KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

A Blip, A Plan, A Hotline … What’s New With The Exchanges?

On Tuesday, the federal online marketplace -- -- went down for 30 minutes even as officials were pointing out a spike in sign-ups. Meanwhile, news outlets offer reports about the states that are integral to the administration reaching its enrollment target as well as updates from Maryland, Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.

Politico: Hits A Blip went down for at least 30 minutes Tuesday, an outage blamed on “human error.” Although resolved quickly, the occurrence was an immediate reminder of how much is riding on the federal enrollment website’s smooth functioning in the final two weeks of the 2014 enrollment season. On Monday, administration officials described a sharp increase in sign-ups during the first half of March that brought the total to 5 million people nationwide (Cheney, 3/18).

Kaiser Health News: 10 States Are Critical To Administration's Efforts To Enroll 6 Million In New Health Plans
Ten states — seven of them controlled by Republicans —hold the key to whether the Obama administration succeeds at signing up 6 million people by the deadline of March 31. Those large states account for nearly 30 million uninsured — almost two-thirds of the nation’s 47 million uninsured (Galewitz, 3/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Md. Health Exchange Board Adopts Enrollment Plan
Maryland’s health exchange board has adopted a plan to help people who have tried to enroll before the deadline at the end of the month but were unable to complete an application. The board approved the plan Tuesday (3/18).

The Baltimore Sun: Hotline Offered To Those With Applications Stuck In Health Exchange Website
Consumers who have attempted to enroll in health insurance through the Maryland exchange but have become stuck in the website can call a new hotline to ensure they are covered before the end of open enrollment March 31. The exchange board approved a plan Tuesday to set up the hotline – 1-800-396-1961 – to guarantee the chance for coverage (Cohn, 3/18).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Health Exchange Reports, 666,000 Enrolled
The state's new health exchange reports more than 995,000 New Yorkers have completed applications for insurance while more than 666,000 of them have now enrolled for specific coverage (3/19).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Mass. To Drop Contractor Behind Flawed Health Insurance Website
Massachusetts is negotiating an end to its contract with CGI, the Canadian vendor that built the state’s flawed health insurance website while scrambling to fix it (Bebinger, 3/18).

The Boston Globe: State Dismisses Health Site Firm
Massachusetts is dropping the contractor that created the state’s dysfunctional online health insurance marketplace, ending a troubled partnership that has left thousands of consumers frustrated and many without coverage for months. The state notified CGI last week that it was being terminated, and officials have started negotiating a transition. The $68-million contract with the Montreal-based technology consulting company expires in September, and Sarah Iselin, who was hired last month by Governor Deval Patrick to oversee repairs to the Health Connector website, said that exactly when CGI finishes its work and how much the state pays for it are subject to bargaining. Massachusetts has paid just $15 million to CGI and has not made any payments since the fall (Kowalczyk, 3/18).

Fox News: Vegas Man Stuck With $407,000 Medical Bill After Obamacare Breakdown
The busted ObamaCare websites cost a lot of people a lot of time. But for one Nevada man, problems with the state insurance exchange reportedly cost him $407,000. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Larry Basich, a 62-year-old Vegas resident, has been stuck with the massive medical bill despite signing up for an insurance plan via the state exchange last fall. Basich, according to the article, selected a UnitedHealthcare plan in November, and even paid his first premium. But he never received confirmation that he was enrolled, despite being assured that he was by Nevada Health Link (3/18).

The Oregonian: Oracle's Contracts For Cover Oregon Health Insurance Exchange Bypassed Standard Rules, Lacked Teeth
Three weeks ago, a federal report declared that poor contracting is a "root cause" of the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange debacle. More than $130 million has gone to California-based Oracle Corp., the main exchange IT vendor, under contracts that, according to the federal report, do "not have any leverage" to hold the firm accountable for missed deadlines or shoddy work. So how did the project's weak contracting get that way? (Budnick, 3/18).

The Seattle Times: State Waiting For Insurance Enrollment Bump
Many uninsured residents appear to be waiting until the last moment to enroll through Washington’s health insurance exchange. More than 112,000 people have purchased insurance through the state marketplace, but by the middle of the month, the state still hadn’t seen an uptick in the rate of enrollment (Stiffler, 3/18).

Health News Colorado: Sign-Ups Top 100,000, Colorado Fifth Among State Exchanges
Colorado ranks fifth among 14 states operating their own health exchanges for selling private health plans to the highest percentage of the state’s population. But in Colorado and across the country, sign-up rates are still very low. That’s not a surprise says John Stuart Hall, an emeritus professor of public affairs at Arizona State University, who helped conduct a study of health reform implementation throughout western states (McCrimmon, 3/18).

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