Affordable Care Act

Pulse on the Road in Texas!

Austin, Texas was the location of our third Pulse on the Road in 2014. Temperatures spiking 100° didn’t stop a huge turnout for the Texas
Bleeding Disorders Conference
, co-hosted by the Lone Star Chapter of NHF and the Texas Central Chapter of NHF. Melissa Compton, mother extraordinaire of a child with hemophilia (and a compassionate supporter of Save One Life) emceed the event and introduced our team on Sunday morning at 8 am sharp, following a delicious buffet breakfast. About 400 people attended the two-hour session, one of our highest numbers yet!
I changed up the presentations a bit and first delved into why did the Affordable Care Act (ACA) come to be? With a few stats, I showed that skyrocketing medical costs, particularly in specialty drugs (which factor is), was straining the state budgets; it was only a matter of time before private insurers caught on. Looking to cut costs, insurers turned to increasing prior authorizations, formularies, decreasing choice of factor
provider, and more.
After setting that stage, Tom Larmondra of Baxter Healthcare reviewed the ACA, particularly the benefits to those with bleeding disorders. He reviewed the fine print, exclusions, and most important, the Marketplace: what is it, how does it work, and how to use it.
Back to me: I next reviewed the importance of choosing a healthcare plan, as many people may need to go on line to choose one. Comparing it to car insurance, which we are all more familiar with, we reviewed costs versus benefits, and in particular which costs to watch out for.
The goal? Learning the main things to consider when you compare healthcare plans so you do not underestimate your healthcare annual budget. We want you to save your hard earned income!
Last, we welcomed Michelle Rice, Vice president, Public Policy and Stakeholder Relations, National Hemophilia Foundation and Marla Feinstein, Policy Analyst, NHF. Their topic, Appeals and Grievances—Making Your Case, covered what to do when insurers reject your claims. Using the fun and sophisticated ARS devices, audience members cast their votes for the correct answers to a series of educational questions, while tunes played in the background (Ghostbusters?).
The event scored rave reviews from the looks of the 60+ evaluations turned in. Our thanks to Baxter Healthcare, for providing the funding for all the Pulse on the Roads, now in our 5th year!
We’re done for the year but look forward to visiting you and bringing up to date information about insurance reform to your state!
Please check www.kelleycom.com by December to see where we will be in 2015!
Great Book I Just Read
 
Midnight Express [Kindle]
Billy Hayes &
William Hoffer
Much more than a survival book, it’s
the true story about an American enduring a harsh and dehumanizing imprisonment
in a Turkish jail in the 1970s. A gripping, unforgiving and frightening tale,
Hayes is incarcerated while trying to smuggle hash out of Turkey. Hayes ensured
five years of mind and physical torture, a labyrinth court system, watching the
anguish of his parents as he deteriorates and becomes a shadow of himself, until
his incredible escape. Hayes accepts that he broke the law and deserved
punishment, but it highlights the brutality apparent in the penal systems of
other countries, and the injustice of completing his initial sentence and
having the system overturn it and be given life. His portrayal of life in
prison is sobering and sad; his adjustment to the microsociety inside the
prison walls is fascinating. The excellent 1978 Oliver Stone movie follows the book for the
most part, but ends quite differently. Four/five stars.

Welcome to the Jungle, I mean Marketplace! Part 2

At NHF’s Social Worker Insurance Workshop in Baltimore on January 16, there were some great questions asked from the audience concerning the Marketplace. Social workers know they will most likely be the first line of defense for patients with bleeding disorders facing the many challenges of the ACA. Here are some questions asked and other snippets of information from the workshop.
Q. What if you don’t like the insurance plan options in the Marketplace. How do you file a
special appeal [concerning coverage]?

Go to Healthcare.gov; there is a link for an appeal. Appeals are
worthwhile because sometimes codes are entered in wrong, and sometimes people
get approved for procedures and benefits that were originally denied.
Is there a limit to the number of appeals?
No.
Q: But after you pick a plan and don’t like it, what if you just don’t pay the next month’s
premium? Won’t you just get canceled and then you can choose another plan? Isn’t
that easier than an appeal?
There is an open enrollment time, so you can’t choose to switch outside that time period. After March 31 you can’t get into a “QHP” (an insurance plan that is certified by the Health
Insurance Marketplace, provides essential health benefits, follows established
limits on cost-sharing (like deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket maximum
amounts), and meets other requirements.)
Mike Bradley (Baxter), Laurie Kelly, and Derek Robertson (Apogenics, Inc.)
Joanna Gray, of CRD Associates told us that the ACA says HTCs must be included in-network. But… plans don’t have to include any specific medical procedure. They only need to cover “sufficient” providers, and they don’t say who those providers are. The ACA hasn’t come through in its promise. NHF says be careful! Don’t pick a plan that doesn’t include your HTC or product, because now it’s legal for providers to avoid HTCs. We can’t change the policy for this year. Maybe next? We need to complain to get changes made.
NICOLE of NHF said that every state has its own definition of EHB (essential health benefits). So picking a plan is harder, because there are more plans, and picking one that covers what you need is hard.
Q: To use the Marketplace, you must be a legal resident.  What happens to legal immigrants,
who are not citizens?
   In Nevada, they are currently covered under high-risk pools but will lose this soon (the pools are closing). Are there alternatives?
No. You can still get emergency medical through Medicaid; and of course, anyone can buy insurance in the commercial marketplace.

