KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Anticipation Leads To Questions — Will The Health Exchanges Work?

McClatchy asks the central question: "Will it be smooth sailing or a 'train wreck'?" Meanwhile, other news outlets report on issues such as how experts view the possibility of rate shock when consumers shop for coverage from these online marketplaces, as well as other related developments in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Georgia, Ohio and Colorado.

McClatchy: Will Obamacare Rollout Be Smooth Sailing Or A 'Train Wreck'?
Just seven weeks before the new state insurance marketplaces are set to open under the Affordable Care Act, it's unclear whether the long-anticipated October rollout will be a smooth operation or the "train wreck" that some have predicted. Systems testing for the marketplaces is months behind schedule, according to recent government reports (Pugh, 8/13).

CQ HealthBeat: Experts Say Rate Shock Not Likely Under State Exchanges
The assumption by some insurers, state officials and Americans shopping for coverage that premiums under the health care law will skyrocket compared to current prices is unfair, some experts said Tuesday. Insurance rates under the state exchanges that open for enrollment on Oct. 1 will not necessarily result in a rate shock, Uwe Reinhardt, an economics and health policy professor at Princeton University, said during a webinar hosted by the Alliance for Health Reform on Tuesday (Khatami, 8/13).

The Washington Post: D.C. Groups Receive $6.4 Million To Help Uninsured Sign Up For Health Insurance
District officials awarded $6.4 million in grants Tuesday to community organizations to hire more than 150 trained experts to help uninsured residents learn about and enroll in health insurance this fall on the District's new insurance marketplace. The marketplace, known as DC Health Link, is the Web site where people can compare and shop for health insurance (Sun, 8/13).

Baltimore Sun: State Opens Health Reform Call Center
Maryland has opened the first call center where people can take their questions about health reform. The center that opened last week at 1 South Street in Baltimore has staff that can help Maryland residents and small businesses understand their insurance options and explain tax credits and other financial incentives in which they may be eligible under health reform (Walker, 8/13).

Georgia Health News: Sebelius, Hudgens Spar Over Exchanges
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday criticized Georgia officials for what she characterized as a passive approach to the state's upcoming health insurance exchange. Exchanges, also called marketplaces, will begin enrolling consumers Oct. 1. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), sometimes called Obamacare, provides for an exchange in each state (Miller, 8/13).

The Associated Press: Advocates Question Ohio Health 'Navigators' Rules
An Ohio legislative panel on Monday cleared new state rules for professionals guiding people through the insurance marketplaces created by the federal health care law, despite concerns from some consumer groups that the regulations create confusion. The rules stem from a new state law that governs who can be a so-called insurance navigator and what duties they can perform (Sanner, 8/13).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Colorado Approves 242 Health Plans For Exchange
Colorado's Division of Insurance has approved 242 plans from 13 carriers for the state's health exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, which is slated to open on Oct. 1. … Most of the plans are mid-level products that would cover between 60 and 80 percent of health costs. Only two plans would provide the highest level of coverage, known as the platinum level that would pay about 90 percent of costs. If consumers want only catastrophic coverage, individuals will be able to choose from 13 different plans (Kerwin McCrimmon, 8/13).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Tech Errors Prompt Red Light Warning For Exchange
Just seven weeks before the Oct. 1 launch of Colorado’s health exchange, managers said that their IT systems are not getting accurate data from state Medicaid systems, prompting a warning to board members Monday. Adele Work, the project manager who leads technology for Connect for Health Colorado, shifted her readiness estimate for synching with state systems from yellow, meaning cautiously moving forward, to red, meaning not ready. She highlighted her concerns Monday that state IT systems may not properly communicate with the exchange systems by Oct. 1. Work said she's prepared to shift to contingency plans on Sept. 15 if necessary. At that point, the exchange would "freeze and deploy," meaning halt the planned system and deploy an emergency Band-aid fix (Kerwin McCrimmon, 8/13).

On the Medicaid expansion front -

Columbus Dispatch: Ohio Could Save And Expand Medicaid, Study Says
The state could expand its Medicaid program to cover more poor Ohioans and save money over the long haul, according to a new study presented yesterday to a Senate subcommittee. The savings could be big, too: $200 million next year and nearly $4 billion by 2025, according to the study done by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio and Ohio State University’s John Glenn School of Public Affairs (Varden, 8/14).

The Associated Press: State Lawmakers Hear New Medicaid Projections
Projections showing that Ohio could save state and federal dollars by expanding Medicaid are just one part of a fact-finding process for state lawmakers debating changes to the health program, a key Republican lawmaker said Tuesday. State Sen. Dave Burke, who chairs a Senate Medicaid subcommittee, said the recent analysis indicates that curbing the cost growth of Medicaid to a certain rate is feasible, even when more people are enrolled (8/13).

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