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July Research Roundup: What We’re Reading



CHIR’s summer reading list includes the latest health policy literature. In July, we read about the disparities in medical debt burdens, policy interventions to reduce choice errors in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace, and the affordability of Marketplace health insurance under subsidy expansion.

Michael Karpman, Fredric Blavin, Dulce Gonzalez, Jennifer Andrea, and Breno Braga, Medical Debt in New York State and Its Unequal Burden across Communities, Urban Institute. Using demographic information, the authors estimated the share of consumers with medical debt and examined the distribution of medical debt on marginalized groups.

What it Finds

  • The share of New Yorkers with medical debt varies greatly across geographic regions
    • Statewide medical debt is 6 percent.
    • The communities with the highest rates of medical debt were in Central New York (14 percent), Mohawk Valley (11 percent), North Country (11 percent), and Southern Tier regions (10 percent).
    • The regions with the lowest medical debt were Long Island (3%) and New York City (4 percent).
  • Among communities (defined based on zip code), the share of consumers with medical debt ranged from less than 3.2 percent to 37.6 percent.
  • Across New York, the burden of medical debt fell greater on communities of color and lower-income households and communities. However, medical debt is not limited to low-income households—in communities in the highest quartile of median household income reported 3 percent of consumers had medical debt, but in some regions this proportion rose to 7 percent.
  • Though the prevalence of medical debt was higher in communities where more residents were uninsured, the impact of medical debt expanded beyond uninsured populations, In “high-debt” communities, those where the percentage of consumers with medical debt is in the highest quartile of the medical debt distribution, only 6 percent of the population is uninsured, while 15 percent of the population has medical debt. This illustrates that insurance coverage can still leave consumers vulnerable to medical debt.
  • Almost half (48 percent) of New York residents with medical debt owed $500 or more, and 30 percent owed $1,000 or more. Median medical debt was highest in the communities with the lowest incomes.
    • Authors found racial/ethnic disparities in medical debt amounts. For example in one region, the median debt amount in communities of color was roughly double the amount in predominantly White communities.
    • Geographic variation in medical debt amounts suggests that in regions where residents have more medical debt, they are also more likely to have higher amounts of medical debt.

Why it Matters

Medical debt poses a significant financial burden on consumers. This study shows how medical debt disproportionately impacts the uninsured, low-income individuals, and people of color, while also highlighting that problems of medical debt exist even in communities with a higher insured rate and higher incomes. Authors highlight policies that could mitigate the prevalence and impact of medical debt, including expanding health insurance and reducing consumer cost sharing, instituting consumer protections to prevent aggressive debt collection practices, more robust requirements for hospitals to provide financial assistance to patients, and changes in credit reporting. As policymakers consider options to reduce medical debt, this research provides an evidence-based approach to preventing and alleviating debt burdens and narrow existing disparities.

Emory Wolf, Andrew Feher, Katie Ravel, and Isaac Menashe, Comparing the Effects of Nudges and Automatic Plan Switching On Choice Errors Among Low-Income Marketplace Enrollees, Health Affairs. Many low-income households with Marketplace coverage are enrolled in bronze plans, despite being eligible for zero-premium silver plans with cost-sharing reduction subsidies (“CSR silver plans”). Researchers from California’s ACA Marketplace—Covered California—analyzed two interventions administered during the 2022 open enrollment period to reduce this choice error among Marketplace enrollees eligible for CSR silver plans: crosswalking consumers into $0 premium CSR silver plans and sending a letter or email “nudge” encouraging these enrollees to switch to a $0 premium CSR silver plan. The authors assess their respective impacts in preventing low-income Marketplace enrollees from enrolling in zero-premium bronze plans when they are eligible for zero-premium silver plans with cost-sharing subsidies.

What it Finds

  • The nudge intervention resulted in a 26 percent increase in take-up of CSR silver plans.
    • The nudge intervention led to more substantial increases among older consumers, those for whom English is their preferred written language, and those identifying as Latino or an unknown race.
    • After the nudge intervention, 90 percent of households stuck to bronze plans instead of enrolling in a CSR silver plan.
  • The crosswalk intervention resulted in an 83-percentage-point (822 percent) increase in take-up of CSR silver plans.
    • The crosswalk intervention was especially effective among households that identified as Black, Latino, or White, as well as those with a younger head of household.
    • After the crosswalk intervention, less than 10 percent of households were still enrolled in bronze plans, and over 90 percent of households enrolled in CSR silver plans.

