KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

N.Y., Colo. Insurers Seek Large 2015 Premium Increases; Ga. Sees Drop In Rates

In New York, insurer requests for rate increases on the health law's exchange averaged 13 percent, while Denver Health is asking state regulators for a 17.5 percent hike next year. Georgia has a different story: Two companies are planning to enter the exchange next year, and Blue Cross, the only statewide plan on the exchange this year, says it will drop rates by 7 percent.

The New York Times: Insurers On New York State's Health Exchange Seek Significant Rate Increases
Some New Yorkers are in sticker shock after receiving notices from their insurance companies saying that they have asked for significant rate increases through the state’s health exchange next year. The exchange, which has prided itself on being affordable, is now facing requests for increases as high as 28 percent for some customers of MetroPlus, a new entry to the individual insurance market and one of the least costly -- and most popular -- plans on the exchange this year. ... Overall, including plans inside or outside the exchange, insurance companies asked for average rate increases of 13 percent in 2015, the state’s Financial Services Department said Wednesday (Hartocollis, 7/2).

Health News Colorado: Sicker Denver Patients Prompt Hikes While Rates Stay Flat In Mountains
Sicker patients have prompted Denver Health to ask for a 17.5 percent hike next year in health insurance rates while the biggest carrier in western Colorado, Rocky Mountain Health Plans, is working to keep rates flat in high-cost resort counties. When Colorado’s insurance regulators unveiled proposed 2015 rates for health insurance last week, the numbers were all over the map. Denver Health proposed the biggest increase among carriers in Colorado, while other insurance companies proposed modest increases. New Health Ventures, which markets plans called Access Health Colorado, proposed a 22 percent cut in rates while the Colorado HealthOP wants to cut rates by about 10 percent overall (McCrimmon, 7/2). 

Georgia Health News: An Early, Encouraging Glimpse Of 2015 Rates
At least three health insurers plan to offer insurance statewide in Georgia’s exchange for 2015. This year, only one health plan -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia -- went statewide in the exchange. And the proposed Blue Cross rates for next year’s exchange will decrease by an average of 7 percent (Miller, 7/2).

Minnesota officials explain some errors in applications on their exchange --

The Star Tribune: State Errors Leave 16,000 MNsure Applicants Without Insurance
About 16,000 Minnesotans who applied for Medical Assistance through MNsure are still without health insurance, some caught in limbo for as long as six months. State officials said Wednesday that letters notifying consumers of problems with their original insurance applications never got sent out. That mistake meant consumers didn’t realize they still had to provide crucial information before they could get coverage. “It was a serious error on our part of not being more on top of understanding that process, and having the oversight in place,” said Deputy Commissioner Chuck Johnson of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (Crosby, 7/2).

Minnesota Public Radio: Human Error Cited In State Health Insurance Delay
Minnesota's Department of Human Services failed to send 16,000 notices to Minnesotans whose Medical Assistance applications are pending through MNsure, the state's online insurance marketplace. The letters would have notified applicants that they needed to provide proof of key information the federal government couldn't verify automatically -- information such as income, citizenship, tribal membership, or Social Security numbers. The notices were supposed to go out beginning in February. Until MNsure receives the information, these Medical Assistance applications are on hold (Stawicki, 7/2).

In California, a big fight is brewing on rate regulation --

Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles Times: Need For Ballot Measure On Health Insurance Rate Regulation Debated
Kicking off a major ballot fight this year, California lawmakers pressed the state's insurance commissioner to defend a proposal that would grant his agency sweeping new authority over health insurance rates. At a legislative hearing Wednesday, backers and opponents of the statewide ballot measure on health insurance rate regulation called Proposition 45 squared off for the first time in a public debate. Before the hearing, supporters of Proposition 45 rallied in Sacramento and accused health insurers of putting profits ahead of patient care (Terhune, 7/2).

Reuters: Californians Spent $250 Million On Excessive Health Premiums, Group Says
Californians paid a quarter of a billion dollars in health insurance premiums during a 15-month period ended last year that were deemed excessive by state regulators, a consumer group said Wednesday. Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog, which released the figures on Wednesday, is pushing Proposition 45, a ballot initiative that would give regulators the power to reject rate increases determined to be excessive (Bernstein, 7/2).

And one insurer is seeing a wave of new patients in Colorado --

Health News Colorado: Wave Of New Patients Means All Hands On Deck At Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is grappling with double the number of new customers that the nonprofit health provider projected it would attract through Colorado’s exchange this year. To handle the surge in patients, Kaiser managers have opened new clinics, are offering some evening hours and are hiring the equivalent of about 70 new providers and support staff. Kaiser enrolled about 58,000 people -- or nearly half of the customers who bought private insurance through the exchange, Connect for Health Colorado. Kaiser spokeswoman Amy Whited said the nonprofit was expecting about 25,000 sign-ups through the exchange and has seen an overall jump in customers this year of 15 percent to about 615,000 members (McCrimmon, 7/2).

Meanwhile, in state Medicaid news --

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare: Legal Aid Groups Demand Answers On Medi-Cal Backlog
With low-income Californians continuing to face months-long delays in getting state healthcare coverage, health advocates are calling on the state to explain within 10 days how it will address lingering Obamacare application delays. In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and other officials Wednesday afternoon, the advocates demanded that California's healthcare agency lay out specific plans for eliminating a huge backlog in applications for Medi-Cal, the state healthcare program for the poor (Brown, 7/2).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinal: Scott Walker's Staff Scoffs At Report Pushing Health Care Expansion
In a new national report, advisers to President Barack Obama criticized state officials such as Scott Walker for not using federal money to expand a state health program, drawing a sharp rebuke from Wisconsin's governor. Obama's Council of Economic Advisers on Wednesday issued a report that said 120,000 uninsured state residents could gain coverage if Wisconsin fully expands its BadgerCare Plus health program. But one health care expert in Wisconsin said that number was inflated. He cautioned that the report, while useful for its findings at the national level, didn't account for Wisconsin's unusual approach to implementing the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare (Stein, 7/2).

Tampa Bay Times:  White House: Blocking Medicaid Expansion Would Cost Florida 63,000 Jobs
The White House has a Medicaid expansion argument for Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Republicans: It creates jobs. A state-by-state report released Wednesday estimates that Florida will lose out on 63,000 new jobs, mainly in health care, from 2014-2017. That’s the three years that the federal government would have paid the entire cost of providing health care to 848,000 people. The study by the Council of Economic Advisers -- titled “Missed Opportunities” -- is part of an ongoing push by the Obama Administration on a central part of the Affordable Care Act (Leary, 7/2).

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