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Visit One News Page for Health Insurance news from around the world, aggregated from leading sources including newswires, newspapers and broadcast media. Search millions of archived news headlines. This feed provides the Health Insurance news headlines.

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    Four Key Facts for Individuals, Businesses, and Insurance Professionals on the Marketplaces

    Park City, Utah (PRWEB) June 21, 2013

    Today, Zane Benefits, Inc. published new information on Individual Health Insurance Marketplaces. Zane Benefits, which provides comprehensive and flexible alternatives to traditional employer sponsored health benefits, is the leader in defined contribution and health reimbursement arrangement plans.

    According to Zane Benefits’ website, as part of health care reform health insurance coverage for individuals will become available through new individual health insurance marketplaces (also called "exchanges"). There are four key facts for individuals, businesses, and insurance professionals about how the individual health insurance marketplaces will work.

    Each state's individual health insurance marketplace will open October 1, 2013 for enrollment in coverage beginning January 1, 2014.

    According to Zane Benefits’ website, the individual health insurance marketplaces will work for employees the following way:

    Step 1: Individual goes to his or her state's individual health insurance marketplace website.

    Step 2: Individual completes one application.

    Step 3: Individual health insurance marketplace displays all available plan options within metallic tiers and displayed cost will factor in tax subsidies (discount to premium). All plans will be guaranteed-issue, and are portable.

    Step 4: Individual selects plan.

    Step 5: Individual health insurance marketplace bills individual for his or her portion of premium (i.e. the total premium minus tax subsidy) and marketplace forwards payment to the carrier.

    According to Zane Benefits’ website, the plans offered through the individual health insurance marketplace will be guaranteed issue (cannot be denied because of pre-existing condition). But, there's a catch. That is, consumers can only enroll in guaranteed issue health insurance during designated enrollment periods.

    Click here to read full article.

    About Zane Benefits

    Zane Benefits was founded in 2006 to provide a revolutionized SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) administration platform ("ZaneHRA") for Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) and defined contribution health care. The flagship software provides a 100% paperless administration experience to employers and insurance professionals that want to offer better health benefits without a traditional group health insurance plan at lower costs. For more information about ZaneHRA, visit http://www.zanebenefits.com. Reported by PRWeb 5 days ago.

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    PHOENIX -- President Barack Obama has championed two sweeping policy changes that could transform how people live in the United States: affordable health care for all and a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants illegally in the country.

    But many immigrants will have to wait more than a decade to qualify for health care benefits under the proposed immigration overhaul being debated by Congress, ensuring a huge swath of people will remain uninsured as the centerpiece of Obama's health care law launches next year.

    Lawmakers pushing the immigration bill said adding more recipients to an already costly benefit would make it unaffordable.

    Health care analysts and immigration proponents argue that denying coverage will saddle local governments with the burden of uninsured immigrants. They also fear a crisis down the road as immigrants become eligible for coverage, but are older, sicker and require more expensive care. Those placed on provisional status would become the nation's second-largest population of uninsured, or about 25 percent, according to a 2012 study by the Urban Institute.

    "All health research shows that the older you get, the sicker you become, so these people will be sicker and will be more expensive on the system," said Matthew O'Brien, who runs a health clinic for immigrants in Philadelphia and researches health trends at Temple University.

    The Affordable Care Act will make health insurance accessible for millions of uninsured people starting in January through taxpayer-subsidized private policies for middle-class families and expanded access to Medicaid, the program for low-income people funded by federal and state dollars. The proposed immigration overhaul explicitly states immigrants cannot receive Medicaid or buy coverage in new health care exchanges for more than a decade after they qualify for legal status, and only after certain financial and security requirements have been met.

    Immigrants with provisional status may obtain insurance through employers once they have legal status to work, but many are unskilled and undereducated, and tend to work low-wage jobs at small businesses that don't have to provide the benefit under the health care law. Immigrants illegally in the country also can access community health centers, but the officials who run those clinics said they are overwhelmed by the demand.

    "We can't help everybody," said Bethy Mathis, executive director of Wesley Community Center in Phoenix. The clinic serves 7,000 patients a year who seek everything from vaccinations and relief from minor medical problems to care for long-term health conditions such as diabetes.

    Debate over whether immigrants illegally in the country should be eligible for federal benefits nearly sank Obama's health care reform before it was passed by Congress in 2010. For lawmakers pushing immigration reform, there was no question that immigrants would continue to be excluded.

    "That's one of the privileges of citizenship," said Republican Sen. John McCain, one of the so-called Gang of Eight pushing the immigration bill, during a conference call with reporters. "That's just what it is. I don't know why we would want to provide Obamacare to someone who is not a citizen of this country."

    The issue has received more attention in recent weeks. Some House Republicans have threatened to kill the immigration bill unless immigrants are required to pay for all their health care costs even after they receive green cards or become citizens. Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, meanwhile, said she wants the government to distribute at least $250 million to state and local governments because they are the ones who will feel the financial pain of immigrants being left out of the health care law.

    Pregnant women, children, seniors and the disabled are eligible for emergency Medicaid services regardless of their immigration status.

    The politics behind the bill offer little solace to immigrant families struggling with growing medical bills.

    Isabel Castillo came to the U.S. illegally with her parents when she was a child. She's now 28 and has not gone for an annual physical exam since 2007. Every pain triggers debate over whether it's worth a medical visit or not.

    "You are like, `God, should I go, should I wait? The bill is going to be so high,'" Castillo said. "You just wait until you can't tolerate the pain anymore and then you go to the emergency room."

    Immigrants who are U.S. citizens are also affected by the limits on health care access if they provide for family members here illegally.

    High school student Jacqueline Garcia of Phoenix works two jobs to support her 13-year-old brother and 52-year-old grandmother, who has severe diabetes. The woman's mobility is limited, her vision and memory are fading and she sometimes suffers from seizures. The children were born in the United States and are being raised by the grandmother, who does not have lawful status and as a result does not qualify for Medicaid.

    "Every time she gets sick, I have to take her to the doctor. It's really expensive," Garcia said. "What if my grandmother doesn't make it for the 10 years? I mean, I am always going to be struggling. That's too long."

    Opponents said they understand the concerns of immigrants not getting health care, but it becomes an issue of the added expense.

    "We aren't saying people shouldn't get health care. The question is who is going to pay for it?" said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a national group that opposes the immigration overhaul. "They would all be on Medicaid or heavily subsidized in some other way."

    Critics of the decision said immigrants are eager to pay for affordable health care insurance and already support federal benefits by paying sales and income taxes. They note that adults unable to overcome health emergencies are less likely to contribute to the workforce and society.

    "The risk of them being uninsured if they are in the country illegally is the same risk of anyone else in the country not being insured," said Stephen Zuckerman, a health economist for the Urban Institute. "It's always more expensive to treat people at a more advanced stage of disease."

    In North Carolina, Jessica Sanchez-Rodriguez said she has undergone a series of surgeries and medicines to treat her spina bifida, a developmental congenital disorder, and an ailment that leads to brain swelling. Her parents brought her illegally from Mexico when she was 11 months old. As a minor, she received subsidized medical care, but she was cut off when she turned 18 in February.

    Her family is trying to raise money for a $55,000 surgery to connect a catheter to her bladder.

    "It's terrible," said Sanchez-Rodriguez. "I have to go to school with these pains." Reported by Huffington Post 5 days ago.

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    Florida health insurance companies will rebate $54.3 million to consumers, down from $123.6 million in rebates a year ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced June 20. Under the 2010 health reform law, insurers must spend 80 percent of premiums collected on medical claims, known as the medical-loss ratio, or issue a customer rebate for the difference. Checks are due Aug. 1. Nationwide, insurers are expected to rebate $504.1 million, compared to the $1.1 billion in rebates… Reported by bizjournals 5 days ago.

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    Over the last several years, state legislatures around the country have waged an all-out assault on working people. The latest takes place in California, where the State Assembly is holding hearings on AB 1309, a bill that would effectively prohibit professional football, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey players at the major and minor league levels from accessing the state's workers compensation system. Currently, California has one of the only systems in the country that doesn't restrict filing a claim to within a certain time after an injury, thereby allowing players to file claims for cumulative trauma, i.e., injuries that build up over a career of intense physical strain and often don't manifest until decades later. Introduced by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno), this bill would limit the time frame for submitting claims and is supported, of course, by the usual big corporate suspects: owners of professional sports teams and insurance companies.

