HealthCare.gov Undergoing Enhancements

A posting on an ABC News Web page (online, 10/7) says that HealthCare.gov, the notoriously botched 2013-born site, is actually getting a revamping, with “upgrades that should help consumers find out whether their doctors and medications are covered, and get a better estimate of costs.”

However, concerns remain, and as the AP article by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar (cited by ABC News) says, “With the start of 2016 open enrollment season approaching, the Obama administration expects that some 10 million Americans still uninsured but eligible for coverage will be a tougher sell.”

  • Healthcare.gov actually has a well-received feature which allows potential healthcare coverage consumers to “window shop”. . . “for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance plans.”
  • Other upgrades include the providing of estimates of expected total healthcare costs for consumers. The revamped website will also have a feature that helps people get a rough estimate of anticipated total costs.
  • Meanwhile, the Obama White House has had no comments on the HealthCare.gov upgrades.
  • HHS Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell confirms “about 10.5 million uninsured people are eligible for coverage through HealthCare.gov and state markets, and they will be harder to sign up,” according to the AP and ABC.


Read more at ABC News.com

As Far As One HealhtCare.gov Tech Vendor Is Concerned, Their Job Is Done

In “Finance & Company News” on the ADVFN web page is a recent report (5/14) regarding a healthcare tech concern – – Optum.  At one point, according to writer Louise Radnofsky, around the time of the ill-fated roll-out of HealthCar.gov (for Obamacare) “federal officals widely praised the company for its work fixing HealthCare.gov. Andy Slavitt, a group executive at Optum, left the company and took on the formal role within the federal government in the summer of 2014. He is now the acting administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”

Tellingly, Radnofsky’s report adds, “Some Republican members of Congress have raised questions about the transition, noting that CMS regulates Optum’s insurance parent company as well as its technology unit.” Meanwhile, according to the ADVFN story, “Enrollment workers who have been using HealthCare.gov frequently to sign up the uninsured say the system-wide problems have been fixed, though glitches arise from time to time.”

Elizabeth Colvin, who heads up Insure Central Texas is cited in the ADVFN account. Her contention, as recapped by ADVFN, is “the remaining problems typically stem from complicated situations such as very low-income, legal immigrants who have different eligibility or financial assistance than their U.S.-born counterparts. But more broadly, she said the biggest challenges remaining for the system rest on the intricacies of the law’s various rules for eligibility to users.”

ADVFN is a financial market web site.

Read more at ADVFN News.com

An Obamacare Plan B – Or Not?

A recent report in the Daily Caller (online, 3/16 – citing Reuters) claims the Obama White House maintains it does not have Plan B – in the event the U.S. Supreme Court restricts Affordable Care Act subsidies to only the state-based health insurance marketplaces. Yet, The Daily Caller report also cites noted healthcare critic Avik Roy who (in Forbes) says the Obama Administration intends to request the 37 states potentially impacted by an adverse U.S. Supreme Court decision to “declare that they do have exchanges and have merely contracted out their management to the Department of Health and Human Services.”  President Obama says there is no alternate ACA option on the table. “If they rule against us, we’ll have to take a look at what our options are, but I’m not going to anticipate that,” (Reuters).  HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell additionally denies the existence of a “contingency plan,” according to the Daily Caller, whose report also adds, “Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Joe Pitts pressed her (Burwell) during a February House hearing about the allied existence of a 100-page document which laying out options if the court ruled against them, but Burwell said she wasn’t aware of it.”

Read more at The Daily Caller

ACA’s Healthcare.gov Still User Unfriendly

A report in the International Business Times (IBT, online Feb. 18) by Amy Nordrum claims “the early technological woes of the HealthCare.gov rollout have been largely overcome.”

Yet, a main bone of contention remains. Some still say that classifying healthcare plans under the categories of: Gold, Silver, and Bronze leads unsuspecting consumers to believe that the Gold Plan (under the ACA) is necessarily the most desirable one for them to choose for their healthcare coverage. Concerns over such descriptions of healthcare plans were recently discussed in a New England Journal of Medicine study. It was co-authored by Peter Ubel, who is also a health marketing expert at Duke University.

It seems many of the state marketplaces, or exchanges, list plans, placing those with the lowest monthly premiums at the top. Ubel feels this scenario could prompt a significant number of persons to choose that first plan they first see.

In her IBT article, Amy Nordrum also points out, “These subtle cues inherent in the label and layout of the current marketplace may prompt consumers to make a decision that is not in their best interests.”

