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Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund

Sherry Glied, Claudia Solís-Román, Shivani Parikh
One important benefit gained by the millions of Americans with health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is protection from high out-of-pocket health spending. While Medicaid unambiguously reduces out-of-pocket premium and medical costs for low-income people, it is less certain that marketplace coverage and other types of insurance purchased to comply with the law's individual mandate also protect from high health spending. Goal: To compare out-of-pocket spending in 2014 to spending in 2013; assess how this spending changed in states where many people enrolled in the marketplaces relative to states where few people enrolled; and project the decline in the percentage of people paying high amounts out-of-pocket...
September 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Claudia A Salzberg, Susan L Hayes, Douglas McCarthy, David C Radley, Melina K Abrams, Tanya Shah, Gerard F Anderson
Issue: Achieving a high-performing health system will require improving outcomes and reducing costs for high-need, high-cost patients--those who use the most health care services and account for a disproportionately large share of health care spending. Goal: To compare the health care experiences of adults with high needs--those with three or more chronic diseases and a functional limitation in the ability to care for themselves or perform routine daily tasks--to all adults and to those with multiple chronic diseases but no functional limitations...
August 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Susan L Hayes, Claudia A Salzberg, Douglas McCarthy, David C Radley, Melinda K Abrams, Tanya Shah, Gerard F Anderson
Issue: Finding ways to improve outcomes and reduce spending for patients with complex and costly care needs requires an understanding of their unique needs and characteristics. Goal: Examine demographics and health care spending and use of services among adults with high needs, defined as people who have three or more chronic diseases and a functional limitation in their ability to care for themselves or perform routine daily tasks. Methods: Analysis of data from the 2009–2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey...
August 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Sara R Collins, Munira Z Gunja, Michelle M Doty, Sophie Beutel
The number of uninsured people in the United States has declined by an estimated 20 million since the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010. Yet, an estimated 24 million people still lack health insurance. Goal: To examine the characteristics of the remaining uninsured adults and their reasons for not enrolling in marketplace plans or Medicaid. Methods: Analysis of the Commonwealth Fund ACA Tracking Survey, February--April 2016. Key findings and conclusions: There have been notable shifts in the demographic composition of the uninsured since the law's major coverage expansions went into effect in 2014...
August 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Dania Palanker, Karen Davenport
Issue: Since enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many more women have health insurance than before the law, in part because it prohibits insurer practices that discriminate against women. However, gaps in women's health coverage persist. Insurers often exclude health services that women are likely to need, leaving women vulnerable to higher costs and denied claims that threaten their economic security and physical health. Goal: To uncover the types and incidence of insurer exclusions that may disproportionately affect women's coverage...
August 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Justin Giovannelli, Emily Curran
Issue: Nearly 12.7 million individuals signed up for coverage in the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) health insurance marketplaces during the third open enrollment period, and by the end of March there were 11.1 million consumers with active coverage. States that operate their own marketplaces posted a year-to-year enrollment gain of 8.8 percent. To maintain membership and attract new consumers, the state-based marketplaces must sponsor enrollment assistance programs and conduct consumer outreach. These marketplaces relied heavily on such efforts during the third enrollment period, despite declining funding...
July 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Mark A Hall, Michael J McCue
Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act transformed the market for individual health insurance by changing how insurance is sold and by subsidizing coverage for millions of new purchasers. Insurers, who had no previous experience under these market conditions, competed actively but faced uncertainty in how to price their products. This issue brief uses newly available data to understand how health insurers fared financially during the ACA's first year of full reforms. Overall, health insurers' financial performance began to show some strain in 2014, but the ACA's reinsurance program substantially buffered the negative effects for most insurers...
July 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Munira Z Gunja, Sara R Collins, Michelle M Doty, Sophie Beutel
For people with low and moderate incomes, the Affordable Care Act's tax credits have made premium costs roughly comparable to those paid by people with job-based health insurance. For those with higher incomes, the tax credits phase out, meaning that adults in marketplace plans on average have higher premium costs than those in employer plans. The law's cost-sharing reductions are reducing deductibles. Lower-income adults in marketplace plans were less likely than higher-income adults to report having deductibles of $1,000 or more...
July 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Sophie Beutel, Munira Gunja, Sara R Collins
The Affordable Care Act's premium subsidies and cost-sharing reductions have helped to reduce out-of-pocket costs for low-income people enrolled in marketplace plans. This financial protection has been particularly important for people with incomes above 100 percent of poverty who live in states that have not expanded Medicaid. However, a key question for policymakers is how this protection compares to Medicaid. This brief analyzes a sample of silver plans offered in the largest markets in 18 states that use the federal website for marketplace enrollment and have not expanded Medicaid eligibility...
June 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Sherry Glied, Adam Striar
One effect of the Affordable Care Act's "Cadillac tax" (now delayed until 2020) is to undo part of the existing federal tax preference for employer-sponsored insurance. The specific features of this tax on high-cost health plans--notably, the inclusion of tax-favored savings vehicles such as health savings accounts (HSAs) in the formula for determining who is subject to the tax--are designed primarily to maximize revenue and minimize coverage disruptions, not to reduce health spending. Thus, at least initially, these savings accounts, rather than enrollee cost-sharing or other plan features, are likely to be affected most by the tax as employers act to limit their HSA contributions...
