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Nearly $230M Invested in National Health Service Corps in 2012

Nearly $230 million has been invested in the National Health Service Corps this year, according to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. Included in these investments are 4,600 loan repayment and scholarships to clinicians and students, and grants awarded to 32 states to aid their state loan repayment programs.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the National Health Service Corps is providing loans and scholarships to more doctors, nurses, and other health care providers, so more people get the care they need,” said Secretary Sebelius. “National Health Service Corps clinicians are providing care to approximately 10.4 million patients across the country.”

Founded in 1970, the National Health Services Corps, administered by HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration, has provided health care to communities across the country by supporting more than 42,000 primary health care practitioners over its 40-year history. It has nearly 10,000 providers.

For more on this announcement, click here.

New Site To Let Us Monitor Health Insurance Rate Hikes

From USA Today:

By Kelly Kennedy

WASHINGTON – Beginning Thursday, consumers across the country can click their state on a federal Web page to see if a health insurer has raised its rates, as well as the company’s reason for doing so.

That information was mostly unavailable before, said Steve Larsen, the Department of Health and Human Services deputy director for oversight. Only a few states include rate raises on their websites. Now, however, all insurance companies must file that information with HHS because of last year’s health care law.

The site’s address is http://companyprofiles.healthcare.gov/.

“We are taking a good, hard look at why insurance companies are seeking to raise your rates, why your premiums might be going up, and making sure these decisions are public and justified,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. “This is just a start, and over time we will be reporting more of these requests.”

The announcement comes after a survey by Kaiser Family Foundation released last week that showed premiums for an employer-sponsored plan for a family of four rising 9% this year. Continue reading

Gov’t Lays Out Health Insurance Exchange Details

From Reuters:

By Alina Selyukh and Anna Yukhananov

WASHINGTON | Fri Aug 12, 2011 1:43pm EDT

(Reuters) – The government on Friday laid out incentives for states and people to participate in health insurance exchanges, including tax credits and funding grants for the states.

Health regulators also clarified how they expect states to determine who is eligible to join this program under President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul.

The exchanges are envisioned as open marketplaces of competing insurance plans that allow uninsured people and small businesses to band together to negotiate cheaper rates.

In the guidelines, released on Friday, the U.S. Health and Human Services and Treasury departments said states need to provide a “one-stop shop” system that can tell people what insurance programs and tax credits they’re eligible for — including federal/state Medicaid insurance program for the poor.

States, insurance companies, employers and patient groups have been awaiting these details because they are critical to establishing exchanges expected to be functional by 2014. Continue reading

Panel Pushes For Free Insurer Provided Contraceptives

From The New York Times:

Editorial Board–July 20, 2011

In an encouraging development for women’s health, an advisory panel of leading experts has recommended that all insurers be required to offer contraceptives as well as other preventive services free of charge under the new health care law. The Obama administration seems inclined to follow the advice, which is even better news.

The recommendation by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine was based on a review of medical data on women’s health services requested by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services. The administration will use the report to help it identify services for women that all new health plans should cover without deductibles or co-payments. In addition to contraceptives, the panel’s proposed list includes sterilization procedures, annual preventive-care visits, counseling for domestic violence and testing for H.I.V. 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

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

Premiums Lowered For Those With Pre-Existing Conditions

News Release

May 31, 2011
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

HHS to Reduce Premiums, Make it Easier for Americans with Pre-Existing Conditions to Get Health Insurance

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced new steps to reduce premiums and make it easier for Americans to enroll in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan. Premiums for the Federally-administered Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) will drop as much as 40 percent in 18 States, and eligibility standards will be eased in 23 States and the District of Columbia to ensure more Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable health insurance. The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan was created under the Affordable Care Act and serves as a bridge to 2014 when insurers will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to people with any pre-existing condition, like cancer, diabetes, and asthma.

“The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan changes lives, and in many cases, literally saves lives,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “These changes will decrease costs and help insure more Americans.”

