HHS, Insurers, Health Systems Preparing For Health Law's Impact

Politico reports on the Department of Health and Human Services' HealthCare.gov, "the new Web portal that goes live July 1 and is designed to give consumers a place to research and compare health insurance plans. Since it will be the most tangible link to the health reform law for many Americans, health policy experts and administration officials say it's crucial that the site is well-designed, easy to navigate and free of the jargon that makes the field of health insurance so unintelligible to the public. ... When HealthCare.gov launches next Thursday, it will have information about insurance plans that users can sort based on their own situation and their eligibility for public insurance programs, like Medicare, the Children's Health Insurance Program and the new high-risk pools for individuals with pre-existing conditions" (Kliff, 6/22).

The Los Angeles Times: "More insurance carriers are ramping up their services as they prepare to compete for millions of new customers starting in 2014, as a result of the new healthcare-reform law. That's the year health insurers will be barred from refusing coverage to people with preexisting conditions or charging them exorbitant rates, and the first time individuals will have to carry health insurance or face a financial penalty. Such changes are driving some health insurers to try to meet people where they are — physically, with retail stores and enhanced phone-based customer service, and virtually, by tracking negative comments online and intervening to help improve people's experiences with their health plans" (Gerencher, 6/21).

The New York Times: Some insurers "are now trying to avoid those high medical bills by taking the longer view. They are giving primary care doctors more help — and more money — to take care of the sickest patients and help prevent them from becoming sicker. Otherwise, insurers know they risk being overwhelmed by rising health care costs as an older, sicker population copes with serious chronic conditions."

The Geisinger Health System is an example: "As an insurer, Geisinger now pays the salaries of extra nurses in doctors' offices, whose full-time job is to help patients with chronic diseases stay on top of their conditions and, ideally, out of the hospital. … The nurses make sure patients who need quick appointments are squeezed in, and they alert the doctors to any early indications of trouble by keeping in close contact with the patients and looking out for the results of patients' lab tests" (Abelson, 6/21).

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