Why it Matters

Given the impact of increased cost sharing on health care utilization, cost-sharing assistance can significantly improve access to care. Covered California’s experiment illustrates the potential of automatic re-enrollment and crosswalking in promoting take-up of CSR silver plans among eligible enrollees, and the more modest but still significant impact of low-cost outreach interventions. HHS proposed a similar crosswalking intervention in their proposed 2023 Notice of Benefits & Payment Parameters (NBPP), but ultimately did not implement it. Given the recurring interest in minimizing cost-sharing and reducing choice error, other states can learn from and build on California’s efforts to reduce plan choice errors among Marketplace enrollees.

Vicki Fung, Mary Price, Emory Wolf, Joseph P. Newhouse, and John Hsu, The Affordability of Individual-Market Health Insurance in California Under the American Rescue Plan Act, 2021, Health Affairs. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) significantly expanded Marketplace premium subsidies, including a policy that gave unemployment insurance recipients access to the most generous CSR silver plans for no or very low premiums. Authors surveyed enrollees on California’s individual market (both on- and off-Marketplace) in 2021 to assess the affordability of individual health insurance under subsidy expansion.

What it Finds

  • Among survey respondents, 28 percent of respondents reported difficulty paying their premiums.
    • Among individuals with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)—the income cut-off for CSR eligibility—off-Marketplace enrollees were significantly more likely than Marketplace silver plan enrollees to report difficulty paying premiums (41 percent compared to 25 percent, respectively).
  • Twenty-four percent of respondents reported delaying care or not filling prescriptions because of the cost of care.
    • Among respondents receiving unemployment compensation, bronze plan enrollees were significantly more likely to report delaying care due to cost than to silver plan enrollees (41 percent versus 23 percent, respectively). Respondents with incomes up to 250 percent FPL exhibited similar disparities in care access.

Why it Matters

Expanded subsidies have substantially improved access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance through the ACA’s Marketplace. Under a previous policy in place during this survey, individuals receiving unemployment compensation had access to free or nearly-free CSR silver plans, and under an existing policy, CSR silver plans are available to individuals with incomes up to 250 percent FPL. Even with these policies in place, many individuals eligible for both premium and cost-sharing subsidies are not enrolled in CSR silver plans, and this study shows how that choice error can lead to reduced health care access. Further, individuals eligible for premium subsidies continue to enroll off-Marketplace. Given the perceptions of affordability among individuals eligible for generous premium subsidies, this study demonstrates the need for additional education, outreach, and enrollment assistance to help consumers enroll in the best coverage for their health and financial needs.

#July #Research #Roundup #Reading

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What is the Medicare Part D coverage gap? REMEDIGAP





In the world of Medicare, there exists a peculiar term called the “donut hole.” No, we are not referring to the sweet, deep-fried confectionery that tempts our taste buds. Instead, the doughnut hole refers to a unique coverage gap in the Medicare Part D drug plan (Medicare’s prescription drug program). Understanding this concept is essential for those relying on Medicare for their healthcare needs. That’s because it directly impacts out-of-pocket expenses for prescription medications.

Medicare Part D Donut Hole

The donut hole is a phase within your Medicare Part DD prescription drug coverage (It is not related to medications that are covered under your Medicare Part B). It is where beneficiaries must bear a more significant portion of their prescription costs. It is a point in your drug coverage, marked by a specific dollar amount. Once you spend a certain amount on medications and reach a certain threshold, beneficiaries enter the “donut-hole”. This is where they are responsible for a higher percentage of costs until they reach the next threshold.

Though the concept may appear confusing at first. Being aware of it is paramount for beneficiaries to effectively manage their healthcare costs. It will also help them make informed decisions regarding drug coverage. Let’s dive a little deeper into the specifics and how it affects beneficiaries.

When do you enter the donut hole?

The donut hole begins once the total amount spent on covered drugs by both the person and their insurance plan reaches a certain threshold. At this point, the individual enters the initial coverage stage. In other words, you’re in the donut hole. This is where you’re responsible for paying 25% of the cost for brand-name drugs and 25% of the cost for generic drugs (the drug manufacturer pays 75%).