    Don't be fooled. AB 1309 is not just a simple adjustment to California's workers compensation law; it's the latest in a long line of examples of greedy employers shirking their responsibility for covering injuries that workers suffer on the job. Contrary to popular belief, NFL players do not receive lifetime benefits from the league, so team owners basically get off scot-free when it comes to compensating players for the long-term health effects of a pro football career. According to a recent Washington Post article, "The NFL's health insurance lasts five years after retirement -- players who lasted fewer than three seasons don't qualify for it at all -- leaving players whose injuries develop years after their careers ended with very few options. The average NFL player's career lasts just 3.9 seasons, according to the NFL Players Association's latest figures. Studies show that one in four retirees will need a joint replacement; they suffer arthritis at five times the rate of their peers and are four times as likely to suffer neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's or ALS. Critics say the NFL's medical benefits don't adequately address the full range of these problems."

    Recognizing the importance of workers comp, NFL players agreed in the last collective bargaining agreement to deduct the amount of money paid into the league's workers comp fund from the salary cap. In other words, players agreed to make less money up front to ensure funds were available later for workers comp claims that may arise. Despite that concession, the league and team owners are flexing their incredible political muscle to change the workers compensation benefits available to athletes - even though the athletes have already paid into the system.

    This bill is nothing more than a test case for employers who want to gut workers' rights laws and lower standards in California. Whether it's the football field or the factory floor, sports team owners and CEOs alike all bear some responsibility for their employees' health and safety. Passage of this bill will ultimately impact all workers, not just professional athletes. We know that big business is always looking for ways to reduce its responsibility to workers under the law; if team owners can limit their obligation to players under California's workers compensation system, employers in other industries will use AB 1309 as a model to limit rights for other workers hurt on the job. It might start with professional athletes, but you better believe that the corporate-backed legislators are coming for teachers, nurses, retail workers and truck drivers next.

    Not surprisingly, AB 1309's author received nearly $8,000 in contributions from Walmart between 2011 and 2012. And nearly eight percent of his contributions come from insurance companies. Why wouldn't Walmart and other big corporate political donors ask Perea and other legislators to support legislation that limits the ability of construction workers, transport workers, and firefighters to receive compensation for work-related injuries next? If they're willing to scale back the rights of players unquestionably hurt in the service of their employer in front of millions on television, imagine what rights they'll take from workers hurt in the obscurity of a factory to gain a few more corporate dollars in the campaign coffers.

    Across every industry, employers are responsible for paying approved workers comp claims - the league's wholesale denial of so many of those claims is why the NFL players agreed to set aside money to help the owners pay their workers comp insurance in the first place. While players without league-provided health insurance may file claims with the NFL disability review board, that board rejects approximately 60 percent of claims. Workers comp often serves as the last and best option for players denied coverage for injuries they received on the job, and California's system in particular has been a bright spot for athletes with complicated, cumulative claims because they were able to file there provided they played a reasonable number of games (and therefore paid taxes) in California. As the Post article explains, "The question of where an injured employee can file a claim has been the subject of worker-employer skirmishing for as long as the workers' comp system has existed. Courts have generally held that a person who travels for a living, whether a flight attendant or a salesman or a football player, has the choice to file a claim in more than one jurisdiction if the worker had reasonable contact with those states."

    Proponents of AB 1309 claim it protects taxpayers from footing the bill for players' claims, but taxpayers were never on the hook to begin with - players and owners were. As Dawn Neufeld, an attorney and wife of former NFL tight end Ryan Neufeld, explained on her Gridiron Goddess blog, "In reality, any player who plays a game in California ends up paying significant income taxes to the state. Out-of-state football players who travel to California and play there pay taxes in their team state and California for the money earned for that game. California collected roughly $171 million dollars in taxes from professional athletes last year. So California's economy benefits from these players' taxes, and yet state legislators are still trying to deny them benefits. In fact, AB 1309 wouldn't just prevent athletes from filing in California, it would throw out any pending cases that have been fully litigated and await decision."

    But taxpayers will be paying for the injuries players suffered while owners raked in billions in profit if AB 1309 becomes law, because without access to California's workers compensation system, many players will need to rely on Social Security disability payments and Medicare for treatment of on-the-job injuries. Sound familiar? In a recent report from the minority staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce titled "The Low-Wage Drag on Our Economy: Wal-Mart's Low Wages and Their Effect on Taxpayers and Economic Growth," researchers estimated that Walmart's business practices could cost taxpayers nearly $1 million a year per store. According to a 2008 congressional research report on NFL disability, the cost of covering injured players could fall on taxpayers too. There are approximately 18,000 NFL alumni, and when they can't pay for their health care, it has an impact on "society as a whole," the report said.

    We shouldn't tolerate sports team owners taking a page from Walmart's playbook to increase their profits at the expense of workers and taxpayers. It's time for these owners and insurance companies to pay their fair share and to stop hiding behind corporate lobbyists trying to threaten the health and safety of workers injured on the job everywhere. Reported by Huffington Post 4 days ago.

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    Pittsburgh, Pa., Jun 21, 2013 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Geneva College in Pennsylvania has been given temporary relief from having to provide emergency contraceptives in its health insurance plans, as required by the federal contraception mandate.

    “The court has done the right thing in allowing Geneva College to suspend the enforcement of the Obama administration’s abortion pill mandate for the student health plan while the case moves forward,” said Gregory Baylor, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the college.

    As a result of the June 18 order by federal judge Joy Flowers Conti, of Pennsylvania's Western District, protects Geneva College from including coverage for potentially abortion-causing drugs for its students for the time being.

    The injunction will last “until this court makes a full determination on the merits of the case, or the United States Supreme Court or United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit renders a decision on the merits of this case or an adverse decision in a substantially similar case.”

    “All Americans should be free to live according to their faith rather than be forced into violating their own consciences,” Baylor said. “That’s no different for Geneva College, a Christian college that simply wants to abide by the very faith it espouses and teaches.”

    “The government should not punish people of faith for making decisions consistent with that faith.”

    The school, located in Beaver Falls about 30 miles from Pittsburgh, is contesting the controversial federal mandate by the Health and Human Services department which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates the employer’s deeply-held religious beliefs.

    While the mandate includes a narrow exemption for some religious organizations and an “accommodation” for certain non-profit religious employers, it does not offer any protection for faith-based schools like Geneva College.

    Geneva College “consciously and deliberately strives to integrate faith in Christ with all aspects of learning and living,” and is associated with the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.

    While the school is not opposed to contraceptive coverage “in general,” it does have moral objections to providing emergency contraceptives which “cause or tend to cause the termination of a pregnancy,” it says.

    “As a reformed Christian college, Geneva believes in the sanctity of life and objects, on biblical grounds, to being forced to provide the drugs through its insurance provider,” it added in a June 19 statement.

    Conti had initially – in March – dismissed Geneva's suit because it was not yet “ripe.”

    The college had only until June 20 to select an insurance plan for its students for the 2013-2014 academic year, and so Conti decided June 18 that the threat to the college's religious freedom was imminent enough to grant the injunction.

    Conti found that “three Supreme Court decisions support Geneva's argument that there is a likelihood” it can win the case, on the merits of its rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

    She also indicated that the college had made good arguments that its first amendment rights would be violated.

    The judge was sceptical that forcing Geneva College to provide its students with contraceptive coverage is a compelling government interest.

    “The tens of millions of individuals who remain unaffected by the mandate’s requirements …contradict any notion that the government’s interests are as compelling as defendants argue.”

    “Defendants (HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius) in the present case fail to show how exempting Geneva from the mandate will 'seriously compromise (the government’s) ability to administer the program,' particularly where defendants are actively trying to exempt entities like Geneva,” Conti added in her decision.

    Conti also noted that without the injunction, Geneva College would “suffer irreparable harm” and that “public interest favors granting injunctive relief.”

    The decision does not affect the health insurance plans of Geneva employees, because the mandate will not go into effect for them for another six months, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    The school is one of nearly 200 plaintiffs in at least 50 cases across the country that have filed lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate on the grounds of religious freedom.

    Geneva College is joined in its lawsuit by the co-owners of Seneca Hardwood Lumber Co., who are Catholics. They have long provided health insurance to their employees, though omitting coverage for contraception and abortion, in accord with their faith. Reported by CNA 4 days ago.

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    Once health insurance exchanges begin under Obamacare, many companies may save money by dropping coverage and paying a penalty. But they may face another cost: employee dissatisfaction.

