KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Sebelius Promises Help To Americans Confused By Health Reform, Says To Beware Of Scammers

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that Americans can expect help from her department as health reform is implemented. She also cautioned consumers to watch out for scammers using the new health bill to try to defraud people.

Politico: "'For years, Americans have struggled with a health insurance system that was opaque, unnecessarily confusing, and often overwhelming to navigate,' Sebelius said at the National Press Club. 'Our goal as we implement this law is to be the opposite of that - to be as clear and transparent as possible. As soon as we know something, we're going to tell you.'" Implementation of the new law is happening already, she said, as HHS has restructured the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to carry out new responsibilities under reform and "working with states to create a new high risk pool program to help uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions get coverage" (Alberta, 4/7).

Reuters: "'We know that the only way this law will achieve its full potential is if Americans understand and take advantage of all the new benefits and choices that will be available to them,' Sebelius said. Republicans and other critics say the insurance mandate (on Americans to carry coverage or face a fine) is unconstitutional and are pushing back against the new law through lawsuits and other means. Sebelius said the Obama administration was 'confident that the law is on solid, constitutional ground.'" Sebelius also said her department will act as an umpire between consumers and insurers, with both having new responsibilities and benefits (Heavey, 4/6).

The Associated Press has more on the scammers trying to take advantage of the confusion among consumers about the new health reform law. "Some of the hustlers are going door to door claiming there's a limited open-enrollment period to buy health insurance now. Not so. Moreover, even after new health insurance marketplaces open for business in 2014, door-to-door salespeople are unlikely to be part of the outreach. Scam artists have also set up toll-free lines. Sebelius, a former Kansas governor and insurance commissioner, wrote state officials Tuesday to urge they investigate and prosecute such scams to the fullest. Federal health care fraud investigators are also on the lookout" (Alonso-Zalidvar, 4/6).

The New York Times: "'Unfortunately, scam artists and criminals may be using the passage of these historic reforms as an opportunity to confuse and defraud the public,' Ms. Sebelius said in a letter to state insurance commissioners and attorneys general. … In her speech, Ms. Sebelius described additional steps that her department is taking this week to implement the health insurance overhaul that President Obama signed into law last month. The department is issuing guidelines for private Medicare Advantage plans to include cost-sharing protections for seniors and new options for Medicaid to cover low-income adults" (Calmes, 4/6).

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