2018 MIDTERM ELECTION

Time: D H M S

Purging the In Box 1: Interesting stories I just don't have time to do full write-ups about

While we have made every effort to provide accurate information in these FAQs, people should contact the Marketplace or Medicaid agency in their state for guidance on their specific circumstances.

Smedsrud is chief executive of HealthCare.com, which holds a seemingly invaluable piece of Internet real estate these days. And he’s looking to make the most of it.

...If that sounds a lot like the government’s official portal for purchasing health care, that’s pretty much the idea. And it doesn’t look that different from HealthCare.gov. Stock photography of smiling people? Check. The promise to help someone find the right insurance plan for them? Yes.

But health care advocates say there is the potential for massive confusion among consumers trying to find the government’s official site. Users who wind up there by mistake could miss out on subsidies that most would receive if they were shopping on HealthCare.gov. And like HealthCare.gov last year, the HealthCare.com site has some kinks that it’s still working out, including inaccurate information.

Alabama consumers will see more competition when the health insurance  marketplace opens next month for its second year.

United Healthcare took a cautious approach to the marketplaces the first year and chose not to participate in most states, including staying out of Alabama’s federally operated exchange. It decided to jump into Alabama and other states for the second year, and it plans to offer policies in all 67 Alabama counties, regulators said.

Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Mark Begich deserve credit for advancing specific legislation to change the law. The main change they're advocating, though, is unlikely to make people any happier with the law - and could cause new problems.

The senators want to give customers buying insurance on the Obamacare exchanges a new option with low premiums and high deductibles. It would be called a "copper" plan, in contrast to higher-premium, lower-deductible plans already on the exchange (platinum, gold, silver and bronze).

Brace yourselves, Minnesotans, but also be aware that a lot of important work has already been done to prevent a repeat of the MNsure meltdown last fall. And for qualified consumers who do not have insurance as part of an employer group, buying insurance through the exchange is the only way to receive federal tax credit assistance to help cover premium costs.

MNsure’s much-dissected failure to reliably take flight last year not only eroded public confidence in the exchange but also created a punching bag for critics of the ACA and became a key issue in the gubernatorial campaign.

Idaho Health Insurance Exchange Board Chairman Stephen Weeg of Pocatello said this year’s launch will mean Your Health Idaho won’t be hindered by the federal government when it comes to making changes or corrections.

Weeg said the exchange will be 100 percent Idaho controlled.

“It’s in the final testing stages right now,” Weeg said. “We want to make sure it works on Nov. 15. So far everything is looking strong.”

Cincinnati insurance agent Kevin Schlotman describes a neighborhood on the Ohio-Indiana border where Obamacare options are vastly different depending upon which side of the street you live on.

On the Ohio side, in the town of Harrison, people can choose between about 10 insurance carriers offering plans with various networks of doctors and hospitals on the federal Healthcare.gov exchange. But on the Indiana side in West Harrison, there are only two insurers offering plans, Schlotman said, and people have to drive 50 miles to go to an in-network hospital.

The majority of those who bought coverage through MNsure will find the path of least resistance steers them away from the exchange, since their policies will automatically renew outside of MNsure. That’s because PreferredOne — the largest source of commercial coverage on the exchange this year — and certain policies from two other insurance companies won’t be offered on the exchange for 2015.

As a result, about 75 percent to 80 percent of current MNsure customers won’t renew on the exchange, unless they actively come back to MNsure. But the health exchange is the only place where people can qualify for federal tax credits that discount the cost of health insurance premiums.

New language in contracts between theCMS and insurers operating on HealthCare.gov is grabbing attention, with some calling it an admission by the government that it might lose upcoming court battles dealing with insurance subsidies on the health portal and others saying the new wording is just a practical precaution.

The new language appears to allow insurers to stop offering their plans should federal premium subsidies disappear. A number of cases regarding the legality of the subsidies in states without their own exchanges are now working their way through the courts.

Health insurers increasingly are building and staffing bricks-and-mortar retail centers to potentially expand their membership base and, most importantly for now, enhance their brand image with the public.

The retail approach represents a major pivot in insurer tactics to grow their books of business brought on by changes in how consumers get insurance thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

As it turns out, they actually do have a detailed plan, but no one is talking about it. It's like a surprise -- trust Uncle Mitch to repeal and replace and it shall become reality! Why aren't they shouting it from the mountaintops?

Let me introduce you to The Project 2017, headed up by Bill Kristol and Dan Senor, among others, and presumably funded by the usual billionaire suspects. The Project 2017 has a comprehensive plan outlined on their website for how they propose to replace the ACA.

First, we start with full repeal of the Affordable Care Act. That means pre-existing conditions are once again in play, no premium assistance, no co-pay assistance, no state exchanges, no minimum benefits, and annual and lifetime caps on what insurers must pay are reinstated. Also, premiums would not be limited for different age bands, so that 60-year olds could pay as much as 10 or 15 times what a 20-year old might pay.

Covered California's website was back in operation Friday after a shut down Thursday night to make some fixes.

Brokers and others had been unable to complete enrollments or report changes for at least week, raising concern of a website debacle when the second open enrollment opens Nov. 15.

"The error message problem has been resolved," Covered California spokesmanLarry Hicks said late Friday. "We've had no (complaint) calls."