KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Federal Gov’t. Awards Health Exchange Grants To Some States

News outlets report on federal funds awarded to 11 states to develop these marketplaces.

The Hill: HHS Announces $1.5B For State Exchanges
The federal health department announced $1.5 billion in new grants Thursday for states to continue building their insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. California, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Vermont received funding — either one-or multi-year awards based on their progress in creating the marketplaces (Viebeck, 1/17).

Los Angeles Times: State's Health Exchange Gets $674-Million Federal Grant
Federal officials awarded California's new health insurance exchange a $674-million grant, providing money for a crucial marketing campaign aimed at millions of uninsured consumers (Terhune, 1/18).

The Associated Press: California Awarded $674M To Build Health Exchange
California has been awarded a $674 million federal grant to continue developing and building an online insurance marketplace under the federal health care reform law, state officials announced Thursday. The state is receiving substantial support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of the effort to aid millions of uninsured Californians, said Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state entity in charge of the exchange (1/17).

Sacramento Bee: Latest Grant Helps California Health Exchange Plan Move Forward
Bolstered by a federal grant of $674 million on Thursday, Covered California outlined an agenda to keep the state health exchange on pace for a full-scale launch on Jan. 1, 2014. California's nascent health-insurance shopping site faces a complex and expensive ramp-up process as it seeks to sign up customers from throughout the state's diverse communities. Officials Thursday laid out an action plan for outreach that includes signing up translators fluent in the 13 languages common in the Golden State. Because California's land mass is so huge, Covered California expects to develop seven geographical exchanges reflecting different markets in Sacramento, Northern California, the Greater Bay Area, the San Joaquin Valley, the Central Coast, Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California (Craft, 1/18).

California Healthline: Covered California Lands $674 Million Federal Grant
Yesterday federal officials awarded $674 million to the California exchange, a Level 2 establishment grant that funds the set-up of the exchange through the end of 2014. It was slightly short of the $706 million originally requested for the grant, but Lee was not about to quibble. "The feds reduced 2014 potential payment for outreach and enrollment by about $30 million," Lee said. "But we think we have enough resources on hand to do the biggest outreach that I've ever seen." State HHS Secretary Diana Dooley pointed out that the extensive planning for the exchange was accomplished in a relatively brief time frame, as the exchange board was only formed in April 2011 (Gorn, 1/18).

Pioneer Press: Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange Receives $39M
The federal government has awarded a $39 million grant to fund more work on Minnesota's health insurance exchange, according to a Thursday, Jan. 17, statement from state officials. The latest award means the federal government has granted the state $110 million to develop the exchange, which is intended to be an online marketplace for individuals and small employers to buy coverage starting later this year (Snowbeck, 1/17).

WBUR: Mass. Gets $81M Federal Grant To Develop Insurance Exchange
The federal government announced Thursday that Massachusetts is receiving an $81.2 million grant to help its Connector Authority comply by 2014 with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and further develop its health insurance exchange. According to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the grant will "support the development and operation of a Massachusetts-specific risk adjustment program that will ensure stability in the state's merged market and will provide funding to develop and execute a robust outreach and education campaign" to inform residents about benefits available through the ACA and the Connector (Norton, 1/17).

Oregonian: Oregon Receives $226 Million Federal Grant To Set Up Health Insurance Exchange Program
Oregon received a $226 million federal grant Thursday to set up the state's health insurance exchange program over the next two years. The money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will go toward building the online marketplace for health coverage. By 2014, individuals and small businesses will be able to use it to shop for coverage and tap federal tax credits and other assistance if they're eligible. Officials plan to use the money to build a customer service center and to develop, test and train people to use the web-based program, among other uses, said Lisa Morawski, spokeswoman for Cover Oregon. Cover Oregon is the public corporation set up in 2011 to operate the exchange (Zheng, 1/17).

In other exchange news -

MPR News: Health Exchange Bill Passes First Senate Committee
A bill to create a key part of the federal health care law in Minnesota sailed through its first committee Wednesday on a party line vote. The state Senate Local Government committee passed a bill to create an insurance exchange. It's expected that one in five Minnesotans will use the online gateway to comparison shop for health care policies and enroll in Medicaid beginning in October. Two similar exchange bills failed to pass in previous sessions when Republicans were in control. Burnsville Republican, state Sen. Dan Hall called for delay. "It takes some time to digest it. I think it takes time to look at it," Hall said. "I see the stakeholders that are really in conflict with it. And I wonder if we just need to just wait on this thing, table it" (Stawicki, 1/17).

MinnPost: Minnesota Health-Exchange Bill Clears First Of Many Committtee Stops
The Minnesota health insurance exchange's sprint through the Legislature got off to a good start Wednesday, clearing its first Senate committee. The exchange legislation, with a late-March deadline, likely faces a dozen similar legislative hearings and hours of floor debate (Nord, 1/17).

Also regarding the health law's implementation --

The Washington Post: New Regulations Shed Light On Looming Health-Care Reform Costs For Businesses
The ramifications of health care reform for business owners are coming into focus as regulators float new rules to govern employer-sponsored coverage. Lost in the political fervor over the fiscal cliff, the Internal Revenue Service recently proposed new regulations to govern what has been dubbed the "employer mandate" section of the Affordable Care Act. The provision, which takes effect next year, requires companies with 50 or more employees to either provide adequate and affordable coverage to their workers or pay tax penalties (Harrison, 1/17).

The Hill: Hospitals Push White House To Back Change In Health Care Law
A coalition of 21 hospital associations is asking the White House to help fight a provision of President Obama's healthcare law that they say will cost them billions of dollars. Hospital associations from 20 states sent a letter to Obama this week arguing that a change to his healthcare law ought to be included in the next White House budget proposal (Baker, 1/17).

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