KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Exchange Issues? There Are Many, Say Experts And Consumers

The reviews may not be good, but people are visiting the new health care web sites, according to the new AP-GfK poll. In addition, experts offer possible reasons for the problems that continue to plague the federal health insurance web site. Meanwhile, various news outlets examine how certain states are faring with the federal and state exchanges.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Poll: Health Care Exchange Rollout Gets Poor Reviews; 7 Percent Of Americans Have Tried It Out
The government’s new health insurance marketplaces are drawing lots of rotten tomatoes in early reviews, but people are at least checking them out. Seven percent of Americans report that somebody in their household has tried to sign up for insurance through the health care exchanges, according to an AP-GfK poll (10/10).

The Washington Post: Some Say Health-Care Site’s Problems Highlight Flawed Federal IT Policies
Problems with the federal government's new health-care Web site have attracted legions of armchair analysts who speak of its problems with "virtualization" and "load testing." Yet increasingly, they are saying the root cause is not simply a matter of flawed computer code but rather the government’s habit of buying outdated, costly and buggy technology (Timberg and Sun, 10/9).

CBS News: Obamacare Website Looks "Like Nobody Tested It," Programmer Says
White House officials initially blamed the website problem on an unexpectedly high volume as they had more than 8 million hits in the first week, but after it went offline over the weekend for repairs, officials now acknowledge other problems. "We've identified the glitches, we've added hardware, we're recoding software, and I can tell you today is better than yesterday, and we are hoping in the very near future to have a seamless process that's what we are aiming for," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said. However, computer experts say the website has major flaws. "It wasn't designed well, it wasn't implemented well, and it looks like nobody tested it," said Luke Chung, an online database programmer. Chung supports the new health care law but said it was not the demand that is crashing the site. He thinks the entire website needs a complete overhaul (10/9).

Fox News: $93M Obamacare Website May Face Months Of Glitches, Experts Warn
The $93 million website launched to process customers through the new Obamacare marketplace may experience significant technical glitches for months, computer software experts told “I wouldn’t rule out that possibility,” said George Edwards, a computer scientist and professor at the University of Southern California. It all depends on when they identify the bugs, where they are, and if they can be resolved easily, he said -- all while the site is running and open to millions of customers. “[It's] like trying to repair a car while someone is driving it,” he told (Vlahos, 10/9).

The Associated Press: Ohio’s Insurance Director Among Those Experiencing Glitches With Health Overhaul Website
Ohio's insurance director said Wednesday that while exploring the federal government's website on the new health care system, she has encountered the same computer glitches and delays that have frustrated many consumers looking for insurance coverage. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, a Republican and one of the state's more vocal critics of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, told a group of small business owners that her insurance department is asking people to be patient and to try the website during off hours (Sanner, 10/9).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Hawaiians Still Unable To Shop On State Exchange
Ten days after the Hawaii Health Connector was supposed to allow consumers and small employers to shop and enroll for coverage, officials are using paper applications and referring people to insurers’ websites to check prices. About 100,000 people are uninsured in Hawaii. It is the only one of the 14 state-run marketplaces, also called exchanges, that has no major functions online. Oregon’s marketplace does not yet allow online enrollment, but consumers can shop for health plans on its website (Galewitz, 10/10).

The CT Mirror: Doctor Lists Not Easy To Find For All Obamacare Exchange Plans
Access Health CT, the state’s exchange, is relying on the insurance companies to provide links to directories of health care providers who accept their exchange plans. Shoppers who enter their age, county and income on Access Health's website can view a list of available plans and prices. Under each option there's also a link to "Check if your doctor is in-network." But those links don't all lead to provider directories. For Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield's plans, the links go to Anthem's main website. There's no obvious way to find the provider directory for exchange plans. There is a way to do so, but it requires some website navigation and some knowledge of how Anthem labels its exchange plans (Becker, 10/9).

Kansas Health Institute: Fixes To Kansas’ Online Health Insurance Marketplace Coming This Week
A key player in efforts to steer uninsured and underinsured Kansans toward the new health insurance marketplace says she’s been told that most of the system’s troubles should be corrected yet this week…Officials at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ regional office in Kansas City, Mo. provided the assurances to Harding during a conversation on Tuesday (Ranney, 10/9).

The Baltimore Sun: Consumers, Advocates Seek Health Insurance Work-Arounds
If there is a good health insurance plan out there for Baltimore scientist Luke Goembel, it's as big a mystery as the space he studies…He and some advocates for the new marketplace — which aims to cover 800,000 uninsured Marylanders, plus the underinsured — are pressing the state to provide more information on the plans as they wait for glitches to be resolved (Cohn, 10/9).

CQ HealthBeat: DC Exchange A Window On How Immigrants View Health Law
Perhaps more than any other insurance exchange in the country, DC HealthLink brings society’s haves and have-nots to a single marketplace. While much has been made of the fact that the district’s exchange will serve members of Congress and their staffs, there’s another potential large customer base: Washington’s Hispanic immigrant community (Reichard, 10/9).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Young And Not So Invincible
The hottest targets for health insurance this fall are the so-called “young invincibles.” It’s no coincidence that an upstart selling some of the lowest-priced plans that might appeal to young people in Colorado, the Colorado HealthOP, deployed beautiful young models to try to make the decidedly unalluring topic of health insurance sexy. Buff, shirtless men and nearly naked young women prowled downtown Denver’s 16th Street Mall last week as Colorado’s health exchange opened. They wore little more than signs reading: “Without health insurance, you’re exposed: #GetCoveredCO” (Kerwin McCrimmon, 10/9).

California Healthline: What Covered California Did Right In Week One – And What Other States Did Better
In California, like in most of the nation, most launch day stories didn't center on the people signing up for coverage through the new exchanges, but on all the people who couldn't. … But there's too much being made of the computer glitches in California and elsewhere, according to Stan Rosenstein, principal adviser at Health Management Associates and a former state official who spent decades working with Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, and other public health insurance plans (Diamond, 10/9).

Health News Florida: $51B Waiting For FL: Sebelius
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has become the Obama administration's envoy to Florida on behalf of the Affordable Care Act. She has visited the state half a dozen times since June, trying to get the word out to the state's millions of uninsured to sign up for a health plan (Gentry, 10/9).

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