Affordable Care Act

Consumers and health care counselors struggled through problems with the federal online health insurance marketplace on Monday.

They were hit with a crush of late requests from Kansans trying to sign up for health coverage by the deadline.

The Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved trained most of the state's 170 or so health care counselors, or navigators.

The non-profit group reported that their schedules were packed with appointments ahead of the deadline.

The Kansas House has passed and sent to the Senate a bill that would allow Kansas to join several other states in an effort to take control of health care programs away from the federal government.

The main sponsor of the legislation in the House is Republican Brett Hildabrand.

The state House will soon debate whether Kansas should join a compact of states seeking to exempt themselves from the federal health care law.

The bill on today's agenda would also let participating states remove themselves from other federal health regulations if Congress consents.

Critics call the measure symbolic and say Congress wouldn't approve such a compact.

The Senate has also approved regulations for counselors who help people navigate the online insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.

The bill requires these health care navigators to register with the attorney general's office by July 2015, to submit their fingerprints, and to undergo background checks.

The attorney general's office also will handle complaints about navigators.

A proposal to allow Kansas to opt out of the federal health care overhaul is being reviewed by the house Federal and State Affairs Committee.

The bill would bring Kansas into a compact among states to take control of health care policy within their borders.

The compact is the project of the conservative, Texas-based group Competitive Governance Action.

Congress would have to approve the compact and cede power to the states on health care. Compact supporters think that's a possibility if Republicans control both chambers.

Kansans will likely increase the pressure to expand Medicaid next year, to cover thousands of uninsured residents.

Advocates say they'll push for an expansion once lawmakers convene their annual session January 13.

The Republican-dominated Legislature's displeasure with the federal health care overhaul led it to reject the expansion, which would be paid for with federal dollars.

Besides movie theaters and Wal-Mart, one place that will stay open this Thanksgiving is the new HealthCare.gov "exchange operations center." Staffers on the "tech surge" to fix the error-riddled site have just days to meet the Obama administration's self-imposed deadline for a functioning site.

We've been reporting a lot lately on the troubled rollout of President Obama's signature health care law. But at the same time, there are rumblings of a major shift in the way companies offer private health insurance to workers.

It involves what are called "private health care exchanges." These are similar to — but completely separate from — the public exchanges you've heard so much about.

Some experts say this new approach soon could change how millions of Americans receive their health care.

The race is on to get the federal insurance website HealthCare.gov working smoothly by the end of November.

And it's not just because that's what federal officials have promised. December could see a surge in demand for health insurance.

"There is an avalanche coming," says Bryce Williams, managing director for exchange solutions at the benefits consulting firm Towers Watson.

A new analysis says the problem of people facing higher costs due to cancellations of their individual health insurance plans have been blown out of proportion. Only six tenths of a percent of Kansans with individual policies are at risk of this situation.

That amounts to fewer than 900 people in Kansas, and about 1.5 million nationwide. The analysis is by the health consumer group, Families USA, which has been a steadfast supporter of the Affordable Care Act.

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