Affordable Care Act | KUOW News and Information

Affordable Care Act

This tax season, for the first time since the Affordable Care Act passed five years ago, consumers are facing its financial consequences.

Whether they owe a penalty for not having health insurance, or have to figure out whether they need to pay back part of the subsidy they received to offset the cost of monthly insurance premiums, many people have to contend with new tax forms and calculations.

Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange is one step closer to being dismantled.

The Obama administration often touts the health benefits women have gained under the Affordable Care Act, including the option to sign up for coverage outside of open enrollment periods if they're "having a baby."

Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, "repeal and replace" has been the rallying cry for Republicans who opposed it. But now that most of the law's provisions have taken effect, some health experts are pitching ways to tweak it, rather than eliminate it.

An ideologically diverse panel at the National Health Policy Conference on Monday presented different ideas to make the law work better. But the panelists agreed on one thing: The Affordable Care Act is too complicated.

The taxman cometh, and tax preparers are anxiously getting ready to deal with new rules that have kicked in because of the Affordable Care Act.

Under the Affordable Care Act, there are new forms, along with new questions for people who have – and don’t have – health insurance.

Flickr Photo/Greg McMullin (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds interviews journalist and author Steven Brill about his new book, "America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Health Care System."

While finishing the book Brill had his chest sawed open for emergency heart surgery. A dream he had the night before the operation revealed a truth about the health care system. 

Doctor
Flickr Photo/Alex Proimos (CC-BY-NC-ND)

For the past two years primary care doctors who saw Medicaid patients were given a pay increase. The extra money was an incentive for doctors to take in new patients who became eligible under Medicaid expansion. But starting January 1, 2015, that pay increase expires. Marcie Sillman talks to KUOW’s healthcare reporter Ruby de Luna about how this change might impact Medicaid patients.

This time last year, federal officials were scrambling to get as many people enrolled in health insurance through HealthCare.gov as they could before the start of the program on Jan. 1.

Now, with the technical problems mostly fixed, they're facing a different problem: the possibility that the Supreme Court might rule that the subsidies that help people afford coverage are illegal in the 37 states where the federal government is running the program.

Marcie Sillman interviews KUOW health reporter Ruby de Luna about some of the changes the Washington state Health Exchange has made. Last year more than a million Washington state residents signed up for health insurance through the Washington Health Plan Finder website.  Saturday is the first day of open enrollment. People need to sign up or renew their health care plans by February 15, 2015. 

Exactly one year ago, the Obamacare insurance exchanges stumbled into existence. Consumers struggled to sign up for its online marketplace — and the Obama administration was pummeled. Eventually, HealthCare.gov's problems were mostly fixed, and two weeks ago, the administration announced 7.3 million people have bought insurance through it so far this year.

So, was the health exchanges' first year a success — or something less?

Ask President Obama, and he says you measure the Affordable Care Act's success this way:

Mobile Medical
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

About twice a month, King County’s Mobile Medical van comes to Renton. It opens at 4:30, but it’s often slow until closer to 6:30, when the church across the street begins serving hot meals for homeless people.

The inside of this RV has been retrofitted so there’s an exam room, a nurse’s station and a waiting area.  A generator gives off a droning buzz as it powers this efficient little clinic.

The leaders of Oregon's struggling health insurance exchange will be grilled by state lawmakers in a series of hearings at the capitol on Monday and Tuesday.

Flickr Photo/WSDOT (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Free contraceptive coverage is mandated by the Affordable Care Act.

But in the landmark Hobby Lobby decision last June, the Supreme Court ruled that closely held corporations are exempt from the law if the owners object on religious grounds.

On a recent afternoon at his office in Hartford, Conn., Dr. Doug Gerard examines a patient complaining of joint pain. He checks her out, asks her a few questions about her symptoms and then orders a few tests before sending her on her way.