     
     
     
      Reported by NYTimes.com 3 days ago.

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    Filed under: Investing

    Here we go again. It was only a couple of months ago that the White House announced that the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, national online health insurance exchanges included in Obamacare wouldn't be fully ready until 2015 due to "operational challenges." At that time, the administration stated that the exchanges would still be functional on schedule in October of this year, but small businesses would only be able to select one insurance plan option for their employees.

    Now, the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, which serves as the watchdog for federal agencies, says the situation might be worse. According to the GAO, implementation of the federally operated SHOP exchanges in 33 states and individual exchanges in 34 states is behind schedule. Whether the exchanges can be successfully launched in October "cannot yet be determined," in the GAO's opinion.

    *Flailing
    *The GAO found that, as of May, a whopping 44% of key activities needing to be done were behind schedule. Here's the kicker: That number reflects only tasks that were scheduled to be completed by March 31, 2013. In other words, nearly half of the things that needed to be done three months ago still weren't finished as of last month. I loved the response from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, on this. CMS said "it had revised many target dates and other delays were not expected to affect exchange operations." In other words, they're behind, but they changed the deadlines, so there's no problem.




    To be fair, the missed schedules aren't all CMS' fault. But 40% of them are -- at least according to the GAO. Most of these problems stemmed from instances where CMS changed deadlines where it had "improved the specificity of new targeted completion dates." (Full disclosure: I have no earthly idea what that really means.) In other cases, CMS simply didn't give states the information needed to complete their activities. The GAO says that the individual states dropped the ball in the other 60% of late tasks.

    The Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, was given the opportunity to review the GAO's report before it was released and provide feedback. HHS "emphasized the progress it has made" since Obamacare was signed into law and "expressed its confidence" that everything will be in good shape for the exchanges to be operational by Oct. 1. 

    Maybe HHS' rose-colored glasses indeed provide 20/20 vision. However, it seems questionable in the light of the GAO's observation that "certain factors, such as the still-unknown and evolving scope of the exchange activities to be performed in each state by CMS, and the large numbers of activities remaining to be completed -- some close to the start of enrollment -- suggest a potential for implementation challenges going forward." Umm, yeah, if the scope is still unknown and evolving for a massive project involving lots of different players only three months before a complex system is scheduled to be implemented, I'd say there might be potential problems ahead.

    *Flourishing
    *While the federal Obamacare exchanges flail, private health insurance exchanges are flourishing. For example, *Mercer* announced in April that several large insurers -- including Aetna, Cigna, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare -- would be part of its Mercer Marketplace private exchange. Mercer Marketplace allows employers to contribute a defined amount for its employees to use on health coverage. Employees use the system to shop around for the insurance plans that best meet their needs.

    *Towers Watson* wasn't far behind in announcing several large health insurers signing up to participate in its OneExchange private health insurance exchange. Participating insurers include Aetna, Anthem, Kaiser Permanante, and UnitedHealthcare. Towers Watson also recently bought Extend Health, which runs the largest private Medicare exchange in the nation. 

    AON Hewitt, the human resources business unit of *AON* , successfully enrolled more than 100,000 employees across the U.S. in health insurance plans last fall through its Corporate Health Exchange product. The company's survey of enrollees found that nearly 80% "felt confident they chose the health plan that offered the best value for them and their family." 93% liked being able to choose from multiple insurance carriers.

    More good news appears to be on the way for AON, Mercer, Towers Watson, and other private health exchange companies. A study by Accenture concluded that participation in private exchanges will catch up with public exchanges established by Obamacare by 2017. After that point, enrollment in theObamacare exchanges will grow slowly, while private exchange enrollment will increase rapidly. Accenture says that more than a quarter of employers in the U.S. are considering moving to a private exchange within the next three to five years.

    Another study by Booz & Company found that around 80% of employers would rather allow employees to purchase insurance through a private exchange than through a public exchange. What were the reasons given for this strong preference? Better product choices, more flexible benefit designs, better customer service, and "a general wariness of government-run entities."

    *Taking stock
    *I suspect that if the federal government was a publicly traded entity, its stock would be in a free-fall right now. On the other hand, the stocks of the three private exchange companies mentioned earlier are doing pretty well. Mercer is up 13% over the last year. Towers Watson shares have climbed nearly 30% during the same period. Aon's stock jumped nearly 35%.

    HHS is talking about its "confidence" amid what looks to be a fiasco in the making, judging from the GAO report. Meanwhile, private companies are making real progress. The employers in that Booz study might be on to something with that wariness of government.

    Still in the dark about how Obamacare might affect you and your portfolio? Don't worry -- you're not alone. To help prepare investors for the massive changes coming to the American health care system, The Motley Fool created a special free report that makes this complex topic easily understandable. Download "Everything You Need to Know About Obamacare" and discover how the law may impact your taxes, health insurance, and investments. Click here for your free copy today.

    The article Obamacare Exchanges Flail While Private Exchanges Flourish Reported by DailyFinance 3 days ago.

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    For all the talk about rate shock—next year’s Obamacare-induced spike in health insurance prices—there are a few states where you'd think rate shock shouldn’t happen. In Maine, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, and Washington, insurance markets are already regulated in much the same way that Obamacare will. These states force insurers to cover everyone, despite pre-existing conditions, and they oblige carriers to charge similar rates to younger and older customers. Despite these factors, it turns out that in Washington state, Obamacare will still increase the underlying cost of individually purchased health insurance by 34 to 80 percent, on average. Reported by Forbes.com 3 days ago.

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    Your Personal Finance Checklist: 8 Items Worth Thousands in Savings Filed under: Investing

    When it comes to personal finance, many people just ignore it entirely, putting their futures at great risk. Others tend to some personal finance issues and feel pleased with themselves, but it's probably not enough. Don't be someone who ends up having a rude awakening come retirement. Or someone who's simply leaving a lot of money on the table needlessly.

    Here's a quick checklist of eight critical personal finance categories, offering links to resources or more information for each.




    *Insurance
    *You probably have auto insurance and home insurance. But are you doing without life insurance? Not everyone needs it, but if anyone is depending on your income, such as children, a spouse, or even your parents, you probably do want to carry some. You won't necessarily need it for all of your life -- just for the period when your financial support is needed by others. There are lots of useful forms of insurance to consider, such as disability insurance, long-term-care insurance, and renter's insurance if you don't own your home but have valuables to protect.

    You might also take some time to read up on car and home insurance, to be sure you're sufficiently covered by a good policy. (For example, some people don't realize that their home insurance policy won't pay them enough to fully rebuild their home in the event of a catastrophe.) Those without health insurance or with unsatisfactory policies can keep an eye out for upcoming insurance options via Obamacare.

    *Debt
    *Another critical personal finance topic is debt. If you're deep in it, know that all is not lost, and even massive obligations can be paid off. You can also sometimes improve your situation by refinancing a loan, and seeking out the best terms before choosing a mortgage, credit card, or any loan.

    *Credit
    *These days it's smart to keep a handle on your credit record and credit rating, as they can strongly influence whether you get an important loan (and what kind of terms you get). Some employers, insurance companies, phone companies, and others may also check out your credit health. One good thing to do is to take advantage of the free copy of your credit report that you're entitled to each year, from each of the three main reporting agencies. Know that if you spot errors, they can be fixed. And poor credit scores can be improved over time, too.

    *Banking
    *All banks are not the same, so be sure you're shopping around for competitive interest rates on savings accounts, CDs, and the like. Check out credit unions, too, as they often offer good deals. Bankrate.com is a great resource for finding low rates.

    *Saving for college
    *If you've got young ones who will be heading off to an institution of higher learning, then being comprehensive in your personal finance management means making the most of 529 plans and other college-savings tools, such as Coverdell accounts. Know that 529 plans differ in their terms and available investments, and that you aren't stuck with your state's plan. Your local plan may offer a valuable tax advantage, but you might still find a better deal in another state's plan. Don't be haphazard in your approach to saving for college.

    *Investing for retirement
    *It's great to be investing, but you also want to be investing well, by not taking on too much risk (such as via penny stocks, overvalued stocks, or companies you know little about) and focusing your money on your best ideas. You should also make good use of any tax-advantaged opportunities available to you, such as 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and IRAs, both traditional and Roth. Annuities are also worth considering in your retirement planning, as they offer guaranteed income for a set period (which can be the rest of your life), as long as the offering company remains in business. In this period of dying pensions, annuities give you a chance to essentially build your own pension. That can improve your personal finance picture in a major way.

