Blog Archive

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Welcome to the Jungle, I mean Marketplace! Part 2



At NHF’s Social Worker Insurance Workshop in Baltimore on January 16, there were some great questions asked from the audience concerning the Marketplace. Social workers know they will most likely be the first line of defense for patients with bleeding disorders facing the many challenges of the ACA. Here are some questions asked and other snippets of information from the workshop.

Very cool illustrator maps out the discussion
Q. What if you don’t like the insurance plan options in the Marketplace. How do you file a special appeal [concerning coverage]?

Go to Healthcare.gov; there is a link for an appeal. Appeals are worthwhile because sometimes codes are entered in wrong, and sometimes people get approved for procedures and benefits that were originally denied.
Is there a limit to the number of appeals?
No.

Laurie with social worker
Ed Kuebler, Texas
Q: But after you pick a plan and don’t like it, what if you just don’t pay the next month’s premium? Won’t you just get canceled and then you can choose another plan? Isn’t that easier than an appeal?
There is an open enrollment time, so you can’t choose to switch outside that time period. After March 31 you can’t get into a “QHP” (an insurance plan that is certified by the Health Insurance Marketplace, provides essential health benefits, follows established limits on cost-sharing (like deductibles, copayments, and out-of-pocket maximum amounts), and meets other requirements.)

Joanna Gray, of CRD Associates told us that the ACA says HTCs must be included in-network. But… plans don’t have to include any specific medical procedure. They only need to cover “sufficient” providers, and they don’t say who those providers are. The ACA hasn’t come through in its promise. NHF says be careful! Don’t pick a plan that doesn’t include your HTC or product, because now it’s legal for providers to avoid HTCs. We can’t change the policy for this year. Maybe next? We need to complain to get changes made.
Mike Bradley (Baxter), Laurie
Kelly, and Derek Robertson
(Apogenics, Inc.)

NICOLE of NHF said that every state has its own definition of EHB (essential health benefits). So picking a plan is harder, because there are more plans, and picking one that covers what you need is hard.

Q: To use the Marketplace, you must be a legal resident.  What happens to legal immigrants, who are not citizens? In Nevada, they are currently covered under high-risk pools but will lose this soon (the pools are closing). Are there alternatives? No. You can still get emergency medical through Medicaid; and of course, anyone can buy insurance in the commercial marketplace.

Nancy Hatcher and
Ed Kuebler again!
JoAnn Volk of The Center on Health Insurance Reform, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, said that
six states will not enforce the ACA: Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming. The ACA gives primary responsibility to states to enforce the rules, but there are 10 state benchmarks (Essential Health Benefits) that must be followed, and will be reviewed by the feds.

If you find a QHB but it doesn’t include factor, JoAnn thinks that the appeals process will work, recommending that people get their drugs for 20 days, during the appeals process, even if they are not on formulary.

Q: How do I find the benchmark plan for my state?
All benchmarks are listed in the state insurance department website. www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Data-Resources/Downloads/Vermont  (for example)

Q: What’s the advantage of going into the Marketplace?

The advantage of going into the Marketplace is subsidies; you can be eligible for discounts within limits. To buy into a Marketplace, you have to be physically in the state, not incarcerated and be legally present. There are no other limits.

Q: When we couldn’t find what we were looking for (was our hematologist covered), and we called the website, we couldn’t get any help.
Don’t call the health.gov website. Call the plan provider. Sometimes it’s best to work with your HTC contracting department!  They will know who is in network.

And there is so much more information! Be sure to keep reading your HemAware (from NHF), Pulse (from us), and tap into your chapter’s or your local hemophilia organization’s efforts to educate their families about insurance changes. Lots happening; don’t miss deadlines and opportunities by not staying on top!


