insurance

Today marks a milestone on the nation's long march toward universal health coverage: the launch of online marketplaces, called exchanges, designed to help people find insurance they can afford.

It's an idea pioneered by Massachusetts seven years ago. People here call their program a success, and say the state's exchange was an indispensable factor.

Chion Wolf

Today’s the day the new Affordable Care Act kicks into gear.  

The health care reform known as “Obamacare” is creating state exchanges where those without insurance can buy it.  But how do these exchanges work? Who’s eligible and who’s not? What about all the myths, mysteries and misconceptions? How much is it really costing us?

The Affordable Care Act has been through two years of legislative wrangling, a presidential election and a Supreme Court test that took it to the brink.

Now, after yet another round of debate and argument, major pieces of the federal health law are expected to kick in Tuesday.

If all goes as planned, people who don't have insurance or who buy it on their own will be able to shop online or at various locations in their communities for coverage that will take effect Jan. 1.

Tuesday is a big day for the White House. That's when new health insurance exchanges open in every state, where people can buy the insurance the Affordable Care Act requires next year. They will also see if they qualify for new subsidies to help them afford it.

Jeff Cohen / WNPR

The nation's new health care law rolls out next week. One essential part of that is a call center to both field questions and enroll people. But it's not clear how much the private company taking these calls, Maximus Health Services, is actually charging taxpayers. 

Darnyi Zsóka / Creative Commons

Connecticut is launching a new online health exchange, Access Health CT, where residents can shop for and purchase health insurance. The unemployed or uninsured may be able to receive health insurance under the new federal law. To see how it affects you, and whether you can take advantage of the health exchange, try the helpful tools below.

UConn

Most Americans don't like the new federal health care law that begins enrollment next week, according to a new national poll from the University of Connecticut. It's not that Americans don't want the government to help cover the uninsured. It's that they specifically don't like this law: the Affordable Care Act.

Serge Melki / Wikimedia Commons

Connecticut Supreme Court justices heard an appeal Tuesday that all started with a horse named Scuppy. He allegedly bit a boy, and the family sued. An attorney representing horse owners in Connecticut asked the justices to overturn an appellate court ruling. That court found Scuppy's owner to be liable, saying the species is naturally vicious.

The nation's health spending will bump up next year as the Affordable Care Act expands insurance coverage to more Americans, and then will grow by an average of 6.2 percent a year over the next decade, according to projections by government actuaries.

That estimate is lower than the typical annual increases before the recession hit. Still, the actuaries forecast that in a decade the health care segment of the nation's economy will be larger than it is today, amounting to a fifth of the gross domestic product in 2022.

With the launch of new health insurance exchanges just about two weeks away, many of the questions in this month's mailbag focused less on the big picture and more on exactly how the law will operate for individuals.

We can't answer every question we get. But here is a sampling of questions that were really popular, or that would apply to a lot of people.

All across Connecticut, you can see billboards and TV ads, hear radio spots and get pamphlets about how to get insurance under the new health care law starting Oct. 1.

But the state is also using less traditional, and more expensive, ways to get the word out.

Why More Expensive Insurance Can Pay Off

Sep 10, 2013

One of the most far-reaching provisions of the federal health overhaul prohibits insurers from refusing to cover people who are sick or charging them more for policies.

Still, for people with serious medical conditions, the online health insurance marketplaces present new wrinkles that could have significant financial impact.

Katie Doderer is a very poised 15-year-old with short blond hair and a wide smile. She's a straight A student who loves singing, dancing and performing in musicals.

This could be considered something of a miracle.

"I have a complex medical condition known as congenital central hypoventilation – blah—syndrome. CCHS," Katie explains, stumbling on the full name of her malady. "Basically my brain doesn't tell me to breathe. So I am reliant on a mechanical ventilator."

A lot of Americans get their health insurance from their job. And according to a new study, the price of that insurance went up by about four percent last year. A new report finds that annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $16,300 this year -- up four percent over last year.

Finally, the federal HR department has released the health rule much of Capitol Hill has been waiting for.