    *Taxes
    *There are lots of ways to reduce the sum you fork over to Uncle Sam every year. Spend a little time reading up on tax issues and strategies and you can save quite a bundle, improving your personal finances quite a bit. For example, there are tax breaks related to children (and adopting children), tax scams to avoid, and things to consider if you're getting divorced. Consider consulting a tax pro on occasion, too, as she may save you much more than she charges you.

    *Estate planning
    *Finally, include estate planning in your personal finance management, even if you're still young. It doesn't take too long to make sure you have a will, a living will, and a durable power of attorney, among other vital documents. Even young people occasionally encounter unexpected crises, and you don't want to leave yourself or your loved ones unprepared and at a disadvantage.

    I've covered the main personal finance categories above, but I've only touched on some of the many issues within each. Give some thought to each of them and see where you can improve your financial condition. A few hours spent might save you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. After all, why not have the best and most comfortable financial life you can?

    Still in the dark about how Obamacare might affect you and your portfolio? Don't worry -- you're not alone. To help prepare investors for the massive changes coming to the American health care system, The Motley Fool has created a special free report that makes this complex topic easily understandable. Download "Everything You Need to Know About Obamacare" and discover how the law may impact your taxes, health insurance, and investments. Click here for your free copy today.

    The article Your Personal Finance Checklist: 8 Items Worth Thousands in Savings Reported by DailyFinance 3 days ago.

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    A common theme of the email I receive concerns the cost of employer based coverage versus buying health insurance on the new exchanges. Employer based coverage is considered too expensive by many people and they hope policies through Obamacare will provide some relief. This post explores the difference between the two options. Employer Based Coverage There are currently four benefits to having employer based coverage over individual coverage: Employer based coverage is guaranteed issue, which means you could have any health problem in the world and not be turned down for insurance. This benefit isn't special under Obamacare, as now individual plans will also be guaranteed issue. Employer based coverage is governed under federal law and provides better benefits such as pregnancy care and better mental health care. Individual policies are governed by state law, and each state varies in the requirements placed upon insurers. For example, Florida does not require pregnancy coverage in individual policies. Under Obamacare, all individual policies sold on the exchange will have minimum required benefits such as pregnancy coverage and mental health coverage. This will bring them up to par with group coverage. Employers count health insurance as a business expense which means the benefit is not taxed. Employees also have the benefit of paying their part of the premium on a pre-tax basis when it is purchased through their employer. This means they save money on taxes when buying employer based health insurance. Individuals who earn W2 income (meaning they are employed by others) and buy individual insurance cannot deduct the premiums on taxes unless they itemize. Even then, they can only deduct the amount of premiums that are over 10% of their adjusted gross income. This is a tall barrier to meet and most will end up paying for health insurance on an after tax basis, which means they pay more for health insurance. This tax treatment does not go away under Obamacare. Employers pay part of the premium for the employee. If the premium is $6,000 per year, they pay at least $3,000 of that premium. In recent years, employers have finally shared with employees how much that benefit is worth. Previously, the employees had no idea what the employer paid and only found out how much the actual premium cost once they separated from service and were subject to COBRA premiums. Individual Coverage There is currently one benefit to having individual coverage - if you are healthy and young, you can purchase individual coverage rather cheaply. Many savvy employees realize they can buy individual coverage for less money than their premiums for employer based group coverage. Why is it so cheap? Coverage is not guaranteed issue and has few required benefits. If an insurance company can cherry pick healthy people, it can charge lower premiums. With Obamacare, the potential “cheapness” of individual coverage goes away because it will be guaranteed issue and provide essential benefits. The cost will be on par with employer based coverage because of these changes. So what should you do – go with your employer’s coverage or go to the exchange? The most likely answer? Go with your employer’s coverage – if they offer it. Here are the reasons: If your income is less than 400% poverty level (about 66% of the population,) you will qualify for premium tax credits. HOWEVER, if your employer coverage is deemed “affordable” under the rules of Obamacare, and you do not accept the coverage, you WILL NOT be eligible for the premium tax credits. Since the premium costs between individual and group insurance are predicted to be pretty much comparable, most likely, your employer based coverage is going to be less expensive to you. Why? Your employer has to pay at least 50% of the premium cost. Please remember that “less expensive” may not mean “affordable” in your mind. Many people feel that paying anything over the price of Starbuck’s coffee for health insurance is not affordable. Premiums for health insurance paid through an employer are paid on a pre-tax basis which means your tax bill is reduced. Premiums paid on an after tax basis (individual insurance) are more expensive. Unless you have 1099 income in addition to W2 income (meaning you work for an employer and have some job on the side,) your health insurance premiums will be more expensive if you pay directly. Of course, this advice is subject to change – be sure to check out the health insurance exchange when it opens October 1, 2013. Your employer will also provide information on their plans along with your options. Fascinating times are ahead. Reported by Forbes.com 2 days ago.

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    Aetna Named “Best International Private Health Insurance Provider” by Professional Adviser LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aetna (NYSE: AET), a leading global diversified health care solutions company, has been named “Best International Private Health Insurance Provider” for 2013 by Professional Adviser. Reported by Business Wire 2 days ago.

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    HHS launches Health Insurance Marketplace educational tools WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Obama administration today kicked off the Health Insurance Marketplace education effort with a new, consumer-focused HealthCare.gov website and the 24-hours-a-day consumer call center to help Americans prepare for open enrollment and ultimately sign up for private health insurance. The new tools will help Americans understand their choices and select the coverage that best suits their needs when open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins Octob Reported by Business Wire 2 days ago.

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    North Carolina health insurance consumers will receive close to $10 million in rebates under a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance carriers to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on paying for health care or refund the difference, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced this week. Nationally, the rebates, which were first sent last year, amounted to about $500 million to be distributed among 8.5 million enrollees, with the rebate averaging… Reported by bizjournals 2 days ago.

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    This is an historic time for millions of Americans who don't have health insurance or need better and more affordable options. The opportunity to get affordable, quality health coverage will soon be a reality.

    I'm delighted to announce some exciting new steps in our continuing efforts to extend coverage to millions of Americans and small businesses. Today, we're launching an updated HealthCare.gov to make it easy for consumers to learn about the new Health Insurance Marketplace.

    We've added new tools to the website, videos, and other resources so consumers and small businesses will be able to get clear and easy-to-understand information to compare plans when open enrollment begins on October 1. For Spanish-speaking consumers, CuidadoDeSalud.gov has also been updated in preparation for the Marketplace.

    Check out HealthCare.gov today and you'll find a live online chat feature that will help get your health insurance questions answered. You can sign up now for emails and text messages so you don't miss a thing when it's time to enroll.

    We're also launching a new toll-free consumer line (1-800-318-2596) that's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can speak with a trained customer service representative in any one of more than 150 languages and get answers to your questions about the Marketplace.

    These new tools are all part of our mission to help Americans get health coverage and have the information they need to make choices that are right for them.

    For millions of Americans and their families, the time for having the security of affordable, quality health care coverage they need and deserve is finally within sight. Reported by Huffington Post 2 days ago.

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  • 06/24/13--06:23: The ACA's Obamacare Problem
  • AP Images/Evan Vucci

    Obamacare is well on its way to being permanently unpopular. A problem for supporters of health-care reform? Not really—because the Affordable Care Act could become just as untouchable as Medicare or Social Security. That’s right—get ready for “keep your Obamacare away from my Affordable Care Act!”

    Okay, not literally; they won’t actually know that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exists. But that’s what they’ll be saying, in effect.

    From the very beginning, and certainly before Democrats also adopted “Obamacare” as the shorthand name for health care reform, Republicans have strongly opposed a fantasy version of the landmark legislation. Whether it was “death panels,” or “government takeover,” or any number of wacky claims in chain emails, Republican opposition has rarely been focused on what’s actually in the ACA.

    And no matter how successful reform turns out to be, that’s unlikely to change.

    See, the funny thing about the Affordable Care Act is that a whole lot of it will either be invisible or, oddly enough, it won’t be identifiable as “Obamacare.” The core of the program is the system of health insurance exchanges and subsidies, but little or none of these operations will have the words “Affordable Care Act,” much less “Obamacare,” attached to them. Nor are the exchanges what people think of going in as Obamacare. The latest Kaiser health reform tracking poll has only 22% of respondents saying they’ve heard “a lot” or “some” about the exchanges (and among the unemployed, that number is only 12 percent). So there’s little expectation built up that health reform should be judged by how the exchanges work.

