In the Midst of Federal ACA Woes, States Play an Important Consumer Protection Role

In Washington, our health policy minds are on system overload. Since the election last week, the town is buzzing about the President-elect and new Congress’ promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as one of their first legislative actions. At the same time, they have also pledged allegiance to some of the law’s market reforms. Since most of those reforms are enforced at the state level, a continued state role will be critical to preserving these vital consumer protections. Continue reading

Simple Choice Plans Debut on Healthcare.Gov

Simple Choice plans, standardized benefit designs with fixed cost-sharing amounts and pre-deductible services, are new this year on Healthcare.gov. These types of plans can help consumers make “apples-to-apples” comparisons, but the the availability of such plans depends on insurer participation and local markets. Emily Curran and others here at CHIR take a look at the availability of Simple Choice plans on Healthcare.gov and find it’s a mixed bag. Continue reading

The Affordable Care Act: Efforts to Address Barriers to Health Equity

Disparities in health insurance coverage and accessing health care continue to be a challenge in the United States. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has made impressive strides to reduce overall health disparity by ensuring that health equity exists with health insurance coverage and accessing care. Current CHIR intern and guest blogger, Julia Embry, summarizes some of the ACA’s progress to address health equity in the United States. Continue reading

Low-Income Households and ACA Tax Policies: Benefit from Tax Credits but Paying the Penalty

We are well into the third tax year of ACA premium tax credits and the individual shared responsibility requirement. The IRS recently released a report on 2014 income tax filings that includes data on the first year of the PTC and ISRP. We analyzed this data to look at the tax credits and payments by income brackets and found that millions of low-income tax filers benefited from the PTC in 2014 – but millions of low-income tax filers also paid the ISRP, indicating that a very vulnerable population still lacks coverage. Continue reading

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: Special Enrollment Periods Provide Essential Coverage During Common Life Transitions, but Many People Don’t Know They Exist

Change in life is unavoidable: people move, get married, change jobs and have babies. Special enrollment periods (SEPs) allow people experiencing such life changes to access marketplace coverage, often with financial assistance. Unfortunately the majority of people don’t know about them. CHIR’s Sandy Ahn takes a look at SEPs, including the administration’s current approach to SEPs and the missed opportunities to raise overall awareness of them, strengthen the risk pool, and reduce the number of uninsured. Continue reading

Increasing Deductibles in Employer Coverage: A Story Over a Decade in the Making

A graph has been making the rounds on the internet comparing cumulative increases in deductibles since 2011 to growth in inflation, worker earnings and health insurance premiums since it was posted as part of a Wall Street Journal blog. But the graph only tells part of the story – the part that occurred after 2011. The story of increasing deductibles in employer based health insurance is a story that is over a decade in the making.

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Quality Over Quantity? New Medicaid Network Adequacy Rules Illuminate Disparities Among Insurance Program Standards

Narrow network plans, or plans with a limited network of providers, present problems for consumers across the various coverage programs. In May, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the final rule setting network adequacy standards for Medicaid and CHIP managed care plans. The new rule requires states to set quantitative standards for network adequacy; but since these standards don’t apply uniformly to other federal programs, network adequacy – and access to essential health services – varies greatly for consumers based on what program they fall under. Continue reading