Purging the In Box 2: Interesting stories I just don't have time to do full write-ups about

Those entering the marketplace to downgrade, upgrade or buy insurance for the first time will have to give it a little more thought. In addition to the expected complications of switching health insurance, the Department of Health and Human Services reports that consumers will have 25 percent more options this year. 

But that’s not the only thing that's changed. Consumers, doctors and insurance agents have all learned a lot over the past year. If you’re getting into the health insurance marketplace for the first time, here’s what’s important to know.

The state’s newest health insurance company — although named after co-founder Josh Kushner’s great-grandfather — endeavors to be a thoroughly modern alternative geared to the tech-savvy consumer who is searching for coverage via the Affordable Care Act.

Need help selecting a plan? The company prides itself on its easy-to-navigate website, www.hioscar.com. Something ailing you but have no time to wait for an appointment? Stand by for a call from an MD for a “tele-visit.” Can’t remember what you were prescribed the last time you had a sinus infection? Login to your account at HiOscar.com and see your medical “timeline."

One of the biggest accomplishments this year for Louisville-based Doe-Anderson Inc. has been the successful rollout ofKynect, the state-run health insurance exchange, according to its president.

The advertising agency was responsible for the branding and marketing of the exchange, said Todd Spencer, CEO and president of Doe-Anderson.

The Kentucky Health Cooperative, which announced in May that it would enter West Virginia’s health-care marketplace in 2015, has announced that it will postpone its entry for one year amid concerns that its infrastructure is not yet prepared to handle demand in the state.

Joseph Smith, chairman of the KHC, said the decision to postpone was made to ensure the new West Virginia Health Cooperative would be truly prepared and said he fully expects the co-op to be functional by Jan. 1, 2016.

A notice sent to Vermont Health Connect customers telling them that if they're happy with their current coverage they will be renewed automatically did not mention that premiums for those plans have increased.

Those customers should expect another letter from their insurance carrier detailing 2015 premiums, according to a state official.

Despite Republican promises to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a number of smaller and larger health insurers say they are adding personnel to handle the three-month open-enrollment period established by the law, and are bullish on signups for 2015 coverage. 

The new face of Access Health CT, James Wadleigh, is a native Vermonter, a skier, a father of four, and a tech guy who sometimes loses sleep over the possibility of a glitch in the system.

In late August, the board of Access Health CT, Connecticut's public health insurance exchange, chose Wadleigh to serve as interim CEO. The former chief, Kevin Counihan, took a job heading up HealthCare.gov, the federal government's exchange, after a largely successful launch of Connecticut's exchange.

Effective 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required premiums for the same health plan to vary only on an applicant’s age, smoking status, geographic location, and number of people being covered. Applicants could not be rejected due to health status and premiums could not be ‘rated-up’ (i.e. increased) over the standard level for persons sharing the same age, smoking status, and region. One of the questions raised by the ACA is whether women and men as well as the old and young experienced similar changes to their health insurance premiums due to the law.

Small businesses throughout Washington — those with 50 or fewer employees — can now shop for and enroll in health insurance plans through the state’s insurance exchange.

The exchange got off to a slow start for businesses this year when only one insurance provider, Kaiser Health Plan of the Northwest, agreed to sell plans in the marketplace and only in Clark and Cowlitz counties. For coverage beginning January 2015, small employers statewide can shop the exchange for coverage from Moda Health, and Kaiser will continue selling in the two southern counties. A total of 23 different plans are available from the two insurance companies.

The state of Arkansas found a way to implement the federal Affordable Care Act so that it not only expanded access to health insurance but also improved the private insurance marketplace, a former director of that state's Medicaid program said Thursday.

But a leader of the Kansas Legislature said it's unlikely that program will be replicated here any time soon because of political opposition to the federal program and concern over its long-term impact on the national debt.