    That’s not likely to change. For the minority who will buy insurance on the exchanges right away, it will be obvious that something is new and different, and many of them will associate it with reform. But over time —and, my guess is, rather quickly—the exchanges will just be something that’s always been there. It won’t seem very government-y, after all: it’s just going to look like a web site hosting a bunch of private health insurance plans. Most consumers will remember the name of their insurance company; far fewer will remember the trying-to-be-catchy name of the web site, and of those only a small minority will associate it with all that fuss that people in Washington were talking about.

    Now, under the hood, there is all sorts of government intervention going on—all sorts of new regulations about what insurance companies can do, how they must spend their money, what products they are allowed to offer through the exchanges. But that’s all going to become invisible to consumers over time.

    Even things which, for the first group of exchange users, will seem like a big deal. For those currently without the insurance they want because of a pre-existing condition, becoming newly eligible for coverage will be an obvious effect of Obamacare. But for the next generation (and I mean in as short a time as a year), most people will have no idea that they would previously have been bounced—just as almost no one will realize that they would have once been subjected to yearly and lifetime benefits caps, or would previously have been at risk for a rescission if they ever filed a claim.

    And that’s for the most visible part of reform. Medicaid expansion will make a big difference to people, and at first some may realize that’s a feature of Obamacare, but eventually it’s just going to be Medicaid. Cost savings from Medicare, and (if things go right) a spillover effect into private insurance, will be even more impossible for consumers to notice.

    As far as the subsidies are concerned, that will mean the cost of insurance really does go down for a lot of people. But I suspect that, too, won’t be perceived as a government program the way that Medicare or Pell Grants are.

    People on Medicare are, well, on Medicare. People who receive Pell Grants receive Pell Grants. People who take I-95? They really do know that I-95 exists.

    But I can guarantee that three years from now, if the ACA works as its sponsors hope, quite a lot of people—maybe the majority—who get their insurance from the exchanges will tell you that, no, they have private insurance; they aren’t getting anything from Obamacare.

    I used to think that would mean that once implemented, Obamacare would become invisible. That’s not quite right, however. If it works, the Affordable Care Act will become invisible. But as long as Rush Limbaugh has a microphone, the odds are that he—and every Republican politician—will be claiming that every single thing that goes wrong with health care, health insurance, and probably the economy and the environment and your favorite football team having a bad season are all Obamacare’s fault.

    All of which means that the Republican core who keep the TV tuned to Fox News will be ever-vigilant against the threat constantly posed by Obamacare. Even as many of them will be just as certain as ever that American health care is obviously the best in the world, and far better than what those socialist Europeans have and what the liberals want to ruin with Obamacare. Fortunately, the Limbaugh self-employed listener will think, I don’t have Obamacare; I have the private health insurance I purchased on that StateCare web site. But if the liberals had their way, everyone would be forced to have Obamacare, and—and America—would be ruined.

      Reported by The American Prospect 2 days ago.

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    3 Outrageous Hospital Bills For Minor Injuries It’s no secret that hospital bills in the U.S.—especially ones from the E.R.—can often hit astronomical proportions.

    According to a recent cost study conducted by researchers at Stanford University, the University of Minnesota, the University of California, San Francisco and the Ecologic Institute, the median charge for an emergency room trip in the U.S. comes in at $1,233. But where it really gets interesting is when you look at the specific reasons for those E.R. visits: The researchers found that the treatment price for a headache could range from $15 to a whopping $17,797. As for a sprained ankle, it could set someone back a paltry $4 or up to $24,110!

    So what gives with these wildly fluctuating price points?



    For starters, most emergency room prices are inflated based on the rates at which insurance companies will reimburse the hospital on a patient’s behalf. That’s why a single aspirin can cost $30 per pill in the E.R., which is more than six times the price for a bottle of them at the drug store.

    On the flip side, patients will often contact the hospital or surgeon’s billing office to ask for a cost reduction, further adding to the inconsistency in pricing. It’s a practice that often works in a patient’s favor, says billing advocacy specialist Sharon Salters of Medical Cost Advocate, a professional medical bill negotiation service.

    And then there’s also the fact that most hospitals offer discounts to self-paying individuals—especially if there’s a risk that they might not pay at all.

    So to help shed some light on the complexities of hospital medical billing for the average consumer, we asked three people to share their craziest emergency room stories, the even crazier bills that followed—and the steps they took to remedy them.

    RELATED: What Obamacare Means for Your Health Care

    *The Emergency: Severed Finger*

    *The Bill: $83,000*

    Ryan Witten of Nyack, N.Y., was working in his garage one weekend last year when he severed his finger on a table saw. “Surprisingly, I stayed calm throughout the whole thing,” says the 54-year-old Witten, whose wife helped him pack his finger on ice and then drove him to the hospital.

    Since Witten had recently gone to the emergency room for chest pains at a hospital that was out of his insurance company’s network—costing him $20,000 in out-of-pocket test fees—the Wittens drove to a different facility whose E.R. was in-network.

    RELATED: Health Insurance 101

    “We thought we had learned our lesson the last time,” he says, “but it turns out the plastic surgeon who reattached my finger was out-of-network.” So the contractor got a second dose of sticker shock when he received the bill for his emergency digit surgery: $83,000. Gulp.

    What This Patient Did: After contacting his insurance company, Witten was able to convince them to cover the out-of-network surgeon at his in-network rate, since insurers will often relax pricing rules for an emergency procedure. Witten’s reduced bill: $5,000.

    “Unfortunately, my deductible is $5,000, so we paid that out of pocket,” says Witten. “But it’s way better than $83,000!”

    What the Expert Says: Salters applauds Witten’s decision to follow up with his insurance company to get them to cover the out-of-network doctor at the in-network facility. However, with regards to his earlier E.R. visit for chest pains, Salters says that he should have appealed the denied claim. “The diagnosis that appeared on the claim, more than likely heart burn or something along those lines, isn’t considered an emergency,” she says. “But he went to the hospital under the impression that he was having a possible heart attack. Every insurance company has a list of what’s considered a true emergency requiring medical treatment at the nearest facility. A lay person suspecting they’re having a heart attack is on the list.”

    RELATED: Is a High-Deductible Health Insurance Plan Right for You?



    I was too worried about my appendix bursting to think about the price—but it seemed unfathomable that my surgery could cost that much!



    *The Emergency: Severe Stomach Pain*

    *The Bill: $24,000*

    In March 2012, Karen Nielson, 28, got a bad stomachache that she chalked up to food poisoning. But as the pain intensified, the Greenwich, Conn., resident made an appointment to see her primary care doctor, who recommended a CT scan.

    So Neilson drove herself to the hospital—and just minutes after the results of the scan came back, she was rushed to the operating room for an appendectomy.

    “I didn’t think about the price at all because I knew that I had insurance, and I have savings to cover the deductibles,” says Nielson. “I was too worried about my appendix bursting to think about the price.”

    It wasn’t until weeks later that she got the bill … for $24,000.

    RELATED: Medical Costs Rise, Americans Pay More

    “I was shocked,” recalls Nielson. “It just seemed unfathomable that my surgery could cost that much money!”

    What This Patient Did: Nielson fought the charges with her insurance company, which wound up covering all but $5,000 of the surgeon’s fees. Her next step was to call the surgeon’s office, where the staff helped her to resubmit the claim to her insurance company, which waived the rest of the fee. “In the end, I ended up paying about $500 out of pocket,” she says.

    What the Expert Says: “Nielson worked her situation out like a pro,” says Salters of the negotiations with the surgeon’s office. “Providers understand that how they bill a service has a direct impact on how the claim is paid. Simply changing the code or adding a modifier to the code allows for additional payment.”

    RELATED: Medical Expenses: Leading Factor in Credit Card Debt

    *The Emergency: Head Injury*

    *The Bill: $9,000*

    A few months ago, Amanda Harris, 27, of Morristown, N.J., fainted at work, hitting her head in the process. Due to liability concerns, her production company required Harris to take an ambulance to the emergency room, despite her refusal. “I didn’t even have a cut on my head, just a slight bump. No headache, no nausea, no confusion, nothing,” she says.

