KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Building Health Insurance Exchanges

News outlets report on small business concerns, the potential impact of immigration reform and how some medical device makers are passing on new fees to their customers.

Stateline: Future Of Health Law Is Largely In State Hands
After running a gauntlet of legal and political opposition, the Affordable Care Act is poised to bring the United States closer than it has ever been to universal health insurance. But just how close it gets will be up to individual states. To reach its goal of covering 30 million low-income Americans in 2014, the Obama administration wants states to take two crucial steps: create an online health insurance exchange where people can sign up for coverage; and expand state Medicaid programs to cover 17 million more low-income adults. Each state will have an exchange whether it wants one or not, because the federal government will create them in states that fail to do it on their own. But the administration is asking states to take the initiative (Vestal, 1/28).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Insurance Exchanges: A New Way For Individuals And Small Business To Buy Coverage
Health insurance exchanges will change the way people buy coverage and will help millions of uninsured people get a private plan. Nearly 49 million people are uninsured in the United States, but the numbers vary dramatically by state. Exchanges will be the most visible part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law in everyday life. Open enrollment starts Oct. 1, less than 10 months away (1/27).

The Associated Press: Consumer Alert: New Health Care Markets On The Way
Buying your own health insurance will never be the same. ... remember that nothing in life is free and change isn't easy. ... Starting Jan. 1, 2014, when coverage takes effect in the exchanges, virtually everyone in the country will be required by law to have health insurance or face fines (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/27).

Medpage Today: Employers Get More Time On Health Exchange Notices
The March 1 deadline for employers to notify workers about health insurance exchanges available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is being pushed back, the government said this week. Under a provision of the ACA, businesses need to provide to each employee a written notice informing them about the existence of exchanges and the employer's cost-sharing plans. The original deadline for providing the notice was March 1, 2013. However, the Labor Department delayed the deadline, saying it was "committed to a smooth implementation process including providing employers with sufficient time to comply” (Pittman, 1/27).

Also in the news, some states take action on exchanges --

The Associated Press/CBS Local: Minn. Building New Health Insurance Marketplace
Big changes are coming in how a fourth of all Minnesotans get health insurance as the state rushes to build a new kind of marketplace that will help about 1.3 million people choose their best coverage options. It’s called a health care exchange, a centerpiece of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul. If it lives up to advance billing, consumers will go to a web site similar to Expedia or Travelocity where they can get the information they need to choose a plan, learn if they qualify for financial assistance and sign up — all in less than an hour. Leading this construction project is April Todd-Malmlov, a 35-year-old mother of two who grew up in the small northwestern Minnesota town of Halstad and shows a knack for rattling off facts and figures without notes. For the past two years, she’s been grappling with them as executive director of Minnesota’s health care exchange (1/27).

California Healthline: Exchange Outreach Grants Worth $43 Million
Community groups are eligible for a total of $43 million in outreach grants, according to a plan released Friday by officials at Covered California, the new state's new insurance exchange. The goal of the outreach effort is for community groups to help get the word out about Covered California and the exchange is willing to pay for that help. About $40 million has been slated for individual coverage outreach, and another $3 million will go to help raise awareness of the Small-business Health Options Program, said Oscar Hidalgo, director of communication and public affairs at the exchange (Gorn, 1/28).

In related news --

The Associated Press/Washington Post: New Lingo For Consumers: Health Care Overhaul Glossary
President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law has spawned its own jargon. With the law finally about to take full effect, consumers might want to get familiar with some of the terms (1/27).

Los Angeles Times: Under Healthcare Overhaul, Will Small Businesses Benefit?
In a perfect world, Irvine businessman Scott Griffiths says, he hopes to continue offering health insurance to the 42 employees at his chain of high-end men's hair salons. But with the full effect of President Obama's Affordable Care Act approaching, small businesses like his are facing numerous questions and concerns about the future of employee health insurance in California and what it will mean for them (Zamosky, 1/26).

The Hill: Immigration Reform Could Add Millions Of People Under Obama Health Law
Comprehensive immigration reform could make millions of people suddenly eligible for assistance under President Obama's healthcare law, assuming a final deal paves the way for undocumented immigrants to receive papers. Illegal aliens are now prohibited from purchasing coverage through the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges, which will launch next year. They are also ineligible for Medicaid under most circumstances (Viebeck, 1/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Device Makers Add Fees To Cover Health Tax
Some medical-device companies faced with a new tax meant to help finance the health law are hoping someone else will pick up the tab: their hospital customers. Companies including feeding-tube supplier Applied Medical Technology Inc. and respiratory-valve maker Hans Rudolph Inc. quietly added new surcharges or warned hospitals of price increases to cover the new 2.3% tax on device sales that went into effect Jan. 1, according to letters and invoices from nine manufacturers sent to hospitals that were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal (Weaver, 1/25).

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