It is important to note that the cost that applies towards reaching the threshold includes the following: The amount paid by the person and any drug manufacturer discounts received for brand-name drugs.

Once the individual reaches the catastrophic coverage threshold, their out-of-pocket costs decrease significantly. It is crucial for individuals enrolled in Medicare drug plans to be aware of this and plan their medication expenses accordingly.

When do you get out of the donut hole?

Once you exceed the threshold of cost, you will be out of the “donut-hole” and you’ll enter the catastrophic coverage phase. When closing the donut-hole, it’s important to note that not all expenses count towards reaching the threshold.

For example, Part D premiums don’t help you with this coverage phase. Payments made by your drug plan and manufacturer discounts are among the costs that don’t contribute to reaching the out-of-pocket limit.

How to avoid the Medicare donut hole?

Navigating the complex landscape of Medicare can be overwhelming. However, there are strategies to help minimize the impact. One approach is to carefully select a Medicare Part D coverage plan and review its costs. Comparing different Medicare plans and understanding their formulary can allow beneficiaries to determine which plan provides the most comprehensive Medicare Part D coverage for their specific medication needs.

Another way to avoid the donut-hole is to take advantage of cost-saving initiatives, such as generic drugs or mail-order pharmacy services. By opting for lower-cost alternatives and prescription delivery services, beneficiaries can stretch their medication budget. This can potentially delay reaching the threshold. It is also crucial for individuals to monitor their medication usage throughout the year and be aware of their total costs. Tracking expenses and consulting with a Medicare expert can ensure beneficiaries stay informed. It helps to take these necessary steps to avoid falling into the Medicare donut-hole.

When is the Medicare Donut Hole Closed?

In the past, beneficiaries had to cover the full cost of their medications while in the gap. However, with the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, a plan was put into motion to close this gap in coverage completely. This plan aims to reduce the out-of-pocket costs for beneficiaries during the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap.

The closure is being phased in over several years, with incremental improvements each year. In the coming years, it is expected that it will be completely closed. This means that beneficiaries will no longer have to pay the higher percentage of their covered prescription drug costs out-of-pocket while in the gap. Instead, they will pay a lower percentage, making their medications more affordable and accessible.

Will the Prescription Drug Part D Coverage Gap Go Away?

The future of the Part D prescription drug plan gap is a popular topic. Originally, the gap was implemented as a cost-saving measure and was intended to encourage individuals to use generic drugs, thus reducing overall healthcare expenditures. However, over the years, this has proven to be a burden for many Medicare beneficiaries, who face significant out-of-pocket costs when they fall into this gap. As a result, there have been ongoing discussions about the need to eliminate or modify this coverage gap stage.

The good news for 2023 is that the coverage gap phase is set to be fully eliminated in 2025. This means that Part D enrollees will no longer face heightened costs during this phase. Instead, they will continue to pay their regular cost-sharing amounts for prescription drugs throughout the year.

The elimination of the Medicare coverage gap phase is a significant improvement for beneficiaries. It removes a financial burden that many have faced in the past and aligns with the goal of providing more affordable access to necessary medications. Click here to learn more about Medicare Part D plans.

How does donut hole work with Medicare Advantage & Medicare Part D costs?

The donut-hole is also connected to Medicare Advantage plans that have a Part drug plan. These plans are also known as MAPD plans or Part-C.

MAPD plans, which are private insurance plans that provide Medicare benefits, often include Part DD plan drug coverage as part of their offerings. Therefore, it can also apply to those enrolled in MAPD plans. Since these plans often include drug coverage as part of their offerings, the coverage gap commonly can also apply to those enrolled in these plans. Click here to learn more about the Medicare Part-C program.


Out-of-pocket drug costs can take a toll on your wallet. Whether you have a Medicare Supplement insurance plan or an MAPD plan, your annual drug costs can be significant. Even if you don’t take any medications today, you should still get a Part-D plan to avoid a penalty. However, if you take medications and fill a prescription, your Part-DD plan should keep your overall costs lower compared to not having one.

It’s understandable if all of this is overwhelming. That’s why we created an easy to learn course to get you familiar with the Medicare system. People with Medicare rave about our free course.  The free course provides additional information about the different parts of Medicare, enrollment, costs, what Medicare pays and what it won’t and more.


