92 posts categorized "Healthcare"


Signing up for the insurance exchange

Start your application
We'd be remiss if we didn't make an update on our previous unsuccessful attempts to register for and use the Health Insurance Marketplace, commonly called "the exchange," a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act. We finally got all the way through, as you can see above, and it may have been as simple as changing the browser. We'd been using Firefox, a pretty popular browser, and finally decided to just see what Windows Internet Explorer would do. And it worked. For some reason, the initial Account page would not render properly on the  computer here at the Star-Telegram, which runs Windows XP with Google Chrome as the default browser. So you might give that a try.

-- Jim Fuquay


Fort Worth chamber introduces health plans for members

The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce has teamed with an Iowa firm to offer its members employee health insurance. One plan is aimed at making it easier for small employers to self-insure, and another is designed to reduce reinsurance costs for larger employers that already self-insure. The program was introduced today at the chamber's annual healthcare summit. Ron Fuhrman, benefit advisor for True North Companies, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said self-insurance allows companies to avoid fees and mandates of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Small employers traditionally have not had the finances to self-insure their employee health benefits. Self-insurance entails being directly responsible for the cost of medical care for workers up to a certain dollar limit, after which a "stop loss" insurance policy kicks in and pays additional the expenses. Under the chamber's plan, companies with fewer than 50 employees would join a pool in a co-op and buy policies with a variety of benefits. (The co-op is private. It is not one of the publicly funded health insurance co-ops established by the ACA, also called Obamacare.) That plan and the plan for larger employers would both get stop-loss coverage from the same insurer. Fuhrman, who presented the plans at the summit, said it's the first time his company has offered the program to a chamber of commerce.

He said the co-op needs at least 250 employees and dependents to launch, which he anticipates being "no problem at all." For other details of the program, visit the chamber's web site here.

-- Jim Fuquay

Chamber survey: Most members offer health benefits, but costs rising

About 80 percent of Fort Worth Chamber of  Commerce members provide healthcare benefits to employees, but the cost of that coverage is rising more than the previous year, according to a new survey. More than a third of members say their cost rose 6-15 percent this year, and another quarter said they were up 16-25 percent. That's about 53 percent of members who participated in the survey, and it's up sharply from the share of members who reported increases in that range a year earlier. Among the 81 percent of members who offer health insurance, 19 percent pay the entire premium for the employee, while 60 percent pay a portion of it. Of the 19 percent who said they do not provide benefits, half cited costs but another 22 percent said they were too small to get group rates. The entire survey is posted on the chamber's web site here.

-- Jim Fuquay


Want to see Obamacare policies? Try Blue Cross Blue Shield

More than a week after the launch of the Healthcare.gov website that Texans are supposed to use to shop for health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act, we still haven't managed to actually see a policy. Like a lot of people, judging by media reports, even after creating an account we get a blank page when we try to sign in. But here's a way you can see half the policies offered on the Health Insurance Marketplace, commonly called the exchange: Go to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas' own web site at www.bcbstx.com/health-insurance-shopping-guide

Unlike the government's site, Blue Cross lets you browse their site without creating an account, which by this account is the cause of the big problems Healthcare.gov is having. All the insurer's site wants are the things that actually matter when you're comparison shopping: your age, gender, zip code and whether or not you use tobacco (a big no-no, by the way). And if you want to get into the weeds of whether you qualify for a tax credit subsidy or not, the site can do that, too, but it's optional. Kind of a nice, keep-it-simple approach, don't you think? You can't buy a plan and also get the tax subsidy on the Blue Cross site, but you'll get a good idea of what it's going to cost you. Then you can wait for the government to work the bugs out of their site. You can't get coverage that starts before Jan. 1 anyway, and you only need to buy a policy by Dec. 15 in order for your coverage to start Jan. 1, so you've got plenty of time.

Incidentally, we posted a PDF version of the plans available in Tarrant County last week, after it became clear the government's site was off to a rocky start. It's not terribly easy to use and it doesn't have all the information you want, like deductibles and out of pocket maximums, but it's better than nothing. It's here: Download Tarrant Exchange plans

-- Jim Fuquay


DFW hospital growth outstrips demand, survey says

Hospitals in North Texas added more than 500 new inpatient beds between 2008 and 2011, even as demand for those beds declined 3 percent in that time, according to a new survey. Despite the mismatch, however, hospitals in Dallas/Fort Worth enjoyed total $1.58 billion in total net income,or 10.3 percent of patient revenue, said the 2013 Texas Health Market Review. The report, by independent analyst Allan Baumgarten, said for-profit chain HCA and not-for-profit Baylor Health Care System were the most profitable.

The study also found that enrollment in health maintenance organizations rose to more than 4 million, with growth in Medicare and Medicaid offsetting declines at employer-sponsored plans. By far the biggest HMO membership, more than 3 million, is in the Texas Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP). The state has steadily moved its Medicaid and CHIP populations into HMOs for years. Still, Medicaid HMOs lost $74.3 million in 2012. Fort Worth's Cook Children's Health Care System was an exception, earning $8.4 million on its plan, which had 108,252 members as of Dec. 31, 2012, the study said.

