Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sebelius: Clearing up the facts. + more

Today we focus on Sebelius' blog: Clearing up the facts.  However, I include a number of other articles on this issue and other topics. 

1) Clearing up the facts surrounding notices from insurance companies by reading this blog from Secretary @Sebelius:

2) Obama wasn't fully accurate when he said those with canceled insurance had "substandard" coverage. All about nuance.

3) CHART: 'Winners And Losers From Obamacare'

4) Md. health exchange working better, but glitches remain  
  from Baltimore Sun

5) Key Senate, House committee chairs offer plan to fix Medicare doctor payments, writes @maryagnescarey This is excellent news. Paying on quality is definitely the way to go

 6) Improving the Account Registration Process


7)  This is domestic violence month 

On Tuesday, it was a pleasure to attend with our daughter who works at the House of Ruth, as they dedicated a new center in Brentwood, Prince George's County. 

8) U.S. More Aware of Health Insurance Requirement...  

Very encouraging news from the Gallup Poll.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Reaction to Insurance Company Letters Cancelling Insurance Plans +

1) Reaction to Insurance Company letters cancelling Insurance Plans

Here are some thoughts and articles:

A well written editorial

  •   Here are some of my notes from the hearing
    • Many individuals change every year
    • Plans want to keep as many of their current insured as possible which is why they used some scare tactics.  On Sunday's Meet the Press, the President of Florida Blue Cross agreed that the new plans would be much better.
    • Individuals will get many more options than before and in many cases lower costs especially when tax credits are taken in account and they will get better plans.
    • Further it was mentioned at the hearing that many of the advantages of ACA include no pre-exisiting conditions, no limits, wider range of benefits, etc. 
    • Insurance companies can keep their current policies, but most chose to change to the new requirements. 
 Hopefully, the press will capture these points.

Here is the first article, maybe more later

From KFF

Sebelius Says Problems Are Her Responsibility

COMPLETE VIDEO: Secretary () testifies on Health Care Implementation

October 30, 2013
The Uproar Over Insurance ‘Cancellation’ Letters

LATimes: Another Obamacare horror story debunked 

2)  How the Medicare Part D Rollout Was the Same — and Different — From the ACA

3)   Minnesota Marketplace's Latino Outreach Events Get Off To A Slow Start 

4)  Delaying the Individual Mandate Would Result in Millions More Uninsured and Higher Premiums

From one of the organizations I most respect CBPP. 

MoCo ACA Latino Forum

Last night, the MoCo HHS held a ACA Latino forum.  About 75 folks attended.  The key speakers were Luis Martinez from HHS and George Escobar from CASA de Maryland. 

I stayed for the first half.  Here are my photos from the evening

flickr     You can view the photos as a slide show.  

zipped file

Monday, October 28, 2013

MoCo ACA Summit; OFA Survey; Nancy Pelosi's Gavel Report, +

1) I attended the Montgomery County ACA Leadership Summit held today.  A summary including photos can be found at this link.

  [You can view the photos as a slide show  ] A very useful summit. I learned a lot.  My congrats to the organizers. 

Here are some key points:

Uma Ahluwalia, Director of the County HHS, stated that the main takeaway is the need for the county system to keep our agenda aligned with the State, insure as many people as we can, build a robust community based care system that capitalizes on the waiver and other efforts such as the local health improvement coalition, healthy montgomery and efforts to move the needle to wellness and prevention and improving the overall health of our community.

Carolyn Quattrocki, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Health Reform stated that the best way to facilitate enrollment right now, given the problems with the website, is to have folks setup accounts online, and then have them use the call center. If the application is complicated, the call center will refer applicants to the connectors.  

2)  Organizing for Action (OFA) Obama's grassroots organization, just initiated a survey to its members.  

Here is a link to its survey.  I encourage all to fill out the survey.   Answer our short Obamacare survey today.