June 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Michael J McCue, Mark A Hall
The new health insurance exchanges are the core of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) insurance reforms, but insurance markets beyond the exchanges also are affected by the reforms. This issue brief compares the markets for individual coverage on and off of the exchanges, using insurers' most recent projections for ACA-compliant policies. In 2016, insurers expect that less than one-fifth of ACA-compliant coverage will be sold outside of the exchanges. Insurers that sell mostly through exchanges devote a greater portion of their premium dollars to medical care than do insurers selling only off of the exchanges, because exchange insurers project lower administrative costs and lower profit margins...
June 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Sara R Collins, Munira Gunja, Michelle M Doty, Sophie Beutel
The fourth wave of the Commonwealth Fund Affordable Care Act Tracking Survey, February--April 2016, finds at the close of the third open enrollment period that the working-age adult uninsured rate stands at 12.7 percent, statistically unchanged from 2015 but significantly lower than 2014 and 2013. Uninsured rates in the past three years have fallen most steeply for low-income adults though remain higher compared to wealthier adults. ACA marketplace and Medicaid coverage is helping to end long bouts without insurance, bridge gaps when employer insurance is lost, and improve access to health care...
May 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Sara Rosenbaum, Sara Schmucker, Sara Rothenberg, Rachel Gunsalus
Section 1115 of the Social Security Act allows the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and states to test innovations in Medicaid and other public welfare programs without formal legislative action. Six states currently operate their Medicaid expansions as demonstrations and several more are expected to seek permission to do so. While the current Medicaid expansion demonstrations vary, they share a major focus: increasing beneficiaries' financial responsibility for the cost of coverage and care. Demonstrations include requirements that Medicaid beneficiaries pay enrollment fees and cost-sharing that exceed traditional Medicaid limits...
May 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Jon Gabel, Matthew Green, Adrienne Call, Heidi Whitmore, Sam Stromberg, Rebecca Oran
This brief examines changes in consumer health plan cost-sharing--deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket limits--for coverage offered in the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces between 2015 and 2016. Three of seven measures studied rose moderately in 2016, an increase attributable in part to a shift in the mix of plans offered in the marketplaces, from plans with higher actuarial value (platinum and gold plans) to those that have less generous coverage (bronze and silver plans). Nearly 60 percent of enrollees in marketplace plans receive cost-sharing reductions as part of income-based assistance...
May 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Cathy Schoen, Claudia Solís-Román, Nick Huober, Zachary Kelchner
Medicare provides essential health coverage for older and disabled adults, yet it does not limit out-of-pocket costs for covered benefits and excludes dental, hearing, and longer-term care. The resulting out-of-pocket costs can add up to a substantial share of income. Based on U.S. Census surveys, nearly a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries (11.5 million) were underinsured in 2013–14, meaning they spent a high share of their income on health care. Adding premiums to medical care expenses, we find that 16 percent of beneficiaries (8 million) spent 20 percent or more of their income on insurance plus care...
May 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Benjamin D Sommers
Texas is one of nearly 20 states yet to expand its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and is home to the largest number of uninsured Americans of any state in the country. For many of the state's 5 million uninsured, this decision has left them without an option for affordable health insurance. A comparison with other Southern states that have expanded Medicaid shows how this decision has left many low-income Texans less able to afford their medical bills, to pay for needed prescription drugs, and to obtain regular care for chronic conditions...
April 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Sara R Collins, Munira Gunja, Sophie Beutel
Health insurers selling plans in the Affordable Care Act's market­places are required to reduce cost-sharing in silver plans for low- and moderate-income people earning between 100 percent and 250 percent of the federal pov­erty level. In 2016, as many as 7 million Americans may have plans with these cost-sharing reductions. In the largest markets in the 38 states using the federal website for marketplace enrollment, the cost-sharing reductions substantially lower projected out-of-pocket costs for people who qualify for them...
March 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
Karandeep Singh, Kaitlin Drouin, Lisa P Newmark, Ronen Rozenblum, Jaeho Lee, Adam Landman, Erika Pabo, Elissa V Klinger, David W Bates
Rising ownership of smartphones and tablets across social and demographic groups has made mobile applications, or apps, a potentially promising tool for engaging patients in their health care, particularly those with high health care needs. Through a systematic search of iOS (Apple) and Android app stores and an analysis of apps targeting individuals with chronic illnesses, we assessed the degree to which apps are likely to be useful in patient engagement efforts. Usefulness was determined based on the following criteria: description of engagement, relevance to the targeted patient population, consumer ratings and reviews, and most recent app update...
February 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
David Cusano, Kevin Lucia
A main goal of the Affordable Care Act is to provide Americans with access to affordable coverage in the individual market, achieved in part by pro­moting competition among insurers on premium price and value. One primary mechanism for meeting that goal is the establishment of new individual health insurance marketplaces where consumers can shop for, compare, and purchase plans, with subsidies if they are eligible. In this issue brief, we explore how the Affordable Care Act is influencing competition in the individual marketplaces in four states--Kansas, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Washington...
February 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
David Squires, David Blumenthal
Recent research has called attention to an unexpected rise in death rates among middle-aged, white Americans between 1999 and 2014. The full extent of the phenomenon may be underappreciated, however. If one assumes, based on historical trends, that mortality rates should have declined by 1.8 percent per year, then whites in 2014 had higher-than-expected mortality rates from age 19 to age 65. Furthermore, while increased substance abuse and suicides explain the elevated mortality rates for younger adults, middle-aged whites also seem to be experiencing stalled or rising mortality rates for most ailments and diseases...
January 2016: Issue Brief of the Commonwealth Fund
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