KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Enrollment Dramas Ripple Through The States

As the health overhaul's first open enrollment period drew to a close, states experienced triumphs as well as tribulations -- whether they were running their own websites or using the federal exchange. News outlets offer updates from California, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, Wisconsin and Kansas. 

Los Angeles Times: California Gives Further Reprieve For Obamacare Sign-Ups
Overrun by last-minute demand for Obamacare coverage, California gave many consumers until April 15 to enroll as thousands of people across the nation endured long lines and website troubles. Despite the problems, the late surge in sign-ups was a substantial boost to President Obama's signature law, particularly after such a disastrous launch in October (Terhune, Levey and Karlamangla, 3/31).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Woes Frustrate In-Person Helpers Around The Country
Last minute health insurance shoppers nationwide turned up in record numbers online Monday, and they also showed up in person at clinics, county health departments and libraries to sign up for Obamacare on the last official day of open enrollment. Here are dispatches from public radio reporters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Houston — three of the 36 states that are using — and Minnesota, which has one of the most troubled state-run marketplaces (4/1).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: For California’s Uninsured, A Rush To The Finish
Uninsured Californians flocked to shopping malls, beauty salons, clinics and libraries Monday to meet the deadline for enrolling in health coverage. The website of the state-run insurance exchange,, was so inundated that officials directed some consumers who began online applications to return later to complete them. The state was seeing a ‘huge surge’ in last-minute applications, with more than 150,000 people signing up in the last week, Peter Lee, executive director of the exchange said Monday. More applications were started on Sunday than any other day since Oct. 1, when open enrollment began on the nation’s insurance exchanges (Gorman, 4/1).

The Sacramento Bee: Californians Sprint To Beat Health Insurance Sign-Up Deadline
Laura and Jose Gomez of Sacramento say they went their entire lives without health insurance. As the federal deadline approached Monday, the parents of three were overcome with emotion after enrolling for coverage for the first time. “We feel really good right now,” said a smiling Laura Gomez, 36, as she posed for photographs at a sign-up event hosted by a health care workers union in midtown Sacramento. She had just selected a plan through Covered California, the state’s new exchange. The couple, who expect to pay about $300 a month after federal subsidies, were among hundreds of thousands of people nationwide rushing to beat the midnight cutoff for the health insurance overhaul (Cadelago, 3/31).

The San Jose Mercury News: Covered California: Applicants Flood Health Insurance Exchanges In State
In a flood of last-minute sign-ups, hundreds of thousands of Americans rushed to apply for health insurance Monday, but deadline day for President Barack Obama's overhaul brought long, frustrating waits and a new spate of website ills. It happened early and often in California, which leads the nation in enrollments since Oct. 1 and hit 1.2 million enrollees by 2 a.m. By early evening, however, insurance exchange officials were forced to raise a white flag after the website repeatedly stalled from the crush of applicants. So overwhelming were the numbers of applicants that Covered California announced the exchange would now honor any attempt to sign up before the midnight deadline, even if a person could not get to a certain stage to verify that online (Seipel, 3/31).

Health News Florida: Crunch Time Hits Uninsured, Website
Al Lopez Park in Tampa is normally an oasis of serenity on a Monday. But on the last day of open-enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the community center was crowded, noisy, and stressful. Hundreds of procrastinators came seeking help from navigators (Gentry, 4/1).

The Baltimore Sun: Md's Bumpy Health Insurance Enrollment Period Ends
As consumers rushed to sign up for insurance on the last day of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, Maryland's health exchange website slowed to a crawl and all circuits were busy at the call center. That worsened a bottleneck of consumers who have tried for months to overcome glitches on the troubled website to be able to buy a private plan or sign up for Medicaid (Cohn and Walker, 3/31).

NBC News: The Longest Wait: Maryland Residents Wait In Line For Last-Ditch Obamacare
The line started just after 6 a.m. Monday outside the Montgomery County, Md., health department office in Silver Spring, as people trying to get health insurance joined the 11th-hour deluge on the last day to sign up under the Affordable Care Act. There's a huge last-minute crush of people signing on nationally as froze under the pressure, but nowhere like in Maryland, where the state-run exchange has been a failure from the beginning, thwarting all but the most determined comers. Maryland officials embraced Obamacare with enthusiasm, and were among the first to announce they would run their own exchange. But it went downhill from there (Fox, 3/31).