3) From Nancy Pelosi's The Gavel

Affordable Care Act Success Stories – ‘It’s a great deal’

4) In other news from today

a) 10m
Should hospital ratings be embraced or despised? I ask four experts for my Tumblr:

I think ratings are of value, but not sure what is best. How do we get to the best?

b) From the business community.  31% are optimistic about the 2014 economic outlook up from 26% last year.  Health care costs top the list.  Majority say they understand parts of ACA.  See their plans re ACA    MORE.

c) Kaiser Health News:  

i) The administration reports that 476,000 applications have been filed through federal and state marketplaces but has not released enrollment figures. 

ii) The IRS indicates that it has delivered 330,000 premium subsidy calculations
iii) Texas Blue Cross and Blue Shield hosted a statewide ACA outreach event and drew more than 10,000 people to the Dallas Convention Center on Saturday.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tracking the Progress of the Health Exchanges; Enrollment in Maryland Health Connection; +

Today's NYT online edition had this article:  Tracking the Progress of the Health Exchanges
Looks like good progress. 

For your information, I created an online account on 10/26 Saturday afternoon. I needed some help from the call center 855-642-8572. However, it went fairly smoothly. My main problem is I did not realize there were more than 4 options to some of the questions. For now, I recommend that folks create an online account via the website and then use the call center for the other steps. The call center can enter data fairly easily into the system, while the in person navigators cannot.

3) Kliff Notes: Obamacare website's 3 problems
If you have 2 minutes, I will explain Obamacare's tech woes to you. Really.

4) 2m
RT : A new report shows that the will save $190B over the next 10 years:

5)  Saturday Night Live takes on the Obamacare website launch with 's troubleshooting tips

6) I may update this later in the day, so check back by 9 p.m.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Latino Program on Tuesday; Timetable; +

1)  Just sent out an email which contains contains the following:  a) An Affordable Care Act (ACA) Program for the Latino Community on Tuesday evening in Wheaton.  b) Maryland Health Connection 102513 Update

This email with the details can be found at

2) Here are other highlights in the news today.  The news from HHS is encouraging. Sounds like they have a definite plan which addresses some key problems.  The question is can they produce.  The same applies to Maryland's system but they have not announced as definitive a plan. 

a) will work smoothly by end of November, government pledges

If it takes until November, will this result in a change in the timetable for the enrollment and penalty deadlines.

b) CO has the best #Obamacare ads & health exchange website:

c)  Charles Ornstein (@charlesornstein) tweeted at 4:25pm - 25 Oct 13:

MT @Sebelius: Today, Jeff Zients spoke in-depth about our ongoing efforts to improve More:

  Charles Ornstein (@charlesornstein) tweeted at 4:14pm - 25 Oct 13: is busted. These four state exchanges aren’t.

d) KFF: Estimate the impact of subsidies and premiums on your health insurance costs with our calculator

Thursday, October 24, 2013

102413 : today's news

This post only has articles that you are less likely to see elsewhere.  


It's Time For The White House To Come Clean About What's Going On With The Obamacare Website

This site maybe very useful for looking at the plans in states that are part of  Does not apply to the states with their own exchanges. 
Steve Morse has created extremely valuable one-step tools in the genealogy field and many folks have greatly benefited from his work, including myself. he is a computer scientist or something like that. 
Please let me know if this is useful and if so, please share with the administration. I would like to see him add more data to his system, such as premiums after taxes, quality info, participation by doctors in a plan, etc. 

 4) I reviewed the articles, etc about today's hearings. Certainly raises lots of questions.  I refer back to my blog from the other day in which I raised questions pointing to possible solutions.  Some additional thoughts. At least setup the system to allow navigators to enter the data. 

5) A Diagram Of, Based On The People Who Built It

A useful description of the key contractors who testified today and their work on the project. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

102313 Today's news: Somewhat more positive


Nearly 174,000 New Yorkers have completed the full application process. 37,030 New Yorkers have fully enrolled. The rates for the health plans represent a 53 percent reduction

More on how We’re Improving - Sebelius' Blog

The blog addresses some of the fixes they have fixed or are working on.  useful.  

Why Postponing Insurance Mandate Is No Easy Fix For Obamacare

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thoughts on the problems

Today's blog highlights two articles that give the best perspective on the system problem at  Similar problems apply to Maryland's system.  After pointing to the articles, i share some of my thoughts as to issues and possible directions to proceed.

The Health Site’s Chaotic Debut -NYT editorial.

