KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

How Obamacare Coverage Is Shaking Out

Even with the health law's insurance options, consumers struggling with chronic diseases may still face such high out-of-pocket costs on some plans that they could have trouble staying out of debt, reports the Associated Press. Meanwhile, several major drugstore chains are offering to fill prescriptions for those who enrolled in new health plans but don't have ID numbers yet.

The Associated Press: Skimpy Health Plans Leave Gaps
For working people making modest wages and struggling with high medical bills from chronic disease, President Barack Obama’s health care plan sounds like long-awaited relief. But the promise could go unfulfilled. It's true that patients with cancer and difficult conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Crohn's disease will be able to get insurance and financial help with monthly premiums. But their annual out-of-pocket costs could still be so high they’ll have trouble staying out of debt (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/3).

Related, earlier KHN story: Despite Health Law’s Protections, Many Consumers May Be 'Underinsured' (Andrews, 12/31/13).

Marketplace: Obamacare Backlog: Walgreen's Offers Month Of Drugs
With the new year come millions of people who will be newly insured under the Affordable Care Act, and pharmacies are among the many companies competing for their business. This week several drugstore chains offered temporary supplies of medications for those still sorting out their coverage. Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and Kroger are among the retailers offering to fill prescriptions for people who enrolled in new health plans but don't have ID numbers yet. They'll settle the bill later (Scott, 1/3).

NPR: Dental Coverage Deciphered, And The Latest On Sign-Up Deadlines
New Year's Day marked the halfway point to sign up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act for coverage this year. And after a dismal start, things seem to be going a lot better on the healthcare.gov website. Federal officials say more than 1 million people enrolled in coverage by the Christmas Eve deadline for coverage that began January 1. People have until March 31 to purchase a plan, or enroll in Medicaid if you're eligible. If you're uninsured after that, you may be subject to a tax penalty in 2015 (Rovner, 1/6).

The Associated Press: Providing Health Care Complicated In Rural Areas
In this rural part of the [Florida] Panhandle, Christopher Mitchell finds few takers when he delivers his message about the importance of exploring insurance options under the federal health overhaul. People in the conservative-leaning area tend to have a bad impression of President Obama's signature law because of negative messages they hear on talk radio or from friends, said Mitchell, marketing director for a network of nonprofit health clinics (1/5).

The Associated Press: Health Care Law May Add Volunteer Firefighter Costs
Fire chiefs and lawmakers are working to protect the system of volunteer firefighting that has served rural America for more than a century but is threatened by an ambiguity in President Obama’s health care law. Small and rural fire departments from California to Maine, which has one of the country’s highest percentages of volunteer and on-call firefighters, rely on volunteers to avoid the cost of paying them to be on duty in between fighting fires (Durkin, 1/5).

Reuters: Health Reform's Grand Experiment: Will It Play In Peoria
By all accounts, Sandy Wright of Mackinaw, Illinois, is a challenging patient. The spunky 69-year-old with a rare autoimmune disease has been in the hospital more than a dozen times since she was first diagnosed in 1997. … Now, patients like Wright are at the forefront of an experiment, under way in Peoria, Illinois, and hundreds of other U.S. cities, that could transform the way doctors, nurses and hospitals deliver care to patients. Amid the barrage of criticism over the rollout of Obamacare, groups known as Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are quietly going about the business of testing the potential for healthcare reform (Steenhuysen, 1/5).

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