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Confusion, relief mark start of new health reforms

January 2, 2014 • Business


Dr. John Venetos poses for a photo between surgical procedures Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, in Chicago. With the full implementation of the nation’s new health law that took effect New Year’s Day, Venetos described the “tremendous uncertainty and anxiety” among patients calling his office who think they signed up for coverage but haven’t received insurance cards yet. Others had insurance policies that were canceled and they aren’t sure if their coverage was reinstated after Gov. Pat Quinn decided to allow one-year extensions of canceled plans. The Chicago physician has decided to take a risk and provide care for these patients. “We feel it’s the right thing to do,” Venetos said. “We may end up stuck holding the bag and not getting paid on these claims.” (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The new year brought relief for Americans who previously had no health insurance or were stuck in poor plans, but it also led to confusion after the troubled rollout of the federal health care reforms sent a crush of late applications to overloaded government agencies.

That created stacks of yet-to-be-processed paperwork and thousands — if not millions — of people unsure about whether they have insurance.

Mike Estes of Beaverton, Ore., finally received his insurance card on Dec. 27 after applying in early November. Still, the family was thrilled to have insurance through the Oregon Health Plan, Oregon’s version of Medicaid, because their previous $380-a-month premium “literally crushed our family’s finances,” Estes said.

Obama administration officials estimate that 2.1 million consumers have enrolled so far through the federal and state-run health insurance exchanges that are a central feature of the federal law. But even before coverage began, health insurance companies complained they were receiving thousands of faulty applications from the government, and some people who thought they had enrolled for coverage have not received confirmation.

Tens of thousands of potential Medicaid recipients in the 36 states relying on the federal exchange also are in limbo after the federal website that was supposed to send their applications to the states failed to do so.

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