KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Va. Finance Panel Advances Alternate Approach To Expanding Medicaid

The state's Senate Finance Committee proposed using funding set aside to pursue an expansion of the traditional Medicaid program to help as many as 400,000 state residents buy private insurance. Meanwhile, in Arkansas, the private alternative faces a critical vote. News outlets also provide other updates related to the Medicaid expansion from California, Florida, Texas and Georgia.

The Washington Post: Va. Senate Panel Proposes Alternative To Medicaid Expansion
Senate budget leaders said Sunday that they were rejecting Medicaid expansion as they approved a state spending plan that would nevertheless tap $2 billion a year in federal Medicaid funding to extend health insurance to low-income and disabled Virginians. Instead of expanding Medicaid as it has traditionally operated, the Senate Finance Committee proposed helping up to 400,000 Virginians buy private insurance through a program that would be known as “Marketplace Virginia” (Vozzella, 2/16).

NewsHour: Private Alternative To Medicaid Expansion Faces Crucial Vote In Arkansas
Ever since the Supreme Court ruled that states do not have to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, there have been big battles over that issue. One bipartisan alternative has emerged in Arkansas that appeals to some other red states as well, most recently Virginia. It allows Medicaid dollars to be used to buy private insurance for low-income residents. But now the Arkansas program is facing a crucial vote in the state Senate this week and its fate may be jeopardized (Sreenivasan and Woodruff, 2/17).

Related KHN coverage: Arkansas Lawmakers Could Retreat From Innovative Medicaid Expansion Plan (Galewitz, 2/11).

The California Health Report: Alameda County Blazes Trail For Obamacare
What (Ishman) Finister didn’t realize is that he belonged to a population Alameda County has worked hard to insure: low-income adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who qualify for Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). An estimated 56,000 county residents fall into this category, and the majority of them were signed up for a limited local health plan and pre-enrolled in the ACA well before the program’s deadline. On January 1, most of these individuals, including Finister, automatically received Medi-Cal — public insurance that was previously only available to low-income children, mothers, and adults with disabilities. Those who didn’t qualify for Medi-Cal because their incomes were too high became eligible for a subsidy to purchase insurance (Ruiz, 2/17).

The Miami Herald: Unexpected Demand Causes Another Florida Health Choices Delay
The folks behind Florida’s upcoming state-based health exchange say consumer interest is so overwhelming, they are yet again delaying opening it up for business. It’s not yet possible to buy health plans on the Florida Health Choices site. But web traffic from people just checking it out has increased tenfold since its chief executive officer announced Feb. 3 that the full launch was “just days away.’’ Phone calls have increased, too. ... The federal government is operating an insurance exchange in Florida that offers comprehensive health coverage. However, dental coverage for adults is not among the “essential health benefits” that plans must include. That is a gap that Florida Health Choices hopes to fill by offering discount and limited benefit plans (Mitchell, 2/16).

Tampa Bay Times: Medicaid Rate Bump Proves Mixed Bag For Florida Doctors
Buried in the Affordable Care Act was what seemed a sweet deal for doctors willing to treat Medicaid patients: an estimated 70 percent pay boost. There was a good reason for it. The law was adding millions of people to the health insurance program for the poor, at a time when fewer doctors would sign on because it pays them so little. But the two-year bump has had a mixed impact. It hasn't been a boon for every physician willing to work with Medicaid, a program that manages to be both critical safety net and political tangle (Tillman and Mitchell, 2/15). 

The Texas Tribune: Without Medicaid Expansion, Hospitals Seek Long-Term Solution
Citing shortfalls in Medicaid financing and billions in annual uncompensated care costs, the president and chief executive of the Texas Hospital Association said Friday that it was time for medical facilities to join together on a long-term strategy to compensate for the program's shortcomings (Aaronson, 2/14).

Georgia Health News: New Medicaid, PeachCare Enrollment Stalled In Ga.
More than 50,000 uninsured Georgians – many of them children – have been assessed as eligible for Medicaid or PeachCare coverage through the enrollment process for the health insurance exchange, according to a report this week. But because of technological snags, few if any of these Georgians appear to be joining these government insurance programs. A spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Health said the agency is working on the issue, but did not elaborate. Georgia is one of 36 states using the federal insurance exchange. But unlike roughly half of those states, Georgia is not able to process applicants into Medicaid and their children’s insurance program (Miller, 2/14).

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