The government was shut down. Parks went unvisited, White House gardens unpruned, disease outbreaks unsurveiled. Health insurance exchanges opened, too, and it was a rocky start for some, but things are getting better. Now that the government is open for business again, the Affordable Care Act marches forward effectively unchanged.
We’ve all seen those stories and rote reproductions again and again over the last two weeks. But here are some stories you may have missed.
First, a few lesser-known exchange stories
The Hawaii insurance exchange seemed to have the roughest start of all, not actually functioning until Tuesday, October 15, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It was the last of the fifty states to make prices and policies available to consumers via an online marketplace.
Maryland stumbled as well, suffering from the same crashes due to requiring applicants to create an account before shopping that plagued Healthcare.gov. Lesson learned: Window shopping is good. Let people browse before committing. The federal exchange seems to have gotten the message, and added a window shopping option like those already in Connecticut, Colorado and most other states.
This NPR story reports how the Federal Healthcare Website would look if Silicon Valley entrepreneurs had built it?
The exchanges are working for some citizens, and young people seem to be particularly keen to get onboard. Almost a third of initial Access Health applicants in Connecticut were under 35 years old.
Consumers can tell their enrollment stories, good and bad, at MyCoverageStory.org – sure to be a useful resource for anyone in the exchange business in the coming weeks.
Non-exchange stories that may have gotten lost in the shuffle
Former National Coordinator for Health IT Dr. Farzad Mostashari spoke at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives Fall Forum and said that the government will almost certainly not delay Meaningful Use stage 2. In further good news, small rural hospitals are ahead of the game attesting for Stage 1, and critical access hospitals are catching up.
A word of MU caution, though: the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say that providers attesting for Meaningful Use are subject to the False Claims Act. If a provider receives incentive payments that turn out not be merited, he or she must return the money within 60 days of discovering the error or trigger the Act, which could mean penalties up to $11,000. This is something of a hidden threat, though, since Health and Human Services hasn’t openly warned providers that this is a possibility – yet.
Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich is trying to expand Medicaid without the approval of the state’s Republic legislature. We’ll keep an eye on whether or not he succeeds.
Health Information Exchanges
In an attempt to enforce best practices, the Texas Health Services Authority initiative will require state information exchanges to be accredited for meeting privacy and security standards, starting in late 2014.
Mobile company Orca Health has developed new apps to help providers communicate with patients, a noteworthy instance of a service originally designed for consumers becoming a product for healthcare providers when interest in the healthcare industry surpassed other markets.
The push for hospital price transparency continues with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Hospital Price Transparency Challenge. Personal finance resource developer NerdWallet has reached the finals with it’s first foray into the healthcare space, called “The Best Hospital.” Users can use the app to search for treatments near a certain location and filter results by lowest price, most experience or most recommended. Winners will be chosen and prize money dispensed on December 9 at the 2013 mHealth Summit.