Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Political Cartoon: 'I Wanna Be Sedated'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'I Wanna Be Sedated'" by Chris Wildt .

Here's today's health policy haiku:

THE BUSH HEALTH POLICY PLAN

Jeb vows to repeal,
replace... But exactly how?
That's still TBD.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

4. Healthcare.gov Revamped To Make Shopping For Insurance Easier

In other health law news, a new state-by-state analysis finds that nearly half of the 32.3 million uninsured Americans are likely eligible for subsidized coverage. They’re disproportionately young, poor adults, with 40 percent residing in California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

The New York Times: Makeover Coming For Healthcare.gov
Acknowledging at least tacitly the difficulties of some health care consumers, the Obama administration plans major changes to HealthCare.gov this year to make it easier for shoppers to find health insurance plans that include their doctors and to predict their health care costs for the coming year. With substantial premium increases coming in some states in 2016, administration officials are expecting that many consumers already in the Affordable Care Act’s networks will have to switch health plans and find new doctors as they scramble for cheaper alternatives. (Pear, 10/12)

McClatchy: Nearly Half Of Uninsured Are Eligible For Subsidized Health Coverage
Nearly half of the 32.3 million Americans without health insurance are eligible for Medicaid or federally-subsidized marketplace coverage, according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. And of these 15.7 million uninsured Americans eligible for assistance, roughly 40 percent reside in just five states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania. (Pugh, 10/12)

KQED: 2 Million Uninsured Californians Are Eligible For Obamacare Benefits
In advance of the Nov. 1 start of open enrollment for Covered California, new numbers show that just over half of the state’s remaining uninsured are eligible for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The estimate was part of a state-by-state analysis compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Aliferis, 10/13)

5. The Shuttering Of Health Republic Sends Ripples Through New York's Insurance Industry

Health Republic was New York's only nonprofit insurance cooperative and the largest one established by the 2010 health law. Its demise leaves 215,000 people in need of a health plan. Meanwhile, another co-op, this one in Ohio, will be under "enhanced oversight" after reporting a loss of more than $9 million during the first six months of the year.

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Insurer Shutdown Jolts N.Y. Marketplace
The pending demise of Health Republic, the largest of the nonprofit cooperatives created under the Affordable Care Act and the only co-op in New York, removes a significant player from the state’s insurance industry. It also left the insurers’ 215,000 members, about half of whom are individuals and half are insured through small businesses, in need of new coverage. Individual Health Republic plans will end on Dec. 31, and small-group plans end as early as Oct. 31, although some will continue into next year. (Ramey, 10/12)

The Columbus Dispatch: Westerville Health-Insurance Co-Op Gets More Fed Oversight After $9.1 Million Loss
The federal government is increasing its scrutiny of a cooperative in Westerville that was set up to help ensure a lower-cost option for Ohioans who shop the federally run health-insurance marketplace. The health-insurance cooperative, which does business as InHealth Mutual, is now under “enhanced oversight,” having reported a net loss of $9.1 million through the first six months of this year. (Sutherly, 10/13)

Meanwhile, some Montana insurers, including a co-op, will feel a pinch from the recent federal risk-corridor decision -

KPAX (Missoula, Mt.)/MTN News: Fed Decision Shorts Montana Health Insurers Millions Of Dollars
Health insurers selling individual policies on Montana’s “marketplace” will be shorted millions of dollars in federal payments this year, thanks to an Obama administration decision unveiled this month. But two of the three insurance firms say it shouldn’t hurt their financial position too much. “This hurts us and it hurts a lot of (health) co-ops, but because of the way we’ve managed our costs, we’re still in good financial shape,” said Jerry Dworak, CEO of the Montana Health Co-op. ... The Co-op, which insures 23,000 people in Montana and another 20,000 people in Idaho, had expected about $6 million this year in federal “risk-corridor” payments to help offset losses for 2014, its first year of operation. ... But 10 days ago, federal officials announced the government would cover only 12.6 percent of the requested payments. That means the co-op gets only $800,000. (Dennison, 10/12)

6. Utah's Medicaid Expansion Plan To Face Critical Closed-Door Vote

Gov. Gary Herbert maintains optimism that the vote by state House Republicans won't end Utah's expansion efforts, but some in the GOP caucus aim to pull the plug on the initiative.