Nancy Hatcher and Ed Kuebler
JoAnn Volk of The Center on Health Insurance Reform, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, said that six states will not enforce the ACA: Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming. The ACA gives primary responsibility to states to enforce the rules, but there are 10 state benchmarks (Essential Health Benefits) that must be followed, and will be reviewed by the feds.
If you find a QHB but it doesn’t include factor, JoAnn thinks that the appeals process will work, recommending that people get their drugs for 20 days, during the appeals process, even if they are not on formulary.
Q: How do I find the benchmark plan for my state?
All benchmarks are listed in the state insurance department website. www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Data-Resources/Downloads/Vermont  (for example)
Q: What’s the advantage of going into the Marketplace?
The advantage of going into the Marketplace is subsidies; you can be eligible for discounts within limits. To buy into a Marketplace, you have to be physically in the state, not incarcerated and be legally present. There are no other limits.
Q: When we couldn’t find what we were looking for (was our hematologist covered), and we called the website, we couldn’t get any help.
Don’t call the health.gov website. Call the plan provider. Sometimes it’s best to work with your HTC contracting department!  They will know who is in network.
And there is so much more information! Be sure to keep reading your HemAware (from NHF), Pulse (from us), and tap into your chapter’s or your local hemophilia organization’s efforts to educate their families about insurance changes. Lots happening; don’t miss deadlines and opportunities by not staying on top!
Great Book I Just Read (Again)
Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic  by
Jennifer Niven [Kindle]
A secret exploration to Wrangle Island, in
the Behring Sea, in September 1921 goes terribly wrong when food runs low and
sea ice keeps a relief ship from rescuing the stranded four young men and one 25-year-old
Eskimo woman trapped there. The trip sets off an international crisis when
Russia, Great Britain and the US learn that the trips leader, the opportunist and
greedy explorer Vilhalmur Stefansson, who never even went, was trying to claim
the island for Canada. Only Ada survives the horrible conditions, and her
return sets off a media firestorm. Did she kill her companions? How did she survive?
Diaries are stolen, Ada is hounded and used by the press and her own sponsors.
She becomes at once a hero and a villain. Fantastic read and Ada will amaze you
with her spirit and ingenuity. Her real survival started when she returned home.
Four/five stars

Welcome to the Jungle, I mean, Marketplace

This past week I attended a useful and interesting meeting, NHF’s Social Worker Insurance Marketplace Workshop (funded by Baxter Healthcare and Pfizer Inc; thanks guys!).
Together with about 80 social workers from HTCs around the country, and some
chapter leaders, we listened to various consultants and government
representatives speak primarily about the “Marketplace,” the website of the Affordable
Care Act that allows people to choose a healthcare plan.

We’ve all heard about the difficulties in dealing with this website— healthcare.gov—such as the
crash, and various other glitches. The good news is that many of these glitches have been fixed; and now it’s time to get our bleeding disorder community on board. Healthcare insurance is mandatory now; all US citizens (with notable exceptions) must have insurance. The website is created to help people find the lowest cost insurance that also provides all their essential healthcare needs.

Crafty Posters were created to help us visualize; good idea, we needed the help!

There is plenty of assistance in navigating the website. We actually tried the website live,
and it was pretty interesting, and yes, we even got stuck once or twice! For
us, we were stuck trying to find out if our HTC hematologist was in-network.

Each website will have on-line or Internet guides, to help you live. They are called various
names: Assisters, navigators, certified application counselors, in-person assistance, marketplace call center, agents and brokers. Most people are used to calling them “Navigators.” (I can’t help but think of “Engineers,” a la Ridley Scott’s Prometheus)
Jim noted that there were still some difficulties to overcome in each state. Ed Kuebler, a social worker from Texas, slyly asked, is the difficulty level in some states… political? This garnered many laughs! Ya think?

