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A Simpler Way to Apply for Health Care


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Tuesday, April 30, 2013 that the application for health coverage has been simplified and significantly shortened. The application for individuals without health insurance has been reduced from twenty-one to three pages, and the application for families is reduced by two-thirds. The consumer friendly forms are much shorter than industry standards for health insurance applications today.

In addition, for the first time consumers will be able to fill out one simple application and see their entire range of health insurance options, including plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and tax credits that will help pay for premiums.

The applications released today, which can be submitted starting on October 1, can be found here: http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/other/index.html#hie

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Search for Federally Qualified Health Centers

Search for Federally Qualified Health Centers

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the US Department of Health and Human Services provides an online database that allows you to search for Federally Qualified Health Centers nationwide. 

HRSA health centers care for you, even if you have no health insurance. You pay what you can afford, based on your income. Health centers provide:

  1. Checkups when you’re well
  2. Treatment when you’re sick
  3. Complete care when you’re pregnant
  4. Immunizations and checkups for your children
  5. Dental care and prescription drugs for your family
  6. Mental health and substance abuse care if you need it

Health centers are in most cities and many rural areas.

New Health Insurance Reform Rules Released

Kathleen Sebelius

Kathleen Sebelius

The Department of Health and Human Services has released a set of guidelines setting out to end discrimination against the sick, and guarantee minimum benefits for Americans who currently are not covered by health insurance but will be once the new health care law is enacted January 1, 2014.

The guidelines, released by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, give more detail as to how the Obama Administration will allow access to healthcare to those with pre-existing conditions and how health insurance exchanges work. In addition, proposed rules about new consumer protections for wellness and preventative healthcare coverage was also laid out.

December 14 is the deadline for states to tell the federal government if they plan on participating in the health care exchange program, which will offer consumers private insurance at subsidized rates beginning in October with open enrollment. So far, 17 states have agreed to participate in the exchange program.

For more on the exchange program and new rules, go here.

Tell us, do you support the exchange program?

New Healthcare Rules Would Empower Consumers

From The Washington Post:

New regulations proposed on Wednesday by the Obama administration would require private health insurers to offer cost/benefit summaries of their insurance plans in “plain English,” enabling us all to comparison shop with confidence.

By N.C. Aizenman, Published: August 17

What would your health insurance cover if you got pregnant? How much could you expect to pay out of pocket if you needed treatment for diabetes? How do your plan’s benefits compare with another company’s?

Starting as soon as March, consumers could have a better handle on such questions, under new rules aimed at decoding the fine print of health insurance plans.

Regulations proposed by the Obama administration on Wednesday would require all private health insurance plans to provide current and prospective customers a brief, standardized summary of policy costs and benefits.

To make it easier for consumers to make apples-to-apples comparisons between plans, the summary will also include a breakdown estimating the expenses covered under three common scenarios: having a baby, treating breast cancer and managing diabetes.

Officials likened the new summary to the “Nutrition Facts” label required for packaged foods.

“If you’ve ever had trouble understanding your choices for health insurance coverage . . . this is for you,” Donald Berwick, a top official at the Department of Health and Human Services, said at a news conference announcing the proposal. Continue reading

Free Birth Control Rule Meets Harsh Criticism

From CBS News:


August 1, 2011 8:43 AM

The federal Department of Health and Human Services was to announce historic women’s healthcare guidelines Monday that would require insurance companies to cover women’s preventive services, including birth control, for what amounts to no cost.

The guidelines, under the new healthcare law, would force insurance companies to not only cover the costs, but to eliminate co-pays and deductibles, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

Birth control has been controversial in the U.S. from the moment Margaret Sanger opened the country’s first family planning clinic in 1916 — and was promptly sent to prison for it.

While many have hailed contraception as the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies, others argue that abstinence education is the way to go.

In a statement, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops opposes the new guidelines, saying, “Pregnancy is not a disease, and fertility is not a pathological condition to be suppressed by any means technically possible.” Continue reading

State Health Exchanges Leaning Toward Insurers

From The Huffington Post:

Wendell Potter–7/14/11 12:29 PM ET

The insurance industry made it abundantly clear this week that it is in the driver’s seat–in both Washington and state capitals — of one of the most important vehicles created by Congress to reform the U.S. health care system.

