KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Exchanges: Today Is States’ Decision Day

States have to decide by Feb. 15 whether they will create their own health insurance exchanges, partner with the federal government partner with the federal government or allow the federal government to do it for them. Meanwhile, during a congressional hearing marked by skepticism, a Health and Human Services official told lawmakers that the government would be ready to enroll people this fall.

USA Today: States Face Friday Deadline On Health Care Exchanges
As states work to decide by Friday whether they plan to create their own or partner with the federal government to run health exchanges, there has been one last-minute surprise and one skin-of-the teeth agreement (Kennedy, 2/15).

Kaiser Health News: States Face Friday Deadline For Partnership With Feds On Marketplaces
States face another Affordable Care Act deadline Friday— their last chance to work with the federal government in setting up new online health insurance marketplaces that open for business Oct. 1. The Obama administration has given "conditional approval" to 17 states and the District of Columbia to run their own marketplaces, which will offer one-stop shopping for private insurance or Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor (Galewitz, 2/15).

The New York Times: Enrollments For Insurance Start Oct. 1, Official Says
An Obama administration official told Congress on Thursday that the government would be ready to enroll millions of people in private health insurance plans this fall, but senators of both parties expressed doubts (Pear, 2/14).

Bloomberg: Insurance Exchanges Are On Track, Official Says
The Obama administration will meet an Oct. 1 deadline for setting up new state insurance exchanges, said a top U.S. health official who met skepticism from lawmakers at a congressional hearing today. The exchanges, created by the 2010 U.S. health-care overhaul, are online marketplaces where people will be able to compare and buy government-subsidized insurance. Their scheduled implementation next year has been called into doubt because of the complexity of the law and opposition in some states (Wayne, 2/14).

CQ Healthbeat: Cohen Lays Out Path For Standing Up Federal Exchange
The top federal official in charge of establishing health insurance marketplaces under the health care law detailed plans Thursday for a poorly understood but major part of that effort: the federally facilitated exchange. It was long past time to do so, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, indicated in his opening remarks at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on exchanges. “Many key details remain unanswered,” Hatch complained in his opening statement at the hearing, which centered on testimony by Gary Cohen, head of the Centers for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Reichard, 2/14).

The Washington Post's WonkBlog: Inside The Obama Administration's Plan To Build 25 Insurance Markets
For months now, it's been one of the health care overhaul’s biggest unknowns: Will the federal government be ready to run two dozen state insurance marketplaces? On Thursday Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight gave the Senate Finance Committee the most comprehensive explanation to date of what the agency has achieved so far—and what remains to be done (Kliff, 2/14).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Valentine's Day Surprise: Senate Democrats Blast Obamacare Implementation
Testifying before the powerful Senate Finance Committee, the administration's top regulator on new health exchanges encountered criticism from several Democrats who helped push through the 2010 federal health overhaul — among them Chairman Max Baucus of Montana and Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon, Bill Nelson of Florida and Maria Cantwell of Washington (Galewitz, 2/14).

Modern Healthcare: Baucus Demands Details On Progress Toward Insurance Exchanges
Despite renewed assurances that the federal government will have its insurance exchanges ready to begin enrollments Oct. 1, the senior Senate health policy Democrat demanded more details on the secretive effort. Sen. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, on Thursday required the CMS to provide his panel with the agencies' specific goals for the establishment of federally operated health insurance exchanges and the timeframes for accomplishing those benchmarks. The status of those exchanges is critical because the CMS may need to launch and operate up to 30 of them in states that do not have either self-operated exchanges or insurance marketplaces operated in tandem with the federal government. But the CMS has generally not specified the status of many of the critical elements of the federal exchanges, even to congressional Democrats (Daly, 2/14).

On the state level, governors continue to make clear the finer points of what their respective states plan to do --

The Associated Press/Washington Post: McDonnell To Feds: Virginia Will Use Federal Health Exchange But Retain Oversight On Providers
Gov. Bob McDonnell told the Obama administration Thursday that while Virginia will use a federally run health insurance exchange, the state intends to retain regulatory authority over insurance providers that do business with Virginians through the exchange. McDonnell's Feb. 14 letter to Gary Cohen of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirms his December position not to commit Virginia to establishing its own exchange that would be financed and operated by the state (2/14).

The Associated Press: Ohio To Let Feds Run Health Exchange
Ohio officials on Thursday confirmed the state's intentions not to run its own health insurance exchange but, instead, have the federal government operate the new online marketplace under President Barack Obama's health care law. A letter sent Thursday to the Obama administration reiterates what Republican Gov. John Kasich told federal officials in November — that Ohio will keep its authority to regulate health plans in and out of the exchange, but leave running it to the federal government (Sanner, 2/15).

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Mull $31M For Health Care Exchange
Gov. Rick Snyder's administration told lawmakers Wednesday it needs their approval within weeks to spend a $31 million federal grant to help build a consumer-friendly health insurance marketplace under the contentious federal health care overhaul, or else the state will be stuck with a bill (Eggert, 2/14).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Medicaid Expansion A 'No Brainer': Hike In GDP And New Jobs By 2015
Expanding Medicaid to an estimated 275,000 additional people will cost Colorado less than the price of not adding them. That's the bold prediction from a new study of Medicaid expansion commissioned by the Colorado Health Foundation, which supports expansion, and conducted by seasoned legislative budget analyst Charlie Brown and a team of economists (Kerwin McCrimmon, 2/14).

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