KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

State Exchanges Wrestle With Provider Directories, Search Tools

News outlets report on some of the challenges and sign-up tallies for state-based online insurance marketplaces in California, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland. Also in the news, progress updates regarding outreach efforts and small businesses that are attempting to use the exchanges.

The New York Times: Search Tools Wanting On Many Exchanges
Since the new health insurance exchanges opened for business on Oct. 1, millions of people who have visited the online sites have been unable to enroll because of technical problems and software glitches. But many people who are getting through the log-in process are encountering a different set of problems when they try to determine whether policies sold through the exchanges will provide the doctors, hospitals or drugs they need. Most of the 15 exchanges run by states and the District of Columbia do not have provider directories or search tools on their Web sites — at least not yet — so customers cannot easily check which doctors and hospitals are included in a particular plan’s network. Most allow customers to search for providers by linking to the insurers’ Web sites, but the information is not always accurate or easy to navigate, health care experts say (Goodnough, 10/16).

Los Angeles Times: Covered California Removes Glitchy Online Directory Of Doctors
Checking up on a doctor is becoming a major snag for Obamacare shoppers in California. Three weeks into open enrollment, the state's insurance exchange, Covered California, has pulled its online directory of medical providers after acknowledging there are serious problems with the information. The California Medical Assn. says it found mistakes such as obstetricians labeled as ophthalmologists and the wrong doctors described as fluent in Russian and Farsi (Terhune, 10/16).

The Associated Press: MNsure Signs Up 3,700 So Far For Health Insurance
Minnesota’s health insurance exchange on Wednesday released its first data on enrollment, showing that two weeks into its launch more than 3,700 people have signed up for health insurance coverage. It’s a relatively slow start to the state’s delivery system for increasing insurance coverage rates under the federal health overhaul (10/16).

The Star Tribune: MNsure Reports More Than 12,000 Accounts Created
While more than 12,000 Minnesotans have created MNsure accounts, fewer than one-third of those have completed enrollment in health plans, state officials said Wednesday. The meager sales figures didn’t alarm MNsure officials — not when Minnesotans still have two months to secure coverage for the start of 2014. But they do reflect the turbulent first two weeks of an online health insurance marketplace that aspires to extend health benefits to as many of the state’s 490,000 uninsured residents as possible. The gap between accounts created and health plans purchased so far may reflect the number of people who have just been “window shopping,” as MNsure spokesman John Reich put it, and who need time to make the weighty decision of buying insurance (Olson, 10/16).

The New York Times: States Report Health Insurance Application Numbers
Minnesota’s state-run health insurance exchange reported Wednesday that 5,569 households had completed applications for coverage in the first two weeks of operation, representing 11,684 people. The exchange portal has run relatively smoothly after struggling with technology problems for a few days after it opened on Oct. 1, said April Todd-Malmlov, the executive director. … Separately, California said Tuesday that about 94,500 applications for health insurance had been started through its exchange between Oct. 1 and Oct. 12. But exchange officials would not say how many applications had been completed in that period (Goodnough, 10/16).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Washington Exchange Signups Nearly Triple In Week Two
About 25,000 Washington state residents have enrolled in health plans through the state’s online insurance exchange marketplace during its first two weeks. That figure is nearly triple the 9,500 residents who completed their enrollment during the first week that the exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder, was open for enrollment (Landa, 10/16).

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland ‘Stumbled Out Of The Gate’ With Health Exchanges, Brown Says
Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, who was tapped to oversee health care reform in Maryland, spoke for the first time Wednesday about the bumpy rollout of the effort's centerpiece, the marketplace for the uninsured. He said he was "not satisfied” (Cohn, 10/16).

And what about small businesses -

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Small Businesses Give Health Exchanges Mixed Reviews, But More than Expected Are Signing Up
More small businesses than expected are signing up for health insurance on state exchanges that opened this month. The insurance markets began operating Oct. 1 under the health care law. They were designed to offer low-cost insurance for individuals and small businesses. Many business owners have been pleasantly surprised by the rates and coverage, according to accounts from owners and state officials. But some owners are disappointed and plan to buy insurance privately (10/16).

Meanwhile, outreach continues -

Marketplace: Mining Data For A Map To The Uninsured
Last month, just before the health exchanges opened, reality kicked in for Elizabeth Buck. “We have a huge number of uninsured in Camden, about 15,000. And we have this short window of time to enroll residents,” she says. So Buck, who is overseeing ACA enrollment for the non-profit Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, poked her head into Aaron Truchil’s office. Buck wanted Truchil, the coalition’s data whiz, to convert the hospital data the coalition has collected for a decade into something she could use to find Camden’s uninsured, nearly 20 percent of the city’s population. Twenty-four hours later, Truchil produced a color coded map, broken down by neighborhood, shading sections of the city with high concentrations of the uninsured a deep red (Gorenstein, 10/16).

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