Kaiser Health News Original Stories

1. Alaskans Face Tough Choices Because Of High Insurance Costs

The highest Obamacare insurance rates in the country are in Alaska. Though most people get a subsidy to help defray the cost, those who don’t are increasingly wondering if they should cancel their health insurance. (Annie Feidt, Alaska Public Radio Network, 10/30)

5. Political Cartoon: 'Belly Laugh'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Belly Laugh'" by Roy Delgado.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

SILVER OR GOLD?

Well… ‘Tis the season
to shop for health insurance.
What will people choose?

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Health Law's Third Open Enrollment Season Begins

Open enrollment for health coverage available on the healthcare.gov and state exchanges kicked off Nov. 1. Though the technology glitches and drama of the first sign-up period appear to be less likely, officials note challenges remain -- namely, the reduced number of plan choices and the costs increases for some premiums.

The Wall Street Journal: Health Law’s Strains Show
The Affordable Care Act’s third open enrollment season got under way, with a new array of health plans that show how the law’s influence is starting to transform the insurance industry. Sunday’s kickoff appeared to go relatively smoothly, with little evidence of technical glitches at HealthCare.gov as consumers started to shop for coverage that will take effect in 2016. (Wilde Mathews, 11/1)

The Associated Press: Health Law's 3rd Sign-Up Season Faces Challenges From Prices
The government's insurance website is faster and easier to use, but as a third sign-up season gets underway, President Barack Obama's health care law is approaching limits. Enrollment on the federal and state exchanges began Sunday. While the law's expanded coverage has reduced the uninsured rate to a historic low of about 9 percent, the gains will be harder in 2016. (Johnson and Alonso-Zaldivar, 11/2)

The New York Times: Many Need To Shop Around On Healthcare.gov As Prices Jump, U.S. Says
In Tennessee, the state insurance commissioner approved a 36 percent rate increase for the largest health insurer in the state’s individual marketplace. In Iowa, the commissioner approved rate increases averaging 29 percent for the state’s dominant insurer. Health insurance consumers logging into HealthCare.gov on Sunday for the first day of the Affordable Care Act’s third open enrollment season may be in for sticker shock, unless they are willing to shop around. Federal officials acknowledged on Friday that many people would need to pick new plans to avoid substantial increases in premiums. (Pear and Goodnough, 10/30)

The Wall Street Journal: Businesses, Patients Feel Marketplaces’ Ripple Effect
[T]he ripple effects of change stemming from the law and its signature marketplaces are being felt in almost every corner of the health-care system. Consumers this week start signing up for new coverage on the marketplaces, one of the most high-profile changes the law has brought to the health-care industry. (Wilde Mathews, 11/1)

USA Today: Federal Health Site Premiums, Number Of Insurers Vary Widely By Area
Consumers shopping on the federal health exchange for 2016 plans will still be able to pick from about five insurance companies, but there will be fewer plans on average to choose from, federal health officials said Friday. About 90% of consumers who return to Healthcare.gov will have plans from three or more insurers to choose from for 2016 coverage, Department of Health and Human Services officials said. (O'Donnell, 10/30)

The Washington Post: Third Year Of ACA Sign-Up Starts, On Time But With Muted Fanfare
Less overt drama surrounds this third year’s enrollment season, compared with the inaugural season, when HealthCare.gov and some state-run exchanges suffered massive computer defects, as well as last fall, when a pending Supreme Court case threatened to block federal subsidies that help consumers in more than three dozen states buy ACA coverage. Still, big questions linger: Of the estimated 10.5 million uninsured people who are eligible to get coverage on the exchanges, how many can be persuaded to buy health plans? And how many of nearly 10 million existing customers will renew coverage — and at what price? (Goldstein, 11/1)

Bloomberg: Obamacare Premiums Climb, But Insurers Struggle For Profit
Many people shopping for health coverage this weekend on the websites created by Obamacare are going to see double-digit percentage increases in their premiums. That’s still not enough for some insurers. Anthem Inc. says there remain competitors in the government-run marketplace offering premiums that aren’t enough to profitably provide the coverage patients will require. Prices in some areas probably will have to climb in 2017 and even 2018 to reach levels that make sense, according to Chief Financial Officer Wayne Deveydt. Meantime, Anthem will sacrifice market share to keep its plans profitable, he said. (Tracer, 10/30)

Real Clear Health: Burwell Kicks Off Marketplace Open Enrollment, Touting Healthcare.gov Improvements
Those who do shop for insurance on the marketplaces will mostly see higher premium costs for 2016 compared to prices paid this year. According to HHS, premiums for a benchmark insurance plan will rise by an average of 7.5 percent in the 37 healthcare.gov states. But premium changes vary widely from state to state, and even within states, so in many cases consumers will be hit with much higher increases, while in some cases costs will be lower than this year. Furthermore, rising subsidies will protect many lower income shoppers from these price increases. (Eisenhower, 11/2)

7. States Implement Strategies To Reach Uninsured People During Insurance Sign-Up Season

In addition to detailing state efforts to reach these consumers, news outlets also report on how local market offerings have changed this year.

The San Jose Mercury News: Covered California Confronts Challenge Of Signing Up Millions Of Remaining Uninsured
As the Affordable Care Act's third open-enrollment season kicks off Sunday, health care experts around the nation will be closely watching whether Covered California gains more traction -- and signups -- than it did in 2015. The Golden State's health care exchange was the country's darling in the first year of Obamacare, getting 1.1 million uninsured people to enroll in private plans in 2014. But that total inched up to only 1.3 million this year. (Seipel, 10/31)

Los Angeles Times: Officials Launch Bus Tour To Promote California Health Insurance Exchange
The head of California’s health insurance exchange toured Los Angeles by bus Sunday, seeking to publicize the Affordable Care Act’s potential benefits among Southern Californians, many of them Latino, who officials say have failed to take advantage of the law. On the first day of this year’s open-enrollment period for federally subsidized health plans, the tour’s first stop — in East L.A. at the nonprofit care provider AltaMed Health Services — previewed what state officials say will be an overarching strategy as they seek to boost enrollment in the third year of the state-run marketplace, called Covered California. (Jamison, 11/1)

Los Angeles Times: Officials Push For More Californians To Sign Up For Health Insurance
Residents will have three months during open enrollment to sign up for the exchange. Covered California has 1.3 million consumers, about 90% of whom receive subsidies to help cover their premiums. About 4 million Californians remain uninsured. Of those, officials estimate that 1.4 million would qualify for Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program for low-income residents, and 750,000 others would be eligible for subsidies toward private health insurance. (Sewell, 11/31)

Politico: The Texas County Where Only 12 people Signed Up For Obamacare
In rural Borden County, 12 people signed up for Obamacare this year. Livid over the government telling them they must buy something and loath to take anything that looks like a “handout,” the uninsured here are likely to stay that way. As Obamacare’s third open enrollment season began Sunday, this rock-solid conservative community of about 650 people offers a window into the challenges health law advocates face to expand coverage around the country. (Pradhan, 11/2)