Affordable Care Act

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

Since the Affordable Care Act took effect, Wyandotte County has seen the number of its uninsured fall from 26 percent to 18 percent, one of the biggest drops in the country.

But it’s one thing to boast of boosting the ranks of the insured, another to steer them through a complicated and, at times, bewildering health care system.

With a $1.9 million grant from the United Health Foundation, announced today by county officials at the offices of the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, the county is now in a better position to do that.

Healthcare.gov

Almost nine out of every 10 Kansans and Missourians who selected health insurance on the federal online marketplace paid for at least the first month of their coverage this year, offering one bit of stability in the sometimes-turbulent marketplace.

Critics of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, questioned whether people who signed up for coverage actually would pay their premiums after the exchanges’ troubled rollout in late 2013 and early 2014.

Bryan Thompson / Heartland Health Monitor

Rural Americans are gaining health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act at rates outpacing their urban counterparts, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Mark Andes is among those in rural Kansas who have benefited. Andes was living and working in McPherson last year when he began having some scary health symptoms.

Missouri Department of Insurance

Starting in 2018, Missouri will no longer be the only state in the country barred from collecting information on health insurance rates.

Gov. Jay Nixon on Tuesday signed legislation requiring health insurers to file proposed rates with the Missouri Department of Insurance and the department to determine if they’re reasonable or not.

If the department finds them to be unreasonable because they’re excessive, inadequate or unfairly discriminatory, the law authorizes it to disclose that to the public, which can then comment on the proposed rates.

The cost of a premature birth was the beginning of a controversy involving the price of health care, AOL’s CEO and the baby's mother. The dispute sparked a national debate about the value of a human life.

Guests:

File photo

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer announced Thursday that two companies have filed to sell health insurance plans in Kansas on the individual market, including the federal Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace.

UnitedHealthcare’s announcement that it would be pulling out of the marketplace in 2017 opened the possibility that Kansans who shop there would be left with only one choice of insurer.

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The departure of UnitedHealthcare could leave Kansans shopping on the federal online marketplace with only one choice of insurer, but Kansas Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer is working to bring in more.

Deputy Commissioner Clark Shultz says Selzer has for several months been in talks with other insurance companies about joining the marketplace in 2017, and those discussions appear close to yielding results.

“It’s too early to announce that and we don’t have it secured, but there are some very positive developments,” Shultz says.

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

A federal judge says that Obamacare navigators may dispense advice to those looking for insurance under the federal health reform law.

U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith on Wednesday struck down provisions of a Missouri law that bars insurance navigators from giving advice about health plans. He ruled that the law is preempted by the federal Affordable Care Act.

NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

A new poll from NPR, Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation explores Americans’ experiences with the health care system in the two years since the Affordable Care Act was fully implemented.

Kansas was one of seven states singled out for closer scrutiny. And while much of what Sunflower State residents said followed national trends, there were some notable exceptions.

KHI News Service

Some supporters of Medicaid expansion say that Gov. Sam Brownback’s rural health task force is little more than political cover. They say that in an election year Republican lawmakers opposed to expansion need to be seen as doing something about the financial pressures that forced a hospital in southeast Kansas to close its doors and that are threatening others.

But Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, the person appointed to lead the group, says the governor’s critics have it wrong.

The enrollment period for the federal health insurance marketplace closed Monday night, with higher enrollment than last year in Kansas and Missouri.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said 101,555 Kansans enrolled before the deadline. That’s about 5,000 more than the 96,197 Kansans who enrolled before last year’s deadline.

HHS provided numbers for several population centers:

Alex Smith / Heartland Health Monitor

With Wyandotte County struggling to address a shortage of primary care physicians, a discussion exploring how that shortage affects doctors, patients and the health of our communities. Plus, what does it mean to be healthy, anyway?

Guests:

Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

A Lawrence businesswoman has become something of a poster child for the Affordable Care Act.

Meg Heriford, owner of the Ladybird Diner, didn’t seek the spotlight but has been thrust into the role by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. 

Sebelius, who also served two terms as Kansas governor, still has a home in the state as well as one in Washington, D.C.

More than 80,000 Kansas residents and more than 250,000 Missouri residents have signed up for 2016 coverage through the federal insurance marketplace, putting both states on track to exceed last year’s enrollment figures. 

The Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved reported 84,631 people in Kansas and 253,099 in Missouri had enrolled through healthcare.gov as of Saturday. The enrollments were close to the totals for last year’s sign-ups.

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The government has extended until Thursday the deadline to sign up for health coverage starting Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act.

Government officials said a surge of people selecting plans over the two days before the original Tuesday deadline led to the extension. One million people left contact information after encountering delays logging onto the healthcare.gov website or reaching call centers, the officials said.

Cody Newill / KCUR 89.3

Kansas City Mayor Sly James met with health care counselors and members of the public at Samuel Rodgers Health Center Saturday to promote enrollment on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Add the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce to the list of Kansas organizations that support expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.