    Harris waited for over an hour in the E.R. before her husband told the nurse that they were leaving. Minutes later, a doctor spoke to Harris for under a minute, confirming that she was fine to go. “He didn’t do any tests—no light in my eyes, no blood pressure,” says Harris. “I left thinking I wouldn’t even get a bill.”

    But the bill did come—all $9,000 of it. The ambulance company charged $6,500, including a $300 fee for the linens and a $30 charge for aspirin. The E.R. billed the remaining $2,500. “My mouth literally dropped open when I saw the cost,” she says.

    What This Patient Did: Harris called her insurer and fought the bill. Luckily, her insurance covered all but a $3,000 deductible—but she was too exhausted to push for more. “I’ve always heard emergency room visits were costly, but $9,000 for nothing more than a conversation that lasted one minute? That’s robbery,” she says.

    What the Expert Says: Even though Harris didn’t want to take an ambulance, Salters says that her company’s suggestion was well-advised. “However, she should consider working with her employer to file the claim with her company’s worker’s compensation carrier,” says Salters. “Employers often try to stay away from filing a claim under worker’s compensation, so it does not impact their experience rating or trigger an [occupational safety and health administration] review, but it would save her money.”

    How You Can Avoid Outrageous E.R. Bills (Really!)

    When it comes to a trip to the E.R., the reality is that there’s usually no time to shop around and compare prices in advance. But if you do some research before an emergency happens, you could potentially keep costs significantly down.

    Consider Urgent Care for True Non-Emergencies

    If your medical problem isn’t life-threatening (think sprains, minor cuts and fevers), you can visit an urgent care center instead. An Annals of Internal Medicine studyfound that the average urgent care visit from 2005 and 2006 cost $156—compared with $570 for the same visit to an emergency room.

    RELATED: Why an E.R. Visit Could Bankrupt You

    Double-Check Your Bill

    Hospital billing systems aren’t perfect, so it’s wise to keep track of any treatments that you receive in the E.R.—including time spent in the operating room, which can cost up to $200 a minute! To prevent billing mistakes, ask for an itemized statement before you’re discharged, so you can compare it with your own record-keeping.

    Negotiate Your Health Care Costs

    Most importantly, don’t be shy when it comes to bargaining. Two excellent resources—Healthcare Blue Book and FAIR Health—can give you estimates of how much health care services should cost in your area. Plus, your insurer’s website may also provide a tool that will allow you to compare costs.

    The negotiation can seem like a lot of extra work, but the payoff can be tens of thousands of dollars in savings shaved off a potentially outrageous E.R. bill.

    *SEE ALSO: These 5 People Found Cash In The Most Unexpected Places*

    Join the conversation about this story »

     
     
     
      Reported by Business Insider 2 days ago.

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    Obamacare took a small but visible step forward on Monday with the launch of a consumer information website, a precursor to the health insurance exchanges that will allow millions to shop online for health insurance starting this fall. The exchanges are the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

    The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a new version of HealthCare.gov that enables small business owners and individuals who don't get health insurance at work to begin reviewing how they will comparison shop and secure financial assistance when the health insurance exchanges, also called health insurance marketplaces, open for business. The department also opened a toll-free call center to answer consumer questions about the law.

    The health insurance exchanges are scheduled to begin operating on Oct. 1, leaving the Obama administration and its allies just over three months to improve the public's knowledge of how health care reform and its coverage options work. Opinion polls illustrate not only that opponents of the law continue to outnumber its supporters, but also that the public poorly understands the law. The uninsured and the poor, those for whom Obamacare could bring the greatest benefit, know less about it than others, polls also show.

    "The new website and toll-free number have a simple mission: to make sure every American who needs health coverage has the information they need to make choices that are right for themselves and their families -- or their businesses," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a press release.

    The new consumer tools made available Monday are a small part of a larger push beginning this summer to publicize the health insurance exchanges and the benefits available to some people under the law. The administration plans a major, government-wide campaign leading up to Oct. 1, which will be bolstered by the efforts of states like California and private organizations such as Enroll America, a coalition of health care industry organizations and nonprofits supportive of the health care reform law.

    Visitors to the new HealthCare.gov can enter some basic information about their health insurance status, where they live and how much they earn to get preliminary facts about whether they qualify to shop for coverage on the exchanges and whether they are eligible for financial assistance. The website also includes a chat feature for consumers to ask questions.

    Under the law, people who meet the law's standards and don't get coverage from their jobs will be able to choose among health insurance plans sold through the exchange marketplaces.

    People who earn up to four times the federal poverty level, which is $45,960 for a single person this year, qualify for tax credits to defray the cost of health insurance. People who earn up to 133 percent of poverty, which is $15,282 for an individual this year, can enroll in Medicaid if they live in a state that is expanding the program under the law. Some small businesses also can apply for tax credits when they offer coverage to their workers.

    In addition to the website, the administration also opened a telephone hotline at (800) 318-2596 to answer consumers' questions in English, Spanish and more than 150 other languages, according to a press release. The department also established a Spanish-langauge version of its website at CuidadoDeSalud.gov.

    The health insurance exchanges are slated to begin operating on Oct. 1, and open enrollment will run through the end of March. Health insurance plans purchased via the exchanges will take effect as early as Jan. 1.

    The administration has much work left to ensure those exchanges are up and running on time. The federal government will be in charge of the exchanges in 34 states, while 16 states and the District of Columbia will manage their own, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. The health care reform law called for states to operate the health insurance exchanges open to their residents, but resistance -- mostly from Republican governors and legislators -- left federal authorities in charge in many places.

    The Government Accountability Office, Congress' nonpartisan investigative arm, released a report last week crediting the administration with its results made so far, but casting doubt on the deadline for opening the exchanges. "Much progress has been made, but much remains to be accomplished within a relatively short amount of time," the GAO report said. "Whether these efforts will assure the timely and smooth implementation of the exchanges by October 2013 cannot yet be determined."

    During the first year the health insurance exchanges are open, the Congressional Budget Office projects 7 million people will use them to buy coverage, while an additional 8 million will enroll in Medicaid. By 2023, 27 million fewer people will be uninsured because of the law, the CBO estimates. Reported by Huffington Post 1 day ago.

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    The Obama administration is hoping the National Football League and health care reform will make a winning team this fall and winter, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday.

    The Department of Health and Human Services has held discussions with the NFL and other sports organizations as part of its efforts to publicize the launch of the Obamacare health insurance exchanges, Sebelius said during a briefing with reporters. The exchanges are due to open Oct. 1 for small businesses and people who don't get health benefits at work to comparison shop for health coverage. The administration has also reached out to Major League Baseball, and Politico reported last week that a partnership with the National Basketball Association is another possibility.

    Just more than three months away from the day when consumers can start using the health insurance exchanges, also called marketplaces, to choose health plans and apply for financial assistance, public understanding of the Affordable Care Act remains low, and polls reveal a deep divide over the law.

    Partnerships with sports leagues like the NFL and NBA not only would put information about coverage in front of massive audiences, but they would also target young men -- who may be key to the success of the health care law and could be most likely to see higher prices if they don't qualify for federal subsidies.

    "We're going to be going wherever people are," Sebelius said. "We're having discussions -- active discussions -- right now with a variety of sports affiliates, both in terms of what will end up being paid advertising but hopefully some partnership efforts. The NFL, for instance, in the conversations I've had, has been very actively and enthusiastically engaged because they see health promotion as one of the things that is good for them and good for the country."

    The NFL wouldn't confirm Sebelius' account or offer any information about promotions or advertising related to the health care reform law. "We do not have anything to report at this time," league spokesman Brian McCarthy wrote in an e-mail to The Huffington Post. A planned meeting between Major League Baseball and administration officials was canceled and hasn't yet been rescheduled, league spokesman Steve Aracho told HuffPost. Requests for comment from the NBA, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer weren't immediately answered.

    Sebelius noted that Major League Baseball's Boston Red Sox worked with the Massachusetts government to promote the state's health care reform law and enrollment outreach campaign in 2007. "We know the Red Sox were incredibly effective in Massachusetts when they rolled out their marketplace coverage, so it's a logical place to go," she said.

    Attracting younger, healthier people to the state-based health insurance exchange marketplaces is crucial to keeping premiums down and increasing the odds that the administration and its allies will reach the 7 million people they aim to enroll in private health insurance for 2014. The enrollment period runs from Oct. 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014.

    "A lot of our efforts will be using creative ways to outreach out to sort of the young, healthy population who is eligible but may not get up every morning thinking about health insurance," Sebelius said. Some of these tactics will focus on the mothers of young adults, who have influence over their decisions, she said.

