Affordable Care Act

Chion Wolf / WNPR

In this edition of our weekly news roundtable The Wheelhouse, we ask two big questions surrounding the 2014 race for governor. What impact will John Rowland's latest scandal have on Republicans? What impact will President Barack Obama have on Governor Dannel Malloy and the state's Democratic congressional delegation?

Also: did you join the herds of UConn basketball fans in line for $1.00 burritos?

Federal rules ensure that none of the millions of people who signed up for Obamacare can be denied insurance — but there is no guarantee that all health services will be covered.

To help make sure a patient's claims aren't improperly denied, the Affordable Care Act creates national standards that allow everyone who is denied treatment to appeal that decision to the insurance company and, if necessary, to a third party reviewer.

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Connecticut's Obamacare enrollment website did well enough this year to attract the interest of other states. Officials from Access Health CT said they are finalizing a deal with the state of Maryland to share computer code.

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President Obama said that more than seven million people have signed up for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Connecticut saw a huge surge in enrollments as Monday's deadline passed. 

This post was updated at 4:40 p.m. ET. with Obama's comments.

President Obama emerged from the White House on Tuesday to rousing applause. He announced that 7.1 million Americans had signed up for health care through the federal exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act.

"This law is doing what it's supposed to do," Obama said at the Rose Garden. "It's working. It's helping people from coast to coast."

Seven Things to Watch As the Health Care Enrollment Deadline Passes

Mar 31, 2014
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Just because open enrollment for people who buy their own health insurance formally closes March 31 doesn't mean debate over the health law will take a hiatus. After more than four years of strident rhetoric, evidence about how the law is actually working is starting to trickle in. 

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As the deadline to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act approaches, the federal government now says it will give some people extra time to enroll. But that change won't apply to people in Connecticut.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

Officials say enrollment in the state's health insurance marketplace is surging as the March 31 deadline to sign up approaches. 

This is it. The deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act this year is March 31. With time running out, the questions about how the health law and the exchanges work keep pouring in. Here are a few more to check out while the clock ticks down.

My son will be 19 in May. I claim him as a dependent on my taxes. If I don't provide for his medical coverage and he is unemployed and makes no income, how is he supposed to pay his penalty? Or are they going to take his penalty out of my tax return because he is a dependent on my return?

Mike Dunn stands inside a store in downtown New Haven, looking through the big glass windows at his future customers outside. He's not selling phones or food or clothes. He's selling Obamacare.

There's one week left to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and states have gone to great lengths to enroll as many people up as possible. In Connecticut, the exchange has opened two retail storefronts where people can walk in and sign up.

Doctors worry they won't get paid by some patients because of an unusual 90-day grace period for government-subsidized health plans.

So several professional groups for doctors are urging their members to check patients' insurance status before every visit. Consumer advocates say these checks could lead to treatment delays or denials for some patients.

"My mouse pad broke, and I had to get my great-aunt some diabetes shoes."

That's how comedian Zach Galifianakis begins his segment with President Obama in an episode of the online interview show Between Two Ferns that was posted Tuesday. It was an interview unlike any other for a sitting U.S. president, as Galifianakis probed the commander in chief's views with a range of oddball questions.

Insurance coverage for maternity care is required in most individual and small group plans under the federal health law, extending such coverage to plans where it used to be rare. But for women who prefer services provided by midwives and birthing centers, there are no coverage guarantees, despite the law's provisions that prohibit insurers from discriminating against licensed medical providers.

Kevin Counihan, the CEO of Access Health CT, is walking through the 15th floor of a downtown Hartford office building that houses Connecticut's health insurance marketplace. He passes the legal department, the IT folks and the consultants, then stops in front of three large, wall-mounted computer screens.

With a bit more than a month left for people to sign up for health insurance plans set up under the Affordable Care Act, the federal website known as HealthCare.gov finally seems to be working smoothly — in 36 states.

But what's happening in the 14 states that are running their own exchanges?

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

The goal of the Affordable Care Act was to insure more people at a lower cost. Affordability is still a moving target. At least in Connecticut, the enrollment numbers are looking good. State officials announced that they have beaten their goal of enrolling 100,000 people in the Affordable Care Act by March 31 by more than 20 percent.

Obamacare enrollment surged in December, and the administration's report on the numbers made headlines early this week.

But the national figures tend to obscure the differences from state to state.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Health care costs are going to be increasingly shifted to consumers. That was the message from Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini at a presentation Wednesday.

Arielle Levin Becker / The Connecticut Mirror

The Affordable Care Act is the signature piece of the president's domestic agenda and it's now, finally, operational. The question is: Is it working? On Where We Live we talk Obamacare and ask whether it is doing what it promised - helping the nation's poor and uninsured. 

New York's health insurance marketplace is working, but some consumers are still having problems with insurers. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield is the state's largest insurer and the target of a lot of consumer complaints.

Angela Felan is sitting in the ER waiting room at O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, Calif. A blue surgical mask covers her nose and mouth, and a sweatshirt is pulled snug over her head.

She first came into the emergency room a few days ago with what she thought was bronchitis. The doctor prescribed an inhaler that cost her $56.

Felan, 31, works part time in retail and hasn't had insurance for at least a decade because she hasn't been able to afford it. "Unfortunately even not having insurance is just as expensive," she says.

For the first time, we are getting some demographic information about the more than 2 million people who have signed up for private health insurance through the exchanges set up by the federal government.

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration said older, less healthy enrollees outnumber healthy, younger ones. The Times adds:

Health care spending grew at a record slow pace for the fourth straight year in 2012, according to a new government report. But the federal officials who compiled the report disagree with their bosses in the Obama administration about why.

The annual report from the actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, published in the journal Health Affairs, found total U.S. health spending totaled $2.8 trillion in 2012, or $8,915 per person.

The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court not to extend a temporary injunction given to a group of Colorado nuns who want to be exempt from some rules in the new health care law. The rules relate to the requirement that most employers provide health insurance that includes coverage of birth control costs.

The Justice Department will answer a challenge Friday morning to a controversial provision in the new health care law. It requires most employers that offer health insurance to include birth control at no cost.

A group of Catholic nuns has objected to that, and this week they won a temporary reprieve from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It's an unusual test case, but it won't be the last one.

Despite Health Law, Many People May Be Left Underinsured

Dec 31, 2013

People with chronic conditions will be better protected from crippling medical bills starting in January, as the health law's coverage requirements and spending limits take effect.

The White House released new figures on Sunday that show a surge in the number of Americans who have signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace.

According to a blog post by Marilynn Tavenner, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator, 1.1 million Americans have signed up for coverage since the marketplace opened in October.

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Officials running the state's new health care exchange say thousands of people are enrolling for insurance as Monday's deadline draws near.

Christine Stuart / CT News Junkie

If you want to be insured under Obamacare come January 1, Monday is your deadline to enroll. But the agency running the program fears that some people may think they've signed up when they actually haven't.

President Obama, in his final news conference of the year, sought to put the best face on a difficult first year of his second term.

Speaking a few hours before he heads to Hawaii for a two-week vacation, Obama is meeting with reporters at the White House.

He touted the improving economy, saying 2 million jobs had been added in 2013, with the unemployment rate now at its lowest level in five years.

"2014 can be a breakthrough year," he said.

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