KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Even As Exchange Enrollment Numbers Appear Sluggish, Medicaid Expansion Sign-Ups Surge In Many States

The New York Times also notes that many of these new Medicaid beneficiaries are people who have not had insurance before. Meanwhile, news outlets continue to track developments regarding how governors continue to wrestle with Medicaid decisions -- including those in Virginia, Michigan and Maine. Also in the news, a problem with Maryland's Medicaid enrollment.  

The New York Times: Peace Of Mind Is First Benefit For Many Now Getting Medicaid
As health care coverage under the new law sputters to life, it is already having a profound effect on the lives of poor Americans. Enrollment in private insurance plans has been sluggish, but sign-ups for Medicaid, the federal insurance program for the poor, have surged in many states. Here in West Virginia, which has some of the shortest life spans and highest poverty rates in the country, the strength of the demand has surprised officials, with more than 75,000 people enrolling in Medicaid. While many people who have signed up so far for private insurance through the new insurance exchanges had some kind of health care coverage before, recent studies have found, most of the people getting coverage under the Medicaid expansion were previously uninsured (Tavernise, 1/20).

Politico: State Week: Medicaid Expansion Prominent In Governors’ State Of The State
With legislatures geared up, State of the State season is under way in capitals across the country. These addresses are a chance for governors to foreshadow the year ahead and hint at which policy decisions they might pursue. Medicaid expansion remains a live grenade in dozens of statehouses, and Republican governors are using their speeches to reassert themselves on the issue and kick off another year of fierce policy debate. Here’s the latest from the states (Cheney, 1/21).

The Washington Post: Terry McAuliffe’s Push To Expand Medicaid Rankles The GOP Lawmakers He Seeks To Woo
Gov. Terry McAuliffe intends to wrest the power to expand Medicaid away from a legislative commission and put it in his own hands, one of several moves threatening to undermine the new governor’s courtship of the GOP-controlled General Assembly. McAuliffe (D) announced Monday that he will seek that authority through a proposed budget amendment if the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission does not agree within the next 60 days to enroll 400,000 more Virginians into the federal-state health-care program for the poor (Vozzella, 1/20). 

The Associated Press/Washington Post: McAuliffe Wants Authority To Expand Medicaid
Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants lawmakers to give him the authority to expand Medicaid eligibility on his own if a state commission doesn’t act by the end of the 2014 legislative session. The Democratic governor has made expanding the publicly funded health insurance program for the poor and disabled to an additional 400,000 Virginians a top issue for his new administration. But the proposal is staunchly opposed by Republicans in the GOP-controlled House (1/20). 

The Washington Post: Maryland Welcomes Wrong People To Medicaid
As many as 383 Medicaid enrollees in Maryland received welcome packets in the mail this month that contained the names and birth dates of strangers, health officials announced Sunday evening. They blamed the mix-up on a “programming error” caused by the chief IT contractor hired to build a health-insurance marketplace for the state. Officials at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said they learned of the problem Friday after a customer contacted a Medicaid enrollment broker and reported receiving the wrong packet in the mail (Johnson, 1/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Programming Error Affects Md. Medicaid Packages
Maryland health officials are blaming a programming error for causing some Medicaid enrollment packages to be sent to the wrong address. The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene attributed the error Sunday to Noridian, the prime contractor for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (1/19). 

The Baltimore Sun: As Many As 1,000 Marylanders’ Medicaid Enrollment Packets Sent To Wrong Address
The troubled Maryland health exchange is facing another setback after a programming error sent Medicaid enrollment packets for as many as 1,078 customers to the wrong addresses, it announced on Sunday. The packets included the names, dates of birth and Medicaid ID numbers of the customers, but they did not include Social Security numbers or financial or medical information, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced (Campbell, 1/19).

Kaiser Health News: Michigan Republicans Rethink Medicaid Expansion
Nationally, Republican party leaders say their number one campaign issue for the midterm elections is opposition to Obamacare. But at the same time, a growing number of Republican states are now embracing a major provision of the law – expanding Medicaid, the government-funded health benefit program for the poor. The Supreme Court made doing that optional for states in 2012 and most Republican-led states said “no”. But now, some states like Ohio, Iowa and Michigan are forging compromises with the White House on Medicaid (Whitney, 1/20).

Modern Healthcare: Despite Governor’s Staunch Opposition, Maine Lawmakers Continue To Push For Medicaid Expansion
Although Republican Gov. Paul LePage continues to be a stalwart opponent to expanding Medicaid, providers in Maine are still pushing to make their state the 26th state to do so under the Affordable Care Act. Some Maine lawmakers want to go much further and push the state toward a single-payer system. LePage, a conservative Republican, cites a new feasibility study—which found that Medicaid expansion could cost the state up to $3.2 billion over the next 10 years—as reason to find other solutions to the state's healthcare access problems (Robeznieks, 1/20).

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