    Because the law prohibits health insurance companies from rejecting people because of preexisting conditions, forbids companies from charging women more than men and limits how much more older people can be asked to pay, persuading young and healthy individuals to buy insurance is key to balancing the higher health costs of older, sicker people.

    Younger people are more likely to lack health insurance and more likely to have incomes low enough to qualify under the law for financial assistance, which will be offered to anyone who earns between the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for a single person this year, and four times that amount. Medicaid coverage will be available to those who earn up to 133 percent of poverty, which is $15,282 for an individual this year, in states that opt to expand the program under Obamacare.

    The possible arrangements with the NFL and NBA are just part of a larger education, outreach and promotional campaign about Obamacare that is beginning this summer and will grow larger as Oct. 1 approaches, Sebelius said. The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a new website and toll-free hotline Monday to provide information to consumers.

    In addition to the federal government's campaign, the administration is seeking collaboration from many different types of organizations in communities, including health care providers, companies, religious organizations and patient advocates, as well as entities like Enroll America that were created to promote the law.

    "We're doubling down on efforts to make sure that our partners on the ground -- the stakeholder community, provider community, our partners across U.S. government -- are actually helping in this effort to do outreach and enrollment. We never anticipated that this could be a government-only outreach effort," Sebelius said.

    Congress' independent investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, reported last week that while the administration has made major strides toward getting the health insurance exchanges online by October, readiness isn't certain. Sebelius again vowed the marketplaces would open on time. "It's a huge undertaking across the country and I'm confident we're on track to get it done," she said. "We will be ready on Oct. 1." Reported by Huffington Post 1 day ago.

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    Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) has arrested one individual suspected of being involved in cyberattacks that leverage the notorious Ghost RAT family. According to Trend Micro, which assisted the CIB in the investigation, the cybercriminals distributed a version of Ghost RAT (BKDR_GHOST) with the aid of spear phishing emails that purported to come from the Taiwan Bureau of National Health Insurance. The malicious emails contained links that led users... Reported by Softpedia 1 day ago.

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    A red panda escaped from the National Zoo, meaning Republicans will likely want to add a sixth step to the border security amendment now. Some of the Capitol's janitors might soon be sequestered, meaning you'll use the Longworth cafeteria's bathrooms at your own peril. And a new report finds the IRS also targeted liberal groups. That sound you heard was Darrell Issa blowing the dust off his Benghazi files. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, June 24th, 2013:

    *IRS TARGETED BASICALLY EVERYBODY* - Well, that was a pointless several months. Sam Stein: "The Internal Revenue Service screened progressive groups in addition to conservative ones in the lead up to the 2012 elections, according to IRS documents released by congressional Democrats on Monday. *The documents as well as an internal IRS report being sent to relevant congressional committees reveal that the tax agency used terms like 'progressive' and 'occupy' to flag organizations that were applying for tax-exempt status.* The revelations greatly complicate the political scandal that has engulfed the IRS over the past few weeks..."

    *Bob Corker to Jeff Sessions on having enough time to read the new immigration border security amendment:* "Any middle-school student in Tennessee or Alabama could read this amendment in probably 30 or 40 minutes." H/T Mike McAuliff

    *BOEHNER SHOULD CONTROL THE WINGNUTS, BACKBITERS SAY* - Chris Frates: "Fetal masturbation. Rape doesn't usually result in pregnancy. Grade-schoolers should be taught traditional gender roles. A handful of House Republican lawmakers seem unable to stop making headlines on abortion and gay marriage. And Republicans on and off the Hill know who's to blame: House Speaker John Boehner. *GOP lawmakers, strategists, and insiders say Boehner and House leadership are enabling foot-in-mouth disease by allowing divisive social issues to reemerge at a time when Republicans were finally winning the daily messaging war against a controversy-plagued White House.*" [National Journal]

    *NATIONAL ZOO LOSES, FINDS RED PANDA* - God we hope Newt Gingrich forms a blue ribbon commission to discover how America can be better prepared for these kinds of things. AP: "The male named Rusty was captured in a tree near a home in the Adams Morgan neighborhood Monday afternoon, said National Zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson. It had traveled across the leafy Rock Creek Park, perhaps crossing a road or under a creek bridge to reach a residential area nearly ¾ of a mile from the zoo. Senior curator Brandie Smith said animal keepers surrounded the area where he was found and called Rusty's name to calm him before capturing him in a net...The animal was taken to the zoo's animal hospital for a checkup and will remain there for several days. How Rusty escaped is still a mystery, though. Zoo officials began reviewing security footage Monday morning to see if there is any evidence of how he escaped or whether he may have been taken by a human and then set loose. No security cameras are pointed directly at the red panda exhibit, though, and the zoo plans to add more cameras." [AP]

    *SEQUESTRATION THREATENING CAPITOL JANITORS* - Pity the staff assistant who will have to inform the interns that tours are no longer the worst part of their jobs. Also pity the interns. Especially the interns. Amanda Terkel: "If Congress doesn't do something about sequestration this year, the workers who clean the U.S. Capitol could lose their jobs. Stephen Ayers is the current Architect of the Capitol, whose office is responsible for the operation of the government complex. On June 6, Ayers testified to the Senate Appropriations Committee's Legislative Subcommittee that if sequestration continues into 2014, his office may have to cancel a custodial contract. 'I think in 2014, the most significant effort for us will be canceling contracts,' he told Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). *'So we'll be canceling a cleaning contract in the Capitol Visitors Center. We will likely cancel our shuttle bus service that moves employees and staff around the Capitol campus.* So those are two good examples, very quickly, of contracts that we will have to eliminate in 2014 to meet our sequestration numbers.'" [HuffPost]

    *DAILY DELANEY DOWNER* - A plan to avert layoffs has no mo' in North Caroline: "A N.C. Senate bill that gives employers the option of work sharing - with unemployment benefits attached - has the support of a Republican sponsor, a left-leaning think tank and is in place in 24 states. What Senate Bill 645 doesn't have, however, is any momentum. The bill, which would amend the state's unemployment insurance law, has not been acted upon since being submitted April 3 by Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus. It is in the Senate committee on rules and operations." [JournalNow.com]

    Does somebody keep forwarding you this newsletter? Get your own copy. It's free! Sign up here. Send tips/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to huffposthill@huffingtonpost.com. Follow us on Twitter - @HuffPostHill

    *REID WON'T MOVE STOPGAP FARM MEASURE* - Sometimes we can't help but think that the Senate majority leader does his best threat-conjuring while playing five finger fillet at his desk. Mike McAuliff: "*Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned Monday that there would be no new bailouts for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) after the House failed last week to renew the nation's primary farm policy law for the second time*. The trillion-dollar farm bill is generally passed every five years. But it went down to defeat Thursday in the House after Republicans added an amendment that would have reduced food stamps even more than the $20 billion cut that at least 40 Democrats had agreed to support. Last year, the House also failed to move the farm bill, instead passing a stopgap measure that kept the old policies in place for another year, and the Senate went along with that effort. But Reid in his opening remarks on the Senate floor Monday said that he would not do so again, potentially setting up a showdown between the GOP-controlled House and the Democratic-run Senate." [HuffPost]

    *SUPREME COURT PUNTS ON AFFIRMATIVE ACTION DECISION* - Though the ruling leaves the matter largely undecided, it does favor those of you who wish your comparative lit classmates more closely resembled the crowd at a Vampire Weekend show. Ryan Reilly and Mike Sacks: "*By a 7-1 vote on Monday, the Supreme Court told an appeals court that it misinterpreted the justices' precedent when reviewing the University of Texas at Austin's affirmative action policy*. The decision is a provisional victory for Abigail Fisher, a white woman who claimed that UT-Austin unconstitutionally discriminated against her after the state's flagship university rejected her application in 2008 under its race-conscious admissions program. UT-Austin will now have a much more difficult job of proving its program constitutional under the standard the Supreme Court clarified on Monday. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, endorsed the Supreme Court's prior decisions establishing affirmative action as constitutional to further states' compelling interest in fostering a diverse student body. But the majority maintained that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit did not give a hard enough look at UT-Austin's race-conscious admissions program." [HuffPost]

