Health Reform Weekly
A weekly compilation from Aetna of health care-related developments in Washington, D.C. and state legislatures across the country.
Week of November 11, 2013
It was another tough week for the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last week President Obama apologized to Americans who are losing access to their old health insurance policies despite his promises to the contrary. Within a couple of days, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued for consumers an explanation of how discontinued policies can occur under the ACA and what options they may have for alternative coverage.
In addition, new polls released last week indicate there may be more bumps ahead for health insurance exchanges, which have been beset by enrollment issues because of the flawed implementation of the federal website. On the plus side, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll found that enrollment glitches so far have not seriously hurt support for the ACA nor have they dampened interest in buying insurance on the marketplace. But a new Gallup poll found that relatively few uninsured Americans, just 18 percent, have so far attempted to visit an exchange website. Considered to be the primary target population for exchanges, just 22 percent of the uninsured say they plan to get insurance through an exchange. Much more work needs to be done to increase awareness of exchange options among the uninsured.
Both Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner were back on Capitol Hill last week to testify about implementation issues concerning the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Tavenner told the Senate HELP Committee that the administration is making significant progress in improving the performance and functionality of the healthcare.gov website. Tavenner’s testimony repeated a previous commitment that the vast majority of consumers will have a smooth experience on the site by the end of November. In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, Sebelius answered questions touching on the status of the healthcare.gov website, consumers who are losing their existing coverage, grandfathered plans, the cost of coverage and privacy concerns. Sebelius acknowledged that long-awaited enrollment figures for the rocky first month of Obamacare will be “very low.” Citing improvements already made to the website, she also pushed back against demands that the administration delay Obamacare implementation.
Congress will continue to focus on ACA implementation and oversight as it awaits the first release of enrollment numbers from HHS. Legislation is being introduced by members on both sides of the aisle to lay markers on various options to address the problems with open enrollment, from modifying the enrollment period to changing the rules for the individual mandate.