-- Jim Fuquay


THR breaks ground on Willow Park outpatient center

Texas Health Resources broke ground this morning for a 60,000-square-foot medical facility in Parker County, with an expected completion date in late 2014. Arlington-based THR plans a free-standing emergency department, fitness center and three-story medical office building at the 8-acre site in the city of Willow Park. There will also be heart rehab, physical therapy, imaging and other services offered.

“The outpatient center will be the first part of an integrated health campus that will grow, with plans for a surgery center and expansion of space for more physicians and medical services,” THR said. The facility is at Interstate 20 and Crown Pointe Boulevard, about 20 miles west of Fort Worth.

Parker County presently is served by Weatherford Regional Medical Center, which includes a hospital with 99 licensed beds. THR said its Willow Park facility will be nearly 10 miles from that hospital and 15 miles from the nearest THR hospital. “Texas Health Willow Park will not only provide emergency care and other basic health services, it will be an integrated health campus that promotes well-being and population health,” said Dr. Jeffrey Canose, who heads THR’s southwest zone.

The facility has been anticipated since THR bought about 30 acres in Willow Park in 2010. 

-- Jim Fuquay


Yes, Virginia, it is possible to register for the insurance exchange

Update: 3:35 p.m.

It's possible, but it might not work when you get there. After holding at the "lots of visitors" page, we were presented with the official Log In page for the Health Insurance Marketplace. But despite writing down the user name and password, and having it right in front of us when we logged in, we once again hit a dead end, told we didn't use the magic words. So we asked to reset the password, got an email link to do that, filled out a new password and answered the three security questions, and .... and....... If you can't read it, it says we didn't answer the questions correctly. As we can say is, well.............

Forgot password

The original post is below:

It might take some patience, but it can be done. After attempts too numerous to recount, we managed to create a user account on the Health Insurance Marketplace, AKA "the exchange." This happened after the email confirmation we were sent after completing the previous registration steps was rejected as being too late. Don't give up yet. And for a quick look at North Texas plans and premiums on the exchange, see this post made Wednesday morning.

-- Jim Fuquay





Insurance plans for North Texas available

Update: We have added a PDF that shows Health Insurance Marketplace policies for Tarrant, which weren't immediately available this morning. Surrounding counties are in the same rating area as Tarrant and Dallas counties, but could see slightly different offerings, depending on the insurer. (Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, Collin, Parker, Wise, Johnson, Rockwall, Ellis, Hunt, Kaufman and Delta counties are all in Area 8.)

A PDF of the Tarrant County plans is available here:  Download Tarrant Exchange plans

(When this PDF opens it may ask you to print it. Hit "Cancel" and you can view the pages and then print them if you wish.)

These premiums do not include any subsidy or tax credit, available to households with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. However, you can get a good estimate of your likely tax credit using Kaiser Family Foundation's calculator, here.

-Jim Fuquay


Hurry up and wait for Texas health insurance exchange

Update: Oct. 2, 3:05 p.m.

It is possible to register on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Here is living proof:

Update: Oct. 2, 2 p.m.

We got a little farther trying to register at the Health Insurance Marketplace, a.k.a. "the exchange." It accepted our user name, password and three security questions, then promised to email a confirmation. The confirmation quickly showed up in our inbox, and we clicked on it within 5 seconds of its arrival. But was that fast enough? Noooooooooooooooooo.

Here's where the original post begins.

Marketplace wait
Here's what you'll probably get if you go to www.heathcare.gov, the official site of the Health Insurance Marketplace, also called the exchange. We did manage to get through to a sign-up page once, but our browser froze before we could finishing creating an account. The next time,

Marketplace not yet
when, we did get all the way through the process, we got the screen above. In fact, we ended up here several times. It's not just us. Here's a link to an Associated Press story on the launch.

But keep in mind that today is just the first day of a six-month process to use the online exchange to find health insurance policies that include a shot at tax credits to reduce the cost of the policies. You can also call 1-800-318-2596. In any event,  coverage purchased through the exchange doesn't go into effect until Jan. 1. The open enrollment period extends through March 31, and you can enroll after that in the event of significant changes in your situation, such as losing a job and your health benefits. 

-- Jim Fuquay


Baylor, Scott & White complete merger

Dallas-based Baylor Health Care System and Temple-based Scott & White Healthcare said Monday they completed their previously announced merger, creating the state's largest not-for-profit health system. The combined organization, named Baylor Scott & White Health, has 43 hospitals, more than 500 clinics and other care sites, 6,000 affiliated physicians  and 34,000 employees. It has annual revenue of $8.3 billion. Its web site is www.BaylorScottandWhite.com

“Over time, patients in the communities we serve will begin seeing the new brand Baylor Scott & White Health emerge,” said Joel Allison, CEO of the new company. He previously led Baylor.   “We are building a new national model for health care delivery engineered to meet the demands of health care reform, the changing needs of patients and payers and the extraordinary advances in clinical care.” Dr. Robert Pryor, CEO of Scott & White, becomes president, chief operating officer and chief medical officer of Baylor Scott & White Health.

The organizations announced their merger plans in December. In the Tarrant area the new system operates Baylor All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth, Baylor Grapevine., Baylor Orthopedic and Spine Hospital at Arlington, and Baylor Trophy Club.

-- Jim Fuquay


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