Politico: The Obamacare bunker mentality

Here are my questions and thoughts re the computer system flaws at HHS and at Maryland Health Connection.

what are the problems? It would help to have more details.  
What timeframes are estimated to fix?
If a consumer calls or meets in person with a navigator (counselor), can that data be entered into the system?
Can the states with good systems be adapted for HHS or Maryland?
What options exist for HHS or Maryland? Delay the mandate? Other options?
Can we enroll Medicaid eligibles using the medicaid systems? 
Will more frequent briefings help?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Capital Region Connector Resource File

Capital Region Connector Resource File

I took what I felt were the most useful resources from both the Maryland health Connection and from the Capital Region Connector websites or other sources and put them into a package.

Includes weblinks, events, slides, news, speaker request forms, and more.

Please let me know if this is valuable.  Maybe useful for other connectors to put together such packages. 

101813 Today's news

1) Latinos make up the largest population of uninsured Americans. Let's change that. Join National Council of La Raza, Voto Latino, League of United Latin American Citizens, Enroll America, Families USA, and others for a Twitter chat on Monday, 10/21 at 4PM ET. We’ll be answering questions! Follow #getcovered to join!
 2) Federal and State Exchanges
The Wall Street Journal: Health Website Woes Widen As Insurers Get Wrong Data
USA Today: Tech Experts: Health Exchange Site Needs Total Overhaul
 State Exchanges Report Sign-Up Successes  
Should the Administration Shut the Obamacare Computer System Down? 
 3)  Maryland health Connection news today
Very useful report
 4)  As reported by Congressional Healthbeat just now, House Energy and Commerce Committee has scheduled a hearing on ACA rollout.  They have asked for Sebelius who has not accepted the invite yet as well as some of the info tech companies who worked on the site. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Maryland Health Connection Status Report+ more


Presentation on 10/16/13 by Rebecca Pearce, Exec Director, Maryland Health Connection, gave a presentation to the Health Reform Coordinating Council chaired by Anthony Brown and Secretary Sharfstein.


Four things I learned about Obamacare from shopping on
3) The Seattle Times' Amy Snow Landa, working in partnership with KHN, reports on the Washington state insurance exchange: "About 25,000 Washington state residents have enrolled in health plans
USA Today: Health Care Exchange Still Plagued By Problems
Two weeks into the launch of the federal health insurance exchange, the website is still plagued with problems, 
Commonwealth Fund (@commonwealthfnd) tweeted  Oct 13:

Small-business owners give high ratings to features of #ACA small-business marketplace, new survey finds: 
 Small-Business Owners Weigh in on SHOP Insurance Marketplaces, Health Plan Choice, and Premium Affordability

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

States making progress

1) State Health Exchanges Gain Some Traction

More Than 100,000 People Complete Applications, but Only a Fraction of Nation's Uninsured Have Been Reached So Far

2) Herndon Alliance provides a report that gives a good overview of what is happening in the States  

3) Md health connection first reported web site down and then later working again.  Have asked for details.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Md governor discusses work on health care website

1)  Md governor discusses work on health care website.

Here is a report from Friday on Md system.  Progress and challenges.

2) here is a personal progress report on my past two weeks

3) Will update later in day if more news

Progress report in my new OFA assignment

Here is a list of some of my activities in the first two weeks as the new Maryland State Deputy Issue Lead for ACA Implementation. 

o Participated in a debate on WUSA
o Thanks to Ernest Le, Maryland State Issue Lead for ACA Implementation, we discovered that an insurance broker had created an illegal site. I reported this to the State and Baltimore Sun did an article on this.

o Recommended to the State that they include quality ratings of plans and they added that
o Arranged along with Prince George's chapter to provide several volunteers to assist at Senator Rosapepe's enrollment fair. We provided about 10 of the 22 volunteers at the fair. 140 persons completed enrollment applications. 
o Arranged with Silver Spring Regional Center to put out a blast for volunteers. 
o Arranged with Rabbi Shneyer to recruit volunteers from his 2 congregations and to work with other churches and synagogues in the region. 
o Attend the weekly meetings of the Capital Region connector and have discussed their needs for volunteers as well as handling their volunteers
o Have recruited a number of volunteers primarily in Montgomery County but in other counties in the State and have shared that with chapter leads or with Ernest Le,
o The Montgomery County volunteer center has offered to recruit volunteers for us. 
o Have blogged daily about ACA.