    *Clarence Thomas has thoughts on the matter -- strong thoughts*: "Justice Clarence Thomas joined in a majority opinion today sending the Supreme Court's affirmative action case back to a lower court. But in a concurring opinion on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Thomas added his own take, arguing against affirmative action policies and comparing the school's justifications to those of Jim Crow-era segregationists. Thomas says that the "University echoes the hollow justifications advanced by the segregationists" and that there "is no principled distinction" between the two." [WaPo]

    @AdamLiptak: In memoir, Justice Thomas said affirmative action at Yale "stung" and made him seem "inferior to my white classmates"

    No H8 Campaign's photos of members of Congress is painful

    *RUBIO'S POPULARITY DECLINING AMONG REPUBLICANS* - The Hill: "Sen. Marco Rubio's (R) popularity with Republican voters has taken a significant hit in recent months as the Florida lawmaker worked to sell the Gang of Eight's comprehensive immigration reform bill, according to a new survey by Rasmussen. *Rubio is now viewed favorably by 58 percent of Republican voters, down 10 percentage points from May and 15 points from February*. The survey also found that 16 percent of Republican voters viewed Rubio unfavorably, while a quarter of Republican voters are undecided. The numbers emphasize the difficult tightrope act the Florida lawmaker must walk. Political observers say Republicans will struggle to retake the White House if they cannot win over Latino voters, who backed President Obama by a greater than two-to-one margin in 2012. But while Rubio, who is believed to have presidential aspirations, sees the political advantage of his immigration push, he also risks alienating the conservative base that will be central to winning the party's nomination." [The Hill]

    *PAUL LEPAGE MAKES RAPE JOKE, MIGHT RUN FOR CONGRESS* - Everyone knows that the the three best places to make rape jokes are, in ascending order of rapetasticness, a "The Game" seminar, a Vanderbilt hockey practice and the House Republican conference. Kennebec Journal: "Gov. Paul LePage said Friday that he's sorry if anyone was offended by his crude sexual remark a day earlier about a Democratic leader in the state Senate. *The Republican governor, in impromptu comments to reporters outside his office, also said he is considering abandoning his re-election bid in 2014 and running instead for Congress.* In his statement to reporters, LePage apologized in particular to Maine loggers, some of whom were outraged by statements he made Thursday about Sen. Troy Jackson, a logger from Allagash who is the Senate's assistant majority leader...Jackson came under fire from LePage on Thursday after he said that Democrats would not accept the governor's latest state budget proposal...[LePage] said, "Sen. Jackson claims to be for the people, but he's the first one to give it to the people of Maine without providing Vaseline." [Kennebec Journal]

    *NEW OBAMACARE WEBSITE WILL HELP STREAMLINE YOUR DEATH PANEL* - The FAQ section will be especially helpful ("Can I depart this earthly realm with COBRA benefits?"). Jeff Young: "Obamacare took a small but visible step forward on Monday with the launch of a consumer information website, a precursor to the health insurance exchanges that will allow millions to shop online for health insurance starting this fall...*The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled a new version ofHealthCare.gov that enables small business owners and individuals who don't get health insurance at work to begin reviewing how they will comparison shop and secure financial assistance when the health insurance exchanges*, also called health insurance marketplaces, open for business. The department also opened a toll-free call center to answer consumer questions about the law. The health insurance exchanges are scheduled to begin operating on Oct. 1, leaving the Obama administration and its allies just over three months to improve the public's knowledge of how health care reform and its coverage options work. Opinion polls illustrate not only that opponents of the law continue to outnumber its supporters, but also that the public poorly understands the law." [HuffPost]

    *Barney Frank doesn't want to be governor*. "No. No way. Absolutely not," Frank said in an interview with HuffPost's Sam Stein. "The next gubernatorial term I would be 74 years old. I was very sorry [New Jersey Sen.] Frank Lautenberg died but I wished he hadn't run. I feel fine now. But I couldn't guarantee anybody at the age of 74, in 10 months, that I was going to be totally healthy and fully vigorous for four more years. I think it is irresponsible." Frank continued, "I got married a couple years ago. *I have a wonderful marriage with a man who does not want to move and be the first man of Massachusetts and I wouldn't want him to be.*" [HuffPost]

    *SILVIO BERLUSCONI SENTENCED TO SEVEN YEARS* - Translated into Italian, "Law and Order"'s "BONG BONG" sound is "Bunga-Bunga." Times: "*A court in Milan on Monday found former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi guilty of paying for sex with a minor and abusing his office to cover it up*, handing him a seven-year jail sentence and banning him from public office for life. Mr. Berlusconi waited more than three hours before posting his disappointment on his Facebook page. "I was really convinced that they would acquit me, because it was impossible to condemn me based on the facts," Mr. Berlusconi wrote...The ruling, like most things involving Mr. Berlusconi, polarized Italy. It shook the governing coalition in which Mr. Berlusconi's center-right party is participating, but was not expected to topple it. The former prime minister, who denies wrongdoing, does not immediately have to leave his seat in Parliament while the case faces two rounds of appeals." [NYT]

    *BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR* - Corgi puppy discovering water is like Aureliano Buendia seeing ice for the first time... except not.

    *ATTENTION POSSIBLY GAY CONGRESSMAN OR CONGRESSMEN, CALL YOUR OFFICE* - Michelangelo Signorile: "*Prominent gay blogger Mike Rogers, who became widely known for revealing the homosexuality of closeted gay politicians in the early 2000s, was reported over the weekend by U.S. News and World Report to be readying a story that will out a U.S. congressman, one of three allegedly closeted anti-gay politicians Rogers supposedly has information about*. But Rogers says the report is not fully accurate: The outing is not imminent but rather in the information-gathering stages, with 'a process in place' to get information on the congressman's alleged sexual activity. 'All I told the gentleman from U.S. News and World Report is that I have somebody who is planning on sleeping with a U.S. congressman and videotaping it secretly and giving the videotape to me because the congressman is anti-gay, and the next thing I know, the media is all over it,' he explained in an interview on my SiriusXM radio program at Netroots Nation, the annual convention of progressive bloggers, which took place in San Jose over the weekend. 'I never said the outing was imminent.'" [HuffPost]

    *COMFORT FOOD*

    - President Obama sings Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." [http://bit.ly/10NxeWL]

    - The world's largest solar-powered boat is great for the environment but will make your 90s rap video look totally lame. [http://bit.ly/12hHNey]

    - The activities that comprise an average life, depicted in jelly beans. [http://bit.ly/1ce9riy]

    - This sequence of five dogs, a cat and a duck is like the Von Trapp family saying good night but with treats. [http://huff.to/12Rx9Bw]

    - Eleven photos of adults recreating photos from their childhood. [http://huff.to/144RNME]

    - Cat dances "Smooth Criminal" then falls off table. Decidedly unsmooth. [http://bit.ly/11AY17q]

    - A 1936 video explaining how a transmission works.[http://bit.ly/1a5b71g]

    *TWITTERAMA*

    @RepUnderwood: Moments like this require someone who will act, who will do the unpleasant thing. The necessary thing. #redpanda

    @mattyglesias: SUPREME COURT SOMETHING SOMETHING ASK A LAWYER.

    @delrayser: Looks like we're getting the rare Double Alito this morning. Don't worry, the rash should disappear on its own in a couple days.

    *ON TAP*

    *TONIGHT*

    7:00 pm: Much like Congress, the Rolling Stones are too old and should think about calling it a day. *Linda Sanchez* takes her donors to the Stones' concert at the Verizon Center. [Verizon Center]

    *TOMORROW*

    6:00 pm: We would have preferred *John Barrasso* name his wine tasting fundraiser, "JOHNNY B'S SPITBUCKET SPECTACULAR." He didn't. Disappointing. [Carmine's, 425 7th Street NW]

    6:00 pm: *Kelly Ayotte* celebrates her birthday with a campaign fundraiser. Remember: Age is just a number, as is your contribution amount. [507 D Street SE]

    6:00 pm: *Amy Klobuchar*, whose last name we really enjoy spelling for reasons we can't quite pinpoint, attends a campaign function. [Art and Soul, 415 New Jersey Ave NW]

    *Got something to add? Send tips/quotes/stories/photos/events/fundraisers/job movement/juicy miscellanea to Eliot Nelson (eliot@huffingtonpost.com), Ryan Grim (ryan@huffingtonpost.com) or Arthur Delaney (arthur@huffingtonpost.com). Follow us on Twitter @HuffPostHill (twitter.com/HuffPostHill). Sign up here: http://huff.to/an2k2e* Reported by Huffington Post 1 day ago.

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