Major provisions of the health care reform law go into effect in 2014 alt="Pharmacy Staffing"Patient awareness of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is increasing, but the Obama administration has a lot of work to do on promoting the controversial health care reform law as the clock ticks. Tied to 2014 are major provisions of ACA such as the option for states to expand Medicaid and the health insurance marketplaces, for which open enrollment begins October 1.
While general awareness of ACA has risen to 74% of people in a recent survey by CVS Caremark, 36% of people who are likely to enroll in the marketplaces say they need more information—and 68% of those surveyed expect community pharmacies to offer health insurance information in stores or online. Some pharmacies will have information on ACA for patients. “We will be bringing awareness to the ACA,” Lynn E. Connelly, BSPharm, owner of Medicine Mart Pharmacy in West Columbia, SC, told Pharmacy Today. He plans to learn of new information for his pharmacy and the patients from various pharmacy meetings throughout the state and the country. “In turn, I will share this information with the staff and the patients when possible,” Connelly explained. “It’s important that ACA-related information is widely distributed and readily available for patients who have questions,” said Stacie Maass, BSPharm, JD, APhA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs. This article, last in a Today series on the health care reform law, looks at what patients need to know for 2014.

The latest on ACA

The law’s cap on out-of-pocket costs of $6,350 for individuals will not be enforced for some employer-based health plans until 2015, as reported by Kaiser Health News in April and the New York Times on August 13. Consumers affected by the 1-year delay may be required to pay $6,350 for medical costs and an additional $6,350 for drug costs if their large employer has two benefit providers for medical and for drugs. “If a drug plan does not currently have a limit on out-of-pocket costs, it will not have to impose one for 2014,” the Times reported. On August 15, the Obama administration announced $67 million in grant awards to 105 “navigator” groups to serve as in-person resources for people who want more assistance in shopping for plans through the marketplaces.

Practical approach

Whether and how to provide information on ACA is a “tough question because there are so many parts to the new law,” noted Michael Kim, PharmD, President of Grubb’s Care Pharmacy and Grubb’s NW Specialty Pharmacy. “I will have my pharmacists speak with patients about the new law, but the most practical approach will be to have my staff educated and prepared with information to share with our patients and customers.” Kim plans to have his staff provide informational brochures, and information on where to go online such as HealthCare.gov “so that each consumer can research their options at their own pace,” he said. (See sidebar for information from CMS on the revamped HealthCare.gov and a new ACA call center. Both are now operational.) Among the pharmacy chains that will make ACA information available in their stores are CVS Caremark and Walgreens. Walgreens and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association launched a national campaign on July 10 to educate consumers on ACA, according to Walgreens spokesman Jim Cohn. The campaign includes a new website (LearnAboutReform.com) that provides information to consumers about the new ways of purchasing health insurance and the new benefits under ACA. Nearly all Walgreens stores across the country will also have informational brochures on the law. CVS Caremark will roll out an information and outreach program in its stores, according to CVS Caremark spokeswoman Carolyn Castel. The program includes online information (www.cvs.com/insurance), brochure displays, more than 375 health fairs around the country this fall, and events in stores to tell consumers about ACA, focused on states that have higher proportions of uninsured people. “Our stores and pharmacists will be ready with information to help customers throughout the open enrollment period starting October 1,” Castel said. “We learned with the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug program that people aren’t interested in finding information until they can take action.” “We all need to be aware of the changes with the ACA, now and in the future,” Connelly said. “It will ultimately affect all of us.” Read More At:  American Pharmacists Association