Need new health insurance NOW?

If you experience certain life changes, you don’t have to wait for Open Enrollment in November to enroll in affordable health coverage on or your state’s marketplace. You have 60 days after the following events to apply for a Special Enrollment Period and enroll:

• Moving to a new zip code or county
• Getting married or divorced
• Having a baby, adopting or becoming a foster parent
• Becoming a U.S. citizen or getting a green card

You have 60 days before or after the following to enroll: 

• Losing your health insurance from your job
• Turning 26 and aging off your parent’s health plan

And if you are experiencing domestic violence and want to apply for your own health plan, you can do so at any time.

Learn more about Special Enrollment Periods at or call 1-800-318-2596.


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Provider Ignorance and Biases Turn Lesbians Patients off Healthcare

By Pamela Merritt for RHRealityCheck

When seeking medical care, LGBT people are often confronted with a system that denies our existence or insults who we are. From medical forms that ask for a patient's marital status to doctors who refuse care to lesbians who seek to parent to medical ignorance of intersex conditions, even LGBT people with health insurance struggle to get the healthcare services they are paying for and need.

The lesbian community faces unique challenges when accessing health care, from widespread provider misperception about STI risks for women who partner with women to doctors who tailor their medical advice to stereotypes they have of lesbians' lives and needs.

For the full article see:

California Governor Plans New Push for Omnibus Health Care Reform Effort

By Fredrick L. Pilot

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--Once the state has enacted a budget for the fiscal year that began July 1, the Schwarzenegger administration will go back to the drawing board on a comprehensive overhaul of California's health care financing system, a top administration official said Aug. 15.

Jennifer Kent, deputy legislative secretary for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), told a panel that the administration will incorporate lessons learned after omnibus reform legislation, which Schwarzenegger co-authored with then-Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D), was killed in the Senate Health Committee in late January amid concerns the state could not afford the plan.

Chief among them is an appreciation of the views of various groups holding large stakes in any proposed reforms including payers, medical providers, and consumer and labor organizations, Kent told a Sacramento panel discussion titled Where does California Healthcare Policy Go From Here?, hosted by the University of California and the California Medical Association.

"We learned a lot of lessons of what's important to these groups," Kent said.

"After the budget is done, we're going to begin the brainstorming process," Kent said.

Most legislative seats are up for election in November and a new two-year legislative session begins the following month.

Kent said while the administration developed a number of incremental "building block" reform proposals this summer, legislators have shown little interest in taking them up this year.

Status Quo Unsustainable

The status quo is unsustainable, Kent noted. Continued dissatisfaction among key stakeholder groups with the current health care finance system and rising medical costs are likely to bring the system to a crisis point in the near term, possibly leading to a dramatic collapse of some component of the system, Kent predicted.

"We're at this tipping point where something has to break," Kent said. "I think it's going to be some kind of crack and then it will be, 'OK, we're done.'"

One possible harbinger that appears to back Kent's prognostications is a white paper issued Aug. 14 by the Sacramento-based consumer group Health Access California. The paper concluded that Medi-Cal cuts proposed in the administration's revised budget issued in May to tamp down ballooning deficit spending would force more uninsured and low-income Californians to seek medical care in hospital emergency departments. Those higher costs for emergency room care will be passed on to those with insurance, boosting employer-based health insurance by 22 percent in 2009 at an estimated additional cost of more than $290 per family, the paper concluded.

Peter Harbage, who authored the paper, Adverse Reaction: Proposed Health Budget Cuts Would Lead to Increased Health Insurance Premiums, co-authored a December 2006 report by the Washington-based New America Foundation (NAF) that estimated 10 percent of California health care premiums can be attributed to cost-shifting to pay for care delivered to medically uninsured residents of the state.

 The administration cited those findings to support its original health care reform proposal of January 2007 that would have required all Californians to obtain health insurance through their employers or through individual policies and by expanding access to state health insurance programs such as Medi-Cal and the Healthy Families program.

At that time, Schwarzenegger argued that eliminating what he termed a "hidden tax" for care of the medically uninsured would reduce overall health insurance costs and make coverage more affordable and accessible.

Administration Committed to Reform

Kent said Schwarzenegger remains committed to accomplishing health care reform during the remainder of his term, which ends in January 2011, based on the three fundamental principles of his 2007 proposal: cost containment, prevention, and consumer protection.

