KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

USA Today Reports 140,000 People Have Enrolled In Plans On Marketplaces Run By 13 States

State officials say the numbers are low because of snags in the websites and because consumers aren't yet worried about the sign-up deadline. Other news organizations examine some of the marketplace issues in states.

USA Today: States Report Low Health Insurance Enrollment Numbers
Enrollment for health insurance on state-run exchanges has been low in the first month, as officials in various states cite website glitches, a months-away deadline and even the government shutdown as reasons for the low numbers. Officials from 13 of the 15 states with their own exchanges, said 757,000 have registered for the exchanges, but only 139,170 people have bought or enrolled in health insurance plans (Kennedy, 11/7).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Conn. Governor To Feds: Get Your Act Together On
Gov. Dannel Malloy said the rollout of Obamacare in Connecticut has been a success — but it would be a bigger success if the federal health marketplace wasn't doing so badly. "I hope that the federal folks get their act together in the remainder of the month, because I'm tired of sharing their bad news interrupting our good news," Malloy said Thursday, speaking at the opening of a retail store for Access Health CT, the state’s marketplace (Cohen, 11/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Conn. Opens Nation's First Insurance Stores To Help People Sign Up For Health Care Coverage
Connecticut is opening the nation's first insurance stores as part of an effort to fight the perception there are problems with its insurance marketplace that's separate from the flawed federal website. State officials hailed the brightly lit storefront, modeled after Apple's stores, as another sign that the rollout of the health care overhaul in Connecticut has been a success. Connecticut is one of 14 states plus the District of Columbia that created their own insurance marketplaces (11/7).

The CT Mirror: CT's Exchange Store Is Open To Sell Obamacare Insurance
Connecticut's first health insurance "storefronts" are open for business, and so, officials want you to know, is the state's health insurance exchange. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman used Thursday’s ceremonial opening of the New Britain insurance enrollment center as a chance to draw contrasts between Connecticut’s relatively problem-free exchange, known as Access Health CT, and the problem-plagued federally run exchanges (Becker, 11/7).

Kaiser Health News: Enrolling In Obamacare In Alaska Is Possible – A Computer Degree Helps
Despite extensive problems with, a few dozen Alaskans have managed to enroll in a health plan on the marketplace, and Lara Imler is one of them. … Even without health insurance, Imler spends a lot of time in doctors' offices. She has Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. The treatments and blood work she needs are expensive -- but not as expensive as buying insurance in Alaska's individual market (Feidt, 11/8).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Health Exchange To Hire 400 To Process Paper Applications
Cover Oregon, the state's online health marketplace, will hire 400 temporary workers to process paper applications while its website is fixed, a spokeswoman said Thursday. Ariane Holm, spokeswoman for the insurance exchange, said the hirings were called for in Cover Oregon's backup plan and fit within its budget.  The move is a sign that Cover Oregon's website woes are posing serious threats to enrolling individuals by a key Dec. 15 deadline (Hunsberger, 11/7). 

The Boston Globe: Vermont Governor Grappling With Health Website Woes
Vermont is among the states that opened its own version of the online health insurance exchange on Oct. 1, similar to the one Massachusetts has had in place since 2007. But to build it, Vermont hired the same principal contractor – CGI Group Inc., of Canada – as the US Department of Health and Human Services. The results have been similar: a plague of glitches (Rowland, 11/7). 

The Star Tribune: First Wave On MNsure Flocks To Public Plans
Amid a rocky national rollout for President Obama’s health care law, enrollments in publicly subsidized plans in Minnesota have significantly outpaced private insurance purchases so far on the state's new insurance exchange. The early trend, which has been mirrored nationally, is feeding a debate about the viability of health care reforms that depend on a major influx of new and healthy customers to keep premiums in check. But state officials and industry analysts say it is little surprise that, in the early going at least, those eligible for free or subsidized public programs would outnumber premium-paying customers shopping on the private insurance market (Diaz, 11/7).

Minnesota Public Radio: Probe: MNsure Data Breach Was Unintentional
An investigation by the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor has found that a data breach at MNsure earlier this year was unintentional and that there was "no evidence of malicious intent." But the report also said that MNsure made a series of critical decisions that made personal information connected to 1,500 Minnesota insurance brokers vulnerable to a breach. Fast-moving timelines, not enough workers and inadequate data security are all to blame, the report said (11/7).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Stuck In Colorado's Black Hole
Connect for Health Colorado's online system then asked [Donna] Smith if she wanted to try to qualify for financial assistance. Why not? She knew she wouldn't qualify for Medicaid, but thought she might receive a federal tax subsidy. The health exchange website then bumped her to Colorado’s Medicaid enrollment website, known as PEAK. That's when Smith began her trip into a black hole. Connect for Health Colorado customers who know they don't qualify for Medicaid nonetheless must fill out an onerous, detailed application and get a denial for the government run, low-income insurance program before they can qualify for tax subsidies and buy health insurance on Colorado's exchange (Kerwin McCrimmon, 11/7).

In related news -

USA Today: Even Doctors In Dark About New Health Plans
More than a month after and 15 state-based exchanges opened for business, consumers and even physicians are finding it isn't easy or even possible sometimes to find out which doctors and hospitals are in the plans' provider networks (O’Donnell and McGinnis, 11/7).

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