KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Federal Data System For Health Exchanges Passes A Test

Reuters reports this system has now been tested and certified as secure. Meanwhile, Medicare beneficiaries are increasingly confused by the media blitz surrounding the law's new online insurance marketplaces.  

Reuters: Federal Data System For Obamacare Exchanges Gets Security OK
The data system supporting President Barack Obama's healthcare reform has been tested and certified as secure for millions of Americans who will seek health coverage beginning on October 1, meeting a critical deadline for launching the program, the administration said on Wednesday. Concerns over whether consumer information would be secure in time were raised last month, when a government report said it could take until September 30 to sign off on the system's data protections, leaving little room for error before Obamacare is due to go live (9/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Enrollment In State Exchanges Under Health Overhaul Confuses Medicare Beneficiaries
Dear seniors, your Medicare benefits aren’t changing under the Affordable Care Act. That’s the message federal health officials are trying to get out to elderly consumers confused by overlapping enrollment periods for Medicare and so-called "Obamacare." Medicare beneficiaries don’t have to do anything differently and will continue to go to to sign up for plans. But advocates say many have been confused by a massive media blitz directing consumers to new online insurance exchanges set up as part of the federal health law. Many of the same insurance companies are offering coverage for Medicare and the exchanges (9/12).

Meanwhile, news outlets offer reports on the continuing evolution of state-based health exchanges in Florida, Arizona, Minnesota, West Virginia, Colorado and California.  

The Associated Press: Navigators Barred From County Health Departments
Counselors trained to help sign people up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act won't be allowed to conduct their work at county health departments across the state, according to a recent directive from the Florida Department of Health. Local health departments can accept brochures and other outreach material about insurance under the new state exchange, but the materials will apparently only be distributed if someone asks for it (Kennedy, 9/11).

The Arizona Republic: 5 Health Insurers Outline Rates For Arizonans Under Affordable Care Act
Paperwork filed by five health insurers gives Arizona its first glimpse of how much President Barack Obama’s health-care law will cost consumers when they begin shopping for mandatory coverage next month. Major health insurers that have filed rate plans with the Arizona Department of Insurance signal that average monthly rates under the Affordable Care Act will range from $225 to $334 when the federal health-insurance marketplaces launch Oct. 1. Companies filing rate plans were Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Cigna, Health Net and Meritus Health Plan, formerly called Compass Health Cooperative (Alltucker, 9/11).

Minnesota Public Radio: Dayton Shares Concern Over Lack of MNsure Outreach To African-American, Somali Groups
Gov. Mark Dayton said today that he shares the concerns of several prominent community organizations that Minnesota's new health insurance exchange, MNsure, has neglected African-American and Somali groups in its initial outreach effort. The Minneapolis Urban League and other groups have complained that they were excluded from MNsure's first $4 million round of grants aimed at enrolling people in the new system (Pugmire, 9/11).

The Star Tribune: Under Fire, MNsure Adds $750,000 In Grants For Minority Outreach
The board of Minnesota’s new insurance exchange responded to a barrage of criticism over grants Wednesday by freeing up as much as $750,000 in additional money for community organizations to help people sign up for coverage. The unanimous vote came a day after MNsure leaders came under fire from legislators and community leaders for excluding certain areas of need, particularly African-Americans, in announcing $2 million in grants last month (Crosby, 9/11).

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Highmark To Be Alone On W.Va. Exchange
It happened again this week, this time in West Virginia. A major for-profit health insurer, Coventry in this case, pulled out of that state's nascent health care marketplace, meaning Pittsburgh-based Highmark Inc.'s West Virginia branch will be the only insurer selling subsidized health policies on the exchange when it opens for business Oct. 1 (Toland, 9/12).

Charleston Gazette: Coventry/Carelink Won't Join Health Insurance Marketplace
Carelink/Coventry Health Care has pulled out of the state's individual insurance marketplace, leaving Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia as the only current option for West Virginia residents who buy subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. "We came to this decision [not to participate in the marketplace] as part of our ongoing review of Aetna's overall company strategy, including the impact of the Coventry acquisition which closed in May, after the original exchange filings were submitted for both companies," Walt Cherniak, a spokesman for Aetna, Carelink/Coventry's parent company, wrote in an email to the Gazette (Kersey, 9/10).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Health Co-Op First To Rule That Transgender Solutions Are Wrong
A new health insurance company that is offering some of the lowest prices for health coverage on Colorado’s new exchange is now the first to decide that it will cover transgender care. Colorado HealthOP, a new nonprofit member-owned health cooperative formed with federal grants under Obamacare, has vowed that it will not discriminate against any groups. Currently most plans sold in Colorado and around the country specifically bar medical care for transgender people. That means most health carriers won’t pay for hormone treatments or gender reassignment surgeries (Kerwin McCrimmon, 9/11).

California Healthline: No Health Care For Young Men? Debating A Generation’s Feelings On Obamacare
Without their presence, the exchanges would be filled with older, sicker individuals and costs would go up for both insurers and consumers. Obama administration officials have said they need to enroll 2.7 million U.S. residents between ages 18 and 35 in exchange plans to balance risk and hold down costs. However, recent news coverage raises the concern that young adults lack enough awareness of the health reform law to actually seek out coverage. Meanwhile, observers say that even if this age group had enough information, convincing them to buy a health plan still would be a tough sell. Young people might be reluctant to purchase something that they believe they'll rarely use, observers say (Wayt, 9/11).

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