Category Archives: Blog

N.O. Kidney Walk Set for Nov. 2

The 2014 New Orleans Kidney Walk will take place on Sunday, Nov. 2, at Audubon Park, Shelter #10, at 8 a.m. The Walk is a non-competitive walk focusing on education, the prevention of kidney and urinary tract diseases, and awareness of the need for organ donation.

‘Shaping Policy to Build a Healthier Louisiana’ Summit to be Held Sept. 24 in Baton Rouge

The Louisiana Healthy Communities Coalition (LHCC), which strives to improve the health and quality of life of Louisianans by mobilizing communities through implementing policy, systems and environmental changes, cordially invites you to attend the LHCC Annual Summit, “Shaping Policy to Build a Healthier Louisiana.” The summit will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 30 at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge and will convene community-based organizations, local and state government, businesses, faith-based entities and residents across Louisiana to learn more on ways to improve health by shaping policy. All attendees are required to register no later than Wednesday, Sept. 24. There is a registration fee of $30, which includes breakfast and lunch. Click here to register.

The Week in Healthcare — May 1

News last week focused on the Affordable Care Act coverage gap, the ACA’s impact on canceled plans, and stats on those seeking exemptions. Highlights include: CNN reported on the millions of people who fall into the ACA’s coverage gap – people who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but don’t make enough to get federal subsidies to buy insurance on the marketplace. Under the ACA, Medicaid was expanded to cover people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, but the Supreme Court gave states the ability to opt out, which 24 states did. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 5 million people nationwide fall in the gap. A study reported on by Politico said that millions of plans that were canceled because they did not meet ACA requirements likely would not have been continued by the policyholders anyway. Study author Benjamin Sommers wrote in Health Affairs that “the effects of the recent cancellations are not necessarily out of the norm.” Sommers said the data shows that individual coverage is transitional for most people because they often buy it while between jobs or when waiting for employer benefits to start. According to Newsmax, government statistics show that relatively few people have sought exemptions from the individual mandate to purchase insurance or pay a fine. Around 77,000 families and individuals have requested exemptions. More than 32,000 of those came from Native Americans, who are exempt because their healthcare is funded through the federal Indian Health Service.

The Week in Healthcare

News last week focused on the latest cost estimates for the Affordable Care Act, understanding the SHOP marketplace, and new data on next year’s health insurance premiums. Highlights include: USA Today reported that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Affordable Care Act will cost $5 billion less than originally projected for 2014. The new report shows that from 2015 to 2024, the law is expected to cost $1.38 trillion, which is $104 billion less than prior projections. The cost for 2014 is estimated at $36 million. Small-business owners have choices to make about providing coverage for their employees. The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch gives details on the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). For 2014, SHOP is open to employers with 50 or fewer full-time workers. Employers can purchase health insurance through a broker now or use online enrollment starting in November. Statisticians who worked with insurers to project 2015 insurance premium rates are expecting to see an average increase of around 7%. According to a USA Today article, this is well below recently reported double-digit increases. “The double-rate increases we’ve been hearing are probably exaggerated,” says Dave Axene, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, adding that there would be wide variation across the country. “That’s not what we’re seeing from the actuarial organizations — I guess we’re being a little bit more optimistic.” But Axene did warn that there could be wide variations in actual costs.

The Week in Healthcare

News last week focused on the effect of the Affordable Care Act on the uninsured rate, latest stats on the newly insured and a national effort that would give states authority over health care policy. Highlights include: NBC News reported on a new Gallup poll that shows the rate of people without health insurance is falling. In the fourth quarter of 2013, the rate was at an all-time high of 18 percent. At the start of 2014, it had fallen to 15.6 percent. “The uninsured rate has been falling since the fourth quarter of 2013, after hitting an all-time high of 18 percent in the third quarter — a sign that the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as ‘Obamacare,’ appears to be accomplishing its goal of increasing the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage,” Gallup says. The Rand Corp. also released a survey about the effect of ACA on health insurance coverage. An article in the LA Times said that at least 9.3 million more Americans have health insurance now than in September 2013. This figure does not include marketplace signups in late March and early April. According to an article in The Advocate, a House committee advanced a bill that would have Louisiana join an interstate compact aimed at giving states authority over healthcare policy.  “Healthcare decisions should be made in states,” said state Rep. Paul Hollis, R-Covington, sponsor of House Bill 1090. Eleven states have indicated their support for the national effort, but critics say it is unlikely to garner the required congressional approval.

The Week in Healthcare

News last week focused on confusion about the Affordable Care Act, an extension for those who couldn’t complete enrollment in time, and details on the individual mandate. Highlights include: CNN reported on a Kaiser Family Foundation poll that found six in 10 uninsured adults are not aware that open enrollment ends March 31. Of the uninsured surveyed, half said they don’t plan to purchase insurance this year. They mainly said cost was the reason. And more than 40 percent of those polled said they didn’t know about federal subsidies to lower costs. Health and Human Services officials said in a USA Today article that the March 31 deadline will be extended for those who tried to enroll, but didn’t finish the process. “Open enrollment ends March 31,” said Julie Bataille, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services spokeswoman. “We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment—either online or over the phone.” A Huffington Post article tells people what they need to know about the individual mandate, or penalty for not purchasing insurance. Unless they qualify for an exemption, most Americans will be required to have insurance. Exemptions include things like not making enough money to file a federal income tax return, being homeless or not being able to find a health plan that costs less than 8 percent of income. The penalty is the greater of $95 for each adult or 1 percent of household income. The penalty increases to $695 or 2.5 percent of income by 2016.

