Health Care Reform in the News

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As the White House continues to address problems on the Affordable Care Act website, local health care navigators have told Reuters that they are seeing gradual improvements on The White House has promised that the website would be working by the end of November, according to published reports.

Navigators are individuals or organizations that are trained to both help consumers, small businesses, and their employees find health coverage options through the Marketplace and assist with the completion of eligibility and enrollment forms. Booksellers and others looking to avoid potential frustration with the health care website can seek out navigators here.

Seven companies that are funded through the Affordable Care Act to assist health care applicants told Reuters that they had “seen successes enrolling people from start to finish in recent days.” Laura Line, corporate assistant director of health care at Resources for Human Development in Philadelphia, told Reuters, “We’ve had more completed online enrollments in the last week or so than probably all the weeks before combined, and we’re pretty excited about that.”

Not everybody interviewed in the article was as excited as Line, but they were encouraged by the improvements they were seeing on the website. That said, critics continued to hammer the White House for what they characterized as a flawed launch.

In related news, the Department of Health & Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) moved to give consumers new, standardized information about their options and rights when it comes to health insurance. CMS’s effort is a direct response to President Obama’s concerns that those “Americans receiving confusing letters from their insurance companies” about policy cancellations or changes need clearer information about how to keep an existing plan, or how to choose a new plan with the protections available in the health insurance marketplace, according to the White House.

The health reform bill created 10 minimum standards for all health policies sold after January 1, 2014, including coverage for emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, and mental health and substance use disorder services (behavioral health treatment and prescription drugs). As a result of these mandates, insurance carriers whose policies did not cover the minimum standards sent policyholders notification that their insurance had been terminated, as noted by the USA Today. This resulted in approximately 3.5 million people having their insurance cancelled, according to the Associated Press

The CMS’s transitional policy allows issuers in states that permit it to renew health plans that were in effect on October 1, 2013, without adopting all of the 2014 market rule changes. The White House hopes that this will give consumers in  individual and small group markets the choice of staying in their plan or joining a new Marketplace plan next year.

The transitional policy does require insurers adopting this option to provide their customers with information detailing how they can purchase coverage through the Marketplace where they can potentially qualify for premium tax credits, and that they have new options and rights to get quality, affordable health insurance.