There are many marketplaces, as each state as their own. All the marketplaces have different funding sources, based on what type of marketplace it is:

FFM: Federally facilitated marketplace

SPM: State partnered marketplace. The federal government has some role in this.

SBM: State based marketplace and the fed has no role in it.

How many people have enrolled since the site was unveiled in October?  By Dec 28: 6 million Americans gained coverage through Marketplace and Medicaid
2.2 million of those enrolled in private plans
80% received help in paying for premiums
53 million visits to healthcare.gov and state marketplace websites
11 million calls to the federal and state call centers
Different healthcare plans are designated by “metal.” The more precious the metal, the
higher priced the plan, but also the more coverage. Enrollment by Metal?
                  60%
are choosing Silver plans
20% Bronze
13% gold
7% Platinum
1% catastrophic plans

Ed Kuebler thinks we need more help than navigators (kidding–a gift from a friend)

There are still consumer problems using the Marketplace:
An inability to complete application on line

Applications get “stuck” (freeze) or lost

Info is not transmitted after the plan is submitted
If not sure you’re insured, call insurance company (not the website) to check
If you don’t pay 1st month premium by certain date, you will not get insurance!
Don’t despair! I found it actually fun to hop on Colorado’s state Marketplace and select a plan.
Michelle Rice (L), Mary Garvey (R) of NHF; Tiara of PSI (C): all great speakers and resources!
Another useful website is Marketplace.cms.gov, which has FAQs, tip sheets, paper application, and materials in Spanish. And Healthcare.gov, which does premium estimate, on line application. When you log on, you will see this banner!
Enroll by February 15 for coverage starting March 1
So contact your social worker for help if you are not yet enrolled; don’t miss the deadline!
Next week I will cover more of the NHF Social Worker Insurance Marketplace workshop.

Insurance Buyer Beware!

While catching up on some insurance reading, I came across this article, which gives some food for thought. I’ve been giving insurance symposia around the country, and we have been focusing this year on the “Marketplace” websites, but this never even crossed my mind!

“Buyer Beware: Obamacare creates an opening for confusion and scams”

Kate Pickert
Government Bureaucrats aren’t the only ones preparing for a key component of President Obama’s signature health care law that goes into effect this fall.
Health care exchanges, the marketplaces where people can buy soon-to-be required insurance, launch Oct. 1, and experts warn that their debut
could create a prime moneymaking opportunity for illegal scammers and others looking to capitalize on consumer confusion. “There are people licking their chops and saying, ‘A sucker is born every minuet,’” says Elizabeth Abbott of the consumer group Health Access California.
There are two main types of potential snares for consumers: outright cons and insurance-like plans that give the impression of offering
more coverage than they actually provide. Regulatory agencies are already on high alert for fraud. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau have posted warnings about Obamacare-related identity theft. And in Pennsylvania, one enterprising insurance broker set up a website with the official state seal and the title Pennsylvania Health Exchange. The site was removed after a warning for the state insurance department.
Some quasi-insurance products expected to proliferate come October are ‘discount medical plans,” which promise lower health care costs in exchange for a recurring fee. Many of these plans lure customers with language that implies comprehensive coverage, but the reality is far more limited.
“The problem is, people pay the money, buy a plan, and when they get sick, they find out they don’t’ have the financial security they thought they had,” says Minnesota attorney general Lori Swanson, who has sued several discount medial plans for deceptive market practices. Consumer watchdogs are also wary of plans that reimburse consumers with set amounts for doctor visits or hospital stays, regardless of the actual costs.
Obamacare bans some forms of skimpy coverage, but with enforcement left to the states—some of which are less than enthusiastic about
the law—don’t count on those misleading plans disappearing overnight. “Will the states crack down on them?” asks Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University and an expert on insurance regulation. “Well, a number of states
aren’t enforcing the Affordable Care Act at all.”
Time August 19, 2013Great Book I Just Read
Into the Abyss: An Extraordinary True Story [Kindle]
Carol Shaben

A small commuter plane goes down on a subzero night in 1984 in Canada; only four of nine people survive: the 24 year old pilot, the first Muslim politician in North America, a policeman and his handcuffed prisoner. The next 36 hours reveals each man’s character, impacts them for life, and bonds them to one another for life. The prisoner saves the lives of the other three and becomes a national hero. This amazing story, expertly told, delves deep into the minds and hearts of each man before and during the accident, and follows them 20 years later to see what has become of them. The incident helped to change Canadian aviation. The author is the daughter of the politician, one of the survivors. Five/five stars.

