KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Washington’s Insurance Exchange Is Winning, Too; N.Y. and Calif. See Strong Obamacare Enrollment Numbers

More than 33 percent of eligible Washington residents have signed up for care on the state's health law online insurance exchange. In New York and California, exchanges see big sign-up numbers. Finally, lawmakers in Florida and Virginia ready plans for insurance exchanges that aren't part of the health law.

The Washington Post’s WonkBlog: Seattle Has A Great Football Team -- And An Awesome Obamacare Exchange, Too
Yes, there is the Super Bowl victory, as well. But you have enough things to read about that -- and not nearly as much coverage of the Washington Health Plan Finder, which is arguably having one of the best open enrollment seasons in the country. Washington, alongside Vermont, leads the nation in percentage of eligible population enrolled in its exchange. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 33.1 percent of Washingtonians eligible to sign up for coverage through the exchange have gone ahead and done so (Kliff, 2/3).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: N.Y. Health Exchange Insures Thousands More
The state's new health exchange reports more than 657,000 New Yorkers have completed applications for insurance while nearly 381,000 of them have enrolled for specific coverage (2/4).

The Sacramento Bee: State Health Care Sign-Ups Faster Than Expected
Sacramento-area residents are buying insurance on the state’s new health care exchange much faster than anticipated -- but hundreds of thousands still lack coverage, new figures show. The Affordable Care Act requires most individuals without health insurance to obtain it and provides subsidies to those unable to afford premiums. One way to purchase insurance is through the state’s health care exchange, Covered California. About 27,000 individuals in the four-county region bought insurance on the exchange from October through December 2013, the first three months the exchange was open, new Covered California statistics show. That’s almost as many as the state initially predicted would buy insurance during the entire six-month enrollment period (Reese, 2/4).

Miami Herald: Florida To Launch Discount Health Insurance Exchange
Since 2008, Florida has been promising its residents a state-run health insurance exchange. Republican lawmakers continued to champion the much-delayed program even as they opposed Obamacare and refused to expand Medicaid to help the working poor. Now, officials say they are at last ready to launch Florida Health Choices and hope to reach people who can’t afford insurance on the federal exchange, or just don’t like the president’s plan (Mitchell, 2/3).

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Senate Panel Backs New Private Insurance Marketplace
Sen. John Watkins, R-Powhatan, has proposed creation of a Virginia marketplace for private health insurance coverage of people who have none now. Marketplace Virginia would be established as a new division of the State Corporation Commission, which through its Bureau of Insurance currently certifies and oversees health plans sold on the new electronic federal marketplace that began operating Jan. 1. The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee approved the proposal, offered Monday as a surprise substitute to Watkins’ proposal to create a state-operated insurance exchange, and sent it to the Finance Committee to review its fiscal impact on the state. Sens. Stephen D. Newman, R-Lynchburg, and Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, voted against the bill (Martz, 2/4).

Problems still plague Minnesota's exchange --

MinnPost: What Will It Take To Fix MNsure’s Call Center? More Tech Fixes, Staff, Money And Time
Hour-long waits … dropped calls … frustrated callers … overwhelmed staff … too many side issues … Since early November, a litany of complaints has dogged MNsure’s call center,  a key resource in helping the public use Minnesota’s health exchange to sign up for insurance. Three months later, MNsure still has not solved many of the major call-center issues -- and now it’s gearing up for a busy last two months of open enrollment (Nord, 2/3).

The Star Tribune: MNsure Scolded For Waiting Too Long To Fix Call Center Problems
A major boost in manpower is still weeks away at MNsure’s overwhelmed call center, which continues to keep customers on hold for 30 minutes or more while the state health exchange tries to regroup from a variety of problems that have slowed enrollment. Call center industry veterans, and one MNsure board member, said the agency should have solved staffing problems at the call center three months ago, when it became obvious the agency had underestimated the number of operators needed to handle the deluge of calls. Some callers have waited as long as two hours to speak with a MNsure representative since the exchange launched on Oct. 1. The industry standard for call centers is 30 seconds (Meitrodt and Crosby, 2/3).

In other state news about the health law -

Georgia Health News: Anger At Obamacare On Display In House
Disastrous. Unaffordable. “An abomination.” These descriptions were part of the anti-Obamacare sentiments heard during a legislative hearing Monday at the Georgia General Assembly. The rhetoric echoed what was heard at town hall meetings in 2010 after Obamacare — officially known as the Affordable Care Act — was passed by Congress. Tea Party and other activists opposed to the federal health law packed a small hearing room to listen to the arguments in favor of House Bill 707, sponsored by Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine). The bill would prevent state institutions and employees from implementing ACA provisions (Miller, 2/3).

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