Tag Archive | "Affordable Care Act (ACA)"


Deadline to Enroll in ObamaCare Today

Updated Monday, December 15, 2014 @ 5:34 p.m.

HARTFORD — In order to begin health coverage under the Affordable Health Care Act by January, residents must enroll by this Monday, state officials said.

Consumers who elect not to enroll before the Dec. 15  deadline will still have until Feb. 15 to enroll and avoid a tax penalty.

Connecticut residents, who are enrolled  in health insurance after Feb. 15, 2015, will be fined either 2 percent of household income over the federal income tax filing threshold, or $325 per individual, $162.50 per child, or $975 for families– whichever is greater.

This is an increase from last year’s tax penalties, which were 1 percent of household income over the federal income tax filing threshold, or $95 per person and $47.50/child, whichever was greater.

After the Feb. 15, 2015 deadline, only people with special circumstances like a change of address, change in employment, or birth may enroll for coverage.

Residents can compare plans and shop for coverage online, over the phone, or with the help of an in-person assister. Call center representatives are available  at 1‐855‐805-HEALTH (4325).

In-person assistance is available at the AHCT enrollment centers in New Britain and New Haven, at 12 Community Enrollment Partner sites, and via licensed insurance brokers. For more information, visit www.accesshealthct.com.

In advance of tonight’s midnight deadline for coverage beginning Jan. 1, Access Health CT Acting CEO Jim Wadleigh has released the following statement:

“The deadline to sign up for quality, affordable health care coverage that begins on Jan. 1, 2015 is tonight at midnight.  If customers have an application started and select a plan before midnight tonight, they can still get coverage beginning Jan. 1, as long as they complete the application and get us all the relevant information by midnight this Friday, Dec. 19.

We hope that this grace period will allow ample time for customers to complete their applications and have any remaining questions answered. We urge costumers to use Access Health CT’s customer resources to get the assistance they need to get coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2015.



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CT Reports Final Tally for Obamacare Enrollees

HARTFORD — The final tally is in for the number of enrollees under the Affordable Care Act through Connecticut’s website.

According to Access Health CT officials, 208,301 people enrolled in under the ACA or Obamacare between Oct. 1 2013 and March 31, 2014.

State officials report that of the total amount,  78,713 have enrolled in a private insurance carrier, Qualified Health Plan.

Additionally, the number of enrollees surged on the deadline, March 31. AHCT received 5,365 voicemail messages from consumers with questions regarding their application and collected contact information from approximately 5,000 individuals who attempted to enroll in person or online and encountered some difficulty.

“Over the past two weeks, our team has made follow up calls to each of those individuals to assist them through the enrollment process, and we have now completed all open enrollment applications,” said Kevin Counihan, Access Health CT CEO.  “We’re honored to have worked with so many organizations throughout our State and helped tens of thousands of previously uninsured or underinsured residents obtain the care they deserve.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services projected that Connecticut would enroll 33,000 consumers in private insurance plans, a target that was exceed in December 2013, and more than doubled in the final tally. Of the 208,301 enrollees, 78,713 enrolled with a private insurance carrier and 129,588 enrolled in Medicaid.

Of the 78,713 residents who enrolled with a private insurance carrier, 78 percent received a tax subsidy and 22 percent did not.  These final enrollment numbers were calculated after redeterminations, duplications and cancellations from insurance carriers.

“These final enrollment numbers highlight Connecticut’s success in implementing the Affordable Care Act,” said Governor Dannel Malloy. “Thanks to the hard work of AHCT, state agencies, community health centers, and faith-based organizations, we far exceed our goal and as a result more people have access to more affordable healthcare.”

State officials also plan to do follow up work to “help us understand the extent of the impact we’ve had so far, build on this success,  and continue efforts to make Connecticut a healthier place to live and work,” said  Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, co-chair of the Access Health CT Board. 

Until open enrollment begins on Nov. 15, 2014, residents will only be able to shop for coverage through Access Health CT under special circumstances, such as marriage, divorce, birth, adoption or loss of insurance coverage from an employer.

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Hartford PPSNE to Help With ACA Enrollment

HARTFORD —  With about a week left in the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England will be offering opportunities for city residents to get new health insurance before the March 31 deadline.

Planned Parenthood certified application specialists will be hosting Affordable Care Act Education & Enrollment Fairs to help residents get covered. Additionally, two dedicated Outreach and Enrollment Specialists are scheduling private appointments with Connecticut residents, so they may sign up for new health insurance.