The Affordable Care Act requires the states to create new marketplaces — “exchanges” — where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance. In the 15 months since the law took effect, insurers have lobbied the Obama administration relentlessly to give states the broadest possible latitude in setting up their exchanges. And those insurance companies have been equally relentless at the state level in making sure governors and legislators follow their orders in determining how the exchanges will be operated.

When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the proposed federal rules governing the exchanges on Monday, insurance executives must have been doing high fives all over the country.

Insurers had several main objectives. First, they did not want the feds to require states to negotiate with health plans on price and benefit design. And they did not want plans that failed to meet certain criteria to be excluded from the exchanges. Insurers did want the states to feel free to appoint people with ties to the industry to run the exchanges. Continue reading

How Effective Will A Federal Health Exchange Be?

New state health insurance marketplaces are supposed to be set up in every state  by 2014.

By J. LESTER FEDER | 7/18/11 10:31 PM EDT

Will there really be a strong federal health insurance exchange to take over for states that don’t build their own? Or is it a paper tiger?

That question is nagging at some policy experts following last week’s release of the proposed federal rules on the new state health insurance marketplaces, which are supposed to be set up in every state by 2014 under President Barack Obama’s health reform law.

If states do not meet the requirements in time to launch their own exchanges in January 2014, the law gives the Department of Health and Human Services the power to set up a federally run version for those states.

But the law does not give HHS the power to regulate insurance sold outside the exchanges — which would basically require it to take over the job of the state insurance commissioners. And it doesn’t give HHS the power to take over a state’s Medicaid program, even though the exchanges are supposed to handle enrollment when Medicaid is expanded to new populations in 2014.

“It could be a real problem to set up an exchange that’s even viable,” mused Norm Thurston, health reform implementation coordinator for Utah, who has said his state will not cooperate with important requirements of the health care law. Continue reading

How States Can Help Their Small Businesses

From The Huffington Post:

John Arensmeyer–7/14/11 12:30 PM ET

Politicians and pundits have focused a lot of attention on the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that everyone have health coverage, but few have looked into the health insurance marketplaces — the component of healthcare reform most important for small businesses.

Fortunately, people are beginning to pay closer attention. On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new guidelines state lawmakers can follow when setting up the marketplaces, also known as exchanges. If lawmakers set them up right, these marketplaces will allow small businesses to pool their buying power, driving down costs and allowing them to purchase high-quality insurance at lower rates just like big businesses.

The states are charged with implementing the exchanges by 2014, but only 10 have moved forward with legislation necessary to create them. The longer states wait, the more they risk missing the 2014 deadline and having HHS create the exchange for them. States should set the exchanges up themselves because they have more insight into the needs of their small business owners. States that do not pass legislation this year will find it challenging to build a successful exchange by 2014. Continue reading

Health Officials Move To Loosen State Requirements

By Noam N. Levey–July 12, 2011

Washington— The Obama administration moved Monday to ease some requirements on states to help them set up new insurance exchanges in 2014, a key feature of the healthcare law the president signed last year.The state-based exchanges are intended to make buying health insurance comparable to shopping the Internet for an airline ticket or a hotel room. And by 2019, the exchanges are expected to provide insurance for an estimated 24 million Americans who don’t get their health insurance from their employer, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Small employers with fewer than 100 workers also will be able to use the exchanges, which will have to offer plans with a minimum level of coverage. No plans will be able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Setting The Standards For Health Insurance Exchanges

 Many states are struggling to get their health exchange plans ready by deadline.  

By SARAH KLIFF | 7/11/11 11:34 PM EDT

The Obama administration’s newest health reform regulation, laying the groundwork for health insurance marketplaces in all states, may raise more questions than those it answers.

The administration released a proposed regulation Monday that sets the standards for new marketplaces — health insurance exchanges — that are supposed to launch in every state by 2014. They’re supposed to be where individuals and small businesses can browse a wide selection of easily comparable health plans and pick the one that’s best for them. If the exchanges don’t work well, it’s a good bet that the rest of President Barack Obama’s health care law won’t work, either.

But a lot of states have struggled to get ready fast enough to have their exchange planning well under way by 2013. And if they haven’t made enough progress by then, the law calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to prepare to run exchanges for them — an outcome that the law’s opponents could easily depict as a “federal takeover” of health care. Continue reading