In-Box-Purgeapalooza Part 4

As I noted this morning, between the impending election on Tuesday, the upcoming 2nd Open Enrollment Period (henceforth to be designated "OE2" or hashtag #OE2), and a serious technical crisis with my day job which I've had to spend the past few days cleaning up, I have upwards of 150 ACA/Obamacare-related emails clogging up my In Box.

Most of them are worth a mention, but there's no possible way I can do a full entry/commentary/analysis on most of them, so I'm just doing roundup-style summary mentions:

A new report by Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University examines the challenge of maintaining enriched health care for pregnant women who are enrolled in Covered California and who are also eligible for Medi-Cal, which includes the Comprehensive Perinatal Services Program (CPSP). The CPSP, whose roots are in one of the nation's most successful programs ever developed for low-income pregnant women, makes enriched maternity care available to pregnant women facing elevated health, environmental and social risks on account of their economic status.

"The Senate races in Louisiana and Iowa are important Senate races where there also happen to be very high exchange premium increases proposed for 2015," Pearson toldMedPage Today in a phone interview. "It's definitely factoring in there a little bit more ... It gives the Republicans some talking points and allows them to focus on the ACA -- that premiums are increasing and it's not affordable and not sustainable."

But overall, "It's obviously a much less important election issue in 2014 than in previous years, so we are definitely not seeing it [as] a determining factor in most races," she continued. "Lots of other things -- Ebola being the biggest one on the healthcare side -- are rising above the ACA at this point."

A few weeks ago, Gov. Mark Dayton was able to defend the exchange when the Minnesota Department of Commerce announced that the average rate for plans sold on the exchange in 2015 would be 4.5 percent higher than in 2014, allowing Minnesota to keep its place as the state with the lowest cost premiums in the country.

...With advice from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan health care think-tank based in Washington that is a leading voice on the nuances of the federal health care law, MPR News ran more than 50 scenarios to test the truth of the Dayton administration's 4.5 percent claim.

...The bottom line: The change in monthly payments varies wildly depending on where you live, your income, your age and how many people are in your family.

The huge spike in health insurance premiums in the individual market due to the Affordable Health Care Act [ed: in Alaska specifically] hasn’t materialized for employer groups plans, the major player in Alaska health insurance says.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield predicts premiums will rise “in the single digits” for most group policies in 2015.

The increases will range between 5 percent and 10 percent depending on the group, according to Jim Grazko, president of Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska.

Although the justices could reject the appeal as soon as Nov. 3, a decision accepting the case wouldn’t come until at least Nov. 10 under the court’s normal practices.

The high court may not be eager to get involved, Ruger said. The justices endured a divisive clash in 2012, punctuated by reports that Chief Justice John Roberts switched sides late in the court’s deliberations to provide the decisive vote to uphold most of the law.

“The justices don’t want another major ACA case anytime in the near future,” Ruger said. “I just think this is not an issue they want to re-litigate.”

Less than three weeks before Covered California kicks off its second open enrollment, there are problems with the website.

Some brokers have been unable to process special-circumstance enrollments, renewals or changes to existing accounts for over a week. A scheduled maintenance over the weekend didn't fix it.

A year after the federal Affordable Care Act took effect, California voters are now considering another major change to health care: a ballot measure that would give state officials the authority to veto health insurance rate increases for individual and small group plans.

Proposition 45 would hand broad new control of the individual health insurance market to the state insurance commissioner, who could reject rate increases deemed excessive. The measure is designed to keep costs down for consumers in a state where health care premiums have spiked in recent years, raising public ire.

Melissa says she has yet to talk to a supervisor at Healthlink, even though she has asked repeatedly for one, and she has plenty of documentation of all the calls she's made.

And apparently, according to Xerox, the company contracted out to run the state health insurance  exchange, there are more than 5,000 Nevadans just like Melissa who are in some kind of payment limbo.

At the last Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Board meeting earlier this month, the company  says the money amounts to more than $300,000.

The nation's biggest health insurers entered last fall cautious about a major coverage expansion initiated by the health care overhaul, the federal law that aims to cover millions of uninsured people.

Investors and company executives were worried because they didn't know how expensive new customers from the overhaul would be for insurers. They also were concerned about added costs from the law and funding cuts to government-sponsored Medicare Advantageplans, a key growth area.

But a year later, these challenges are starting to appear manageable, and investors see much less uncertainty ahead for the sector. Insurers have cut costs and raised prices to help mitigate added expenses from the law. They've also added new business.

Vermont’s online health insurance exchange is running over budget, according to a document obtained by Vermont Public Radio.

In a “situation summary” issued on Oct. 23, key officials at Vermont Health Connect indicate that the project could run nearly $20 million over budget. The document says “there is a current shortfall of $11 million compared to what was requested in (federal) grants.” The document goes on to say that the state may incur an additional $8.5 million in expenses for which there is not yet an identified funding source.

Emergency room visits are up, more Wisconsinites are enrolled in Medicaid and one in five large Milwaukee companies is considering switching to more part-time workers, according to the HCTrends annual Greater Milwaukee Employer Health Care Benefits Survey.

The Milwaukee-based health care research organization released its annual report on Friday. Approximately 150 employers representing 125,000 employees in southeastern Wisconsin participated in the survey, according to the release.

The report details emergency room visits and hospital admissions from April to June 2014. ER visits increased by 9,653 over the same time period in 2013. However, hospital admissions from the ER actually dropped by 2,957.

Representatives from the Massachusetts Health Connector, Vineyard Health Care Access, and state representative Tim Madden held a joint press conference at the Dukes County administration building on Friday to hammer home one point — the time is now for uninsured Islanders to get insurance, and for insured Islanders to get a health insurance check-up. The next open enrollment period starts November 15, and everyone who is in Health Connector coverage, or was placed in temporary coverage over the last year needs to reapply if they still want to be covered by insurance through the Commonwealth.