Delaware Officials Encouraged by Health Overhaul Progress - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Officials Encouraged by Health Overhaul Progress

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DOVER, Del. (AP) - Almost 9,000 people have selected coverage plans in Delaware's health insurance exchange as the second year of enrollment under the Affordable Care Act continues, state officials said Thursday.

Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf told the Delaware Health Care Commission on Thursday that the 8,956 who have selected insurance plans are among more than 13,600 who have completed applications for coverage under Delaware's exchange.

Officials say 56 percent of people who have enrolled for coverage this year are new to the exchange, compared to the national average of 52 percent. The other 44 percent of enrollments are renewals from last year, when 14,400 people enrolled for coverage. More than 80 percent of enrollees qualify for subsidies to help pay for their coverage, officials said.

Open enrollment for coverage this year, which began Nov. 15, runs through Feb. 15.

"I'm very encouraged by the level of activity within the first month," Landgraf said after Thursday's commission meeting.

At the same time, officials acknowledged widespread concerns about rising costs.

"It's the Unaffordable Care Act," said Greg Allen, an administrator at Newark-based Lavenburg Medical Group, which provides vision and cosmetic services.

Allen told commission members that even if people are able to pay premiums for their coverage, they're often left with huge, out-of-pocket deductibles that they can't afford.

"It's affecting them, affecting their livelihoods," he said.

When patients can't pay their deductibles after receiving services, doctors are left holding the bag, Allen added.

Landgraf acknowledged that the increase in deductibles is a "significant issue."

In addition to trying to attract more insurance carriers to Delaware's exchange, officials said one option for reducing costs is working with existing insurers to explore the feasibility of "narrow network" plans offering a limited number of providers in exchange for lower costs.

Landgraf also said officials need to address cost concerns within the broader framework of a fundamental transformation of the health care delivery system. State officials are working on a Health Care Innovation Plan, including new payment and delivery models, aimed at improving health outcomes while reducing health care costs.

Last month, Delaware received a $35 million grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation for its innovation plan.

"Reform is very hard work," Landgraf said.

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