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Judge dismisses Republican lawsuit against Google over Gmail’s spam filtering




The suit complained Google intentionally sent RNC political emails to Gmail users’ spam folders, and the RNC sought restitution for “donations it allegedly lost as a result” of those lost emails. The RNC cited a North Carolina State University study that found Gmail was more likely to mark emails from Republican campaigns as spam. One of the study’s authors spoke to the Post in May last year, saying its findings had been misrepresented. Muhammad Shahzad noted that it only tested default email settings — in tests on accounts where users indicated their preferences by marking some messages as spam, “the biases in Gmail almost disappeared.”

While US District Court Judge Daniel Calabretta described the RNC’s suit as a “close case,” he dismissed the Committee’s claims, writing that it had “failed to plausibly allege its claims” that Google’s filtering was done in bad faith. Google claimed that many of the filtered emails were likely picked up by its spam algorithms because of user complaints and pointed to problems with the RNC’s domain authentication and frequent emails as other culprits.

The judge also said Republican emails could be considered “objectionable” content based on the definition in the CAN-SPAM Act and said that Google designating them spam is protected by section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The decision left Republicans with partial “leave to amend to establish a lack of good faith” on Google’s part.

#Judge #dismisses #Republican #lawsuit #Google #Gmails #spam #filtering

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Transparency in Coverage – price information accessible to the public




Are you ready to take charge of your healthcare like never before? In 2023 insurance carriers are rolling out an online price transparency tool available for 500 shoppable items and services. In compliance with Transparency in Coverage, subsequently implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2020.

Say goodbye to the days of uncertainty and hidden fees! With this tool, you’ll clearly understand what to expect, allowing you to plan and budget for your healthcare like a pro.

It’s a game-changer! You are finally able to inform yourself about the cost of that medical procedure you’ve been considering. Curious about the price of a specific service? An internet-based price comparison tool that allows an individual to receive an estimate of their cost-sharing responsibility for a specific item or service from a specific provider. You can even request the same information over the phone by calling your insurance membership line.

We can’t stress enough how important it is for you to sign up with your provider’s member portal. It will help you to maximize your coverage and will provide you the power to manage your account seamlessly. In addition to accessing your explanation of the benefits of your past procedures, you will see how much you have paid towards the deductible and out-of-pocket maximum, you will be able to locate providers and hospitals in your network, be able to see your policy payment status, pay your premium online and also now be able to find the treatment cost estimator.

Blue Shield of California

Treatment Cost Estimator is a new tool already available for Blue Shield members. This calculates the overall cost and out-of-pocket expenses for frequent in-network medical procedures. Moreover, projections offer the members of transparency and clarity they need to budget and make future healthcare plans. Click 👇 here to view Blue Shield treatment cost estimator brochure.


Here’s for Kaiser members. Log in to your member portal, then click on the “benefits” tab. Scroll down, and subsequently, you will find the “Find cost estimates” section. The list of procedures is clickable therefore you can click on each to see their estimates.

kaiser member page


Anthem members should go and log on to Once the member logs on, they will click on “Care” at the top of the site; lastly, they will need to “Shop for Procedure”. You should be able to find the information you need.

LA Care

With LA Care’s utmost security over the phone, each member is welcome to call member services at 855-270-2327 to walk you through navigating the portal.


To make the most of your membership benefits, don’t forget to log in to your personalized Member Portal at It’s your gateway to a world of convenience and control over your insurance needs.

In addition, you have access to a dedicated Concierge team ready to assist you with any insurance-related inquiries. Simply give them a call at 855-672-2755 (opt#2), and they’ll be more than happy to walk you through this feature.

You can also contact your Care Team through direct messaging at [email protected]. Remember to include your OSC# and provide all the details to ensure a swift and accurate response.

Utilizing these cost estimation tools can save time and effort in understanding your health coverage costs. You will no longer have to spend hours poring over complicated insurance documents or making numerous phone calls to your insurance provider. Instead, you can access all the information you need at your fingertips and make informed decisions about your healthcare.

If you would like to discuss your health insurance options with a personal touch, feel free to reach out to us at 310-909-6135 or send us an email at [email protected]. We are here to provide dedicated assistance in safeguarding your future and protecting your loved ones today.

#Transparency #Coverage #price #information #accessible #public

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