5 Things to Read on Health Care Access

As open enrollment nears, this week’s reads cover the Affordable Care Act marketplace and more.

Short-term health plans may not be worth much

The Trump administration loosened restrictions on short-term health insurance. They cost less, but they aren’t required to cover things like emergency care, maternity care or prescription drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services, according to NPR, estimates about 600,000 people will buy the plans in 2019.

HealthCare.gov will shut down for maintenance

HealthCare.gov will be down for six hours every Sunday during open enrollment, which runs Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says that’s when the website sees the least amount of traffic. Modern Healthcare has the details.

(Consumers can find where to shop directly for Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans here.)

Fewer insurers in the ACA marketplace

In 2015 and 2016, most counties had at least three health insurers offering plans in the ACA marketplace. But in 2017, just 36 percent of counties had at least three insurers. The decline in participation was more pronounced in rural areas and counties with higher mortality rates. A Health Affairs piece explores the issue.

(Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas will again offer individual plans in every county of their states, on and off the exchange.)

Exploring the link between health disparities and minority communities

A recent U.S. News and World Report analysis found a clear link between a community’s racial and ethnic makeup and its well-being. “Health disparities reflect the culmination of advantages for some and disadvantages for others,” a Duke University professor said.

[Related video: Let’s Talk About Health Equity]

Access to free birth control may narrow under new federal rules

A federal program called Title X funds access to family planning services for low-income women. The program requires clinics receiving these grants to offer a full range of contraception, including condoms or birth control pills. The Department of Health and Human Services wants to change the rules so a Title X clinic may exclude contraception as long as it offers other family planning services, such as counseling on abstinence and fertility awareness. Read more from Kaiser Health News.

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