Great Book I Just Read (Again)
Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic  by Jennifer Niven [Kindle]
A secret exploration to Wrangle Island, in the Behring Sea, in September 1921 goes terribly wrong when food runs low and sea ice keeps a relief ship from rescuing the stranded four young men and one 25-year-old Eskimo woman trapped there. The trip sets off an international crisis when Russia, Great Britain and the US learn that the trips leader, the opportunist and greedy explorer Vilhalmur Stefansson, who never even went, was trying to claim the island for Canada. Only Ada survives the horrible conditions, and her return sets off a media firestorm. Did she kill her companions? How did she survive? Diaries are stolen, Ada is hounded and used by the press and her own sponsors. She becomes at once a hero and a villain. Fantastic read and Ada will amaze you with her spirit and ingenuity. Her real survival started when she returned home. Four/five stars


Monday, January 20, 2014

Welcome to the Jungle, I mean, Marketplace


This past week I attended a useful and interesting meeting, NHF’s Social Worker Insurance Marketplace Workshop (funded by Baxter Healthcare and Pfizer Inc; thanks guys!). Together with about 80 social workers from HTCs around the country, and some chapter leaders, we listened to various consultants and government representatives speak primarily about the “Marketplace,” the website of the Affordable Care Act that allows people to choose a healthcare plan.

We’ve all heard about the difficulties in dealing with this website— healthcare.gov—such as the crash, and various other glitches. The good news is that many of these glitches have been fixed; and now it’s time to get our bleeding disorder community on board. Healthcare insurance is mandatory now; all US citizens (with notable exceptions) must have insurance. The website is created to help people find the lowest cost insurance that also provides all their essential healthcare needs.

Crafty Posters were created to help us visualize; good idea,
we needed the help!
There is plenty of assistance in navigating the website. We actually tried the website live, and it was pretty interesting, and yes, we even got stuck once or twice! For us, we were stuck trying to find out if our HTC hematologist was in-network.

Each website will have on-line or Internet guides, to help you live. They are called various names: Assisters, navigators, certified application counselors, in-person assistance, marketplace call center, agents and brokers. Most people are used to calling them “Navigators.” (I can’t help but think of “Engineers,” a la Ridley Scott’s Prometheus)

Navigators, Engineers: whatever you
call them, they are here to help
Jim Romano, from Patient Services Inc (PSI), gave a presentation about how PSI has been chosen to train qualified applicants to become  Certified Application Counselors (CAC), to help people navigate the Marketplace. This is truly a great coup for PSI, and I can’t think of any other group better qualified to train. PSI will train CACs in different states, and pay their fees (yes, you have to pay for the pleasure to become a CAC to help people navigate their state Marketplace! One point from an audience member who underwent the training: the training wasn’t very hemophilia-focused, and needs to be more focused.

Jim noted that there were still some difficulties to overcome in each state. Ed Kuebler, a social worker from Texas, slyly asked, is the difficulty level in some states… political? This garnered many laughs! Ya think?

There are many marketplaces, as each state as their own. All the marketplaces have different funding sources, based on what type of marketplace it is:

FFM: Federally facilitated marketplace
SPM: State partnered marketplace. The federal government has some role in this.
SBM: State based marketplace and the fed has no role in it.

How many people have enrolled since the site was unveiled in October?
                  By Dec 28: 6 million Americans gained coverage through Marketplace and Medicaid
2.2 million of those enrolled in private plans
80% received help in paying for premiums
53 million visits to healthcare.gov and state marketplace websites
11 million calls to the federal and state call centers

Different healthcare plans are designated by “metal.” The more precious the metal, the higher priced the plan, but also the more coverage. Enrollment by Metal?
                  60% are choosing Silver plans
20% Bronze
13% gold
7% Platinum
1% catastrophic plans

Ed Kuebler thinks we need more help than
navigators (kidding--a gift from a friend)
There are still consumer problems using the Marketplace:
                  An inability to complete application on line
                  Applications get “stuck” (freeze) or lost
                  Info is not transmitted after the plan is submitted
                  If not sure you’re insured, call insurance company (not the website) to check
                  If you don’t pay 1st month premium by certain date, you will not get insurance!

Don’t despair! I found it actually fun to hop on Colorado’s state Marketplace and select a plan.

Another useful website is Marketplace.cms.gov, which has FAQs, tip sheets, paper application, and materials in Spanish. And Healthcare.gov, which does premium estimate, on line application. When you log on, you will see this banner!
Michelle Rice (L), Mary Garvey (R) of NHF; Tiara of PSI (C):
all great speakers and resources!

Enroll by February 15 for coverage starting March 1

So contact your social worker for help if you are not yet enrolled; don’t miss the deadline!

Next week I will cover more of the NHF Social Worker Insurance Marketplace workshop.









Sunday, January 12, 2014

Factor XIII Patients Get New Treatment


This is going to be quite a year with potentially new products.

Here's one to start the year off right!

