CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Health

August 6, 2013

Personal 'Obamacare' accounts debut

WASHINGTON —

You can now open your own personal "Obamacare" account — but you'll have to wait awhile before you can actually use it to pick a health insurance plan.

Just eight weeks before the Oct. 1 launch of open enrollment under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, administration officials announced Monday that the Affordable Care Act is a step closer to reality for millions of uninsured Americans.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said consumers can now go online to healthcare.gov and create personal accounts by establishing a username and password.

However, serious shopping will have to wait until sometime in September, when details on insurance plans and premiums offered in local areas will become available through the new online marketplace.

While Monday's announcement may sound like partial progress only, Sebelius quickly moved to put the law's doubters on notice. "Let me be clear," she said. "We are on target and ready to flip the switch on Oct. 1."

The congressional Government Accountability Office and Treasury's inspector general for the Internal Revenue Service have been among the nonpartisan oversight organizations warning of possible delays with the rollout of the law.

The new personal account feature unveiled Monday will be available just in English for the time being. HHS said personal accounts will be coming soon to the Spanish-language marketplace, at cuidadodesalud.gov.

"Every step of the way there has been a delay in the Spanish language information, but they have gotten there," said Jennifer Ng'andu, health policy director for the National Council of La Raza, a Latino civil rights group. Hispanics are seen as a key constituency for the law's success. Although they are more likely to be uninsured, they are a young population whose premiums could help subsidize older adults.

But the government's Spanish name for its health care website — cuidadodesalud.gov — doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. "It kind of sounds like 'caution - health care,'" Ng'andu said.

Adding to the many details and the sheer logistical complexity facing the Obama administration is the refusal of congressional Republicans to provide additional implementation funds the president has requested. Some GOP lawmakers are advocating a government shutdown to try to block what they deride as "Obamacare" — a term the administration itself has started using.

The new online insurance marketplaces will be geared to people who don't have coverage through their jobs, most of whom will be eligible for tax credits to help pay their premiums. Insurance benefits take effect Jan. 1. That's also when the law will require most Americans to have health insurance or face fines. In return, insurers will be barred from turning away people with medical problems. The administration hopes to sign up at least 7 million uninsured people next year.

On Monday the administration also launched a special call center for small businesses seeking coverage under the law, at 800-706-7893. Small firms will have access to marketplaces designed for them, and some may be eligible for tax credits as well.

Sebelius said she doesn't mind if people call the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare."

"The president himself embraced the term 'Obamacare,'" Sebelius said in a teleconference with reporters. If it helps getting people signed up, she added, "then I'm all for that."

 

1
Text Only
Health
  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Boston doctors can now prescribe you a bike

    The City of Boston this week is rolling out a new program that's whimsically known as "Prescribe-a-Bike." Part medicine, part welfare, the initiative allows doctors at Boston Medical Center to write "prescriptions" for low-income patients to get yearlong memberships to Hubway, the city's bike-share system, for only $5.

    April 12, 2014

  • Fast, cheap test can help save lives of many babies

    As Easley did more research into her daughter's death, she learned that a pilot program had started just months earlier at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. (Easley had delivered at a different hospital in the Washington area.) The program's goal was to screen every newborn with a simple pulse oximeter test that can help detect heart problems such as Veronica's, allowing doctors to respond.

    April 8, 2014

  • CEMS groundbreaking CEMS holds groundbreaking

    March 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Which foods are the worst for the environment?

    As with most arguments about our food supply, though, it's not that simple. Although beef is always climatically costly, pork or chicken can be a better choice than broccoli, calorie for calorie.

    March 15, 2014

  • ERIC-HOLDER.jpg Holder: Heroin deaths an 'urgent and growing public health crisis'

    Attorney General Eric Holder, calling the rise in deaths from overdoses of heroin and prescription painkillers an "urgent and growing public health crisis," is outlining a series of efforts by the Justice Department to combat the epidemic.

    March 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Study says too much protein could lead to early death

    Even as researchers warned of the health risks of high-protein diets in middle age, they said eating more protein actually could be a smart move for people over 65.

    March 4, 2014

  • Six reasons childhood obesity has fallen so much

    A major new paper appearing in Wednesday's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that childhood obesity - age 2 to 5 - has fallen from 13.9 percent in 2003-04 to 8.4 percent in 2011-12.

    February 27, 2014

  • Does your insurance plan cover self-inflicted injuries?

    Dealing with a suicide or attempted suicide is stressful enough. Some health plans make the experience worse by refusing to cover medical costs for injuries that are related to suicide or an attempt - even though experts say that in many cases such exclusions aren't permitted under federal law.

    February 26, 2014