However, panelist Sara Rogers, a policy consultant to state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D), took issue with two of the Schwarzenegger reform principles, cost containment and prevention.

Prevention is limited by peoples' predisposition to medical conditions beyond their control and the difficulty of creating incentives to encourage individuals with low socioeconomic status to modify their lifestyles and better manage medical conditions that can become chronic and costly to treat, Rogers said.

In addition, Rogers said, cost containment incorrectly assumes a competitive market for medical services exists. It does not, Rogers explained, because market demand for medical services is inelastic since people will seek medical care at any price they can afford when they or their family members need medical treatment and medications.

'Fragility' in Individual Market

Kent said the administration is concerned about "fragility" in the troubled individual health insurance market, which covers about 9 percent of medically insured Californians, and would like to see payers adopt improved underwriting practices.

Managed care plans and insurers who participate in this market segment have come under intense scrutiny during the past year from regulators, legislators, and the courts over the practice of unilaterally rescinding coverage when policyholders submit costly claims, contending they hoodwinked plans and insurers by lying or omitting material information on their medical histories at the time they applied for coverage.

"We would like to see plans more aggressively police who they let in," Kent said. "The plans have to have responsibility on the front end to do due diligence."




Study: Uninsured population grows with immigration

The uninsured population is increasingly made up of immigrants, according to a study released today by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
The nonpartisan research organization, which doesn't take policy positions, tracked the increase in the uninsured population over the last 12 years. Native-born Americans still account for the majority -- three-fourths -- of the persons without health insurance, but the percentage of immigrants in those ranks has grown from 18.8 percent in 1994 to 26.6 percent in 2006.
Over the same 12-year period, the percentage of native-born uninsured dropped from 81.2 percent to 73.4 percent, EBRI said.
In raw numbers, that means 12.3 million immigrants and 34.1 million native-born U.S. residents had no health insurance in 2006, the end of the study period.
EBRI drew from Census data to compile the study. It did not differentiate as to the legal or illegal status of immigrants, so it's impossible to use the data to draw conclusions about undocumented residents.
The study found that slightly more than 46 percent of foreign-born noncitizens in the U.S. were uninsured in 2006. That compared to an uninsured population of 19.9 percent of foreign-born who had become U.S. citizens and 15 percent of native-born citizens.
The longer an immigrant had resided in the United States, the more likely they were to be insured, the study found. But immigrants also were more likely to be in low-wage jobs that didn't provide health benefits.


PUBLIC HEALTH & EDUCATION | ACOG Releases New Recommendations on HIV Screening for Women

Physicians need to make an increased effort to encourage minority women to get tested for HIV because they are at greater risk of contracting the virus, according to new recommendations issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, HealthDay/U.S. News and World Report reports (HealthDay/U.S. News and World Report, 8/1). A separate recommendation by ACOG also says that ob-gyns should routinely screen all women ages 19 to 64 for HIV regardless of individual risk factors. Targeted screening is also recommended for women who are outside this age range but at high risk of HIV/AIDS.

The recommendations, issued by ACOG's Committee on Gynecology Practice, are published in the August issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology. The committee also recommends "opt-out" testing, in which patients are told that HIV tests will be given as part of routine care, unless they decline. Neither specific signed consent nor HIV prevention counseling is required under opt-out testing. According to an ACOG release, some state and local laws are not consistent with the opt-out testing and might require additional counseling or informed consent requirements.


Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals

JOLOMCÚ, Guatemala — High in the hills of Guatemala, shut inside the one-room house where he spends day and night on a twin bed beneath a seriously outdated calendar, Luis Alberto Jiménez has no idea of the legal battle that swirls around him in the lowlands of Florida.

Shooing away flies and beaming at the tiny, toothless elderly mother who is his sole caregiver, Mr. Jiménez, a knit cap pulled tightly on his head, remains cheerily oblivious that he has come to represent the collision of two deeply flawed American systems, immigration and health care.

Eight years ago, Mr. Jiménez, 35, an illegal immigrant working as a gardener in Stuart, Fla., suffered devastating injuries in a car crash with a drunken Floridian. A community hospital saved his life, twice, and, after failing to find a rehabilitation center willing to accept an uninsured patient, kept him as a ward for years at a cost of $1.5 million.