There are very mixed reports on the situation with the website for health care reform. The Washington Post has a story from unnamed "insiders" that the website will not be fully functional by the end of the month. But last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent out 350,000 emails to people urging them to try to sign up again. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that the website can now handle 20,000 people at one time.
Open enrollment on the Health Insurance Marketplace lasts until March 31, 2014. The penalty for an individual not having insurance kicks in if a person goes without insurance for more than three months of a year. The administration has announced that if folks have purchased insurance by March 31, and keep it all year, they will not be fined even though their coverage might not begin until April 15.
The federal government has announced that 106,000 people signed up nationwide for health insurance in the Marketplace during October. An additional 975,000 have registered and been approved but have not selected a plan. 400,000 more have received Medicaid or CHIP.
As health care reform was planned, Medicaid expansion should have made up about one-half of the total expansion in health insurance coverage. Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that expansion is an option, many states (like Virginia) have chosen to put off expansion. Because of the way the law was set up, most of the folks who would have benefitted from expansion cannot get a tax credit to purchase health insurance in the Marketplace. These people will continue to be completely without health care coverage. In Virginia, 400,000 could suffer this fate. In addition, expansion of Medicaid would bring $2 billion federal dollars into the state each year, creating an estimated 30,000 jobs. Medicaid expansion will be a major issue in the General Assembly session next year. See http://virginiageneralassembly.gov/ for information on the General Assembly, including who your state Delegate or Senator is.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans that did not include the essential health benefits of the new law were allowed to stay in operation as long as the insurance company did not make “major” changes to the plans. In the past few weeks, many of these lower quality plans have been cancelled by insurance companies. The President has proposed allowing these lower quality plans to remain even if major changes are made. It is not clear how this will impact plans that have already been cancelled.
Last week, Virginia Organizing released a report showing how small business owners and all Virginians are hurting from the delay of passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation. The report, available here, shows that immigration reform would create 10,000 jobs in Virginia next year. Virginia Organizing is urging Virginians to contact Majority Leader Eric Cantor at 202-225-2815 and ask him to allow a vote on immigration reform in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Saturday, November 30 is Small Business Saturday. The day, promoted by American Express, focuses on shopping locally from small businesses. More information is available at https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/Shop-Small/
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