KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Insurers Gather New Customers’ Health Information — A Critical Step In Calculating Prices For Next Year’s Exchange Plans

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that chronically ill consumers who obtain coverage from the online insurance marketplaces may still face high drug costs despite the health law's ban on discriminatory insurance practices. Also, news outlets report on Time magazine's cover story that details how the Obama administration almost shutdown during its early, fitful days.

The Wall Street Journal: Health Plans Rush To Size Up New Clients
Insurers are rushing to gather health information from the new customers they won on public marketplaces in a high-stakes outreach effort crucial to their hopes of profiting from the health-care law. Health plans need to know the health status of those signing up for coverage so they can project whether the costs are likely to outrun the premiums coming in. That information will be critical in figuring out prices for next year, among other things. But, under the law's new rules, enrollees don't have to disclose pre-existing conditions to buy insurance (Mathews, 2/27).

Reuters: Chronically Ill Facing High Drug Costs Under US Health Law
President Barack Obama's ban on discriminatory health insurance practices against the sick has not stopped insurers from increasing up-front charges for the expensive drugs needed to control chronic illnesses from leukemia to multiple sclerosis. Actuarial studies of plans sold through health insurance marketplaces in some states found that many make consumers responsible for as much as 50 percent of the price of specialty drugs, which can cost $8,000 or more a month (Morgan, 2/28).

CBS News: Time Report: Obama Weighed Shutting Down Healthcare.Gov During Rollout
President Obama considered shutting down the website and starting over during its rollout, Time magazine reports in its new cover story. The administration was "pretty desperate," according to Time contributor Steven Brill, who reported the story. "Two weeks into the launch, as the government shutdown ended, they knew all the attention was now going to be focused this website, which just wasn't working," he said. "So the president ordered his chief of staff to have a team come in and decide whether they should scrap the whole thing and start over or whether they could fix it” (Cochran, 2/27).

The Hill: Report: Obama Considered Scrapping And Starting Over
President Obama considered scrapping and starting over at the height of the website's problems last fall, according to a report in Time magazine. The revelation underscores the total chaos that faced the White House and federal health officials in October when ObamaCare's enrollment website was barely functioning (Viebeck, 2/27).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: CMS’s Marilyn Tavenner: ‘Tired Of Talking’ About
Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said CMS should have hired a systems integrator to implement, the federal health exchange, rather than trying to do it on its own. She also said that testing prior to its Oct. 1 rollout was tough because it was such a large project. CMS only expected 10 to 12 states to work with, which ended up serving 36 states (Boulton, 2/27).

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