The FDA has approved Novo Nordisk’s Tretten® (coagulation factor XIII A-subunit [recombinant]) for routine prophylaxis of bleeding in people with congenital factor XIII (FXIII) A-subunit deficiency. This is one of the rarest inherited bleeding disorders, with an incidence of 1 in 1 million to 1 in 5 million. 

FXIII is composed of two subunits, A and B, with genes on two different chromosomes. FXIII deficiency is usually caused by a deficiency of the A-subunit. In the absence of FXIII, loosely formed clots are developed, leading to bleeding complications similar to those in severe hemophilia A. Tretten is the only recombinant treatment for the disorder 

Why does this matter? Patients with congenital FXIII A-subunit deficiency have a lifelong susceptibility to bleeding, including intracranial hemorrhage (spontaneous bleeding into the brain), which could be life-threatening if untreated.

For more info: TRETTEN-US.com

Great Book I Just Read

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier [Kindle]


Rebecca is a gothic romance/psychological thriller, much along the lines of Jane Eyre, that skillfully transports the reader into the early 1900s: a young bride (never named) narrates the tale, about coming to the famed estate of Manderley, as the new bride of middle-aged Maxim de Winter, whose first wife drowned in a mysterious boating accident only a year ago. Rich in character, thought and detail, transfixed on the lush countryside, landscaped grounds and endless ocean as the story progresses. The mansion seems haunted by the first wife—Rebecca—and every act, every word by everyone, including Max, seems to scream how missed the charming and stunning Rebecca is, how hopelessly inadequate the unsophisticated, young new bride is, until the bride considers ending her life. But then …Things are not at all what they appear. Through subtle hints and plot twists, the real story emerges bit by bit to an amazing and gripping ending. The Hitchcock movie by the same name is also fantastic.  Four/five stars.




Sunday, January 05, 2014

Snake Charming

My daughter Tara gave me a great book for Christmas called The Lizard King (see review below). Not about Jim Morrison this time, but about the seedy "underbelly" of the reptile smuggling business in the 1970s. The book mentioned the historical origin of the logo of the snake wrapped around a staff, which we all recognize in medical arenas, but seldom ask where this came from. So I thought I'd share; I certainly stared at it plenty of times on my son's Medical Alert bracelet when he was a child.

I used to think it was from the Greek God Mercury's staff, but I was wrong!

So from Wikepedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_of_Asclepius):



In Greek mythology, the Rod of Asclepius, sometimes also spelled Asklepios or Aesculapius, also known as the asklepian, is a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine. The symbol has continued to be used in modern times, where it is associated with medicine and health care, yet frequently confused with the staff of the god Hermes, the caduceus. Theories have been proposed about the Greek origin of the symbol and its implications.

In honor of Asclepius, a particular type of non-venomous snake was often used in healing rituals, and these snakes – the Aesculapian snakes – crawled around freely on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept. These snakes were introduced at the founding of each new temple of Asclepius throughout the classical world. From about 300 BC onwards, the cult of Asclepius grew very popular and pilgrims flocked to his healing temples (Asclepieia) to be cured of their ills. 

The original Hippocratic Oath began with the invocation "I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods ..."

But why a snake? The significance of the serpent has several interpretations:


1. the shedding of skin and renewal is emphasized as symbolizing rejuvenation
2. the serpent is a symbol that unites and expresses the dual nature of the work of the physician, who deals with life and death, sickness and health. 
3. The use of drugs can help or harm, as reflected in the meaning of the term pharmakon, which meant "drug", "medicine" and "poison" in ancient Greek. Products derived from snakes had medicinal properties, and in ancient Greece, at least some were aware that snake venom that might be fatal if it entered the bloodstream could often be imbibed. Snake venom appears to have been 'prescribed' in some cases as a form of therapy.

Really fascinating; something new to know as you start your new year! And if you want a great read, see this...

Great Book I Just Read
The Lizard King by Bryan Christy

A fascinating story about the illegal smuggling of endangered reptiles into the US in the 1970s. This reads like a crime thriller, and there are indeed many parallels to the drug trade, including mafia, "mules" and the feds. How one many mostly built up an incredible multi-million dollar business smuggling reptiles into the US, while being tracked for years by one man in particular by the government, in an attempt to set up a sting. With its surprise and poignant ending, this would make for a great movie! 
Four/five stars.

 
 
Bayer