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Health Insurance

Exchange enrollment soars past half a million

Powered by a late surge, Georgia’s enrollment in the 2015 health insurance exchange easily surpassed the half-million mark.

Federal officials said Wednesday that 536,929 Georgians selected a plan or were automatically re-enrolled in the state exchange. The Affordable Care Act provides for exchanges in all 50 states, and this is their second year of operation.

Sylvia Burwell

Sylvia Burwell

Open enrollment ended Sunday. The figures show that Georgia enrollment accelerated in the final two weeks, with more than 60,000 signing up. As of Feb. 6, 468,464 had enrolled in coverage in Georgia.

This year’s enrollment number far outpaces last year’s Georgia exchange total of 316,543, and exceeded many projections for the state.

Nationwide, about 11.4 million Americans selected exchange, or marketplace, plans or were automatically re-enrolled, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced. That was 10 percent more than expected, HHS said Wednesday. full story

Blue Cross offers help after customers hacked

Current and former Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia members are being offered free identity repair assistance and credit monitoring services in the wake of a massive data breach involving the insurer’s parent company, Anthem.

BCBSGA_4C

Blue Cross members dating back to 2004 can start accessing these services before receiving a mailed notification from Anthem that will be sent in the coming weeks.

Blue Cross, which currently has about 3 million members in Georgia, advises consumers to get more information from AnthemFacts.com  on how to access the services. All Georgia members are potentially affected, Blue Cross says.

Anthem recently announced that as many as 80 million customers of the company had their account information stolen.

“We are currently working with the FBI,’’ said Blue Cross of Georgia spokeswoman Debbie Diamond on Monday. “As the investigation unfolds, we’ll have a better idea of how many people are affected.’’

“It’s premature to speculate how [the breach] happened,’’ she added. full story

Merger would create a giant in Atlanta health care

It’s a long way from being a done deal, but if it happens it will shake up metro Atlanta health care.

Emory University and WellStar Health System announced last week that they are discussing a merger of their medical assets, a fusion that would face regulatory and logistical challenges. Completion of a deal is at least a year away.

Emory University Hospital Midtown

Emory University Hospital Midtown

Yet the news of even a possible marriage between nonprofit heavyweights Emory Healthcare and WellStar sent a tremor through the metro Atlanta health care industry.

The proposed union would be the biggest example of hospital consolidation so far in Georgia, and it could trigger other combinations.

Standalone metro hospitals such as Gwinnett Medical Center and DeKalb Medical may be forced to consider aligning with other entities, said David Smith of Kearny Street Consulting. full story

Agency chief discusses contracts, benefits cutoff

This summer, the state’s main health agency will pick the winners of a multibillion-dollar annual contract to deliver health care to more than 1 million Georgians.

Clyde Reese

Clyde Reese

The Department of Community Health also plans to choose a vendor this year to coordinate the care of Medicaid beneficiaries who are elderly or disabled.

Clyde Reese, the commissioner of Community Health, gave an update on both mega-contracts Thursday at an agency board meeting.

He also said the department is close to naming a Medicaid chief to replace Jerry Dubberly, who recently left the position for a job in the private sector. Reese told GHN that the search has narrowed to two candidates, and that he anticipates the naming of the new director within a month.

And he addressed the controversy over the elimination of health benefits for part-time school workers who do not have education certificates. full story

Key legislator blasts Blue Cross as arrogant

The chairwoman of a key House health panel has gone on record as saying that Georgia’s largest health insurer is acting as a “bully’’ in its dealings with medical providers.

State Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) also said Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia “disrespected” the House Health and Human Services Committee by failing to send a representative to the panel’s meeting Monday, which discussed complaints against the insurer.

Rep. Sharon Cooper

Rep. Sharon Cooper

The comments were part of an intense hearing at the state Capitol on the insurer’s actions in the Georgia market. Blue Cross is by far the biggest health insurer in Georgia.

“I have never heard this many complaints [from medical providers] in terms of getting contracts,’’ Cooper said at the panel meeting.

The health committee also passed a bill that would establish safety requirements when a patient is switched to a special “interchangeable biological” drug. These medications are not yet on the market, but could provide cost savings to consumers in the future.

But Cooper and other lawmakers focused most of their energy on Blue Cross. full story

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