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The latest useful materials on how health reform is affecting Illinois, to help you navigate the changing landscape.


RESOURCES FOR YOU

 Q:   Eating Healthy When Eating Out Most people do not know how many calories they consume when dining at a restaurant, which can make it difficult to choose healthful options. The FDA now requires restaurants chains with more than 20 locations to post their calorie information on menus. This November 2014 FDA consumer update describes what consumers can expect as the new rules take effect.

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 Q:   Avoiding Medicare Enrollment Troubles Using information gleaned from its national helpline, the Medicare Rights Center released this November 2014 issue brief on the common enrollment challenges facing those newly Medicare eligible. The brief provides help on coordinating Medicare with other forms of health insurance, enrolling during specified times, and avoiding late enrollment fees.

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 Q:   Answers to Common Marketplace Enrollment Issues These November 2014 tips from the HealthCare.gov Blog are intended to help Marketplace users address common challenges, such as how to retrieve your username, unlock your account, and reset your password. There is also a link to the Marketplace call center in case you need a customer service representative to reset your password or unlock your account.

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 Q:   Reasons to Avoid Auto-Enrollment Individuals who used the health insurance marketplace to enroll in a health insurance plan for 2014 will be automatically enrolled in the same plan unless they select a different marketplace option during the 2015 enrollment period. This November 2014 issue brief from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains why it may be in a person’s best interest to complete a new application for the 2015 enrollment period. Those who do not complete a new application may receive a smaller premium tax credit and re-enroll in a plan that has a higher premium. Examples are provided.

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 Q:   How to Pick an Insurance Plan These tips from Consumer Reports outline three major questions you need to ask when picking a plan: What does the plan cover? How much does the plan cost? Which doctors and hospitals are in it? The resource was updated in September 2014.

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 Q:   Financial Assistance in the Marketplace This October 2014 brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation answers questions about the two types of health insurance subsidies available to lower- and moderate income families - the premium tax credit and cost-sharing subsidies. It explains who is eligible, what amounts are available to people, and how the assistance will be provided.

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 Q:   Medical Cost Lookup This medical cost estimator from FAIR Health lets you find out the likely out-of-pocket costs for a range of medical procedures, services and supplies. The estimates are based on what healthcare professionals commonly charge in your zip code.

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 Q:   5 Steps to Stay Covered Once you have health coverage through the marketplace, it is important to review your plan and your health care needs in order to decide whether you need to change your plan for 2015. This CMS handout is full of tips to help you decide by December 15, 2014, whether you need to change your coverage, and to make sure you get the right coverage at the best price.

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 Q:   Contraceptive Coverage Guarantee Works This September 2014 study from the Guttmacher Institute found that the proportion of privately insured women who did not pay out of pocket for oral contraceptive rose from 15% in the fall of 2012, before the requirement took effect, to 67%, in the spring of 2014. The proportions also increased markedly for other types of contraception.

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 Q:   Your Personal Guide to Better Health This interactive guide provides users with personalized tools based on their self-rated health confidence and geographic location. The core feature is an interactive "full health checkup". Other tools include tips for staying well, solving problems and making health-related decisions, as well as lists of readings, useful links and risk information. The feature is one of the "HowsYourHealth" family of tools provided by Dartmouth College.

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 Q:   First Look at the Open Payment System The Open Payments System, mandated by the ACA, details payments made to doctors and teaching hospitals by pharmaceutical and medical device companies. This report breaks down by categories the $3.5 billion that these companies spent from August to December in 2013. Although much of the data is redacted or not categorized, which makes the information hard to interpret, this September 2014 report from ProPublica helps provide an initial interpretation of payment data.

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 Q:   Understanding Your Family's Insurance Options This one-pager from the Children's Specialized Hospitals can help you ask questions so you will understand what each plan will and will not cover, and be able to anticipate your out-of-pocket costs. It includes a downloadable health plan evaluation form to record information about your child’s particular healthcare needs.

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 Q:   Medicaid Applications and SSI Recipients If you were approved for Supplemental Security Income and are applying to Medicaid, this fact sheet from The Arc of Illinois helps to break down the application process. It covers the ways you can apply for Medicaid after you have been approved for SSI, and includes links to other resources to make the process easier.

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 Q:   Guardianship: Basic Info This fact sheet from The Arc of Illinois explains what guardianship is, what is required for guardianship, and how guardianship can be changed, with a focus on children with special needs. It also offers resources for Illinois-specific guardianship.

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 Q:   Churn and Children with Special Health Needs This August 2014 fact sheet from the Family to Family Health Information Center explains how the ACA may help stabilize health coverage for families who move between health plan to health plan based on changes in eligibility for public or employment-based insurance - also known as "churn" - in health care. (more…)

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