“With the enrollment deadline less than two weeks away, Planned Parenthood is resolute in our efforts to help as many uninsured women and men obtain health insurance as possible,” said Judy Tabar President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “Preventive services are expanded under Obamacare and women can no longer be discriminated against for having a preexisting condition. The new health care law ensures women can take charge of their health and well-being and PPSNE experts are here to make that process easier.”

Expanded preventive services include birth control, which is now treated like all other preventive care, meaning it is available without a co-pay. Ninety-nine percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 who are sexually active have used birth control at some point, and nearly 60 percent of women who take the birth control pill use it for medical reasons other than contraception, such as treatment for ovarian cysts, hormone replacement after chemotherapy, endometriosis and more. Birth control is just one example of the many benefits provided under the ACA.

Certified application counselors will help people sign up for new health insurance on the following dates and Planned Parenthood locations:

Monday, March 31, 10:30 AM – 6:30 PM

Hartford North Health Center

1229 Albany Avenue

Hartford, CT 06112

Saturday, March 29, 11 AM – 4 PM

New Haven Administrative Office

345 Whitney Avenue

New Haven, CT 0651

Wednesday, March 26, 4 – 7 PM

Bridgeport Health Center

211 State Street

Bridgeport, CT 06604

Tuesday, March 25, 4 – 7:30 PM

Torrington Health Center

249 Winstead Road

Torrington, CT 06790





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Don’t Believe the Hype Against Obamacare; Sign Up for Insurance

If you are uninsured and live in the Greater Hartford area, all roads should lead to Community Health Services on Albany Avenue to sign up for the Affordable Care Act.

Don’t believe the hype against so-called Obamacare. That’s because your insurance premium could be less than $100. And if you are eligible for Medicaid, your insurance premium could definitely be $0.

editorialbannerthumbAt this point, responsible individuals would have done research and found out the facts for themselves before they let people give them all kinds of cock and bull stories. And check this out: The people who are discouraging, or sabotaging other people’s effort to sign up, have insurance themselves. Yes, people. They have insurance.

If you want to be covered by health insurance this year, the deadline to sign up is March 31. Appointments are available for next week. If you miss this deadline, you have to wait until November to sign up for the following year. But for now, any individual could try the service for one year and judge for herself whether there are drawbacks to being on this particular insurance. Duh!

For many, it takes less than 30 minutes, with the help of a staff person, to sign up. And it’s best to go before crunch time because even now the state’s website, accesshealthct.com, occasionally malfunctions. And CHS workers and others have to call in to AccessHealthCT to sort out kinks in the system.

To date, more than 5 million people across the nation have enrolled.  And in Connecticut, more than 160,000 have enrolled, surpassing the state’s targeted goal of 100,000.  We can only think more people are not enrolled because anemic strategies have been employed to reach the people who need the insurance the most.

That’s unfortunate.

But with 10 days left to go, uninsured people should embrace the unknown and sign up today. With uncertainty, it is indeed better to be safe than sorry. And as we have seen on numerous occasions, ignorance coupled with an unexpected medical condition, can be extremely expensive.

Get to it.





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A Month After Signing Up for Health Care, Customers Are Still Waiting for Anthem Bill

Updated January 24, 2014 9:33 a.m.

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

HARTFORD — Thirty days after many people signed up for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield on health exchanges, they are still waiting for a bill.

Without the bill, they cannot get an account identification number, which is needed before payment can be made and be recorded with their account.

Anthem Spokesperson Sarah Yeager said that Anthem has hired more than 1,000 associates for its call centers to handle the crush of applicants who signed up during open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, the most significant health care reform since the advent of Medicaid and Medicare in 1965.

“It is important to keep in mind that his is an unprecedented time of change for everyone in health care,” Yeager said. “While we expect the high call volumes to continue through the open enrollment period, Anthem is committed to getting our members the assistance they need.”

However, the process is taking longer than expected for people who signed up on or by Dec. 23, the deadline for insurance to be effective on Jan.1, 2014.

Anthem Blue Cross Earlier this month, Anthem extended its deadline from Jan. 15 to January 31, 2014 for enrollees to make payment and paperwork to be processed so that insurance can be effective Jan. 1.

But that doesn’t make sense to at least one individual who on Jan. 23 has yet to get a bill. When she called the given customer number, an Anthem customer service representative said her information was “not in the system.”

After she inquired about that at the health exchange she signed up with, which took less than 30 minutes online, they told her the information was processed and sent over to Anthem on Dec. 23.

Yeager said Anthem is processing payments through the government exchange, Access HealthCT.

