Affordable Care Act

Mike Sherry / Heartland Health Monitor

States that opted to use the federal health insurance marketplace instead of establishing one of their own can’t restrict the ability of certified navigators to help consumers, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

The decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals largely affirms an earlier ruling by a federal district court that blocked implementation of a Missouri law.

Twice as many Kansans and Missourians signed up for health insurance this year under the Affordable Care Act compared with the first enrollment period last year, new figures released Tuesday show.

More than 250,000 Missourians and nearly 100,000 Kansans selected plans on the federal insurance exchange, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

The data reflects complete enrollment numbers for the period from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015, and includes additional special enrollment activity through Feb. 22.

More than 300,000 consumers in Kansas and Missouri have a stake in the case argued Wednesday in the U.S. Supreme Court over a provision in the Affordable Care Act.

The vast majority of people who purchased Affordable Care Act coverage in both states qualified for federal tax credits. But they could lose those credits if the court rules that only consumers using state-based marketplaces are entitled to them.

Gallup is out with a new poll showing falling uninsured rates in every state but one: Kansas.

Although not statistically significant, the Sunflower State’s 1.9 point increase makes it the only state in the country to witness an uptick.

Philip Taylor / Creative Commons-Flickr

So you file your income tax return, and find you owe Uncle Sam $500—not for taxes, but for not having health insurance last year. The penalty is $95 per adult, or 1 percent of income—whichever is greater. Fifty-thousand dollars of income works out to a $500 penalty.

As many as 6 million individuals and families may have to pay this year. If you don’t have insurance for 2015, your penalty next year will rise to $325 per adult, or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater. But the enrollment period ended Feb. 15.

Jane Stevens / Creative Commons-Flickr

Obamacare enrollment grew by nearly 70 percent in both Kansas and Missouri during the most recent sign-up period, according to preliminary figures released Wednesday by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The number of Kansans enrolled in plans offered through the Affordable Care Act marketplace increased to 96,226 from 57,013. Missouri enrollment jumped to 253,969 from 152,335.

The new totals include those who purchased coverage for the first time as well as those who switched plans or re-enrolled in the coverage they chose during the first sign-up period.

Philip Taylor / Creative Commons-Flickr

 

In addition to big changes in health care, the Affordable Care Act has also brought changes to income tax filings. And as April 15 approaches, many taxpayers will look for help from people like Aimee Sanita. She’s the owner of Circle Tax and Accounting, and for the next two months she’s figuring on 60-80 hour workweeks. Sanita recently took a few minutes out of her busy day to help Heartland Health Monitor’s Alex Smith understand how the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, affects people’s taxes.

Thousands of Kansans and Missourians signed up for insurance on the federal exchange last week, though the pace has slowed since the first several robust weeks of the second Affordable Care Act open enrollment period.

New figures released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services show that during the week ending Jan. 16, 11,797 new or renewing enrollees in Missouri brought the state total to 209,336.

The total in Kansas reached 80,064 with the addition of 4,228 signing up.

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, talks honestly with Steve Kraske about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and offers her opinion on Governor Brownback's vision for Kansas.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration outlined a sweeping budget plan Friday that includes changes to Medicaid and increases in the state’s tobacco and alcohol taxes.

Budget Director Shawn Sullivan said closing a $650 million budget gap will require new tax revenue and slowed expenses in the state’s “three major cost drivers”: public schools, public employee pensions and Medicaid.

“It is time to make additional changes to both better the care coordination of 400,000-plus members in Medicaid and, second, to further bend down the cost curve in Medicaid,” Sullivan said.

The number of Missourians and Kansans signing up for private health insurance in the federal marketplace has surpassed last year’s numbers, and enrollment continues at a steady clip.

Figures released Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show that nearly 76,000 Kansans and nearly 198,000 Missourians chose a health plan or re-enrolled on HealthCare.gov between the start of open enrollment on Nov. 15 and Jan. 9.

Enrollment in both states has surged about 94 percent in the last month.

At roughly the midpoint of the second Affordable Care Act open-enrollment period, health advocates say they’re happy with the number of people signing up in Missouri.

Ryan Barker, vice president of health policy at the Missouri Foundation for Health, said that more than 102,000 people enrolled in health plans in the first month alone. In the entire first open enrollment period, 152,000 people signed up.

“We are very confident that we will exceed the numbers from last year,” Barker said in a teleconference Thursday with reporters.

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

A Maryland company that has reaped millions of dollars in federal health-reform grants for work around the country is drawing fire for its performance in the Kansas City area.

Critics say that Advanced Patient Advocacy (APA), a privately held company, has been slow off the mark in its role as a “navigator” organization, charged with helping consumers find coverage through the health insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act.