There's now an explanation from the Office of Personnel Management on how members of Congress and much of their staff will get their health insurance starting next year.

While we're busy being distracted by fake marriage proposals on ballfields, plants are growing in Connecticut, or will be if some in the state have their say. Those stories and more you might have missed.

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MEDICAL MARIJUANA GROWER APPROVED IN MIDDLETOWN
Former factory space may become quite "green."

By October 1, states are supposed to have their health insurance exchanges up and running so they can enroll residents.

The exchanges are online insurance marketplaces for individuals and small businesses — where people can shop for a health plan.

Some people will pay out of pocket for their health coverage and others may get some help from the federal government to pay for their premiums.

Polls show that 40 percent of Americans do not know that the Affordable Care Act is in effect, and that percentage is higher for uninsured populations.

Sage Ross, Wikimedia Commons

Got time for a little news diversion while you wait to find out if A-Rod will play in Chicago tonight? You're at the right place. Here are a few stories you should know about today.

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NO INDIVIDUAL HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE FOR YOU
Aetna withdraws from Access Health CT.

New state legislation may soon be considered to address enforcement gaps in existing federal regulations related to mental health coverage.

On Tuesday, President Obama announced that one-year delay for a crucial aspect of his Affordable Care Act. The delay gives businesses another year to figure out how to comply with the law.

Courtesy of Flickr CC by BLW Photography

An amendment to the defense budget bill before Congress could help military families who have children with developmental disabilities including autism.

Commercial insurers are very close to revealing the rates they’ll charge for healthcare plans under the new Connecticut healthcare exchange. It’s been a long, uncertain road to get here.

StockMonkeys.com on Flickr Creative Commons

In 2010, the Pew Center on the States reported that a majority of states didn’t have enough available cash to pay for the pensions of their public sector workers...and Connecticut--along with Illinois, Kentucky, and Rhode Island were in the most trouble.

But, not all states fared so badly.

While Connecticut had assets to cover only 53% of its pension obligations in 2010, North Carolina, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin had assets to cover 95% of their pension obligations in the same year.

Chion Wolf

There are plenty of roadblocks to healthcare, especially if you’re without insurance and money. But for many Americans, just finding a doctor can be difficult.

Although nearly a quarter of the U.S. population lives in rural communities, only a one in ten physicians practice there....they have only a third as many specialists as cities. The population’s older...it smokes more...and suffers from more accidental deaths.

With legal and political battles over the Affordable Care Act all but settled, it now appears that the health care overhaul law is here to stay. The goal of the law is to promise insurance coverage for more Americans and, if it works, increase access to care.

The National Flood Insurance Program promises help for businesses and homeowners caught in devastating weather events like Sandy. But it’s a huge burden on taxpayers, and some critics argue that it encourages building in flood-prone areas. WNPR’s Sujata Srinivasan reports on how new rate increases for the program might affect its future.

Nearly 40% of small businesses that sustain severe flood damage in natural disasters subsequently close down. Pop’s Grocery on Main Street in Bridgeport is struggling to stay off that list.

Harriet Jones

As Connecticut gets back on its feet in the wake of Sandy, job number one for many small businesses is just to be able to open their doors once again. As WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports, in some hard hit shoreline communities, that’s a challenge.

Monday morning, as Sandy bore down on the tri-state coastline, some businesses defied the oncoming weather. In downtown Mystic, Wide World of Bagels was one of the few stores that still had power and owner Nicole Denkis was running to keep up with all the additional customers.

Just as many households prepared for the worst of Hurricane Sandy, so too did employers. But what’s the evidence that businesses have learned anything from the natural disasters Connecticut experienced last year? WNPR’s Harriet Jones reports.

A new national study shows that healthcare premiums went up modestly nationwide this year. But as Jeff Cohen reports, the rise in premiums still outpaces increases in both inflation and wages. The study was conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Educational Trust. It shows that annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached nearly $16,000 this year -- up four percent over last year. Workers pay on average about a quarter of that.

Drew Altman is Kaiser's president.

"Four percent is a low increase and it is good news."

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