine study researchers analyzed how 10,000 people who won Medicaid coverage have fared since they gained insurance. The highlights were: no apparent affect on physical health; rates of depression 30 percent lower than those without coverage; catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenses essentially eliminated.
In his piece, Rau publishes excerpts from seven blogs, each with a different take on the study’s highly nuanced results. But he closes with something I hadn’t seen elsewhere: a view of the experiment by someone who says he was one of the winners of the Medicaid coverage. Rau found the post on the blog Robert’s Stochastic thoughts.
Here’s the post in its entirety:
I am one of the winners in the Oregon lottery [winners could get Medicaid]. Going from no insurance to insurance is very confusing. When you have no money every health question starts with “would I rather live with this problem and have electricity, or treat this problem and keep my milk in a cooler for a month or so?” Stepping back into healthcare was like Continue reading
Confusion about the health law reigns for many small businesses
By Kelley Weiss, CHCF Center for Health Reporting
Tax credits for small businesses offering health insurance have been available since the health law was passed in 2010. (Photo/Getty Images)
With less than a year to go before the full rollout of Obamacare, many business owners are still scratching their heads over what it will mean for them.
In fact, most still wrongly believe they’ll have to offer health insurance to their employees, according to a recent eHealth survey. While businesses with 50 or more full time employees will have to pay a $2,000 penalty per worker if they do not offer health insurance, there is no penalty for smaller businesses.
Another commonly misunderstood part of the health care law is the role of the tax code. John Gonzales [also with the Center for Health Reporting] has more details about how paying your taxes and Obamacare works. It’s the bedrock of enforcing the law and subsidizing premiums for people to buy insurance.
At an event about taxes and Obamacare, UCLA health care economist Dylan Roby gave a somewhat grim picture. He says widespread ignorance and varying degrees of hostility towards the health care law persist among business owners.
“Many of these employers, especially on the smaller level, are not that great about maintaining a relationship with the government,” Roby says. Continue reading
The president talks up the health care overhaul at Tuesday’s press conference
The health care overhaul is “a big complicated piece of business,” President Obama told reporters during Tuesday’s news conference. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
If you’re one of the millions of people confused about Obamacare, the president took a few minutes on Tuesday to reiterate his main messages about the federal health law.
“For the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don’t know it,” the president said.
He called insurance “stronger, better, more secure,” for people than before the law’s passage. ”Full stop. That’s it. Now they don’t have to worry about anything else.”
President Obama specifically mentioned three benefits of the ACA already in place:
- Children can stay on their parents’ plan until age 26
- Your insurance company cannot drop you if you get sick
- You get free preventive care with no co-pay and no deductible (including many cancer screening tests)
The law also has banned lifetime caps on coverage. For people who have employer-based insurance or Medicare, most of the changes required by the law are already in place.
For people who do not have insurance — or who buy insurance for themselves or their families — “implementation issues” remain, the president said. Continue reading
Public health implications as people who stop taking HIV medications can quickly become infectious
Dr. Kathleen Clanon talks to patient Andrew Solis about keeping his HIV under control. Clanon worries her patients will have disruptions in their care if they don’t navigate the changes coming under federal health reform. (Mina Kim/KQED)
A major goal of the federal health care law is that millions of people who currently do not have health insurance will have improved access to care. But the massive overhaul is also expected to be widely disruptive, and doctors worry that many people with chronic illness could suffer during the changeover, as KQED’s Mina Kim details today on The California Report.
Kim tells the story of 33-year-old Andrew Solis who stopped taking HIV medications more than a year ago after becoming addicted to methamphetamine while in a “rocky relationship.” He resumed treatment at the Oakland Highland Hospital HIV clinic last October after ending the relationship.
Solis has been able to get back in to treatment fairly easily, Kiim reports. But changes coming under the Affordable Care Act could complicate care for clinic patients, says Kathleen Clanon, chief medical officer at Highland Hospital. Continue reading
By John M. Gonzales, CHCF Center for Health Reporting
The income you declare this year will be used to determine if you’re eligible for a health insurance subsidy starting in January. (Getty Images)
If you’re among millions of uninsured Californians eligible for government-subsidized insurance, the ripples of health reform start with Monday’s tax deadline.
First, the government will use your return this year as its first yardstick for how much of a subsidy or tax break it contributes to your health coverage next year. And second, if you don’t have health insurance a year from now, a penalty will be added to your federal tax bill.
These are among ways the federal tax code will increasingly be at the forefront of health reform’s implementation. Other provisions are also kicking in as the countdown continues toward full operation of the Affordable Care Act on Jan. 1.
The provision that will provide the biggest boost to taxpayers is the one that offers subsidies for uninsured people who obtain coverage through new insurance exchanges.
“It’s a tremendous deal for the people who are currently uninsured,” said Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Continue reading
By Stephanie O’Neill, KPCC
(Dale M. Moore/Flickr)
Perhaps the most popular provision of President Obama’s federal health law is that people cannot be turned down or charged a lot more because they are sick. Obamacare also reduces how much more older people can be charged for insurance.
But the president’s health law permits one group to be charged more — a lot more: smokers. States can allow health plans to charge tobacco users up to 50 percent more for their health insurance premiums.
The provision allowing for a “tobacco surcharge” was designed in part to encourage smokers to quit a habit that often leads to major illness.
The Centers for Disease Control puts the nation’s annual price tag for smoking at more than $190 billion in both medical care and lost productivity.
It’s that price tag that prompts some to support higher health care premiums for smokers. Micah Weinberg is a senior fellow with the Bay Area Council, which researches public policy issues that affect businesses and the local economy. While he says caution is needed to avoid premiums so high that they are unaffordable to smokers, ”I think that we need to make sure that there is a strong financial disincentive for people to smoke.” Continue reading
By Stephanie O’Neill, KPCC
Federal tax credits designed to make health insurance more affordable, starting next year, will help nearly 3 million Californians buy health insurance, according to a study issued Tuesday.
The report commissioned by Families USA – a supporter of President Obama’s health care reforms — says that more than 85 percent of all Californians who qualify for the federal tax credits live in families with at least one full- or part-time worker who doesn’t receive employer-sponsored health insurance.
It also finds that 52 percent of Californians expected to qualify for the sliding-scale tax credits will come from middle-class families who earn up to $95,000 a year. Continue reading
While President Obama’s health care overhaul turns three on Saturday, many states are scrambling to get everything ready for the full rollout on January 1. California was the first state to pass legislation to set up a marketplace, and the Legislature has done a lot of work since. But there’s still a lot left to do — and fast.
To bring you up to date, three major sets of bills are before the Legislature in its Affordable Care Act special session. (Six bills total; Assembly and Senate have their own versions of three proposals).
Of those, two issues are key:
- Reforming the individual market
- Medi-Cal expansion (the state’s health insurance program for the poor.
As David Gorn of the CaliforniaHealthline reports, the California Legislature went on spring recess yesterday. These ACA bills are outstanding, much to the frustration of advocates. These special session bills take effect in 90 days, once they are passed. ACA proponents had hoped passage would have happened already. Continue reading
By Mina Kim, KQED
President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010. (Photo: White House)
Saturday marks three years since the signing of the federal Affordable Care Act, and state health officials have been celebrating by touting the benefits of the health overhaul law.
On Thursday, the nonprofit group Health Access released a report that determined more than one million Californians have been able to get coverage through new options provided under the ACA. Those residents include adults with low incomes, people with pre-existing health conditions, and young people who can stay on their parent’s insurance plan until the age of 26.
“But much more is needed to be done,” said Health Access director Anthony Wright. Continue reading