The Washington Post: Gansler Renews Attack On Brown’s Handling Of Maryland Health Insurance Exchange
The latest development in Maryland’s race for governor was something you don’t see every day: A candidate handing out his rival’s campaign literature. But Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) wanted to make sure reporters got a good look at the brochure of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) on Monday so that he could properly attack it. In the glossy piece, Brown says that under his leadership, Maryland is “leading the nation in implementing President Obama’s health reform law” (Wagner, 3/31).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Md. Board To Discuss Future Of Health Exchange
A Maryland board is scheduled to discuss what the state will do about its badly flawed health exchange website. The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Board of Trustees has a 5 p.m. meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday, when it could officially decide to use technology from another state that has had a more successful exchange rollout. Maryland is one of 14 states with its own exchange (4/1).

The Star Tribune: Time’s Up: It Was A Mad Dash To Beat MNsure’s Enrollment Deadline
Minnesotans rushed to sign up for health insurance Monday, as open enrollment ended and consumers closed the first, eventful chapter in an ambitious national experiment to transform health coverage. The result: long wait times at the state’s MNsure call center and a bogged-down website that prevented some people from completing enrollment. Problems arose around noon at the federal Internet hub, which helps identify Minnesotans who are eligible for public programs and tax credits. The glitches lasted most of the day and resulted in “intermittent” problems for consumers using the MNsure site, state officials said (Crosby and Dullinger, 4/1).

Minnesota Public Radio: Demand Strains MNsure Phone System On Signup Deadline Day
Monday was the deadline for the uninsured to obtain health coverage for this year — and to avoid a tax penalty. With that in mind, officials with MNsure, the agency that runs Minnesota's online insurance marketplace, expected to be swamped. Procrastinators didn't disappoint them, as MNsure's call center fielded a record 25,000 calls. The website also was slowed by high volume. But it did not buckle as it did Dec. 31, the last big deadline for enrolling in coverage (Stawicki, 4/1).

Minnesota Public Radio: Navigator Talks About The Ups And Downs Of MNSure Roll-Out
Many navigators work for non-profit organizations and they have experienced the ups and downs of MNsure since the program rolled out last fall. MPR's Phil Picardi spoke with Rebecca Lozano, who's the Outreach Program Manager at Portico Health-net in St. Paul. She is one of several trained MNsure navigators there (Picardi, 3/31).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon Health Insurance Exchange Notches Another Political Casualty With IT Director's Resignation
Aaron Karjala, the top information-technology manager for the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange, resigned Monday, adding to the list of the exchange's political casualties. Kitzhaber on March 20 announced he'd accepted the resignation of his top healthcare administrator, Bruce Goldberg, and also urged the appointed board of Cover Oregon to remove Karjala as well as Triz delaRosa, the exchange's chief operating officer. Oregon's exchange remains the only one in the country that does not let the public self-enroll for health coverage in a single-sitting, despite more than $200 million spent so far (Budnick, 3/31).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon Health Insurance Exchange Drops Bid To Keep Legislative Oversight Meetings Secret
For the first time, the public will be able to listen to meetings of the Cover Oregon Legislative Oversight Committee after health exchange staff barred reporters from attending a meeting last week. Thanks to a change of heart by Cover Oregon, members of the public can now tune in online or call a toll-free number to listen to the meeting, which consists of four state lawmakers speaking with Cover Oregon staff. Its next meeting starts at 10 a.m. Tuesday, April 1. The oversight committee was set up by legislation authorizing the exchange (Budnick, 3/31).

The Oregonian: Survivors Of Domestic Violence, Who Are Married, Have Until Late May To Sign Up For Health Insurance Coverage
The current deadline for open enrollment for healthcare insurance coverage in Oregon was extended through April 30. However, for survivors of domestic violence who are also married, this open enrollment period is extending to May 31. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognized "the unique difficulties that these survivors of domestic violence face when attempting to file taxes,'' according to the Oregon Coalition against Domestic & Sexual Violence (Bernstein, 3/31).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Affordable Care Act's Enrollment Period Ends, For Most People
The open enrollment period to sign up for a health insurance plan through the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces officially ended on Monday, but as with many of the law's deadlines, there were some caveats. People who have started an application on the website but were unable to complete the process still will be able to enroll. And adults in Wisconsin previously covered by BadgerCare Plus who are being moved to subsidized health plans sold through the federal marketplace have until May 31 to sign up. As expected, the number of people signing up for coverage jumped in the past week, and particularly in the past few days (Boulton, 3/31). 

The Kansas City Star: Affordable Care Act Endures Tense Deadline Day 
Tearful. Testy. Thunderstruck. And profoundly grateful. Monday’s last-minute applicants for 2014 coverage under the Affordable Care Act ran the emotional gamut as hundreds of thousands of people nationally flooded the balky system to buy health insurance (Stafford and Campbell, 3/31).

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