But there are other exchanges that have moved into the Connecticut insurance market: e-Health, a California-based insurance exchange company and Cross Exchange, which recently acquired the Stamford health insurance exchange: The Insurance Market.

It’s unclear whether Anthem is also processing applicants who signed up with other exchanges.

But customers can go to Anthem.com, Yeager said, to send an email: (help@anthem.com). Once they are on the site, they can look for “Attention Members” and click “contact us” then select send us your questions and comments.”

They can also call 1-888-556-9929, she said.

Anthem is reminding customers that it is “an extraordinary moment of opportunity for the uninsured and a transformational moment for the industry.” And they want customers to be patient.

Earlier on Thursday in a White House Call to the press, Deputy Senior Advisor David Simas was joined by representatives from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association to emphasize the dramatic and historic shift in the health care industry.

People with pre-existing conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease will no longer be discriminated against by health care companies or pay higher premiums, he said.

Nationwide, almost more than 2 million people have signed up for the ACA, also known as Obamacare. As of Jan. 15, 85,001 people signed up in Connecticut.

Most of the uninsured are people who don’t have access to group health insurance, including the unemployed, the under-employed and self-employed.

A single person who earn between $11,500 and $46,000 is eligible for a government subsidy.

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Connecticut Awarded ‘Performance Bonus’ For Improving Children’s Health Coverage

WASHINGTON — Connecticut was one of 23 states awarded performance bonuses for improving access to children’s health coverage and successfully enrolling eligible children in Medicaid, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner announced on Monday that the state  in 2013 received more than $1.7 million of that $307 million in performance bonuses. This is the fifth and final year of performance bonus awards.

The performance bonuses were authorized under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 , one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by President Obama.

States could qualify for a bonus by implementing procedures to simplify Medicaid and CHIP enrollment and renewal processes to improve eligible children’s access to coverage. The amount of a state’s bonus corresponds to the increase in children’s Medicaid enrollment over a specified target.

“States are working hard to ensure children get access to the health coverage they need,” Tavenner said. “We are pleased to provide financial support to reward states that are reducing enrollment barriers and are connecting kids to coverage.”

Such efforts have been paying off.  Recent Census data show that uninsurance rates for children declined from 8.6 percent in 2009 to 7.5 percent in 2011.  In addition, an analysis by the Urban Institute found that participation rates in Medicaid and CHIP have continued to improve over time.  In 2011, 87.2 percent of eligible children were enrolled, a 5.5 percentage point increase from 81.7 percent in 2008.

Officials said that the bonuses help states by offsetting the costs of insuring the lowest income children and encouraging them to adopt sustainable improvements in their children’s health coverage programs.

Many of the simplifications that states adopted to qualify for performance bonuses  will be in place in all states in 2014 and applied consistently across Medicaid, CHIP, and the Marketplace.  These simplifications have led to improved coverage for children and have helped lay the groundwork for outreach efforts aimed at enrolling people now eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The 23 states awarded performance bonuses include:  Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

For more information on today’s CHIPRA performance bonus awards, visit http://www.insurekidsnow.gov/professionals/eligibility/performance_bonuses.html.


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Court Grants Reprieve to Doctors

HARTFORD — Thousands of doctors working with UnitedHealthcare received a reprieve from losing their jobs after a federal judge late Thursday issued an injunction.

Federal Court Judge Stefan Underhill issued a decision granting the members of the Fairfield County Medical Association and Hartford County Medical Association a preliminary injunction preventing UnitedHealthcare from unilaterally cutting their jobs.

But the fight is not over to save more than 2,250 physicians who were informed in November that United Healthcare would cut them from the insurer’s Medicare Advantage Network.

The two medical associations filed the legal challenge in early November seeking to block UnitedHealthcare from terminating as many as 2,250 physicians, or approximately 20 percent of its entire doctor network in Connecticut.

According to the Associations, about 20,000 to 30,000 Medicare patients could be impacted by UnitedHealthcare’s decision to axe that many physicians in Connecticut.

In a statement to the press, President of the Fairfield County Medical Association Dr. Robin Oshman responded to the judge’s decision:

“Both the Fairfield and Hartford County Medical Associations took this bold step for our patients and for our member physicians,” Oshman said. We won’t let UnitedHeathcare get away with interfering with the doctor-patient relationship. While this is one huge step in the right direction, the journey is far from over.”