Salt Lake Tribune: New Medicaid Expansion Plan Utah Access Plus Seems Doomed In House
House Republicans are expected to pull the plug Tuesday afternoon on the latest attempt to expand health coverage to tens of thousands of low-income Utahns, with one representative anticipating the supporters of the expansion plan could be counted on both hands. Republicans in the House are scheduled to meet in a closed-door caucus to determine whether there is enough support to warrant a special session later this month. ... Utah Access Plus was the product of months of negotiations between legislative leaders and Gov. Gary Herbert. It calls on health care providers ­— doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and others — to pay about $50 million to bring in $450 million of federal matching funds in order to subsidize health coverage for about 95,000 of Utah's poor. (Gehrke, 10/12)

Deseret News: Gov. Herbert: Medicaid Expansion Efforts Won't End
Gov. Gary Herbert said he's optimistic his efforts to expand Medicaid in Utah won't end when House Republicans meet behind closed doors Tuesday to take a straw vote on the latest proposal. "I expect they're going to try to negotiate some kind of alternative. What they've got on the table right now may not be acceptable, but there's more than one — or two or three — ways to skin the cat," the governor told reporters Monday. (Romboy and Riley Roche, 10/12)

The Associated Press: Utah's Latest Medicaid Plan Faces Key GOP Vote Tuesday
For more than three years, state elected officials have debated if and how they'll insure thousands of Utah's poor by expanding Medicaid, but top officials aren't sure if that effort will survive a closed-door vote Tuesday by conservatives in Utah's House of Representatives. If there isn't enough support, legislative leaders and Herbert's office won't predict if they'll still consider the issue in a special session or if they'll walk away from the issue entirely. (Price, 10/12)

The Hill: Conservative Group Steps Up Utah ObamaCare Attacks
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is stepping up its attacks on ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion as the decision-making enters a key phase in Utah. AFP, backed by conservative donors Charles and David Koch, is launching new mail pieces sent to the constituents of roughly a dozen key Utah state lawmakers. (Sullivan, 10/12)

Coverage And Access

7. Time For Tips On Saving Money As Open Enrollment Begins Oct. 15

CBS News offers tips for comparison shopping for Medicare coverage. And Kiplinger's Personal Finance reminds all consumers not to ignore dental coverage options when choosing plans during employers' open enrollment periods.

CBS News: How To Save Money During Medicare Open Enrollment
You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by doing some smart shopping for your health care coverage under Medicare. During Medicare's open-enrollment period, which begins on Oct. 15 and ends on Dec. 7, you have the opportunity to make changes in your plan for 2016. Many people don't bother to shop for a plan and automatically re-enroll in their current one, but doing so might cost you an opportunity to save money next year. (Vernon, 10/13)

Kiplinger's Personal Finance: Family Finances: Paying For Dental Bills
As you choose benefits during open enrollment, it's worth checking up on the coverage in your dental plan. Dental insurance is usually cheap. The most popular kind of group plan costs just $32 a month, on average, and three-fourths of employers help pay the tab, according to the National Association of Dental Plans (NADP). That cuts the average employee premium down to about half the original cost -- or even less. But you get what you pay for. The coverage is awful. Still, if your employer subsidizes your coverage, you probably should take it, says Evelyn Ireland, executive director of the NADP. The plan likely covers routine care, such as cleanings and exams every six months, and most of the cost of basic procedures, such as filling a cavity. (Cross, 10/13)

Campaign 2016

8. Vowing To Repeal And Replace The Health Law, Jeb Bush Makes Health Policy Pitch

The GOP presidential candidate's health policy proposals embrace a number of traditional Republican themes, but remain quiet on the key question of how he would go about overturning the 2010 overhaul.

The Associated Press: Bush Offers Plan To Repeal, Replace Federal Health Care Law
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Monday proposed repealing and replacing President Barack Obama's health care law with one that would increase tax credits for individuals, allowing them to buy coverage protection against "high-cost medical events." But the two-page proposal, which would give more power to states to regulate health insurance, contained no specific details on how many people could be left without coverage. (Bustos, 10/13)

The Wall Street Journal: Jeb Bush Vows To Repeal Health Law
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is hitting familiar GOP themes by vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act and pledging to give states and individuals a greater role in establishing its replacement. Mr. Bush, in broad proposals released late Monday, didn’t say how he would go about overturning the 2010 federal health-care law—large portions of which have been in effect for years. The former Florida governor said he would leave states in charge of overseeing a “transition plan” for as many as 17 million people who currently get coverage under the law, with limited federal funding to carry out their plans. (Radnofsky and Reinhard, 10/12)