KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

For Consumers Shopping For Insurance On New Health Exchanges, A Lot Will Be Determined By Where They Live

People who live in states where officials were less enthusiastic about the health law's new online marketplaces will likely have to look harder to find information about them. Meanwhile, coverage costs will vary widely, not just from state to state, but sometimes among cities and regions within the same state.

The Associated Press: States Resist, Build Nascent Insurance Markets
With new online health insurance exchanges set to launch Tuesday, consumers in many Southern and Plains states will have to look harder for information on how the marketplaces work than their counterparts elsewhere (Dalesio, 9/29).

Kaiser Health News: Where You Live Determines How Much You Pay For Health Insurance
When buying health insurance, where you live matters. In Pennsylvania and more than a half dozen states, consumers in some cities will pay at least 50 percent more for the same type of coverage than their friends and relatives in other parts of the state (Appleby and Rau, 9/29).

Meanwhile, news outlets offer progress reports from California, Minnesota, Kentucky, Missouri, Washington and Wisconsin.

Los Angeles Times: California Insurance Exchange Chief Has Health Reform 'In His Bones'
Republicans in Congress are railing against the healthcare law as a government takeover of medicine. The massive program will harm patients and cost far too much, critics say. ... It mirrors the scene 50 years ago during the contentious debate over Medicare. Two brothers, Peter and Philip Lee, fought on the front lines back then, bucking the medical establishment to guarantee healthcare for seniors. Now another Peter Lee — Peter's son and Philip's nephew — is carrying on the family tradition. He's in charge of enrolling millions of Californians in Obamacare (Terhune, 9/28).

The Sacramento Bee: California Relying On 'Guerrilla' Tactics To Sell Obamacare
Much of the nation is watching California’s rollout given the size of the state and the fact it has, at 20 percent, one of the highest state rates of uninsured residents. At a stop this summer in San Jose, President Barack Obama held up the Golden State’s online marketplace and the immense machinery behind it as a model, touting its efforts to steer Latinos and other groups with high rates of uninsured toward the exchange. The uninsured are in many ways more difficult to reach than other consumers, so the state is turning to less-traditional approaches – visiting people in homes, clinics, churches and other places where non-English speakers and the underemployed might congregate (Cadelago, 9/30).

Pioneer Press: MNSure Launches Tuesday, And State Hopes For Smooth Sailing
Following years of partisan rancor, millions in development costs, endorsements by a mythical lumberjack and a handful of controversies, Minnesota on Tuesday hopes to launch ... a website. If it works, the website will give thousands of individuals and small businesses a new option for buying health insurance (Snowbeck, 9/29).

MinnPost: Some MNsure Problems Appear Worse, But Officials Say They're Set To Launch Tuesday
MNsure's latest internal reviews show staff continuing to identify serious problems with the project, and the status of the health exchange appears worse off now than it was weeks ago as Tuesday's launch approaches. Since MinnPost began receiving internal documents — which include weekly project status reports, technical documents and risk assessments — in early September, three of seven areas that MNsure staff and vendors are consistently working on have been deemed worse off than before (Nord, 9/27).

Minnesota Public Radio: Health Exchange Rollouts Are A Milestone For 'Obamacare'
[Former Gov. Tim] Pawlenty could have been the father of MNsure, the state's health plan marketplace. Six years ago Pawlenty, a Republican, wanted to create a non-profit Minnesota Insurance Exchange, an approach he said would make insurance less expensive for workers and lower costs for employers. ... Four years later, Pawlenty was running for president and like all of the GOP hopefuls too, took shots at Obamacare, which relies heavily on the exchange concept. ... As Pawlenty's term as governor neared an end, he turned down a $1 milllion federal grant to start planning a Minnesota exchange. But after Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, took office in January 2011 the federal development dollars started flowing into Minnesota -- over GOP objections (Stawicki, 9/30).

Minnesota Public Radio: Why MNsure Rates Are The Lowest In The Country
Plans offered on MNsure will have the lowest premium rates in the nation, according to research done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Uninsured Minnesotans in the Twin Cities can expect to pay as little as $91 a month for health care coverage bought through the state's new online marketplace. Rates will be more expensive for those who want a more robust insurance plan, and for those who are buying insurance for a family or employees in small business (Richert, 9/27).

The Star Tribune: Insurance Exchange Will Force Choices
MNsure and other state exchanges across the country are a critical element of the federal health care law known as Obamacare. Even as controversy continues to rage around the law, its final rollout in the coming months will bring a sharp change in how millions of Americans pay for health care. While most people will still get insurance through an employer, those who shop on MNsure will decide for themselves which insurance company to use, how much coverage to get and what they’re willing to spend (Crosby and Olson, 9/29).

Kaiser Health News: In Kentucky, Confusion And Misinformation Abound On Eve Of Obamacare Rollout
On a late September night – just days before the Oct. 1 launch of the state's online health insurance marketplace called Kynect -- most passersby are unaware of their new health insurance options under the law, confused by the political sniping and doubtful the law will help them. … Politically divided, Kentucky is the only southern state running its own Obamacare marketplace and one of just two committed to expanding Medicaid, making it a unique bellwether of public receptivity to the law. While Gov. Steve Beshear is a Democrat, its two senators, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, are Republicans and ardent foes of Obamacare (Galewitz, 9/29).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Health Insurance Marketplaces Offer New Opportunities
Nathan Brown and Allyson Harper of south St. Louis embody the opportunity and uncertainties in the air as new health insurance marketplaces open for business. … Starting on Tuesday, the Affordable Care Act's open enrollment period begins across the United States for new state- and federal-run online marketplaces (Doyle, 9/28).

St. Louis Beacon: Health Exchange Martketplace Is Set To Open; Consumers Told To Walk Not Run To It
Business is good at the Pilates and Yoga Center in Ladue. But an issue that continues to interrupt the peace of owner Karen Prechtl is affordable health insurance for herself and her 10 employees. ... GOP critics, such as Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder and House Speaker Tim Jones of Eureka, say the system is flawed and unclear. Supporters note that the marketplaces haven't even opened yet (Joiner, 9/30).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State Says It’s Ready To Help Thousands Negotiate Obamacare Changes
As Tuesday's start date for the federal health care law approaches, Gov. Scott Walker's administration say it's ready for the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who will have new options for shopping for health coverage. In one key part of that process, the state's deputy health services secretary said Friday he is now confident that federal officials will approve covering low-income childless adults through the state's BadgerCare Plus program (Stein, 9/27).

The Seattle Times: Obamacare: State Says It's Ready For Big Day
Years of debate, planning, education and outreach have come down to this: On Tuesday, Washington state residents — and people across the country — can begin buying health insurance in exchanges created under Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act. Aimed at the uninsured and those who have individual health-insurance policies, the online exchanges are a key part of the health-care overhaul President Obama signed into law in March 2010 (Landa and Marshall, 9/29).

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