The preliminary injunction order prohibits UnitedHealthcare from terminating any of the Associations’ members from the Medicare Advantage Network, notifying their Medicare Advantage customers/insured that certain providers will be terminated from Medicare Advantage Network as of Feb. 1, 2014; and removing or failing to advertise/market the Association’s affected physicians in UnitedHealthcare’s 2014 directories for the Medicare Advantage Network.

“This major ruling by Judge Stefan Underhill is proof that the voices of our patients and the 1800 member physicians were heard loud and clear!  As physicians we are first and foremost advocates for our patients and for their access to the medical care they deserve.  That will continue to be our focus moving forward,” said Dr. Bollepalli Subbarao, President of the Hartford County Medical Association.

Attorney Roy W. Breitenbach of Garfunkel Wild, PC, served as the attorney for the Fairfield and Hartford County Medical Associations. Breitenbach said the preliminary injunction protects the state’s most vulnerable patients, mainly the elderly, disabled and some of whom have terminal illnesses.

“This is a victory for not only the 3,300 plus member physicians of Fairfield and Hartford County Medical Associations,” he said. “it also speaks clearly to the importance of not allowing health insurance companies to place profits ahead of patient care.”

UnitedHealth Care did not respond to request for comments.

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Undocumented Parents of U.S. Born Children Wary of Obamacare

By Anthony Advincula

NEW AMERICA MEDIA — R. Ng and his wife, both from the Philippines, have overstayed their visas since 2003. They have a nine-year-old son who is a U.S-born citizen.

As the nation prepares for the new health system under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Ngs have found themselves in an immigration and health care bind: how do they enroll their child in a health care exchange without disclosing their immigration status?

“That would not be an easy thing to do,” said Ng, who is ethnic Chinese. “That’s scary, actually.”

It’s a dilemma faced by thousands of mixed-immigration-status families like the Ng’s here and around the country. Afraid of coming into contact with a government agency, many immigrant families are wary that mandatory ACA enrollment for documented members of the household may put those who are here illegally in harm’s way.

“It’s a no-brainer, because we’re going to enroll our child but not ourselves,” Ng added. “It’s almost an admission to the government that our child has undocumented parents.”

The ACA does not extend to undocumented immigrants.

Under the law, individual states will offer health care exchanges that serve as a marketplace for individuals — including those who have never had insurance, as is the case with many immigrants — to purchase an affordable health plan. Those individuals who are currently uninsured are required to apply for coverage through the exchanges or face a penalty.

Still, many undocumented parents of U.S. born children remain reluctant to seek health care and public assistance. U.S-born children of undocumented immigrants are in fact twice as likely as children born to citizens to lack insurance, according to a 2012 study by the Hastings Center.

Another study by the Pew Research Center Hispanic Trends project noted there are now about 11.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States and, after the number bottomed out due to the Great Recession, that figure may be rising again.

Health reform advocates are concerned that fear and mistrust of government among undocumented parents may deter families like the Ngs from enrolling their U.S-born children in a qualified health plan. Open enrollment in health exchanges starts Oct. 1.

“This is the biggest challenge that we see in the enrollment process,” Noilyn Abesamis-Mendoza, health policy director with the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, said at a press briefing earlier this month with ethnic media in Manhattan. “There have definitely been some fears going around.”

Emergency room visit

Ng, who works in a retail store in Queens, says he feels fortunate that his family has remained relatively healthy, though the thought that one of them might fall ill frightens him. “I pray every day that won’t happen,” he says.

When one of them does get sick, Ng says the family typically self medicates. But in 2009, during the H1N1 scare, Ng’s son developed a high fever, prompting a trip to the emergency room. “It [the fever] was very high,” Ng recalled,” and I didn’t want to wait until it was too late.”

Since 2009, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has enforced executive ordinances — EO 34 and 41 — that ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, have access to city services, including health clinics and city hospitals.

These ordinances also require city workers to protect the confidentiality of a person’s immigration status.

Still, Ng admits he is uncomfortable going to the emergency room because “our information gets recorded” and it may be detrimental when they eventually apply to legalize their immigration status.

But experts say such fears are misplaced.

Guarantee of confidentiality

Sara Rothstein is assistant director of policy and training for the New York Health Benefit Exchange.

“When enrolling in the exchanges for their U.S-born children,” she explained, “parents who are undocumented only need information such as proof of citizenship and Social Security numbers for their children, not themselves.”

While an applicant’s information is sent to a federal agency for verification purposes, she continued, that information is not used for immigration purposes. “It goes through a series of verifications. When the confirmation for each application gets back to us, it only says ‘residence confirmed’ or ‘residence unknown’,” she said.

