Virginia state elections will be held on Tuesday, November 5. Please remember to vote. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and the entire House of Delegates will be on the ballot, as well as local elections in some areas.
The website of the Health Insurance Marketplace continues to have technical problems. The phone number 1-800-318-2596 seems to be working fine. You can also find information about health care reform and paper application forms at http://marketplace.cms.gov/. Many of the technical problems on the website are related to heavy usage. About 10 million people visited a Marketplace website on October 1, and usage continues to be heavy. Interestingly, several of the state-based Marketplaces seem to be operating much more smoothly than the federal Marketplace.
The launch of the SHOP (Small business Health Options Program, the part of the Health Insurance Marketplace specifically for small businesses) website has been delayed again. The SHOP website will now not be fully online until the end of November. The phone number 1-800-318-2596 will work, as will http://marketplace.cms.gov/.
The new Health Insurance Marketplace ranks all health insurance plans into four categories: platinum, gold, silver and bronze. The four categories represent the fiscal coverage of the plans. All platinum plans will cover roughly 90 percent of health care costs; gold plans will cover roughly 80 percent of health care costs; silver 70 percent; and bronze 60 percent. The categories allow folks to compare different health insurance policies much more easily.
Since we know that something related to health care reform will be coming up in next year’s state legislature, we are planning two VMSA lobby days to allow small business folks to talk directly to our elected leaders. We have decided on January 15 and February 19 as the two days for VMSA lobbying. Mark your calendar now and plan to join us. Spending a day in the legislature is a real education and we can make a difference!
After years of double-digit increases, health care spending has been remarkably reasonable for the last few years. A recent Kaiser Family Fund report found that health care spending grew by less than 4 percent in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the lowest rate of growth since 1960. While the weak economy has helped slow spending, we have had several bad recessions since 1960 that have not lowered spending as much.
The federal government recently released a report on what hospitals charge for various services. The report reveals a system that (according to the Washington Post) is “a health-care system with tremendous, seemingly random variation in the costs of services.” See http://www.washingtonpost.com/
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