In 23 States and the District of Columbia, the PCIP program is Federally-administered. The remaining States operate their own PCIP programs using Federal funds provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Under the changes announced today, PCIP premiums will drop as much as 40 percent in 18 States where the Federally administered PCIP operates. These premium decreases help bring PCIP premiums closer to the rates in each State’s individual insurance market; in the six States where PCIP premiums were already well-aligned with State premiums, premiums will remain the same. Continue reading

States Get New Flexibility To Improve Medicaid, Innovate


Contact: HHS Press Office

Thursday, April 14, 2011                                                                                              (202) 690-6343

New rules will make Medicaid more flexible and efficient, helping states provide better care and lower costs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced four initiatives to give states more flexibility to adopt innovative new practices and provide better, more coordinated care for people with Medicaid and Medicare while helping reduce costs for states and families.  The initiatives support the Obama administration’s work to make Medicaid more flexible and efficient and to address long-term cost growth.  Several of the announcements also help implement provisions of the Affordable Care Act.  Today HHS announced:

  • Fifteen states, including South Carolina, will receive federal funding to develop better ways to coordinate care for people with Medicare and Medicaid coverage, also known as dual eligibles, who often have complex and costly health care needs.
  • All states will receive increased flexibility to provide home and community-based services for more people living with disabilities.
  • All states are eligible to receive more money to develop simpler and more efficient information technology (IT) systems to modernize Medicaid enrollment.
  • A proposal by the state of New Jersey for flexibility to expand health coverage for nearly 70,000 low-income residents has been approved.

“Medicaid programs provide health coverage for millions of low-income Americans who otherwise would lack access to health care,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “With these new resources and flexibilities, states will have new options to make their Medicaid programs work better for the people they serve, while helping lower their costs.”

Continue reading

Misinformation Still Plagues Health Care Reform Law

Font of misinformation.

From CBS News:

March 23, 2011 5:12 PM

By Stephanie Condon

One year after President Obama signed his landmark health care reform package into law, his administration is still working to make sure the public understands the sweeping changes, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday.

Recent polls, including last month’s CBS News poll, have shown that more Americans disapprove of the legislation than approve of it. In a conference call with reporters, Sebelius said that the reforms can be hard to understand because they phase in over time – and because its detractors are distorting the truth.

“There still is a lot of intentional misinformation by opponents that continues to be repeated,” she said.

Perceptions of the law are changing as the benefits kick in, she said. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack added that as small businesses and farmers file their tax returns, they’re realizing one particular benefit of the new law — a tax credit for small businesses of up to 35 percent for premiums paid on health insurance for employees.

“I think the acceptance of this and the awareness of this is going to grow substantially,” Vilsack said.

Continue reading

HHS: Health Reform Already Working

Without health reform ‘consumers and businesses would face higher premiums,’ Sebelius says. | AP Photo

By: J. Lester Feder
January 28, 2011 04:50 AM EST

The Obama administration is firing back at one of the major attacks Republicans have leveled at the health reform law: that it will make insurance premiums rise.

A report released by HHS on Friday argues that individuals and families purchasing coverage through the exchanges in 2014 will save 14 percent to 20 percent over what coverage would cost them if the law had never been enacted. These savings come from market reforms and regulations — they do not include the tax credits that will effectively reduce premiums for some individuals by more than half.

The report points to “preliminary evidence” that provisions of the Affordable Care Act already in place will contribute to rate increases in 2011 that are lower than in previous years. State premium rate reviews have reined in premium hikes in states including Connecticut and California, and HHS says the new Medical Loss Ratio requirements will “likely lead to rebates” in 2012 for an estimated 5 million insurance customers. The report says early retirees from more than 5,000 businesses and unions are having their premiums reduced through the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program.

“For too long, skyrocketing health care costs have made it hard for businesses to provide coverage for employees and have made it difficult for families to afford coverage,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Without the Affordable Care Act, consumers and businesses would face higher premiums, fewer insurance choices and rapidly rising health care costs.”
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