The Week in Healthcare

News last week focused on the latest enrollment numbers, the call for broader health plans in 2015 and a final push to get people to sign up in Louisiana. Highlights include: In a Reuters article, the Obama administration said that more than 5 million people have enrolled in the Affordable Care Act since open enrollment began on Oct. 1. “The last several days have been the busiest since December,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Congressional Budget Office’s initial forecast of 7 million was scaled back because of technical problems with the rollout. The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is requiring marketplace health plans to offer a larger number of providers in 2015 after complaints about limited networks. In 2015, health plans on the federal marketplace must include 30 percent – up from 20 percent – of the area’s “essential community providers.” These are usually health centers and other hospitals serving mostly low-income patients. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in New Orleans last week to encourage people to sign up for health insurance. A WVUE report on the event quoted Sec. Sebelius as saying, “A lot of younger, healthier Americans don’t get up every day thinking ‘what I really need is health care,’ so we’re trying to be creative with outreach.” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “And as of March 1, because of the work of many of the people who are in this room, 17,000 individuals in the New Orleans and Metairie area have enrolled.”

The Week in Healthcare

News last week focused on a drop in the uninsured rate, confusion about the penalty for not buying insurance and statistics of those signing up in Louisiana. Highlights include: The Washington Post reports that the share of Americans without health insurance is at the lowest level since President Obama took office. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured so far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months of 2013. This is equal to about 3 million people getting coverage. With less than a month left for most Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty, most consider the penalty to be pretty small according to NPR. “I’d say the vast majority of people I’ve dealt with really believe that the penalty is only $95, if they know about it at all,” says Brian Haile, senior vice president for health policy at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. “And when people find out, they’re stunned. It’s much, much higher than they would expect.” In fact, the penalty is the greater or $95 or 1 percent of taxable income. An article on nola.com says that 87 percent of Louisianians who have purchased insurance under the Affordable Care Act are getting financial help to pay for it. Nationally, 83 percent of people got a subsidy. Of those who have gotten coverage, 29 percent are between the ages of 18 and 34. That’s the second highest percentage of young people in any state and higher than the national average of 25 percent.

The Week in Healthcare

March 12, 2014 News last week focused on changes to the Affordable Care Act, whether or not the March 31 deadline will be extended, and problems insurance brokers face when trying to enroll customers. Highlights include: Kaiser Health News reported on new changes to the Affordable Care Act that would give some people more time to stay in non-compliant plans and would extend the next open enrollment period. President Obama granted a one-year extension on non-compliant plans in November, and the latest extension would be two years in states that agree to it. Open enrollment will begin on Nov. 15, 2014, and continue until Feb. 15, 2015, giving consumers an extra month to purchase. But there’s one deadline that won’t be changing. In a Washington Examiner article, President Obama insisted that the March 31 deadline for consumers to buy insurance would not change. “You have time now to sign up,” Obama insisted. “If everybody waits until the last minute … then in some ways it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.” According to a Washington Times article, insurance brokers say they are having a hard time signing up consumers because of problems with the system. As part of the process, brokers must send customers to healthcare.gov to determine if they qualify for a subsidy.  “The whole redirect process is so Byzantine,” eHealth, Inc. CEO Gary Lauer said, noting that Internet sales giant Amazon doesn’t send users to another website between browsing and checking out. “It just doesn’t work.” Brokers are asking for “direct enrollment” that would allow consumers to go through all the steps on a single website.

The Week in Healthcare

News last week focused on the latest enrollment numbers and why it is still hard to nail them down, plus the definition of a full-time employee. Highlights include: The Obama administration announced that 4 million people have signed up for health coverage. The LA Times reports that the administration has declined to release how many of those people have paid their premiums. Experts think there will be a surge of enrollments nearing the end of open enrollment on March 31. Politico reports that nobody has a real-time number of how many people who were uninsured now have insurance under the Affordable Care Act. “It’s going to take some time,” said Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “I know everyone wants to know, ‘X percent was uninsured,’ but what we know so far is mostly anecdotal, and it’s probably not accurately capturing what’s going on.” The Obama administration reported that the uninsured rate for young adults has dropped and estimates that 3 million young adults have gained coverage. Some franchise owners in Louisiana want to define a full-time employee as working 40 or more hours for the same employer. The Affordable Care Act defines full time as more than 30 hours per week. “Changing the definition from 30 to 40 hours would be tremendous for us,” said Dione Heusel, vice president of human resources and training for Metairie-based Smoothie King Franchises Inc. in an article in The Advocate. A fall 2013 survey commissioned by the International Franchise Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce concluded that the Affordable Care Act has already resulted in higher costs and fewer full-time positions as employers have sought to bring their […]