Pushed by influential hospital members Via Christi Health and Wesley Medical Center, the chamber’s board voted Thursday to add expansion to its list of policy priorities for the 2016 legislative session, said Jason Watkins, the organization’s lobbyist.

Susie Fagan / Heartland Health Monitor

Supporters of expanding Medicaid in Kansas hope the story of how the conservative governor of another red state found a way to move forward will motivate Gov. Sam Brownback and Republican legislative leaders to do the same here.

They invited a delegation of hospital officials from Indiana to come and talk about how they worked with Republican Gov. Mike Pence and large GOP majorities in the Indiana Legislature to pass a conservative plan that expanded health coverage to more than 350,000 low-income residents of the Hoosier state but required them to share in the costs.

Dave Ranney / Heartland Health Monitor

When Rep. Jim Ward read the latest lawsuit brought by Kansas officials against the Affordable Care Act, the Wichita Democrat thought the federal action at the center of the suit sounded familiar.

“My first thought was, ‘Wait a minute, didn’t we just do this about four months ago?’” Ward said, referring to the Legislature increasing a tax on health plans.  “And why is one better than the other?”

Republican state leaders who initiated the lawsuit say it’s an essential part of their ongoing fight against federal overreach by President Barack Obama’s administration.

www.healthcare.gov

A major provider of health insurance in Kansas is pulling out of the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Two companies under the same corporate umbrella — Coventry Health & Life Insurance Co. and Coventry Health Care of Kansas Inc. — are withdrawing from the marketplace just two weeks before the Nov. 1 start of the next open enrollment period.

Rohan Hutchings, a Coventry spokesperson, said company officials made the decision after reviewing a range of business factors, including the company’s competitive position in the 17 states in which it offers marketplace plans.

Iowa Healthcare Collaborative

Roughly 1,000 Kansas doctors soon will be participating in a massive nationwide initiative aimed at improving the quality and efficiency of the health care system.

The Kansas doctors will be part of a six-state transformation project managed by the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative, a nonprofit organization formed in 2004 by doctors and hospitals in the state.

Dr. Tom Evans, the CEO of the Iowa collaborative, said each of the participating states will be free to focus on its own improvement strategy.

Both Kansas and Missouri are underperforming when it comes to reducing the number of uninsured within their borders.

From 2013 to 2014, all 50 states recorded statistically significant reductions in their uninsured rates, mostly because of the implementation of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

But most states saw bigger reductions than those posted in Kansas and Missouri.

The number of Kansans maintaining health coverage through healthcare.gov, the federal online marketplace, has declined since spring.

As of the end of June, 84,872 Kansans were enrolled in Affordable Care Act policies, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s down 0.7 percent from the nearly 85,490 enrolled at the end of March but higher than the 57,000 enrolled in the spring of 2014.

In Missouri, enrollment decreased to 212,256 in June from 219,953 in March, a decline of 3.5 percent.

Kansas Navigator Grants Renewed For Three Years

Sep 3, 2015
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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Wednesday that it had renewed its navigator grants with two Kansas programs: Ascension Health and the Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved (KAMU).

Premiums for Kansas health insurance plans offered in the federal marketplace won’t increase as much as originally proposed, state Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer said Tuesday.

In May, Kansas insurance companies requested rate increases of up to 39 percent for individual market policies to be sold through the healthcare.gov marketplace during the next open enrollment period, which begins Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 31, 2016.

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The proportion of Missourians without health insurance fell by 4.3 percentage points from 2013 to the first half of 2015, according to Gallup survey results published Monday.

The rate of uninsured Missourians now stands at 11.4 percent, compared with 15.2 percent in 2013.

The decrease occurred even though Missouri neither expanded Medicaid nor set up its own state-based marketplace under the Affordable Care Act.

REACH Healthcare Foundation and Mid-America Regional Council

When it comes to health outcomes in the 11-county Kansas City metropolitan area, there’s good news and there’s bad news.

That’s the takeaway from a regional health assessment released Tuesday by the REACH Healthcare Foundation in Merriam, Kansas, which aims to improve health care for the poor and medically underserved.

The good news: Except for obesity and diabetes, health outcome trends in the metro area are improving.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of the latest legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act preserves federal tax subsidies that nearly 270,000 consumers in Kansas and Missouri used to help them purchase health insurance.

If the decision handed down Thursday had gone the other way, those consumers, many of whom were previously uninsured, might have been forced to drop their coverage.

RELATED: High Court Upholds Health Law Subsidies 

Reactions to today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a key pillar of the Affordable Care Act – the federal tax subsidies made available through the federal insurance marketplace:

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.): “The Supreme Court has said it again and again: The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Today’s decision saves lives. The ACA is helping millions of Americans focus on their families, jobs, and quality of life, instead of worrying about what will happen if they and their family members get hurt or sick. Now I am no lawyer—I am simply a United Methodist preacher. 

High Court Upholds Health Law Subsidies

Jun 25, 2015
Jim McLean / Heartland Health Monitor

The Affordable Care Act survived its second Supreme Court test in three years, raising odds for its survival but by no means ending the legal and political assaults on it five years after it became law.

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