Tag Archives: state grants

In need of health care myself

I’ve fallen back off the posting wagon, due to illness in the youngest son, and myself. We had to enjoy some fine health care – which, thankfully, we have. The next sections of the PPACA are actually quite interesting. They discuss the Exchanges, or the private market compromise so as not to have government provided health care (except for the Armed Forces, the VA, Medicaid, and Medicare of course) once everyone is required to buy health care insurance.

Sec 1311 gives money to the states to set up these Exchanges, which most likely due to insurance laws are run through the States. They have to be set up starting in 2014, and money won’t be available after January 1, 2015.

The Exchanges themselves are to “facilitate the purchase of qualified health plans” and assist small businesses in doing the same, which under the PPACA are now required to offer health insurance in finding appropriate plans. These are separate goals, although states can choose to offer a single Exchange to achieve them both. There are some restrictions placed on advertising, so as not to scare off people with high medical needs, ensure provider choice, assistance for low income people in finding health insurance, meet certain quality standards and plans for improving quality, and share information with those people who would choose to enroll in these plans.

The plans would be rated, by a system developed by the states, to make decision making easier on the prospective enrollees. These ratings, and all of the other information, would be available by the aforementioned Internet Portals (Portals!!). The Exchanges would have open enrollment periods similar to the ones that current health insurances have. There are special provisions that say that stand-alone dental plans can be offered, even though they don’t offer any of the previously described qualifying health benefits.

The states retain the right to add benefits to the plans in their Exchanges, above and beyond the Federal minimum, but these costs must be borne by the state.

So, to sum up, the Exchanges will certify health plans, operate a toll-free number where you can ask for assistance, operate the Internet Portal, rate the health plans, present the details of the health plans in a standardized format, tell people when they are eligible for Medicaid, CHIP, or any state assistance program for health care, provide a calculator that tells people how much their insurance actually costs after the tax credits (that we haven’t gotten to) are applied, grant certifications that people are exempt from the penalty for not purchasing insurance (we’ll get to that soon), tell the employers who ceases to have insurance each year, and establish something called the Navigator program (explained at the end of this post).

The Exchanges have to be self-sustaining, they must consult with the relevant stakeholders, and they must publish their costs. The Exchanges also ask the health plans to justify any rate increases they wish to implement, and then use this information in deciding whether the plan can be offered in the Exchange. It also requires the insurance plans to increase their transparency of costs. They must also implement methods to improve health care quality such as patient-centered education, reduction of medical errors, wellness and health activities, and reduction of disparities.

The final part of this section provides grants for Navigators, or entities that have previously established relationships with employers and employees, consumers, or the self-employed, that could be used to facilitate those groups’ purchases of the health plans available from the Exchanges.

So – there you have it – one of the more controversial sections of the PPACA. The only one more controversial is the section that provides for the penalties if you don’t buy a health plan. We shall press on and try to get to that one quickly.

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A Three-fer for you!

Section 1002 – Finally!

This section is entitled” Health Insurance Consumer Information.”  Here the Federal Government wants to help the states create programs to help the consumers of health care insurance (us!) navigate the sometimes difficult process. It offers grants to create both assistance programs, and ombudsman (I love that word. Om-buds-man. There are so many things you could do with that.) for dealing insurance.

To get the grant, you have to create these offices, which will help people file appeals, track what problems people are having with insurance, educate consumers, assist them in enrolling in group health insurance, and resolve tax credit problems. They also have to track this data, and submit it to the Secretary of Labor. There was $30,000,000 available in the first year, and then it has to be reauthorized every year after that.

And that, my friends, is IT for section 1002.

Section 1003 – Ensuring that Consumers Get Value for their Dollar

This section also amends the Public Health Service Act (remember that from the first day!). This section allows the Department of Health and Human Services to review premiums to ensure that they are not rising too quickly. Health plans that are found to have unreasonable increases must justify their increases. This premium review process will continue, with Federal government support, to identify patterns of increases. It also addresses how this premium review process will affect the Health Insurance Exchanges that are part of the overall larger mandates for health insurance. That comes in around section 1300 – so we’ll get to it. There are funds appropriated for this process, and states can apply for grants to get them of between $1,000,000 and $5,000,000 a year. Given that they allocated $250,000,000 for the whole process, they have enough money for every state to get the maximum.

This section also creates something called a Medical Reimbursement Data Center. These will help to develop geographically accurate fee schedules, update these using the best statistical tools, and make the information public, about both the fees and the methodologies. This attempts to address the issue of transparency in the fees – which directly impacts the doctors that are receiving reimbursements. However, the insurance companies are not required to give data to these centers. So how accurate they might be is debatable.

Section 1003 – done!

Section 1004 just lists the effective dates of the sections preceding, with 1002 and 1003 immediately, and the rest six months later. So they have been in effect for a while. Has everyone been enjoying their ombudsman?

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