KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Revamped Website Debuts

Federal officials say the online insurance marketplace includes many upgrades and improvements, though some key elements -- such as tools that help consumers search for plans that cover specific doctors and prescription drugs -- will not be ready in time for the Nov. 1 start of open enrollment season.

The New York Times: Health Law’s Revamped Site,, To Debut On Sunday
Starting on Sunday, health care consumers shopping on the Affordable Care Act’s federal website,, can see the cost and benefits of insurance plans for 2016, the Obama administration said Friday. But they will have to wait a little longer for new features that will allow them to search for plans that cover specific doctors and prescription drugs, administration officials said. (Pear, 10/23)

McClatchy: New Features Won't Be Ready When Enrollment Begins
Tests on both new features are well underway, and officials at the Department of Health and Human Services are encouraged by the results. But insurers have provided HHS with only half of the information that consumers need to make educated coverage decisions. Having learned from the premature launch of in October 2013, HHS officials won’t unveil the new “doctor lookup” and “prescription drug lookup” features until they’re sure the information and technology are solid. (Pugh, 10/23)

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Insurance Exchange Website To Receive Overhaul
Consumers will see a raft of improvements to the federal website for obtaining health insurance, government officials said Friday, though they cautioned that some enhancements are unlikely to be ready in time for the start of open enrollment next month. Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act begins Nov. 1 in the 38 states that use the website, It also launches in most of the states that run their own sign-up sites. (Armour, 10/23)

The Associated Press: New Health Law Premiums Available Online This Weekend
Premiums are expected to rise in many parts of the country as a new sign-up season under President Barack Obama's health care law starts Nov. 1. ... Independent experts are forecasting bigger premium increases in 2016 than last year, averaging from the high single digits to the teens. Next week the government will release a master file that researchers use to piece together national trends. Averages won't tell the story, because health care is local. Premiums can vary widely from state to state, and within a state. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/23)

Bloomberg: Obamacare Website Upgraded To Highlight Costs As Sign-Ups Near
The new website estimates what individuals' upfront payments and out-of-pocket costs are likely to be in different plans. It asks customers to select whether their health-care use is likely to be low, medium or high, in order to display what their spending on doctor visits and drugs is likely to be. It also highlights additional subsidies that may be available to some low-income people in mid-level silver plans. (Tracer, 10/23)

USA Today: Federal Health Insurance Site Opens Sunday For Window Shopping
Open enrollment will run from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31. Those who don't have health insurance in 2016 - and aren't eligible for a hardship exemption - will face a penalty of $695 per person on their taxes for the year. Many consumers have purchased plans based on their low premiums only to find their doctors or drugs weren't covered and that high deductibles and cost-sharing made them far from ideal choices. About 10 million people have bought and paid for plans on the federal and state exchanges for 2015. (O'Donnell, 10/23)

The Washington Post: To Open On Nov. 1 With Upgrades And One Delay
By this third year, [Andy Slavitt, acting CMS administrator,] and the other officials said, the Web site will be 40 percent faster than a year ago and will, in spots, use vocabulary that is easier to understand. Computer screens will remind insurance shoppers that they need to submit certain information, such as Social Security numbers, to avoid problems later on. And a new “out-of-pocket calculator” will show insurance shoppers what various health plans would cost them in deductibles and co-payments, as well as monthly premiums. (Goldstein, 10/23)

Meanwhile, for some, subsidies may be at risk -

The New York Times: Thousands Who Didn’t File Tax Returns May Lose Health Care Subsidies
Tens of thousands of people with modest incomes are at risk of losing health insurance subsidies in January because they did not file income tax returns, federal officials and consumer advocates say. Under federal rules, anyone who receives an insurance subsidy must file a tax return to verify that the person was eligible and received the proper amount of financial assistance based on household income. (Pear, 10/25)

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