Get to Know Your Ex

The word “exchange” is a funny one. It’s Latin root “ex” means  “out of, away from” like “exodus” or “exorcism.” It also means “without, not including” like ex-dividends. Or “former” as in “ex-husband.”

In health insurance, it means “confusing, convoluted, complicated comparison.”

Of course, I am only half-kidding.

But all the more reason why parents of kids with hemophilia and patients 18 and older need to start reading about and preparing to engage in the coming state insurance exchanges. These are part of the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress and being enacted in phases with most of the changes beginning in 2014. These include the exchanges, a virtual “marketplace” (basically a web site) where people can shop and compare to buy the healthcare insurance that best suits their needs and budget. Michelle calls them the “Travelocity” of health insurance. 

But with presidential elections looming, and some states suing the government to repeal the ACA, it’s still a Wild West health insurance show out there.

On Saturday, I attended a great presentation by Michelle Rice, director of public policy at NHF about state exchanges. NHF has been holding webinars to train the community’s top advocates. Michelle reported over 85 people attended the first webinar! 

Here are some snippets of what I learned Saturday from Michelle:

1. State exchanges will be like “one stop shopping”—a gateway to coverage for 30  million people who need insurance (and don’t forget the ACA will mandate most everyone have health insurance). 

2. The exchanges allow comparisons on four levels of benefits. They provide federal subsidies for premiums and out-of-pocket (OOP) costs for people below 400% poverty.

3. There’s funding for states to set up IT development, as the websites will need to be sophisticated to help the millions who will be tapping into them. 

4. There are minimum standards for all exchanges to allow easy comparison:

5. 4 coverage tiers based on patient OOP costs; 

6. Essential health benefits (being defined at the state level)

7. There will be “navigators” to help people use the exchange,  multiple ways to enroll in person, online, phone), and one simple application

8. In 2014 all high risk pools will go away and these people will end up on exchange.

 9.   2 states, Louisiana and Arkansas,  won’t operate their own

10. 15 states already established the exchange (which doesn’t mean they can actually do it!)

11. 3 plan to establish (California, Colorado, Maryland)

12. 19 states are studying options 

13. 12 states have taken no significant action

Things are moving quickly, and if you have a chronic disorder like hemophilia, you must have insurance.

Want to learn more? Go the NHF’s website www.hemophilia.org and download slides from the last webinar. Get EXcited about learning more about insurance exchanges and EXcel! The more you learn, the better you will be able to handle the coming changes. 

Good Book I Just Read

Funny Blood: The remarkable
story of my daughter Ros
 by  Juliet Batten, 2011 

This is the very sweet and easy to read story of a young English woman who in 1974 adopts a beautiful baby girl, named Rosamund (“Ros”) who later is diagnosed with von Willebrand disease. The book, while no where near as in-depth and educational as Journey by the Massies, nonetheless paints a picture of the isolation in the 1970s and 80s of having a child with VWD, a disease not written about often or paid much attention to, given the medical demand that hemophilia/HIV provided. Juliet gives a heart-wrenching testimony of her daughter’s suffering and her stoic nature, as she braves so many hospital trips and procedures, and survives her first periods, which entail lengthy hospital stays. Both mother and daughter share strong character, uncomplaining nature and solution-seeking orientation. A wonderful mother and person, Juliet, and husband John, adopt Paul, a needy and active four-year-old, adding more stress and challenges into their lives, which they seem to overcome through the years with persistence and dedication.

The book is well written, interesting and inspirational. Ros succeeds beyond all odds and is now leading a successful life. My friend Richard Atwood, bleeding disorder book critic, writes, “The author did not expect to adopt a child with a major medical problem, but Juliet was capable and her Quaker beliefs provided a peaceful serenity. By necessity, Juliet learned about VWD, became a self-taught expert, and supported others; she also wrote articles for hemophilia and for adoption. Juliet, now retired, writes in her diary as Ros writes a blog; their inspiring story is insightful for living with a bleeding disorder.”

To this I would add that the book’s only flaws are the sometimes misinformation of the medical and scientific side of hemophilia, VWD, plasma and factor concentrates. For example, Juliet writes that 3% levels of factor VIII means severe hemophilia–not true. Also her descriptions of factor concentrates are a bit off-base. The book could have used more stringent medical editing. But if you look to the book for a heart-warming story of a remarkable mother and daughter, and to gain insight on what living with VWD is like in the 1970s and 80s, you will be very rewarded. I especially like how she gave such high marks and kudos to the Haemophilia Society and her HTCs. Juliet sounds like a classy lady! Three out of five stars.

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