KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Maryland, Minnesota And Oregon Attempt To Boot Up Exchanges

Meanwhile, PBS NewsHour looks at why enrollment lags among Latinos, the ethnic group with the highest uninsured rate, despite tens of millions of dollars being spent on outreach in states like California.

The Washington Post: Maryland Lawmakers To Resume Inquiries Into Troubled Health Exchange
Members of Maryland’s House of Delegates on Wednesday said they plan to forge ahead with questioning the leaders of the state’s troubled health insurance exchange, even though days earlier a high-ranking state senator said the General Assembly was largely done with its inquiries (Johnson, 2/5). 

The Baltimore Sun: State Lawmakers Now Want Briefings on Health Exchange
State lawmakers may have abandoned hearings into what went wrong with the glitch-ridden health exchange, but they're now considering regular briefings to make sure the state is fixing it. Sen. Thomas "Mac" Middleton said Wednesday the tentative plan is to resume briefings about how the exchange officials are repairing the site, how much it has cost, and future plans on whether to abandon it entirely (Cox, 2/5).

The Associated Press: MNsure Enrollment Grows, But Private Plans Lag
Insurance sign-ups through Minnesota’s health care marketplace continued to grow into February to more than 90,000 people, but enrollment continues to be weighted more toward public plans over private insurance. MNsure released its latest enrollment measures on Wednesday, which covered mid-January through Feb. 1 (2/5).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure Getting 100 New Workers To Help At Overwhelmed Call Center
A Mendota Heights company will supply MNsure with up to 100 workers to help the troubled online insurance marketplace's overwhelmed call center. Workers from APAC Customer Services will help handle the upcoming expected influx of people signing up for health insurance to beat a March 31 deadline. The MNsure Board approved spending up to $750,000 for the temporary workers. MNsure interim CEO Scott Leitz told the agency's board members the cost could be covered within the existing MNsure budget (Stawicki, 2/5).

The Star Tribune: MNsure Will Deploy Up To 100 Temporary Call Center Operators
As MNsure took steps Wednesday to bolster its shorthanded call center, some of its board members said they regretted not raising concerns earlier about problems that have plagued the state’s health insurance exchange. “I don’t feel the approach I’ve taken in the past has been appropriate based on the current experience,” said Tom Forsythe, a vice president of General Mills Inc. Since its Oct. 1 debut, the MNsure website has been beset with technical issues that have made enrollment difficult. The call center, which was supposed to be a resource for residents with questions, was overwhelmed with callers at levels far above projections and staffing (Crosby, 2/5).

PBS NewsHour: Language Barrier, Immigration Status Keep Some Latinos From Health Care Enrollment
As the largest uninsured ethnic group in the country, Latino Americans are considered key to the success of the Affordable Care Act. In California, enrollment numbers continue to lag despite tens of millions of dollars spent to reach Latinos, who represent more than half of the 7 million who lack coverage in that state. The NewsHour’s Cat Wise reports (Wise, 2/5).

The Oregonian: Former Lawmaker Reported Oregon Health Exchange To FBI
One of the great mysteries of the Oregon health exchange fiasco is how the $160 million information-technology project passed the federal government's readiness reviews with flying colors, only to fail abysmally when officials flipped the "on" switch. One former Oregon lawmaker says he has an idea how Oregon fared so well with the feds and he thinks it might even entail criminal behavior. Patrick Sheehan, a former Clackamas Republican legislator, says he approached the Federal Bureau of Investigation in December 2012 and relayed an allegation that misleading information was knowingly provided to the federal government during one of several "gate reviews" conducted of the Oregon exchange, Cover Oregon, by the federal government (Budnick, 2/5).

The Oregonian: Politics Threaten To Hijack Cover Oregon Legislation
Election-year politics quickly threatened to hijack one of the main Cover Oregon bills in the Oregon Legislature. Lawmakers are eager to tackle the messy rollout of the health insurance exchange, especially because it’s expected to be a big issue on the campaign trail. On Wednesday, lawmakers -- especially those seeking higher office -- got their first crack during a public hearing (Zheng, 2/5).

The Texas Tribune: Interactive: A Look At Texas’ Uninsured And Obamacare Enrollment
For more than a decade, Texas has maintained the highest rate of people without health insurance in the nation. Currently, more than 6 million Texans don't have health insurance. The Affordable Care Act requires most people to obtain health coverage in 2014 and sets forth a variety of ways to assist the uninsured. So far, fewer than 120,000 Texans have obtained coverage through the federal health insurance marketplace (Aaronson, 2/4).

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