The new chief executive of HealthCare.gov, Kevin Counihan, is setting expectations really high for the website’s performance during its second year of open enrollment, set to begin in mid-November. In an interview with Alex Wayne of Bloomberg News, Mr. Counihan said his goal was to create a consumer experience so satisfying that it would result in “raving fans” for the insurance shopping site
But here’s one big hurdle: The site still won’t have any tools to allow consumers to see which doctors and hospitals are covered by individual insurance plans. Mr. Counihan told Mr. Wayne that HealthCare.gov would not change to allow consumers to comparison shop on insurance plan networks.
Plans that limit patients’ choices of doctors and hospitals have turned out to be the signature product of the Affordable Care Act marketplaces. That may be a welcome development for cost-conscious consumers, but only if they know what they’re buying.
The proliferation of these plans is not a surprise. As we’ve written before, the combination of new regulations and insurers’ desire to keep prices low have made the plans, known as narrow networks, an attractive option for insurers seeking to offer affordable choices.
And evidence shows that a narrow network does not necessarily mean a bad plan. A recent study of narrow plans offered to Massachusetts state employees found that people who chose the narrow plans spent less money and seemed to have equally good health care, compared with their counterparts in more traditional plans.
But the researchers behind that study said they thought a key to the program’s success was that the employees understood the trade-offs and knowingly chose a plan with a lower premium and fewer doctors.
That may not always be the case in the federal marketplaces, where there’s no easy way to compare the doctors and hospitals that are covered by plans without researching each one individually — by calling the companies or searching on their websites. Even the dedicated shopper willing to do that extra work may find it frustrating. Insurers may offer different networks for different products, which is not always clear. The lists of hospitals and doctors are also often out of date. Journalists at The Los Angeles Times recently constructed an interactive website to allow California consumers to see which plans cover their doctors. Shoppers in other states will not be so lucky.
This year, many people appear to have signed up for narrow plans unwittingly. A survey from the health research group the Commonwealth Fund found that about 25 percent of people with new exchange plans didn’t even know whether they’d bought a narrow network plan. So far, overall satisfaction seems relatively high, though most people are still fairly new to their plans. There are consumers in some states who are suing over their inability to get the care they need.
Stories like those recently chronicled by my colleague Elisabeth Rosenthal, of patients surprised to learn after the fact that they had been treated by out-of-network doctors, seem likely to proliferate if poor transparency about networks prevails.
Given HealthCare.gov’s difficulties with basic functions last year, it’s understandable that the government is focusing on core tasks, rather than adding new tools. But the continued challenges consumers will face comparing networks could undermine a key underpinning of the marketplaces — that people should be able to shop for insurance products the way they do for airline tickets or electronics, comparing prices and features in order to select the plan that’s right for them. Who will rave about a market without transparency?Read More
Rep. Rob Woodall said it is time Congress plays by the same rules as the people they represent.
Woodall, along with Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), has introduced legislation to repeal the congressional franking privilege which allows members of Congress to send mail with a signature in lieu of postage and reimburse the Postal Service at a later date.
The bipartisan Woodall-Duckworth legislation would require members of Congress to use prepaid postage. The legislation has earned the support of a coalition of government watchdog groups who, in a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives, claimed making the actual costs of the franking privilege evident “will encourage greater self-restraint by members and more accurate accounting.”
“In an era where trust in government is at an all-time low, we should be able to achieve common sense, bipartisan reforms that make the federal government more accountable,” Woodall said. “This straightforward bill would simply ensure that congressional offices play by the same rules at the Post Office as the folks they represent. That should not be controversial, and I hope my colleagues will work with me to repeal this antiquated congressional perk.”
Woodall represents the 7th Congressional District which includes portions of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.Read More
According to Rep. Rob Woodall, the recent Congressional vote to support a military campaign against ISIS did virtually nothing to change American posture in that part of the Middle East. The vision presented by President Obama simply publicized existing policy.
“What he laid out is to do in public what we have been doing in private for over a year now,” Woodall told members of the Rotary Club of South Gwinnett on Thursday.
The plan, Woodall explained, has been to arm and train people whose interests the United States believes best align with our own — a plan he says is seriously flawed.
“I can’t find anybody at the Pentagon who believes that plan is going to work,” Woodall said. “What they believe is that it is the best of all the worse plans we have.”
Two years ago, Woodall said, the U.S. might have been able to do some “good things” to handle the threat ISIS presents. A year ago, he added, the actions might have been “passable.”
“They were once a small band of guys on the highway,” he said. “We could have ended that with a cruise missile.”
That, however, is no longer the case.
“Today there are absolutely no good options for dealing with ISIS,” he said. “Absolutely none.”
The U.S., Woodall explained, has never faced a terrorist enemy as well-funded as ISIS. That funding, he added, amounts to $1 to 3 million per day.
“These folks have their own funding stream coming from the banks they robbed and now the oil they are selling,” he said.
Woodall described the threat the 40,000-member terrorist organization presents to the United States as “frightening.”
I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said.
Authorities have identified at least 200 American passport-holders or Visa Waiver Program participants who have trained with ISIS, Woodall said. At least 40 of them have entered the U.S., 15 have been captured.
“We have never experienced an enemy with this kind of funding and this kind of access,” he said.
Woodall encouraged those in attendance at the Sept. 25 meeting at the Northwood Country Club in Lawrenceville to educate themselves about the situation and get involved in the foreign policy discussion.
“If you are not involved emotionally in the decisions that Washington makes, we’re going to make the wrong ones,” he said.
It is too easy, he added, to be detached from the reality of what U.S. actions overseas really mean.
“I know that it is too easy to spend other people’s money and I know that it is too easy to spend the lives of other people’s sons and daughters too — and that’s the one that really matters,” he said.
In order for the U.S. mission against ISIS to succeed, Woodall believes citizens must “buy-in” to the program.
“You don’t see many episodes of wild, wild success that weren’t bought in to by the citizens,” Woodall said. “You see a lot of episodes of failure and sporadic success and intermittent engagement.”
And success, he added, is of the utmost importance.
“People are going to die and I would tell you that Americans are going to die as a result of this ISIS threat if we cannot contain it,” he said. “It is their mission, it is their desire, it is their goal.”
Woodall represents the 7th Congressional District which includes most of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties.Read More
U.S. Representative Rob Woodall issued the following statement with regard to the House passage of a Continuing Resolution to fund the government through December 11, 2014.
“Short-term Continuing Resolutions are never the best option for funding the government, but with the Senate refusing to pass a single appropriations bill for the third year in a row, it is the option that allows the discussion to continue as we fight for conservative solutions in Washington. I am hopeful we will soon see a Senate working together with the House to usher common sense legislation and appropriations bills to the President’s desk.”
Woodall represents the Seventh Congressional District of Georgia, and serves as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee.
1725 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Rob Woodall serves the 7th district of GA in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Committee on Rules, the House Budget Committee, and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Rob also serves as Chairman of the Republican Study Committee’s Budget and Spending Task Force.
Rob was born and raised in Georgia, graduated from Marist School in 1988, attended Furman University for his undergraduate degree and received his law degree from the University of Georgia
Rob first came to public service as a staffer for then Congressman John Linder serving as his Chief of Staff and was elected to Congress in 2010.
Rob’s political philosophy is guided by the principles of freedom, and his proudest accomplishment is helping Seventh District families one at a time through casework and creating a Congressional office that functions for the people.
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