KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Progress Reports From Online Insurance Marketplaces Across The Country

In Texas, brokers, physicians and insurers express exasperation with the bug-ridden federal exchange website, while media reports from Maryland, Minnesota and Oregon document the challenges faced by those state-based exchanges. In California, community groups mobilize to educate people about their new insurance options.

The Washington Post: Maryland Shelves Educational Workshops For Small-Business Health Insurance Exchange
It isn't just the federal health insurance exchange that is running into problems. Some of the state-run exchanges are facing their own setbacks — including the one in Maryland. State health officials, who already missed the federal government's deadline to launch an insurance exchange for small businesses, have quietly nixed plans to hold informational sessions this month to educate employers about their soon-to-open insurance marketplace (Harrison, 10/24).

Dallas Morning News: Health Care Law's Commercial Allies In Texas Frustrated By Balky Rollout
Texas brokers, physicians and health insurers are exasperated with the federal government's online marketplace, but they say the site must be fixed because the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. Many people shopping for themselves or for small companies have called insurance brokers for help in accessing Brokers were eager to oblige but soon found themselves stymied. "I've seen absolutely no improvement in the weeks that we've been trying to work through this," said Carolyn Goodwin, a broker who heads the Goodwin Benefits Group in Dallas. "But we have it, and we have to live with it. I'm hoping against hope they will find a way to fix this. I'm just not confident that they can" (Landers, 10/24).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Some Significant Progress Fixing Health Exchange But Still No Enrollment
Officials for Oregon's health insurance exchange on Thursday reported some progress, but acknowledged a major fix to the problem-plagued site may not happen this month as hoped. The website still has not enrolled anyone. Earlier this month officials at Cover Oregon said they expected the site to let insurance agents and certified application assisters to enroll people by Halloween. Spokesman Michael Cox said that timeline is now a goal, rather than an expectation. "We're not going to rush out a system that we are not satisfied with” (Budnick, 10/24).

Minnesota Public Radio: Credit Report Lock May Hinder Ability To Sign Up For MNsure
People who have locked their credit reports may have trouble creating an account on the state's new insurance marketplace, MNsure officials said today. To buy a plan on MNsure, consumers must prove they are who they say they are. To verify an applicant's information, MNsure uses a federal service that relies on information provided by the credit bureau Experian. People who block access to their credit reports to prevent identity theft also block MNsure (Richert, 10/24).

MinnPost: MNsure Gets $41 Million Federal Grant For Improvements And Operations
MNsure received $41 million in expected aid to fund its operations through 2014 from the U.S. Department of Human Services, the state's health exchange announced on Thursday. The newest grant, which the exchange applied for in August, brings the total amount of federal awards to roughly $150 million for Minnesota’s fledgling insurance marketplace (Nord, 10/24).

Minnesota Public Radio: $41M Grant To Help Fund MNsure Operations
Minnesota's new online insurance marketplace has received $41 million in additional federal funds to fund operations through next year. MNsure will use the new grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for general operations, to support IT and related systems and security training. It also will allow MNsure to study quality rating systems and fund consumer satisfaction surveys through 2014 (Stawicki, 10/24).

The Star Tribune: MNsure Gets More Federal Funding
The state has received a $41 million grant from the federal government to further the ongoing implementation of its health insurance exchange site, known as MNsure. With this latest infusion from the feds, Minnesota has received about $155 million to hire staff and vendors and build the website, MNsure officials said Thursday. Minnesota is one of 13 states and the District of Columbia that built their own insurance exchange websites, which launched in October for consumers and small businesses to shop among a variety of health insurance plans (Crosby, 10/24).

The Sacramento Bee: Covered California Will Offer Quality Ratings For Health Plans
Consumers shopping for health care on California’s new exchange will see quality ratings for insurance plans as soon as next year. The direction by the Covered California board Thursday came after three large insurers criticized a staff recommendation to delay moving ahead until more information could be gathered about the current plans. Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the agency was concerned that offering ratings information for only a small percentage of the plans would be misinterpreted by consumers and dissuade people from enrolling (Cadelago, 10/24).

California Healthline: Cities, Counties Helping Covered California
In addition to paid help, the state's new health insurance exchange Covered California is receiving volunteer assistance from cities and counties in signing up Californians for health insurance. The Long Beach City Council last week authorized the city's health department to apply for status as a "certified enrollment entity." Staff members in the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services will receive training to help enroll residents in health plans and serve as a community liaison between Long Beach organizations and small businesses and Covered California. … Although Covered California has funding for some community-based organizations seeking to become authorized enrollment entities, it does not offer funding for city or county governments (Lauer, 10/24).

The California Health Report: Community Members Mobilize for Volunteer ACA Outreach
More than 100 Santa Cruz County residents responded to a recent call to learn more about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) so they can in turn educate their friends, neighbors, co-workers and patrons about health care reform. Librarians, accountants, builders and non-profit staff members were among those who attended "Be a Champion for Expanded Coverage," an event sponsored by the Health Improvement Partnership (HIP) of Santa Cruz County at the Watsonville Civic Plaza. The volunteers plan to help solve one of the more vexing questions of reform: how to reach the many people who don't understand they are eligible for subsidies on the exchange or the expansion of Medi-Cal and then help them navigate the process of signing up for insurance (Graebner, 10/25).  

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