At least half of Kansans and Missourians who signed up for 2015 health insurance through the Affordable Care Act insurance marketplaces are new consumers, data released Tuesday show.

Of the 102,087 Missourians who chose a marketplace plan from Nov. 15 through Dec. 15, 50 percent are new and 50 percent have reenrolled, according to the figures from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Of the 39,023 Kansans who enrolled in the same period, 53 percent are new and 47 percent have reenrolled.

Consumers in Kansas and Missouri are among those who could be most affected if the U.S. Supreme Court eliminates federal subsidies in states that didn’t set up their own health insurance marketplaces.

The court announced on Monday that it will hear arguments in the case — King v. Burwell — on March 4, 2015. 

At issue is whether the Affordable Care Act authorizes federal subsidies only in state-operated marketplaces and not in the federal marketplace being used by consumers in Kansas, Missouri and up to 35 other states.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Eleven Kansas City-area hospitals have been hit with penalties for hospital-acquired infections and other complications that Medicare deems avoidable.

The hospitals’ Medicare payments will be docked by 1 percent in the fiscal year that runs from October 2014 through September 2015.

When Gov. Sam Brownback announced this week a list of stopgap measures to close a $280 million budget hole, one of the biggest chunks was $55 million from a “Kansas Department of Health and Environment Fee Fund Sweep” made possible in part by a federal law the governor has strenuously opposed and criticized.

The $55 million comes from a Medicaid drug rebate program that was expanded as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Beginning in January, more than 80 percent of workers currently eligible for part-time benefits in the Kansas state employee health plan will be eligible for full-time benefits under changes mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act.

File photo

 

Even with the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans still lack health insurance.

For them, safety net clinics are a lifeline. These clinics provide primary care for anyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

Today, there are federally funded clinics in 21 Kansas counties, but there soon could be more.

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

 

Sherry Calderwood wishes she could turn back the clock.

Last fall, she and her husband decided not to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace because it cost too much.

RELATED STORY: Kansas City Groups Target Hard-To-Reach For Health Insurance 

Jim McLean / KHI News Service

 

     

Which of the following is true?

  • The Affordable Care Act has provided thousands of low-income Kansas with greater access to affordable health insurance.
  • A looming ACA mandate has caused some Kansas employers to hire fewer full-time workers and instead fill positions with part-time employees.
  • The combination of reductions in Medicare rates and the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid eligibility has put Kansas hospitals in a financial bind.

The correct answer is “all of the above.”

Mike Sherry / Hale Center for Journalism at KCPT

Meridith Berry and her team learned a valuable lesson at an event where they were encouraging Hispanics to purchase coverage through the health insurance marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act: don’t use green card stock.

A Missouri consumers group has sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services over its alleged failure to disclose health insurance rates insurers propose to charge in Missouri in 2015.  

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in St. Louis by the Consumers Council of Missouri, comes just six weeks before the enrollment period for coverage under the Affordable Care Act begins on Nov. 15.

A total of 23 Johnson County legislators — all Republicans — signed onto an op-ed in the October edition of The Best Times, a magazine for seniors in the county, that praises the health care compact bill.

The rebuttal comes after a weeks-long disagreement between legislators who supported the compact and members of the Johnson County Commission on Aging, who wrote an article that appears on the previous page criticizing the compact for its potential effects on Medicare.

Consumers in Missouri and Kansas should see more companies offering coverage through the health insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, according to preliminary estimates released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Discrepancies in immigration status data will cause about 700 Kansans who enrolled in health insurance plans through the online federal marketplace to lose their coverage at the end of the month.

Officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said earlier this month they were attempting to contact some 1,800 Kansans whose immigration status was in question because of data differences in their online applications.

The Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved will get a $468,000 federal grant to lead the state's efforts again to get residents signed up for health insurance on the online insurance exchanges.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Monday announced $60 million in "navigator" grants to 90 organizations nationwide, including KAMU.

Federal officials are sending notices to more than 300,000 people — including about 1,800 Kansans — warning them that the health insurance plans they bought on the federal online marketplace will be revoked unless they provide documents that resolve "data inconsistencies" with their citizenship or immigration status.

Remember that headline-grabbing report last week that said Kansas was the only state in the nation to see a significant increase in its uninsured rate?

Well, it’s looking more and more suspect.

Some officials were immediately skeptical when the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey results were released, showing that the adult uninsured rate in Kansas had increased by 5.1 percentage points, jumping from 12.5 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent by mid-year 2014.

Bigstock

Kansas was one of just three states that saw their rates of people without health insurance go up since last year, according to a new survey.

And, if the poll results are accurate, Kansas was the one whose rates went up the most.

The data, collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, show that the uninsured population in Kansas rose from 12.5 percent in 2013 to 17.6 percent by midyear 2014 — a whopping increase of 5.1 percentage points.

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