KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Mass. Plan For New Health Insurance Exchange Has Estimated Price Tag Of $121 Million

After millions of dollars have already been spent on attempts to fix Massachusetts' online marketplace, known as the Health Connector, insurers and some exchange board members say the cost is too high. Meanwhile, news outlets also report on developments from Connecticut, Maryland, California, Oregon and Illinois.   

The New York Times: Massachusetts Pushes Fix For State Health Exchange
The board of the broken Massachusetts health insurance exchange voted on Thursday to support a state plan to buy new software to help people enroll in coverage, while also preparing to join the federal marketplace if the system is not ready by fall. But insurers complained about the plan, and several members of the exchange board expressed concerns about the cost — an estimated $121 million, on top of tens of millions already spent on the broken exchange, known as the Health Connector (Goodnough, 5/8).

The Boston Globe: New Mass. Health Website Estimated To Cost $121M
The estimated price tag for ensuring that Massachusetts has a functioning health insurance website is $121 million, and, even then, consumers are unlikely to get a one-stop shopping experience this fall as they search for health plans, state officials said Thursday. Sarah Iselin, the insurance executive whom Governor Deval Patrick tapped to oversee repairs to the state’s broken Health Connector website, said Massachusetts intends to ask the federal government to pay for the fix. The state has already received $174 million in federal funds to build a site that is compliant with the federal health care law, but about a third of that money has been spent, and Iselin said the Patrick administration is sorting out how much of the remaining $117 million has been committed to pay contractors for work already done (Lazar, 5/8).

Los Angeles Times: Regulating State’s Health Premiums Could Hurt Exchange, Report Says
Obamacare in California could suffer setbacks, delays and legal challenges if voters this year approve a statewide ballot initiative to regulate insurance rates, a new industry-backed report warns. Those predictions drew immediate fire from Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. He said the concerns are nonsense and passage of the ballot measure is essential for consumers to reap the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act (Terhune, 5/8).

The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal: Connecticut’s ‘Exchange In A Box’ Stymied By Government IT Culture
Maryland Health Exchange staffers will meet next week with Connecticut’s Access Health CT team to learn how the state exchange’s technology works, as well as best practices, says Joshua Sharfstein, the chairman of the board of Maryland’s defunct health benefit exchange. Maryland last month decided to scrap its existing exchange and pay consulting firm Deloitte LLP roughly $50 million to rebuild its broken website using Connecticut’s software. Connecticut’s state health exchange has begun commercializing its expertise, but is still looking for a full-fledged buyer for its “exchange in a box” – a package of hosting and consulting services it is offering states struggling with their own exchange (Boulton, 5/8).

The Washington Post: Fact Check: Did Only Four People Sign Up For Health Insurance Through Maryland’s Web Site? 
The Web site that Maryland built so that residents in need of health insurance could shop for low-priced plans made possible by the Affordable Care Act has not been working well. In fact, it’s so buggy and structurally flawed that officials have decided to scrap nearly all of it and rebuild before the next enrollment period starts in November. This made it difficult for thousands of people to get insurance, and Maryland only signed up a fraction of the number of people officials had originally hoped would enroll in private plans.
But is it really possible that only four people signed up directly through the Web site? (Johnson, 5/8).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Hires Deloitte For $2.98 Million To Plot Federal Exchange Transition
The money keeps on flowing at Cover Oregon. But the latest $2.98 million contract, approved Thursday by the Cover Oregon board of directors, represents the state's first concrete step toward a downsized future with the federal health insurance exchange. Cover Oregon hired Deloitte Consulting to develop a roadmap for Oregon's move away from its own disastrous exchange to the federal alternative. Deloitte will develop a plan to move the 77,500 Oregonians who signed up for commercial health insurance through the exchange to move to the federal system (Manning, 5/8).

The Associated Press: Nonprofit Health Insurance Company In Illinois To Stick Around For 2015
A new nonprofit offering health insurance in Illinois will continue to sell plans next year despite capturing only a small portion of customers on the marketplace that's the cornerstone of the national overhaul. Land of Lincoln Health sold policies to more than 3,600 Illinois individuals, families and small businesses in its first year, the nonprofit insurance co-op's CEO Dan Yunker said in an email this week (Johnson, 5/8).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.