Main: (248) 641-2722 Toll-Free: (888) 415-2722

THE BLUES ANNOUNCE MIGRATION PROCESS FOR EXISTING MYBLUE CUSTOMERS IN CLOSING PLANS

Blue Cross® Blue Shield® of Michigan and Blue Care Network (BCBSM and BCN) announced on Friday, November 22, 2013, that even though the state insurance commissioner announced (also on November 22) that Michigan would permit carriers to allow customers to maintain their current benefits for one additional year (as a result of President Obama’s announcement the week prior), the Blues will continue to move forward, transitioning their existing business and enrolling all new business into ACA-compliant plans, effective 1/1/2014. Click Here To See Full Article

ObamaCare 2016: Happy Yet?

The website problems were finally solved. But the doctor shortage is a nightmare By BRADLEY ALLEN Oct. 22, 2013 7:04 p.m. ET Three years after the disastrous launch of the Affordable Care Act, most of the website troubles finally have been ironed out. People are now able to log on to the government’s ACA website and to most of the state health insurance exchanges. The public has grudgingly come to accept higher insurance premiums, new taxes and increases in part- time workers who were formerly full- time. But Americans are irate anyway- because now they’re seeing the health-care law’s destructive effect on the fundamental nature of the way their care is delivered. Even before the ACA’s launch in 2013, many physicians- seeing the changes in their profession that lay ahead- had begun talking their children out of going to medical school. After the launch, compensation fell, while nothing in the ACA stopped lawsuits and malpractice premiums from rising. Doctors must now see many more patients each day to meet expenses, all while dealing with the mountains of paperwork mandated by the health-care law. The forecast shortage of doctors has become a real problem. It started in 2014 when the ACA cut $716 billion from Medicare to accommodate 30 million newly “insured” people through an expansion of Medicaid. More important, the predicted shortage of 42,000 primary-care physicians and that of specialists (such as heart surgeons) was vastly underestimated. It didn’t take into account the ACA’s effect on doctors retiring early, refusing new patients or going into concierge medicine. These estimates also ignored the millions of immigrants who would be seeking a physician after having been granted legal status. It is surprising that the doctor shortage was not better anticipated: After all, when Massachusetts mandated health insurance in 2006, the wait to see a physician in some specialties increased considerably, the shortage of primary-care physicians escalated and more doctors stopped accepting new patients. In 2013, the Massachusetts Medical Society noted waiting times from 50 days to 128 days in some areas for new patients to see an internist, for instance.  But doctor shortages are only the beginning.  Even before the ACA cut $716 billion from its budget, Medicare only reimbursed hospitals and doctors for 70%-85% of their costs. Once his cut further reduced reimbursements, and the ACA added stacks of paperwork, more doctors refused to accept Medicare: It just didn’t cover expenses.  Then there is the ACA’s Medicare (government) board that dictates and rations care, and the board has begun to cut reimbursements. Some physicians now refuse even to take patients over 50 years old, not wanting to be burdened with them when they reach Medicare age. Seniors aren’t happy. Medicaid in 2016 has similar problems. A third of physicians refused to accept new Medicaid patients in 2013, and with Medicaid’s expansion and government cuts, the numbers of doctors who don’t take Medicaid skyrocketed. The uninsured poor now have insurance, but they can’t find a doctor, so essentially the ACA was of no help.  The loss of private practice is another big problem. Because of regulations and other government disincentives to self employment, doctors began working for hospitals in the early 2000s, leaving less than half in private practice by 2013. The ACA rapidly accelerated this trend, so that now very few private practices remain.  When doctors are employed like factory workers by hospitals, data from the Medical Group Management Association and others indicate, their productivity falls—sometimes by more than 25%. They see fewer patients and perform fewer timely procedures, exacerbating the troubles caused by physician shortages. Continuity of care also declines, since now a physician’s responsibilities end when his shift is over. Of those doctors still in private practice, many have taken refuge from the health-care law by going into concierge medicine, where the patient pays an annual fee (typically $500-$3,000 a year per individual) to a primary-care physician. This doctor provides enhanced care, grants quicker appointments and spends more time with each patient, working with a base of 300-600 patients instead of the 3,000-5,000 typical in the ACA era. Doctors and patients who can afford it love concierge medicine: It allows treatment to be administered as the doctor sees fit,instead of as if the patient is on an assembly line with care directed on orders from Washington.  Patients who can’t afford concierge medicine but have seen their doctor take that route are out of luck: They have been added to the swelling rolls of patients taken care of by the shrinking pool of physicians. So even people with “private” insurance have found that the quality of their health care declined. Nowadays, many are forced instead to see a nurse or other health-care provider. The traditional doctor-patient relationship is now reserved primarily for those who can pay extra.  Concierge-type care was easily expanded to specialists. The top surgeons now simply opt out of Medicare or become “out of network” providers, allowing them to bill patients directly. Many have joined the plastic surgeons and ophthalmologists who work on a straight fee-for-service basis.  Equally important: With the best and most successful doctors disappearing into concierge medicine or refusing new Medicare and Medicaid patients, replacing these experienced physicians with bright young doctors to work with the “general public” has become difficult. Why? Because such doctors are hard to find—going into medicine doesn’t have the professional allure it once did.  With an average of $300,000 in student loans, eight years of college and medical school, and three to seven years as underpaid, overworked residents, a prospective physician in the ACA era would be starting a career at age 30 in a job that requires working 70-80 hours a week in an assembly-line fashion to earn perhaps $100,000 a year. No wonder so many qualified individuals these days are choosing careers on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley instead of medicine.  It is also no wonder that three years ago members of Congress got themselves exempted from the Affordable Care Act. They may have passed the law, but they’re not stupid.