Friday, October 11, 2013

101113: Latino populations; System Problems; Young Enrollees, etc.

This issue focuses on the ACA and Latino populations.  What do you think of the first two documents related to this topic? Are they useful?

This issue also discusses computer system problems with the marketplaces; information on the participation of youngenrollees which is encouraging;  and information from the Maryland Health Connection.

Latino toolkit from Get Covered

Get covered (part of Enroll America) has put together a package of materials for the Latino population. Please let me know what you think.

2) California embraces ACA with outreach to immigrant populations

3) Florida has not such good experiences

Blue Cross Plans Lowest Cost In Many Exchange Marketplaces, Writes

5) See if your local CVS store is on the list! This Saturday, Oct. 12, at many CVS stores in Maryland you can learn about how you could get quality health coverage though Maryland Health Connection. Find a store near you:


written by a former colleague of mine from HHS days.  His article points out that the Medicare prescription drug program had similar problems and did not report for the first month, but the ACA problems are worse.  However, it is a much more complex program.  

7) Obamacare needs young people to sign up. And it looks like they’re starting.

by Sarah Kliff Washington Post 

8)  MHC update report

This report from today provides a status update from MHC.  Looks encouraging. 

Maryland Health Connection (MHC) Quality Report

At my suggestion, MHC added a report on the quality of health plans.

10) Want evidence feds are trying to fix HealthCare.Gov? Here it is.
 from Sarah Kliff, Washpost

Thursday, October 10, 2013

101013 Today's take on ACA News; I defend some criticisms

1) Poll: Health exchange rollout gets poor review Not all bad news

How to shop for affordable health insurance on the new exchanges from Michelle Singletary 92713 retweeted today

Five Lessons From Massachusetts About Obamacare Rollout

Very useful article.  

 4)  Maryland Health Connection
In case you missed it, we've added a "Resume Application" button to account homepages.
This article does not do justice to enrollment picture. First, the low enrollment in is mainly due to computer problems. Second, several states have much higher enrollment figures in first week, such as NY with 44,000. If take these as more accurate reflection, will see a much better result for nation.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

100913 My take on Today's News

1) Kaiser: Costs Will Grow More Slowly in States Expanding Medicaid

2)  Uninsured Find More Success via Health Exchanges Run by States


New page posted by Maryland Health Connection. Very useful.  Suggest they add quality rankings ala NCQA. Kaiser FF recommends such quality ratings as does Consumer Reports. 

4)  Consumer Reports Health Law Helper

this will provide useful reports.   

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

1) Jon Stewart is a big disappointment. 2) Washington State Success, + more

1) Jon Stewart Grills Sebelius on Obamacare: ‘Level of Incompetence That’s Larger Than What It Should Be

I am very disappointed with jon stewart last night. His criticisms of HHS are food for the republicans and based on weak arguments and to top if off he implied that sebelius lied.  Or am I missing the boat and he is setting republicans up.  I do not think so but never certain. What do you think. 

 2) Washington State successes
Here’s what Obamacare looks like when it works

We've had 9,452 enrollments since Oct 1! 10,000 additional have completed applications but haven't submitted payment. 837k site visits.


How faith-based providers are working to expand access to health care through the Affordable Care Act

Want to help w/outreach but not sure where to start? New blog post full of action steps you can take:

Some food for thought but need to suggest priorities.


The first-ever health system performance scorecard focusing on low-income Americans has one overriding message: where you live matters. Visit our interactive map for state-by-state comparisons of the #healthcare experiences of the 39% of Americans earning less than twice the federal poverty level.

Interactive Map:
 6) your thoughts on this
Right-Wing Truckers Plan To Jam DC’s Major Commuter Highway, Arrest Members Of Congress


Tell Congress to do its job


Hospitals and insurers struggle to reduce costs by patients dubbed “super-utilizers”

Article in today's post health section.  Good review but does not mention a key study: "The Hot Spotters" by Atul Gawande in the New Yorker.

I discussed Gawande's work previously on my blog.