For a typical quick visit like this, Gerard could get reimbursed $100 or more from a private insurer. For the same visit, Medicare pays less — about $80. And now, with the new private plans under the Affordable Care Act, Gerard says he would get something in between, but closer to the lower Medicare rates.

If you have a dispute with a government agency, chances are, your complaint will go through a process called an administrative hearing. These hearings usually haven’t attracted public attention — until recently.

Last October, Seattle Children’s Hospital challenged the Office of Insurance Commissioner for allowing health plans to exclude providers like Children’s from their networks.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is reminding employers they may not discriminate against same-sex spouses when it comes to health coverage.

More than 700,000 Texans have signed up for a health plan through the online insurance marketplace. For that group, the Affordable Care Act appears to be working.

But an even larger number of Texans — one million or more — still have no access to affordable coverage because Texas officials opted out of a federal plan to expand Medicaid for the poorest adults.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Carrie Feibel of KUHF explains.

How To Make The Affordable Care Act Better

May 7, 2014
Ezekiel Emanuel's book "Reinventing American Health Care."

Steve Scher talks to Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel about his book “Reinventing American Health Care.”  Dr. Emanuel was previously a health care adviser to the White House.

Flickr Photo/Sara Westermark (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Marcie Sillman talks with Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter and producer Kristian Foden-Vencil about  Oregon's troubled health exchange website, Cover Oregon.

Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kriedler.

Marcie Sillman checks in with Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler about a new rule that will mandate increased transparency for plans offered on the Washington state health exchange.

The finger-pointing is underway now that the state of Oregon has decided to scrap its troubled health insurance exchange website.

Giving Up On Its Obamacare Exchange No Cure For Oregon's Ills

Apr 27, 2014

Oregon has been "all in" on health reform. Its embrace of the Affordable Care Act includes a very successful Medicaid expansion, a $2 billion federal experiment to show the state can save money by managing patients' care better, and, of course, the state's own online marketplace to sell Obamacare insurance.

But that last point has been a huge problem.

Courtesy of International Community Health Services

This week the White House honored community heroes for their work in educating and signing up Asian American and Pacific Island residents for health care.

Courtesy of Washington Healthplanfinder

State and local officials are celebrating the robust number of people who signed up for health care through Washington’s exchange over the open enrollment period.

Between last October through the end of March, more than 164,000 Washington residents bought private health plans through the state exchange. In addition, more than 423,000 people got coverage through Washington Apple Health, the state’s Medicaid program. 

The Challenges Of Medicaid Expansion

Apr 17, 2014
Flickr Photo/kindagetmego

Steve Scher talks with Washington state Medicaid Director MaryAnne Lindeblad about how the state plans to accommodate more than 250,000 newly enrolled residents who qualified for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Is Resigning

Apr 10, 2014

Health Secrerary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning after a five-year term that will no doubt be remembered for the calamitous implementation of President Obama's signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

If you remember, when the federal government unveiled HealthCare.gov, where Americans could buy health insurance mandated by Obamacare, the site was essentially useless for weeks after it launched in October.

Courtesy of Christine Lange

One of the goals of the Affordable Care Act is to give access to people who currently don’t have health insurance.

Supporters see another benefit — to give people who dream of quitting their day jobs for a chance to become an entrepreneur.

Flickr Photo/Subconsci Productions (CC BY-NC-ND)

Ross Reynolds talks with Richard Onizuka, CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, about what people can do if they missed the March 31 deadline to sign up for health insurance.

Flickr Photo/Dinur Blum (CC BY-NC-ND)

Steve Scher recaps the news of the week with Knute Berger of Crosscut and Seattle Magazine, political analyst C.R. Douglas for Q13 Fox News and associate editor Eli Sanders of The Stranger.

Courtesy of Washington Healthplanfinder

Marcie Sillman talks with Jennifer Haberkorn, healthcare reporter for Politico, about what made Washington's health care exchange work and how other state's system compared.

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