Applying For Benefits In Online Marketplaces Might Be Daunting

The Associated Press reports that the draft version of the application for a three-person family is 15 pages while the online version has 21 steps, some with additional questions. In other implementation news, a Commonwealth Fund study finds that 24 states and the District of Columbia have chosen benchmark plans that specify what must be covered by health insurance policies sold in and out of their online marketplaces.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Will Nation's Uninsured Get Lost In Long Application For Obama Health Care Plan?
Applying for benefits under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul could be as daunting as doing your taxes. The government's draft application runs 15 pages for a three-person family. An outline of the online version has 21 steps, some with additional questions (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/12).

Modern Healthcare: Half Of States Have Chosen Benchmark Insurance Plan: Report
A little more than six months before open enrollment begins, 24 states and Washington, D.C., have chosen a benchmark plan that will determine what health insurers must cover in health plans sold in the state exchanges and individual and small-group markets, according to a new study from the Commonwealth Fund. In the rest of the country, the snapshot suggests, the federal government will model the minimum benefits on the largest small-group plan sold in the state. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, individual and small-group plans must offer an "essential health benefits" package (Zigmond, 3/13).

Other headlines include a progress report on Colorado's health exchange, details regarding a round of new ads related to the health law's birth control coverage mandate and an analysis of how Native American clinics will fare.  

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): User Fees To Fund Colorado Exchange
Colorado’s health exchange board approved administrative fees of 1.4 percent on insurance plans that will be passed on to customers to help fund the exchange. If Colorado lawmakers do not back a proposed measure that aims to divert cash from Colorado’s high-risk health insurance fund — Cover Colorado — to the exchange to help cover their costs, those fees could rise to an estimated 3.4 percent. Cover Colorado will no longer exist because the federal Affordable Care Act requires commercial health insurance companies to accept all customers, including those with serious health problems and pre-existing conditions. The high-risk pool is expected to have some remaining funds after it pays all its claims. The funds also came from consumers who paid higher health insurance rates to cover people who couldn’t get insurance (Kerwin McCrimmon, 3/12).

Roll Call: Rival Lobby Campaigns Focus On Birth Control Mandate
Activists on both sides of the abortion debate have unleashed new ads and grass-roots lobbying drives in the ongoing fight over birth control requirements in the 2010 health care law. A campaign dubbed “Birth Control: We All Benefit” launched by the Planned Parenthood Federation of America includes TV ads in Kentucky that targeted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky (Carney, 3/13).

HealthyCal: Obamacare Means More Funding For Native American Clinics
Molin Malicay, director of the Sonoma County Indian Health Project clinic, has read all 976 pages of the Affordable Care Act—the legislation that created what’s become known as Obamacare. His copy has 46 tabs, each marking a point where Native Americans are mentioned. The country’s First Peoples are uniquely affected by the federal reforms. But because federal responsibility for tribal health is already in place, individual Native Americans may not notice the effects of Obamacare as much as Native American clinic directors (Shanafelt, 3/13).

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