KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Study Proposes Moving Open Enrollment Season

Researchers suggest consumers are not willing to spend money on insurance in the busy fall season as they plan for the holidays, so sign-ups in the spring after tax returns are received might be better. Also, a look at consumers' reluctance to shop for insurance.

USA Today/The Tennessean: Study: Tax Refunds Could Boost Health Coverage
Few Americans, given the choice, would buy health insurance over a Christmas present. And yet, the open enrollment period for federal Marketplace plans on coincides with the winter holidays, one of the most financially stressful times of the year. That's why researchers suggest switching the open enrollment period to line up with a less stressful time. Namely, in spring, just after people have received their tax return (DuBois, 6/25).

The Washington Post: People Hate Shopping For Health Insurance. Can Obamacare Really Change That?
Just how much will people buying their own coverage shop around for a better deal on health insurance year-to-year? By creating a marketplace where plans have to compete for business under the same rules, Obamacare is supposed to facilitate the shopping experience. Some recent studies throw cold water on that idea, though. Just 13 percent of seniors enrolled in Medicare's prescription drug program changed plans during the annual enrollment period, according to an October 2013 Kaiser Family Foundation survey that reviewed the first five years of program enrollment. Those facing the highest premium increases were the most likely to switch plans — anywhere between two and four times of the average rate of all enrollees who switched plan (Millman, 6/25).

Meanwhile, several articles examine the economic effect of the health care law.

Reuters:  U.S. Healthcare Profit Outlook Brightens On Obamacare, Drug Prices
U.S. healthcare companies are winning higher profit forecasts, bucking a wider trend on Wall Street, as pricey new biotech drugs hit the market and insurance enrollment rises under the Affordable Care Act. Analysts' profit expectations for the group have risen sharply since the start of the year, while estimates for most of the other nine Standard & Poor's 500 macro sectors have fallen, according to Thomson Reuters data. The jump in forecasts has come in the past two months, thanks largely to rising estimates for biotechnology companies such as Gilead, and for insurers, including Aetna (Valetkevitch, 6/26).

Modern Healthcare: Insurance Expansion Paying Off For Hospitals
Many providers are already seeing the payoff from insurance expansion across the country, but those that haven't are redoubling their sign-up efforts to reach the most challenging of their uninsured patients, said panelists at the Healthcare Financial Management Association's 2014 Annual National Institute. Cooper University Hospital is located just across the river from Philadelphia in Camden, N.J., a city with a 40% poverty rate. It also sometimes holds the distinction of having the country's highest murder rate. Its Level 1 trauma center often receives the victims of violent crime, including gunshot wounds (Kutscher, 6/25).

Modern Healthcare: Obamacare Leaves Nursing Homes Waiting For Millions Of Dollars
The massive expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare had an unintended consequence in Illinois, leaving nursing homes in the lurch as the state sits on a mountain of unpaid bills. The state doesn't know how much it owes nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, some of which have gone a year or more without getting paid. But the figure is likely in the hundreds of millions of dollars (Schorsch, 6/25).

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