KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Evaluating The Rollout In The States

Media outlets track how the health law is being implemented in Texas, Iowa, Mississippi, Florida, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois and Minnesota. 

Kaiser Health News: One Texan Weighs Obamacare Options: High Deductible Vs. 'Huge Fear'
Boudreaux, 43, lives just outside of Houston and works as a psychiatric social worker on a freelance basis, with no benefits. [In 2013,] Boudreaux estimates she spent about $1,500 on medical care, including a trip to the ER for a cut finger. She also takes a few prescription medications and occasionally sees a psychiatrist and a nutritionist. She can’t get insurance through her partner, because her partner’s employer doesn’t offer benefits to same-sex couples. And, Boudreaux has been skipping mammograms and other check-ups for a few years. 'It's worrisome,' she says. "It's like gambling. Gambling with my health, and it is very frustrating" (Feibel, 12/26/31). 

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Iowa Opens The Doors To Medicaid Coverage, On Its Own Terms
When the federal Affordable Care Act called for states to expand Medicaid programs to cover people like Gross, Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad refused. He said he feared the federal government wouldn’t come through on its promise to fund the expansion to include childless adults. Iowa was one of many states that initially refused all or part of the federal funds offered. … Eventually Branstad said ‘yes,’ but only if Iowa could take the money on its own terms. The state legislature, which is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, came up with an alternative: Federal expansion dollars would pay for managed care policies that poor people would select on the site (Masters, 1/1). 

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Finding Health Insurance For 71 Cents Per Month
If you’re looking for evidence that, the federal health insurance marketplace, is working much better these days, you might want to ask Arlene Wilson. The 56-year-old is a chef with a popular pizza shop in Jackson, Mississippi. Wilson says that “most jobs don’t offer” health insurance. Because “most of us live paycheck to paycheck,” she says she’s been unable to afford insurance for the past eight years. But the health law was designed to help people like Wilson and her co-workers (Hess, 1/2).

Health News Florida: New Insurance Era Begins
Thousands of previously uninsured Floridians woke up Wednesday morning with peace of mind for the first time in years: They had a health insurance card, or at least the promise that one is in the mail (Gentry, 1/2).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Obamacare Exchanges Identify 32,000 People Eligible For Badgercare Plus
The federal health care law has already identified tens of thousands of Wisconsin residents eligible for state BadgerCare Plus health care, with some potentially receiving coverage as early as Wednesday as key parts of Obamacare take effect. In a letter Monday to federal officials, state Medicaid director Brett Davis said the Wisconsin Department of Health Services wrote last week to these 32,000 people identified so far as being eligible to receive BadgerCare. This first wave of applicants for state coverage — a 4% bump to the BadgerCare program and a sharp increase over referral figures from the end of November — gives a new look at the effects the federal law will have for both the uninsured and taxpayers in the state (Stein, 12/31). 

The CT Mirror: 6 Questions About Obamacare In Conn. For 2014
Many of the major provisions of the federal health law known as Obamacare take effect today. Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny anyone coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Nearly everyone in the country will be required to have health insurance (although if you don’t have it today, you still have time to buy a plan before the penalty kicks in). And there are new requirements for what insurance plans must cover. But many of the implications of those and other changes the law requires won’t be clear overnight. Here are some of the key things to watch (Becker, 1/1).

WBUR: Come On, Massachusetts, Get This Pregnant Woman Covered
Jessica Stanford of Sharon, Mass., is 40 and newly pregnant. She’d really like to see a doctor soon because she’s had several miscarriages and developed gestational diabetes during her last pregnancy. But she doesn’t have health insurance and is worried about racking up medical bills. Stanford applied for subsidized coverage in early December. She keeps calling the Connector to find out about her enrollment status. One customer rep told Stanford she could take her application number to a doctor’s office for proof that the state will cover her, at least temporarily, but Stanford wants something more certain (Bebinger, 1/1).

The Chicago Sun-Times: Affordable Care Act: Hope, Uncertainty For Residents Who Need Coverage
Illinois residents have had different experiences with President Barack Obama’s health care law: Some expect to benefit, others are disappointed and some aren’t sure yet, as the earliest health insurance coverage starts Wednesday. On Tuesday, the federal government said 3.9 million Americans had enrolled in Medicaid and another 2.1 million had selected a private plan through the Affordable Care Act. Many of the people who qualified for Medicaid, thanks to the broader expansion of Medicaid made possible by the Affordable Care Act, said they had been uninsured before the change. The state expects about 190,000 low-income people to successfully enroll in Medicaid, of the people who have applied so far. It remains to be seen whether these people will have difficulty finding doctors willing to take Medicaid, as Illinois is notoriously slow to pay for its notoriously low portion of Medicaid (Thomas, 12/31).

MinnPost: MNsure Navigator: ‘Doing Group Enrollment Events Has Really Worked Well’
Rebecca Lozano is a certified MNsure navigator and the outreach program manager of Portico Healthnet, an organization that has assisted people with finding health coverage for nearly two decades, mainly focusing on public programs (Nord, 1/1). 

Minnesota Public Radio: Health Care Overhaul Has Some Clinics Preparing For Rush Of New Patients
Community health centers are hiring more people to prepare for an influx of new patients who are now covered because of the federal health care law. The law expanded Medicaid and provided some people with premium discounts through the state's new online insurance marketplace, MNsure. As a result, community health centers expect to see a 12 to 15 percent rise in the number of patients this year (Stawicki, 1/1).

Minnesota Public Radio: 7 Things To Know About MNsure And The Affordable Care Act In 2014
Jan. 1 marks the start of the New Year, but it's also an important date for the Affordable Care Act. Starting Wednesday, nearly all provisions of the biggest change to the U.S. health insurance system since the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 take effect. Here are some of the law's biggest changes (Richert, 12/31/13).

The Star Tribune: MNsure: As Clock Strikes 12, Some Are Insured, Others Are In Limbo
Wednesday marks a “new day” for thousands of Minnesotans who acquired health insurance through MNsure — whether they know it or not. While many Minnesotans are enjoying the certainty of coverage they obtained through the state’s online insurance exchange for 2014, others reached the stroke of midnight Tuesday night with no clue whether their enrollments had been completed or whether they have medical benefits today. As of late last week, more than 50,000 people had completed applications to buy private health plans on MNsure but had not completed enrollment — leaving their status in health insurance limbo (Olson, 1/1).

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