From Kaiser Health News

Health Care Stayed Front and Center at Democratic Debate

October 16, 2019

This time, it wasn’t just about “Medicare for All.”

Voters got a better look at Democrats’ health care priorities on Tuesday, as 12 of the leading candidates vowed to codify abortion access, threatened to jail opioid company executives and added a few more details to their health plans during the fourth Democratic debate.

This time, it wasn’t just about “Medicare for All.”

Voters got a better look at Democrats’ health care priorities on Tuesday, as 12 of the leading candidates vowed to codify abortion access, threatened to jail opioid company executives and added a few more details to their health plans during the fourth Democratic debate.

While the debate began on the topic of impeaching President Donald Trump, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont soon steered the discussion back to kitchen-table issues.

“I think what would be a disaster, if the American people believe that all we were doing is taking on Trump,” he said. “We’re forgetting that 87 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured….”

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

As Medicare Enrollment Nears, Popular Price Comparison Tool Is Missing

October 10, 2019

Millions of older adults can start signing up next week for private policies offering Medicare drug and medical coverage for 2020. But many risk wasting money and even jeopardizing their health care due to changes in Medicare’s plan finder, its most popular website.

For more than a decade, beneficiaries used the plan finder to compare dozens of Medicare policies offered by competing insurance companies and get a list of their options. Yet after a website redesign six weeks ago, the search results are missing crucial details: How much will you pay out-of-pocket? And which plan offers the best value?

Millions of older adults can start signing up next week for private policies offering Medicare drug and medical coverage for 2020. But many risk wasting money and even jeopardizing their health care due to changes in Medicare’s plan finder, its most popular website.

For more than a decade, beneficiaries used the plan finder to compare dozens of Medicare policies offered by competing insurance companies and get a list of their options. Yet after a website redesign six weeks ago, the search results are missing crucial details: How much will you pay out-of-pocket? And which plan offers the best value?

That’s because the plan finder can no longer add up and sort through the prescription costs plus monthly premiums and any deductibles for all those plans. A mere human can try, but it is a cumbersome process fraught with pitfalls. One plan might have the lowest premium but not the lowest drug prices. Another could exclude a plan’s preferred pharmacy that offers lower prescription prices….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Investors’ Deep-Pocket Push to Defend Surprise Medical Bills

September 11, 2019

As proposals to ban surprise medical bills move through Congress and state legislatures with rare bipartisan support, physician groups have emerged as the loudest opponents.

Often led by doctors with the veneer of noble concern for patients, physician-staffing firms — third-party companies that employ doctors and assign them out to health care facilities — have opposed efforts to limit the practice known as balance billing. They claim such bans would rob doctors of their leverage in negotiating, drive down their payments and push them out of insurance networks.

As proposals to ban surprise medical bills move through Congress and state legislatures with rare bipartisan support, physician groups have emerged as the loudest opponents.

Often led by doctors with the veneer of noble concern for patients, physician-staffing firms — third-party companies that employ doctors and assign them out to health care facilities — have opposed efforts to limit the practice known as balance billing. They claim such bans would rob doctors of their leverage in negotiating, drive down their payments and push them out of insurance networks.

Opponents have been waging well-financed campaigns. Slick TV ads and congressional lobbyists seek to stop legislation that had widespread support from voters. Nearly 40% of patients said they were “very worried” about surprise medical bills, which generally arise when an insured individual inadvertently receives care from an out-of-network provider….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Trump Promises ‘Phenomenal’ Health Plan. What Might That Mean?

September 4, 2019

While many Capitol Hill Republicans want to avoid a repeat of the Affordable Care Act repeal debate, President Donald Trump keeps promising a health plan that will be “phenomenal” and make the GOP “the party of health care.”

Last month, Medicare chief Seema Verma said, “We’re actively engaged in conversations” on what to do. Earlier in August, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway indicated an announcement might come this month.

While many Capitol Hill Republicans want to avoid a repeat of the Affordable Care Act repeal debate, President Donald Trump keeps promising a health plan that will be “phenomenal” and make the GOP “the party of health care.”

Last month, Medicare chief Seema Verma said, “We’re actively engaged in conversations” on what to do. Earlier in August, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway indicated an announcement might come this month.

Behind the pronouncements lies a conundrum: whether to stray beyond efforts underway to improve the nation’s health care system — loosening insurance regulations, talking about drug prices, expanding tax-free health savings accounts — to develop an overarching plan.

For the White House, it’s a fraught decision….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

As States Strive to Stabilize Insurance Marketplaces, Insurers Return

August 14, 2019

Felicia Morrison is eager to find a health plan for next year that costs less than the one she has and covers more of the medical services she needs for her chronic autoimmune disease.

Morrison, a solo lawyer in Stockton, Calif., buys coverage for herself and her twin sons through Covered California, the state’s Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace. Morrison, 57, gets a federal subsidy to help pay for her coverage and she said that her monthly premium of $167 is manageable. But she spends thousands of dollars a year on deductibles, copayments and care not covered by her plan.

Felicia Morrison is eager to find a health plan for next year that costs less than the one she has and covers more of the medical services she needs for her chronic autoimmune disease.

Morrison, a solo lawyer in Stockton, Calif., buys coverage for herself and her twin sons through Covered California, the state’s Affordable Care Act insurance marketplace. Morrison, 57, gets a federal subsidy to help pay for her coverage and she said that her monthly premium of $167 is manageable. But she spends thousands of dollars a year on deductibles, copayments and care not covered by her plan.

“I would just like to have health insurance for a change that feels like it’s worth it and covers your costs,” she said….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article