Weekly Dose of Health News

In this week’s summary, you’ll find info on continued problems for the NY and federal health exchanges, the huge jump in Medicaid enrollees under ACA, raising the age for cigarette sales in NYC, and more!

Health Insurance Exchanges/Affordable Care Act

According to the New York Times, the Obama Administration has promised a fix to the federal health exchange website by November 30.  It has also hired a general contractor to oversee repairs.  This delay is problematic for consumers since it comes just two week before they are required to sign up for coverage to replace existing health policies that do not meet federal guidelines.  There are renewed calls to delay Affordable Care Act implementation.

New York State still has some tinkering to do with its health marketplace website, according to the New York Time’s.  The site’s list of navigators includes businesses and organizations that were not consulted beforehand to help consumers sign up for insurance coverage and are not qualified to dispense advice.

Unions are sitting out of the drive to enroll people in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to Politico.  New reinsurance fees that affect union health plans are the culprit behind their inaction.  Attempts at resolving the fee issue began before the government shutdown, and are now back on track.  SEIU is the one outlier.  They continue to put considerable resources behind ACA enrollment and implementation.

The Washington Post has this “fact checker” piece on why Americans are losing health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, despite earlier promises to the contrary.  The Affordable Care Act allowed for grandfathering of policies that existed prior to the signing of the 2010 law.  Subsequent federal regulations created a tighter standard for grandfathering.  For example, if a plan’s required copayment increases by more than five percent and the medical cost of inflation, the plan is no longer grandfathered.  What this means is that over time, fewer policies will meet the grandfathering definition.

Here’s another article from Kaiser Health News which includes a Q&A on why insurers are cancelling policies and what consumers can do about it.


Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act may be more significant than the numbers of people signing up for private coverage, according to the Wall St. Journal.  Officials initially anticipated that nine million people would be added to the Medicaid program in 2014 and that seven million would gain private coverage.  In New York, 64% of the 37,030 people enrolled will be covered by the Medicaid program.  Other states, such as Kentucky and Washington, are seeing Medicaid enrollment percentages in the 80’s.  However, their programs were less generous than New York’s to begin with.  Approximately one-half of all states have so far not opted to expand their Medicaid programs.  The new health law allows for expansion of up to 133% of the federal poverty level.


FDA authorities have determined that 12% of imported spices are contaminated with insect parts, whole insects, rodent hairs and other items.  Seven percent of imported spices contain salmonella, which is toxic to humans and can cause severe illness, according to the New York Times.  The discovered insects and parts are those found in warehouse facilities, suggesting that the harvest process is not the culprit and that storage facilities must be made safer.

The New York City Council has voted to increase the age to purchase cigarettes to 21 this week, which is the highest of any major American city.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that he would sign the measure.  It will take effect six months after.  The Council’s action also includes an increased penalty on retailers who avoid paying tobacco taxes, a prohibition on discounts for tobacco products.  It also establishes a minimum price of $10.50 per pack for cigarettes and little cigars.

-Jaime Venditti, 11/1/13