KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Massachusetts Looks To Other States For Website Fixes

Among possible ways to resolve the continuing issues, state officials are contemplating the possibility of buying or leasing technology from states where the online insurance marketplace is working. They also are considering scrapping the current website and starting over. News outlets also track developments in Maryland, California and Illinois.  

The Associated Press: Mass Eyes States With Functioning Health Websites
Massachusetts officials struggling to repair the state's hobbled health care website said Friday they're looking at the possibility of leasing or buying technology from states with functioning insurance sites. Officials said that while they're speeding up the processing of insurance applications, the website still has serious flaws, and may ultimately be scrapped (LeBlanc, 3/7).

WBUR: Despite Continued Health Site Troubles, Progress Made On Applicant Backlog
Massachusetts health care officials struggling to repair the state’s hobbled website are looking at the possibility of leasing or buying technology from states with functioning insurance sites. Gov. Deval Patrick’s special assistant, Sarah Iselin, said Friday that looking for solutions from other states is just one of four options being weighed. Others include forging ahead with the current website contractor CGI Group, looking for a new vendor that would build on the existing site, or scrapping the website and starting over (3/7).

Baltimore Sun: Federal Inspector To Audit Md. Insurance Site
A federal inspector general is launching a review into what went wrong with Maryland's health insurance exchange, the first examination focused specifically on how millions of dollars in federal money was spent by the state, according to the lawmaker who requested the probe. Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County Republican and vocal opponent of President Barack Obama's health care law, said officials with the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had contacted him and indicated they will look into the creation of the state's glitch-prone exchange (Fritze, 3/9).

The Washington Post: Maryland Online Exchange Problems Cloud Doctor's Vision For Health Care 
[Dr. Peter] Beilenson, a physician who has spent his career improving public health in Baltimore City and Howard County, used federal loans set aside for nonprofit insurance providers to launch Evergreen Health Co-op, a hybrid creation that provides insurance coverage and health centers. In the past, such a start-up could never have competed with industry giants such as Maryland-based CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. Now, the online marketplaces mandated by the health-care law are supposed to make it easier for customers to browse plans and pick what best fits their needs. Evergreen’s business plan called for at least 10,000 enrollees its first year. But it has signed up only 650 since October (Johnson, 3/7).

The San Jose Mercury News: Obamacare: Fifteen Percent Of Covered California Enrollees Haven't Paid
With less than a month left to sign up for private insurance under the federal health care law, California's enrollment numbers are closing in on the magic number of 1 million as 8,000 people sign up every day. If only everyone would pay their premiums. Roughly 15 percent of the Californians who had enrolled by Jan. 31 still haven't sent in their first month's payment, according to four major health insurance companies participating in the Covered California exchange. So those lofty enrollment numbers could soon be dropping substantially (Seipel, 3/9).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Tool To Compare Health Plans Tested With Consumers 
A website that offers Illinois consumers more information about insurance costs could help address widespread confusion about choosing a plan on the government sites that are a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s health care law. It can be frustrating now to try to compare health plans on the government online marketplaces. For instance, the federal website that serves Illinois and 35 other states has no central directory to easily show which plans include which doctors in their networks (3/7).

Also in the news, a look at the financial impact for middle class Californians of enrolling in a marketplace plan -

The Sacramento Bee: In California, Middle Class Feels Health Insurance Squeeze
If (Dawn and Nick LaPolla of Fair Oaks) earn less than $94,200 a year, the family of four’s preferred plan through the California health exchange would cost about $750 a month. But if they make even slightly more, they’ll pay about $1,040. That’s because they would exceed the threshold to qualify for federal subsidies. Their current high-deductible plan, which expires in two months, costs $573 a month. Unlike wealthier state residents who more easily can afford the new, often more comprehensive plans, or lower-income people aided by government subsidies, the LaPollas are part of a sizable segment of Californians slowly coming to grips with dedicating a greater percentage of their income to new policies (Cadelago and Reese, 3/8).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.