KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Mass. Employer Health Insurance Mandate Repeal Moves Forward

Gov. Deval Patrick has agreed to end a state mandate that employers provide health insurance to their employees, included in Massachusetts' 2006 health care overhaul, because a federal law -- which is now delayed a year -- was set to impose a similar mandate on employers.  The repeal is included in the 2014 budget.

Boston Globe: Repeal Of Employer Mandate Moving Forward, Patrick Says 
Governor Deval Patrick said Thursday that he will not block the repeal of a state mandate for employers to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty, though the Obama administration last week announced a delay in the federal program that was supposed to take its place. The state's landmark 2006 health care law included a provision, referred to as the "fair share employer contribution," requiring that employers with more than 10 workers provide coverage or pay the state $295 per employee. Some business groups saw the requirement as onerous and initially pushed to loosen the law, but the Patrick administration agreed to eliminate it because a similar federal mandate was set to take effect in January. The repeal was included in the 2014 budget, which Patrick likely will act on tomorrow (Conaboy, 7/11).

In the meantime, state-based health insurance marketplaces make news --

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Colorado Receives $116 Million Exchange Grant
Colorado will get another $116 million to help launch the state's new health exchange, Connect for Health Colorado. Federal cuts known as sequestration chopped $9 million from the state’s $125 million request. Last month, exchange CEO and Executive Director Patty Fontneau said that some programs may have to withstand higher cuts than others because managers already have signed contracts for services or technology so they cannot spread the cuts evenly across all programs (Kerwin McCrimmon, 7/11).

California Healthline: Should Covered California Be Allowed To Keep Secrets?
Three years ago when legislation was written to create California's health insurance exchange, lawmakers thought it would be a good idea to let the new exchange board keep a few competitive secrets. Now some legislators aren't so sure. Covered California, as the exchange is now known, has the authority to keep all contracts confidential for a year and the health plan rates concealed indefinitely. … We asked legislators and stakeholders to explain the advantages and disadvantages of allowing Covered California to keep secrets (7/11).

Kansas Health Institute: Several States Ahead Of The Curve On Insurance Exchanges
Most states that have chosen to run their own health insurance marketplaces or exchanges will be running ahead of schedule in the offerings and information they will provide their consumers and small businesses, according to a new study. The report, done by researchers at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, looked at the 17 states and the District of Columbia that have opted to run their own exchanges. (Kansas officials opted to have the federal government run the Kansas exchange.) (7/11).

And repercussions of state decisions on the health law's Medicaid expansion ripple across America --

Marketplace: States' Refusal To Expand Medicaid Complicates Health Care For Many Uninsured
The health care reform law calls for a big expansion of Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for the poor. But last year’s Supreme Court made that expansion optional. And some of the biggest states, with the most poor people, are opting out.  So far, 23 states and the District of Columbia have agreed to expand Medicaid, six are undecided, and 21 have said no. Among them: Texas, which is where 47-year-old Ricardo Rios lives. He would qualify for Medicaid, under the health care law’s expansion plan if Texas hadn’t opted out. He’s praying the state’s leaders change their minds (Marshall-Genzer, 7/12).

The Associated Press: Medicaid Agency Gearing Up For Questions On Law
South Carolina's Medicaid agency is ramping up its call center in expectation of a surge of questions about the federal health care law. Deputy Director John Supra said the agency began increasing its hours July 1 and the agency is hiring in preparation of a full ramp-up in October, when people can begin buying health insurance through online marketplaces called exchanges (Adcox,7/11).

Columbus Dispatch: Kasich Urges Legislators To Extend Medicaid This Summer 
A week after state lawmakers adjourned for summer recess, Gov. John Kasich and other supporters of expanding Medicaid packed into the Statehouse yesterday to urge legislators to return to Columbus to extend tax-funded health coverage to tens of thousands poor, uninsured Ohioans. "As Americans, we need to beat back this notion that when somebody’s poor, somehow they are lazy," Kasich told a cheering crowd of several hundred (Candisky, 7/10). 

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