Read more at The International Business Times

Some Remain Underwhelmed by Obamacare Exchanges

A new report on the CNBC web site (11/3) indicates the dividing line separating those who will, more or less enthusiastically, versus those who will not, return to the Obamacare Exchanges – – is demarked by income. Those with salaries below $30,000 per year, were more likely to say they would return to the Obamacare exchanges. Fifty-three percent of respondents in that income tier answered as such. On the other hand (according to CNBC’s Dan Mangan) the least likely to return were people in households earning more than $75,000 annually. Thirty-five percent in that income bracket percent said they’d log on this year to the exchanges and at least peruse health insurance options. Also, according to Mangan, a recent poll reveals 51 percent of individuals utilizing The Affordable Care Act-based health insurance marketplaces (or exchanges, as they are also known) during the past 12 months – – stated they are not inclined to make a return visit. Only 43 percent of people engaging HealthCare.gov, or a state-level site, are contemplating doing so again in their consideration of health insurance plans for 2015 insurance plans. CNBC says this is according to a recent Bankrate.com survey.

CNBC’s Mangan also quotes Doug Whiteman, an insurance analyst at Bankrate, who says, “I do think the results should be of concern for the [Obama] administration.” Whiteman also said, “It didn’t win over a lot of loyal or happy customers” . . . “These people are just kind of shrugging their shoulders when it comes to the open-enrollment seasons that’s coming.”

Read more at CNBC

House Chairman Calls for More HealthCare.gov Scrutiny

According to a Sunday story on The Hill.com, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been asked by the chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R – Texas) to broaden its research of security lapses at HealthCare.gov. The Texas Republican says the Obama Administration is attempting to “cut corners that have put the personal data of millions of Americans at risk.” Smith adds, “In addition to the website’s internal security failings, many Americans now worry about how the Heartbleed bug may compound the risk of financial or medical identity theft for those forced by the government to create Healthcare.gov accounts.”

HealthCare.gov has been a major annoyance for the White House. The “Heartbleed” virus affected numerous sites across the Internet, including Facebook and Google. The bug was online for about 24 months without being detected, though it has not been reported to have been implicated in any major cyberattacks. A GAO audit is on-going of both the website’s security and privacy. “The American people deserve a thorough audit of the website to ensure that their personal data, including birth dates, social security numbers and household incomes, is secured,” said Smith.

HealthCare.gov got a bit of a tech boost to help get the troubled site balanced. However, congressional Republicans have maintained steady pressure, fretting that mishandling of the site’s introduction indicates wider security breaches, according to The Hill.com.

Read More at The Hill.com

Healthcare.gov Gets Traffic Boost After Obama’s ‘Funny or Die’ Video

Hitting the comedy circuit may have its rewards, especially when your act is really not known for laughs. President Obama, following in the recent footsteps of First Lady Michelle and Vice-President Joe Biden, hit the TV Circuit. This time they appeared on the web talk Show “Between Two Ferns,” hosted by Zach Galifianakis. The stint served to boost raffic to Healthcare.gov. As of February, 2014, approximately 942,000 people signed up for private plans, a drop from 1,146,000 in January. Tuesday’s Healthcare.gov traffic was purportedly increased by 40% over Monday’s web traffic.

Obama and Company have stepped up promotion of healthcare exchanges in recent weeks. The President hosted a town hall-styled meeting with Latino television networks.

Read more at USA Today

Report: Funds Diverted to Pay for Obamacare Implementation

The Obama administration has not provided an exact breakdown of where it has spent $2 billion since 2010 on implementing Obamacare.

However, a list included in the Health and Human Services Department’s $77 billion budget “justification” document released on Friday shows how the agency funded the creation of the Affordable Care Act.

It reveals that federal officials diverted $450 million last year from the healthcare law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund to finance Obamacare operations, including the disastrous rollout of the HealthCare.gov exchange website.

Read more at Newsmax

House Back to Obamacare Votes in Week 1

The House of Representative rounds out its first week back after the holidays with a pair of votes Friday aimed at the security and functionality of Obamacare’s ground zero, HealthCare.gov. It’s a jab at the Obama administration after the website launch fiasco and follows repeated Republican criticisms about what they say was inadequate testing of the website security. It’s a strategy that’s likely to play out from now right up until the midterm elections.

Republicans say now they can respond to specific problems with the law — instead of just trying to eliminate all of it. For example, one bill offered by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) would require the Department of Health and Human Services to notify Americans within two days if their personal information has been compromised on the new insurance exchanges. The other, sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), would require the administration to publicize weekly reports detailing the performance of the federal website.

Read more at Politico