KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Beta Version Of Cover Oregon Gets Mixed Reviews

The troubled Cover Oregon insurance exchange unveiled its long-awaited beta website to mixed reviews Tuesday. Meanwhile, Humana announced it will waive fees for enrollees who bought plans on the Mississippi exchange who see a doctor by the end of June for a non-preventive visit. Also, Republicans probe state websites which are still having major problems.

CNN: Latinos Not Flocking To Obamacare
Latinos may have the most to gain from Obamacare. But they're shying away from signing up for health insurance on the exchanges. At least one in three Latinos in the U.S. are uninsured, a far higher rate than whites or blacks. Yet, advocates say their Obamacare enrollment is lagging for a variety of reasons (Luhby, 2/18).

The Fiscal Times: GOP Eyes Disastrous State-Run Obamacare Websites
Now that Obamacare’s federal website is working better for the majority of users, Republicans are turning their attention to several state-run exchanges that are still having major problems. The effort comes just ahead of the midterm elections, when the GOP plans to use Obamacare’s disastrous rollout as a campaign strategy. This week Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to launch an investigation into the costs of three shoddily built state exchanges servicing Maryland, Oregon and Massachusetts, The Hill first reported. Like, these state websites have all been plagued with serious problems since they went live on Oct 1 (Ehley, 2/19).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon Health Exchange Draws Mixed Reviews In Partial Launch
The troubled Cover Oregon health insurance exchange unveiled its long-awaited beta website to mixed reviews Tuesday from the insurance agents and other consumer assistance workers authorized to use it. The password-protected website, different from the publicly available browsing site at, is supposed to allow people to be enrolled in a single sitting. So far, it appears to work for some people, and not for others, according to some early users. One enrollment Tuesday "went smooth as glass. I was shocked, actually," says Kevin Coleman, an agent with SE Insurance Specialists in Eugene, who says he helped a family of four (Budnick, 2/18).

Politico Pro: Insurer Takes Novel Approach To Get Mississippians To Use Coverage
A major Mississippi insurer is taking a creative tack to convince new Obamacare customers to become health care users, not just policyholders. Humana, one of two insurers to offer coverage there through a health insurance marketplace, recently obtained Obama administration approval to waive fees for enrollees who see a doctor by the end of June for a non-preventive visit. Obamacare already requires free coverage of preventive visits, but companies can charge co-pays for appointments other than regular check-ups. The plan, approved by CMS, is about “encouraging our Mississippi members on the Health Insurance Marketplace, many of whom have been without insurance and whose access to care may have been affected as a result, to visit a primary care physician to identify undiagnosed conditions as soon as possible,” according to an explanation of the policy obtained by POLITICO (Cheney, 2/18).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure Ads Give Ax To Paul Bunyan And Babe
MNsure is giving the ax to Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. For months, the state's online health insurance marketplace has used the images in its marketing campaign, which encourages Minnesotans to buy health insurance through MNsure. But beginning Wednesday, the health insurance exchange will start running ads featuring Minnesotans who found less expensive coverage on MNsure (Stawicki, 2/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Exchange Woes To Come Before Md. Board
The Maryland Board of Public Works is scheduled to consider a contract modification of up to $2 million due to technical problems with the state’s health care exchange. The board is meeting Wednesday to consider the emergency contract modification to provide outreach, education and enrollment services to HealthChoice and Maryland Children’s Health Program enrollees (2/18).

The Baltimore Sun: Md. Health Exchange To Charge For Public Information Requests
The online exchange where Maryland's uninsured can buy coverage under the Affordable Care Act has been troubled since its Oct. 1 launch, prompting media outlets and others to dig into what went wrong. There have been at least 65 requests for information under the state's public records laws, including emails among staff, invoices, contract details and other data (Cohn, 2/18).

Modern Healthcare: La. Blue Cross Refusing Third-Party Payments For HIV/AIDS Patients
The decision by a Louisiana insurer to restrict third-party premium payments to help people with HIV and AIDS pay for health insurance on the state insurance exchange has called new attention to a policy debate over whether third-party payments should be allowed for anyone on the Obamacare insurance exchanges. Robert Darrow of Shreveport, La., found out last week that he may lose his Blue Cross insurance plan offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana because the premiums are paid for by grants from the federal Ryan White program for lower-income Americans with HIV and AIDS (Carlson, 2/18).

Meanwhile, on the private-exchange front -

Bloomberg: Employers Turning To Private Health Exchange To Cut Costs
One-third of U.S. employers plan to move their workers’ health-care coverage to a private exchange in the next few years, a survey found, following the lead of companies like Walgreen Co. (WAG) seeking to reduce costs. While 95 percent of employers said they would continue to offer health care in the next three to five years, 33 percent may use a private exchange to provide the benefit up from 5 percent currently, according to a survey released today by a unit of Aon Plc (AON), a London-based insurance broker (Chen, 2/19).

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