KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

GOP Candidates To Campaign On State Exchange Glitches

Republican candidates in states that have had troubled exchange rollouts plan to campaign on those problems in gubernatorial and state legislative races later this year, reports The New York Times. Other news outlets report on developments in Kentucky, Oregon, Rhode Island, Maryland, Minnesota, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

The New York Times: Glitches In State Exchanges Give G.O.P. A Cudgel
Republicans have seized on the failures of homegrown exchanges in states like Maryland, Minnesota and Oregon — all plagued by technological problems that have kept customers unhappy and enrollment goals unmet — and promise to use the issue against Democratic candidates for governor and legislative seats this fall (Goodnough, 2/1).

Reuters: Two Obamacare Exchanges See More Health Insurer Competition
At least two U.S. states running their own Obamacare health insurance exchanges expect new insurers to enter their marketplaces and bolster competition in 2015, officials said on Friday. Kynect, which is Kentucky's marketplace, and the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange have had separate talks about 2015 with health insurers that could opt to join the online marketplaces set up under President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law (Morgan, 1/31).

The Oregonian: Kentucky Health Exchange, Not Oregon's, Gets Obama Praise: Here's How
In earlier times, President Barack Obama held up Oregon as a health-care role model for other states. But when it came to recognizing a health exchange in his State of the Union address, the president's shout-out didn't go to Gov. John Kitzhaber. It was Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear that Obama described on Jan. 28 as "a man possessed with helping more people get coverage." Kentucky, like Oregon, chose to build its own exchange. Unlike Oregon, Kentucky's exchange is one of the best functioning in the nation (Budnick, 1/31).

The Washington Post: Maryland Leaders Accused Of Political Motives Over Long Review Of Health Exchange Problems
For nearly two months, top Maryland leaders have promised to investigate what went wrong with the launch of the state’s online health insurance marketplace. But they have been vague on when or how that would happen. Last week, legislative leaders said that instead of continuing to question health officials and request documents, they are likely to defer to a previously scheduled state audit of the exchange that is expected to begin this summer and could take a year to complete. That angered many Republicans and some Democrats who want a full accounting now (Johnson and Flaherty, 2/2). 

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Health Exchange Enrollment Continues To Tick Up
The Maryland health exchange, where uninsured and underinsured can buy insurance, reported that 26,832 people have enrolled through the website for private coverage as of Jan. 25. That's up 1,655 from last week's report. Another 1,800 people were automatically moved from a bare-bones state program to Medicaid, bringing the total moved from that program to 95,318 (Cohn, 1/31).

The Washington Post: O'Malley Says Jail Scandal, Health Exchange Glitches Are Part Of Much Broader Record
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) acknowledged in an interview that two episodes that emerged last year — the Baltimore jail scandal and the state’s botched rollout of its online health insurance exchange — run counter to his reputation as an effective manager. But O’Malley, who is preparing for a possible 2016 White House bid, said those events should not be considered "in isolation." ... While Maryland’s online health insurance exchange has been riddled with technical glitches since its Oct. 1 debut, O’Malley said the state remains committed to getting it right. And he noted that several other of his initiatives had taken more than one try before they were successful (Wagner, 2/2).

The CT Mirror: Anthem Extends Payment Deadline For New Members
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has extended the payment deadline for customers beginning coverage in February and will continue to provide customer service to people who visit the company’s Wallingford headquarters through the end of the month. The payment deadline for new customers beginning coverage in February is now Feb. 10, according to a message posted on Anthem's website. The deadline had been Jan. 31. Anthem has struggled to set up coverage for the thousands of state residents starting health plans with the company this year, many of whom signed up through the state’s health insurance exchange (Becker, 1/31).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Government Health-Care Website Rebounds
Four months ago, the website wasn't looking so dandy to Ted Trevorrow. The insurance veteran and freshly certified Affordable Care Act navigator was shaken by the exchange's disastrous rollout and the cascade of Web errors that followed (Calandra, 2/2).

The Star Tribune: Small Firms Running Into Big Trouble Trying To Use MNsure's Website
Minnesota’s new health insurance exchange isn’t getting off the mark with small businesses any faster than it is with consumers. As of last week, only 115 Minnesota small businesses had used the MNsure website to buy medical coverage for their workers, far below expectations. Companies have faced many of the same problems besetting individuals — a glitchy sign-up process and interminable waits to reach the MNsure call center (Crosby, 2/3).

The Star Tribune: At A Glance: Small Businesses Using MNsure
Minnesota’s Small Business Health Options Program, known as the SHOP exchange, is open to organizations with up to 50 workers. Businesses may choose a traditional group coverage plan or create a defined benefit plan, in which they contribute a certain amount of money toward insurance, and workers go to the exchange and buy the health plan that best fits their needs. But the number of small businesses using MNsure is coming in far below expectations (2/2).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.