KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Private Exchange Benefiting From Health Law; Some State-Run Marketplaces Still Struggling

eHealthInsurance reports that interest in health coverage ginned up by the new federal law has helped new memberships rise 50 percent. Meanwhile, NPR examines the mixed record of the 14 states running their own marketplaces.

USA Today: Private Exchange Sees Surge In Health Care Enrollment
The number of customers on the nation's largest private health insurance exchange increased by 50 percent in the final three months of 2013, a direct result of demand created by the Affordable Care Act, the company's CEO said Thursday. Gary Lauer, CEO of eHealth Insurance, said individual memberships rose 50 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, from 113,600 applications in the last three months of 2012 to 169,800 in 2013 (Kennedy, 2/20).

NPR: As Deadline Nears, State Insurance Exchanges Still A Mixed Bag
With a bit more than a month left for people to sign up for health insurance plans set up under the Affordable Care Act, the federal website known as finally seems to be working smoothly -- in 36 states. But what's happening in the 14 states that are running their own exchanges? (Rovner, 2/21).

Some health law supporters are concerned about mental health benefits --

Politico Pro: Mental Health Parity Supporters Worry About Exchange Plans
The long fight to ensure mental health parity is now focusing on Obamacare plans, with advocates fearing that some are already in violation of federal law and regulations. All plans sold on the Affordable Care Act’s new exchanges, plus most other private-market policies, must begin complying in July with final rules to a 2008 law that requires insurers to cover mental health care the same way they cover care for physical ailments. ... But ensuring that plans fully follow the law and its final rules will be tricky. In particular, problems are anticipated with the new state-based marketplaces since many have modeled benefits after small-group plans, which are exempt from the law if they were created before March 23, 2010 (Cunningham, 2/20).

And in other news from the states --

Los Angeles Times: Anthem Blue Cross Widens Enrollment Lead On California's Exchange
Insurance giant Anthem Blue Cross stretched its lead over rival Blue Shield of California in the state's health care-coverage exchange, new data show. Anthem signed up 223,630 people through Jan. 31, or 31 percent of California's exchange market as part of the health care law. Anthem is a unit of Indianapolis-based WellPoint Inc., the nation's second-largest health insurer (Terhune, 2/20).

The Washington Post: More Than 12,000 Congressional Staffers Have Enrolled In Health Plans Through Obamacare
Thousands of people have purchased health coverage through the District of Columbia's new small-business insurance marketplace, but only a tiny fraction of them actually own or work for a small business. The rest are members of or work for a single large organization -- Congress (Harrison, 2/20).

The CT Mirror: Access Health CT Claims An 'Olympic Bump'
Are the Olympics boosting enrollment in Connecticut's health insurance exchange? Access Health CT, as the exchange is known, has been advertising heavily during broadcasts of the winter games, and Chief Marketing Officer Jason Madrak says it's experienced something of an "Olympic bump." In the week after the opening ceremony, Access Health's website traffic rose 31 percent over the prior week, the number of accounts created rose by 24 percent, and the number of daily enrollments rose by 67 percent (Becker, 2/20).

The CT Mirror: Access Health CT Marketing Obamacare 'Exchange In A Box'
Connecticut's health insurance exchange has run more smoothly than many of its counterparts across the country, and now officials at the state's insurance marketplace are in discussions about franchising the system to other states. The concept is to market a "turnkey"-type exchange program that other states could use, rather than building their own insurance marketplaces from scratch, said Kevin Counihan, CEO of Access Health CT, the state’s exchange. He refers to it as an "exchange in a box." Counihan said Access Health officials have met with officials from five states about the idea (Becker, 2/20).

The CT Mirror: Access Health CT Spanish-Language Website To Launch Friday
After months of delays, the Spanish-language website for Connecticut's health insurance exchange is slated to be available Friday. James Wadleigh, chief information officer of Access Health CT, the state's exchange, said the Access Health website will undergo maintenance Thursday night. On Friday morning, the Spanish-language site will be up. In addition, there will be some changes to the existing website, he said, including one aimed at making it easier for people to enroll in catastrophic plans (Becker, 2/20).

The Wall Street Journal: Nevada's Health Exchange Director To Resign
Nevada's insurance exchange director, Jon Hager, announced his resignation Thursday, days after he had described "a difficult month" for the online insurance portal set up under the federal health care law. The 39-year-old former Navy pilot told the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange board that he would be leaving March 14, the board confirmed (Radnofsky, 2/20).

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