New delays hit Obamacare Rollout Before October 1 Launch

By David Morgan WASHINGTON | Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:32pm EDT (Reuters) – The U.S. government on Thursday announced new delays in rolling out President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform, saying small business and Spanish-language health insurance enrollment services would not begin on October 1 as planned. The postponements amount to a few weeks out of a months-long enrollment period aimed at signing up millions of uninsured Americans for health benefits. But hey add to expectations of a slow start to the landmark social program which remains under attack by Republican leaders and faces formidable technical hurdles for states and the federal government. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said employers with 50 or fewer workers will not be able to sign their staff up for private insurance in federally operated exchanges until a month later, November 1,because of technical problems.  The White House also said online Spanish-language enrollment for Hispanics, an important Obama constituency who make up about one-third of the 47 million uninsured in the country, will also not be available until sometime between October 21 and October 28. Spanish speakers will still be able to enroll through a call center or enrollment specialists known as “navigators.” Administration officials did not explain the nature of the technical problems, but they emphasized that full online enrollment for other individuals will be available on October 1 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.  The news comes as Obama and fellow Democrats are trying to stave off Republican attempts to delay the healthcare reform’s launch with the threat of shutting down the federal government or risking a U.S. default on its credit. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” Obama said in a feisty speech at a Washington-area college shortly before word of the new delays surfaced. He described the Republican strategy on Obamacare as, “‘We’ve got to shut this thing down before people find out that they like it. Republicans seized on news of the latest delay.  “This law is a disaster. But the exchanges — the heart of the law — are supposed to go live in just five days? Give me a break,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. “This law will never be ready for prime time, because this is what happens when Washington takes over healthcare,” he said. BUMPS AND GLITCHES The Obamacare roll-out has required the creation of a massive information technology (IT) infrastructure to allow federal agencies, individual U.S. states and insurance companies to process applications for health coverage and determine subsidies for eligible Americans. The administration is counting on signing up 7 million people via the exchanges in their first year.  Earlier this month, health insurers complained of problems displaying basic information about the plans they will sell on federally run exchanges in 36 states. Among states that will run their own exchanges, Colorado, Oregon and the District of Columbia pared back their launches to address technical problems.  “I would imagine that the most critical defects are on the way to correction,” said Rick Howard, a research director at technology consultant Gartner and an expert on public-sector IT, referring to the small business enrollment delay. “But it’s going to be a rough ride.” The administration sought to play down the delays on Thursday, saying that new healthcare benefits for the uninsured would still begin on January 1, giving businesses two months to enroll for early coverage. The enrollment period for small business is 12 months, and officials said small businesses would be able to shop for coverage, fill out paper insurance applications or discuss their options with call center staff beginning next week.  “As promised, people will be able to see what’s in the marketplace, how to look at coverage, ask questions about whether or not this is good for their employees, find out about the tax credit then beginning November 1st, do the online enrollment,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview with cable-TV channel MSNBC.  It was the second Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) delay for the administration, which postponed a provision to provide employees with a menu of healthcare options earlier this year. A statement by HHS on Thursday focused on a ramp-up in government education and outreach efforts toward small businesses. Only in the 8th paragraph did the document mention in passing that “all functions” in the SHOP exchanges will be available in November.  The White House said the delay in Spanish-language online enrollment would provide “an opportunity” to build Obamacare awareness in the Hispanic community. But Hispanic community representatives expressed concern. “This type of delay can undermine enrollment efforts, so we think they need to do everything in their power to get this up and running as soon as possible,” said Jennifer Ng’andu, director of health and civil rights policy at the National Council of La Raza. “There’s been such a fever pitch around October 1 that we don’t want people walking away thinking there’s nothing for them.”  While Obamacare’s foes in Washington pressed for delay of the entire law, members of the business community sounded a more supportive note.  “This is a huge undertaking and October 1 is not the only opportunity for small businesses to enroll. The glitches will come and we hope they will be speedily resolved. But in the meantime I don’t have the sense that small businesses were lined up at the gates waiting to get in,” said Neil Trautwein, healthcare lobbyist for the National Retail Federation. John Arensmeyer, chief executive of the Small Business Majority, said Obamacare would bring major change to the U.S. healthcare system “so having a month delay is not a huge issue in the greater scheme of things.” Caroline Pearson of the healthcare consulting firm Avalere said SHOP exchanges are expected to have only limited enrollment because their value to business remains unclear.  (Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington and Lewis Krauskopf, Sharon Begley and Caroline Humerin New York; Editing by Michele Gershberg, Grant McCool and Leslie Gevirtz)