We Want to Hear From You: Extending the Affordable Insurance Exchange Comment Period

By: Steve Larsen, Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight.

One of the most important responsibilities that we at HHS have is listening to you—the American people.  That’s why we are announcing today that we will extend the comment period for the July 15, 2011 proposed rules on the Affordable Insurance Exchanges. Thisaligns the comment period with another set of Exchange-related proposed rules that were issued on August 17, 2011.  Now, instead of some being due on September 28, 2011, all comments on the Exchange-related proposals are due on October 31, 2011

Affordable Insurance Exchanges are State-based marketplaces designed to make buying private health coverage easier and more affordable and give you the same kinds of choices as Members of Congress. Starting in 2014, Exchanges will allow you to compare qualified health plans, get answers to questions, and enroll in a qualified health plan that best fits the needs of you and your family. It will be a one-stop-shop for all of your health insurance needs. And that’s why we want to make sure that we give you the opportunity to consider all of the regulations together when you tell us what you think about them. 

This extension of the official comment period follows a robust outreach campaign to receive your comments on these rules. We talked to many different types of stakeholders about the proposed rules, including State officials, consumer advocates and health plans who have been attending our regional listening sessions to tell us what they think.  But we need to hear from you officially—so please submit your thoughts and ideas via Regulations.gov. We look forward to hearing from you.

Partnering with States to Implement Affordable Insurance Exchanges

By Steve Larsen, Director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Over. Crosspost from Healthcare.gov

The old health insurance market is broken. It costs too much and excludes too many Americans from coverage. Starting in 2014, when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, you, your family, and your small business will have access to a new State-based competitive marketplace – the Affordable Insurance Exchange – where you can shop for affordable, private insurance coverage. The Exchanges will ensure you have more choices and insurance companies will have to compete for your business based on the price and quality of their products.

For Exchanges to work, they all have to be able to perform some basic functions – providing you with information about the insurance options available to you, including price and quality, and letting you know if you are eligible for premium tax credits to cut your costs.

In the 18 months since the health care law was signed, States have made remarkable progress in designing their Exchanges. More than half the States have already taken some action.

But we know that each State is different. And what is best for you and your family in California might not be what is best for your sister and her small business in New York. That is why we are working with States to create Exchanges that fit the needs of each State and ensuring States have the flexibility they need to best serve their residents.

Today, we are proposing the Affordable Insurance Exchange “Partnership Options” Opportunities initiative that will give States new choices to consider as they plan their Exchanges for 2014. While some States may choose to fully operate an Exchange, others might wish choose to perform some functions and let the federal government perform others for them. This is exactly what the Partnership Options proposal offers. States can choose their role in the Partnership Exchange from three basic options. These options are:

  • Option 1 – Plan management. States take the lead on working with health plans who want to participate in the exchange to offer coverage.
  • Option 2 – Selected consumer assistance. States will help you understand your options—they will do conduct outreach and education, provide in-person consumer support for Exchanges, and manage the call center and the consumer website where you can get the most up to date information.
  • Option 3 – Both Option 1 and Option 2.

A State can pick a Partnership Option for the foreseeable future, or simply as a means of phasing in a State-run Exchange. Ultimately, our goal is to support a seamless experience for you and your family.

While States are moving at different speeds in planning their Exchanges, one thing is clear: They still have the time, the financial support, and the flexibility they need to build the model that best suits the needs of the people they serve.

And no matter which pathway States choose, Exchanges will offer you and your family a simple, seamless way to get affordable health care.

For more information about this announcement, please visit this page.

More Americans Accessing Improved Medicare Coverage

By Don Berwick, Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Millions of Americans are enjoying improved Medicare coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act. More people are getting preventive services to keep them healthy, and people with high prescription drug costs are seeing the coverage gap“donut hole” starting to close. Here are the latest numbers from the past few months:

  • July:
    • Through the end of July, 1.28 million Americans with Medicare have received discounts on brand name drugs in the Medicare Part D coverage gap — up from 899,000 through the end of June and 478,000 through the end of May.
    • These discounts have saved seniors and people with disabilities a total of$660 million, including $199 million in July alone!

For state-by-state information on the number of people who are benefiting from this discount in 2011, visit this page.

  • August:
    • Through the end of August, over 18.9 million people with Original Medicare, or 55.6 percent, have received one or more free preventive services.
    • During the same time period, over 1.2 million Americans with Original Medicare have taken advantage of Medicare’s new free Annual Wellness Visit, up from 1.06 million in July.

For state-by-state information on the numbers of people who are utilizing preventive services in 2011, visit this page.Over the coming years, provisions of the Affordable Care Act will help close the coverage gap completely. Here is a sense of what people with Medicare can look forward to:

  • 2013: Paying less and less for your brand-name Part D prescription drugs in the coverage gap.
  • 2020: The coverage gap will be closed, meaning there will be no more “donut hole,” and people with Medicare will pay only 25% of the costs of their drugs until they reach the yearly out-of-pocket spending limit.
The chart below shows what people with Medicare prescription coverage will pay over time:
Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Over Time chart showing Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Over Time
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