According to Rothstein, when undocumented parents apply for the exchange, every member of the family, regardless of immigration status, is assessed. For example, she said, a family with two undocumented parents and one U.S. citizen child would be considered as a family of three and not one, which could make coverage for the child more affordable or qualify them for financial assistance.

And while undocumented parents are prohibited from purchasing health coverage through ACA exchanges and receiving tax credits, they are still qualified for services from safety-net providers such as community health clinics and public hospitals. Treatment in an emergency room also remains available for their care. All these programs, notably, have been in place even prior to the passage of the ACA.

“We will separately consider each person in a household and provide the most benefits for the whole family” based on the person’s eligibility and set criteria, including household income and number of members in the household, Rothstein said. “We will figure out how each member of the family gets covered.”

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Va. Court Ruling Unlikely to Derail Health Care Reform

New America Media, Commentary, Linda Leu and Anthony Wright

Many Americans wonder what the Republican takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives or the various legal challenges and court rulings will mean for the federal health law passed earlier this year—including the new consumer protections, benefits and options that many families have been anxiously awaiting or have already begun to rely upon. Some of these threats are in fact, threatening. But others have little chance of ever coming to pass.

The key fact is that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is now the law of the land, and even with their electoral victories, opponents of health care reform lack the power to repeal the law. Of particular note, the consumer protections that started to take effect this year—from prohibiting insurers from canceling coverage when someone gets sick, to eliminating co-payments for preventative care—will continue.

While there are some areas of concern, seniors need not fear that they will lose their $250 prescription drug rebates. Young adults who have recently gained coverage under their parents’ plans need not fear becoming uninsured again. People previously denied coverage due to their health status need not worry that the new pre-existing condition insurance program (PCIP) option will disappear. Small business owners can rest assured their tax credits for providing health care to their workers are safe.

Nonetheless, here is a look at some of the threats to the ACA and an assessment of how worried consumers should be.

Congressional Repeal:
With the Republicans winning a majority in the House, they will likely act quickly to pass a bill seeking to repeal ACA. The bill will make a big splash in the headlines, then stall in the Senate, where the Democrats still hold sway. A complete repeal of the bill would mean an increase in the federal deficit, which would be politically unpopular. Without the real possibility of repeal, the health care reform law will remain the law, and newly enacted consumer protections will remain intact. The possibility of a full repeal is dependent on the results of the 2012 presidential elections; without a change in party, repeal won’t happen.

Congressional Oversight:
The House GOP can use its oversight authority to bury the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in investigative hearings and try to distract the agency from the work of implementing the ACA. However, though HHS plays an important role, most of the work to implement the law will need to be done by the individual states.

Defunding: Republicans have threatened to hobble the ACA by refusing to appropriate any money to help the law take effect. But most of the funding needed to implement the law does not require congressional approval. Nor can Congress take away funds for expanding Medicaid or creating state insurance Exchanges. That said, a showdown is likely in those areas that need Congressional approval—from funding for consumer assistance programs, to investments in prevention and public health, to pilot programs aimed at reducing the cost of health care. These programs need active support to continue in the next Congress.

Judicial Challenges: The majority of the legal challenges to ACA have been dismissed, but there are a few still making their way through the courts. A Republican-appointed judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the ACA’s requirement that individuals must have coverage is unconstitutional—but he allowed the rest of the law to stand. The ruling will be appealed, and if it is upheld, the ACA can be fixed to deal with the legal issues. California reformers remember that Healthy San Francisco, a version of health care reform for low- and middle-income residents of that city, was struck down by the first court that reviewed it, but eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Until the Supreme Court weighs in, implementation of the ACA will continue.

State Cooperation: Gubernatorial elections that resulted in victories by opponents of the federal health law do pose a threat to the ACA. States have considerable leeway to implement the ACA; in the name of ideology, they could even refuse federal dollars meant to provide health care to their residents and to benefit their doctors, nurses, hospitals, and clinics.

California has not had this problem. Voters re-elected every congressional representative who voted for the ACA, as well as a new governor and attorney general who have pledged to fight for it. California has moved forward aggressively, passing some of the first bills in the nation to implement and improve upon the federal law.

The bottom line is this: California’s families should disregard most of the political theater in Washington D.C. and see how health care reform benefits them. With a disproportionate share of uninsured Americans, and a health care system at a breaking point, California needs all the help it can get. California voters should take advantage of the new benefits and options under ACA—and continue to press our elected leaders to seize the opportunities available for our state.

Linda Leu is a health care policy analyst at Health Access California and Anthony Wright is the organization’s executive director.

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