KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Help Wanted: CMS Begins Search For Contractor

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released an 84-page solicitation this week seeking a company to oversee the operations of the troubled health exchange website.  

Modern Healthcare: HealthCare.Gov IT Contract: Any Takers?
The CMS is officially kicking off its search to determine which company will serve as the technology vendor for, while saying the search does not indicate dissatisfaction with Accenture, which currently holds the contract. On Wednesday, the CMS released an 84-page solicitation (PDF) saying it is seeking a contractor "capable of working under aggressive time constraints" to successfully fulfill the requirements of the scope of work. These duties include providing analysis, design, development, testing, implementation, documentation, services, maintenance and support for the federal exchange (Dickson, 7/17).

In addition, here's a collection of recent state health exchange and insurance rate developments -

Seattle Times: Lawmakers Quiz Health Insurance Exchange On Glitches, Budget
Lawmakers grilled officials from Washington’s Health Benefit Exchange Thursday, making it clear they’ve heard plenty from constituents who say they’ve paid their premiums but still don’t have health coverage — in most cases because premiums, which they paid to the exchange, aren’t getting to the insurer. The lawmakers’ tales of patient woe were backed up by brokers, a representative of the state’s doctors and Len Sorrin, representing Premera Blue Cross, whose company received the lion’s share of enrollments on the exchange. Sean Graham of the Washington State Medical Association noted the effect of such problems on doctors and other providers, as well. One doctor checked a patient’s coverage, performed surgery, and then was told the patient didn’t actually have coverage. As a result, the patient received a $13,000 bill, he said (Ostrom, 7/17).

The Associated Press: Health Insurance Commissioner OKs 2015 Premiums
Rhode Island's health insurance commissioner announced premium rates for 2015 that include single-digit increases for most insurers and a decrease for one. Commissioner Kathleen Hittner announced the rates Thursday. Some carriers had sought larger increases. …  Hittner noted there will be increased competition and more plan choice next year in the individual market, in part because of the efforts of the state-run health benefits marketplace, HealthSource RI. The marketplaces are a centerpiece of the Obama administration's health care overhaul (Niedowski, 7/17).

Fox News: Connecticut’s Exchange Director Defends Glitches, Fix to Come Friday
Even Access Health, Connecticut’s state-based health insurance exchange that is touted as one of the best in the country, can’t escape the case of the ‘glitch.’ State officials say software coding issues led to coverage problems and payment confusion among enrollees, and will be updated by Friday. The problem was first noticed in early May (Rogers, 7/17).

The Star Tribune: UnitedHealth Will Ramp Up Offerings To State Exchanges
UnitedHealth Group Inc. will double its participation in state-run insurance exchanges over the next year, executives said Thursday, a step by the nation’s biggest insurer that signifies the staying power of new marketplaces that arrived under the federal health care law. The announcement, which came along with quarterly results that surpassed investor expectations and pushed the firm’s stock to an intraday record, added new details to UnitedHealth’s slow but steady adjustment to the Affordable Care Act. The exchanges that debuted last fall on the federal level and in several states like Minnesota are “going to be an established sector in the health care benefits marketplace,” UnitedHealth Chief Executive Stephen Hemsley said in a conference call with investment analysts (Ramstad, 7/17).

And on the Medicaid expansion front -

The California Health Report: State Agency Running Medi-Cal Didn’t Know How Many Docs Took Its Insurance
The California agency that oversees the state’s low-income health plan vastly overstated the number of doctors who accepted patients through the state program last year, even as the number of people enrolled in the program was set to skyrocket under the federal Affordable Care Act, the California Health Report has found. The state’s Medi-Cal provider list had more physicians than were even licensed to practice in California last year. The list had some duplicated names and may have also included doctors who were deceased or retired, Department of Health Care Services spokesman Anthony Cava conceded Tuesday (Guzik, 7/17).

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