KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Md. Continues To Wrestle Health Exchange Glitches

Even as one cabinet member told Maryland lawmakers Tuesday that the troubled system may need to be abandoned or overhauled, Gov. Martin O'Malley issued a statement saying the state would keep the online marketplace operating and work on improvements and fixes. News outlets also provide the latest developments from Oregon, Colorado and Minnesota.   

The Washington Post: Md. Health Secretary: State Exchange Site Glitches Could Force Overhaul Or Abandonment
Maryland’s health exchange Web site is still riddled with glitches and might need to be completely overhauled — or even abandoned — once the first round of enrollment ends March 31, a member of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Cabinet told lawmakers Tuesday. Until then, state officials say they have come up with a system of temporary fixes aimed at getting as many Marylanders as possible signed up for health coverage before the deadline. That has included hiring dozens of people to staff call centers and, in some cases, resorting to paper applications (Johnson, 1/14).

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland To Stick With Own Health Care Site
As legislators grilled Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown on Tuesday over the dismal debut of Maryland's health insurance exchange, the O'Malley administration stood by the website and said it will not switch to the federal version. Rejecting calls to shut down the state's bug-ridden website, Gov. Martin O'Malley's office issued a statement saying the state would keep it running while working to improve it for at least the next 21/2 months (Dresser, 1/14).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Maryland Won’t Switch Over To
Maryland says it won’t switch to the federal health insurance website while kinks are worked out of the state’s website. In a written statement Tuesday, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office said it “evaluated the feasibility” of using some functions of the federal exchange but said the “risks associated with the transition to the federal site would outweigh the benefits” (Corbett Dooren, 1/14).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Oregon Seeks Tax Credits For Those Who Bypassed Exchange
Two officials from the Oregon governor’s office were on a mission in D.C. Tuesday — trying to get a federal go-ahead to compensate individuals who purchased insurance on their own because of the breakdown of the state's health care exchange (Evans and Carey, 1/15).

The Star Tribune: MNsure’s Troubles Are Leaving The Poor Stranded
It’s early on a Monday, and Comopsia Stanley is making a series of calls in rapid succession, stopping only to wipe tears from her reddened eyes. Her diabetic son, Demarco, 11, is down to just a day’s supply of insulin, and Stanley is trying desperately to determine if her online application for Medical Assistance through MNsure has been approved so she can buy more. Each call is more frantic than the last. “What do you want?” Stanley, 36, pleads with an Anoka County social service worker. “Do you want my son to die?” The messy rollout of MNsure, the state’s troubled online insurance exchange, just got messier for thousands of low-income Minnesotans (Serres, 1/15). 

The Denver Post: Audit Of Colorado’s Health-Care Exchange Program Underway
A Republican lawmaker's request to audit Colorado's state health care exchange was viewed favorably Tuesday because an audit already is underway. Rep. Jared Wright of Fruita requested the audit late last year when reports surfaced that enrollments had fallen short of projections, there were problems with the website, and the CEO of Connect for Health Colorado asked for a raise and bonus. That request was later withdrawn (Bartels, 1/15).

And from the insurance industry's perspective -

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: WellPoint Optimistic On Exchanges Despite Slow Start
WellPoint Inc. and its Anthem Blue Cross plans made one of the biggest bets on selling insurance to individuals and families through the health law’s online exchanges. No regrets, CEO Joseph Swedish said Tuesday, despite the balky beginning. … Speaking at a San Francisco conference organized by investment house J.P. Morgan, Swedish gave no sign-up figures for the marketplaces. WellPoint had 35.6 million total members at the end of the year, he said (Hancock, 1/14).

Modern Healthcare: Insurers Show Measured Optimism For Exchange Enrollment
Health insurers are expressing measured optimism for enrollment in the coverage they're selling on the health insurance exchanges after quietly grumbling for weeks that the fumbled rollout was undermining their business plans. Some health insurance executives expressed some modest bullishness on the exchanges Tuesday at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference in San Francisco, even though a day earlier HHS revealed that the enrollees so far are skewing older than many had hoped (Kutscher, 1/15).

In other related news -

The Washington Post: QSSI To Stay On As’s General Contractor
The Obama administration has decided to retain Quality Software Services Inc. as its general contractor for, even as it has hired a new contractor to do most of the work on the Web site. In a joint statement Tuesday, Optum/QSSI and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said they would keep working together to ensure the online federal health insurance marketplace works well for consumers. On Saturday, CMS signed a contract with the global consulting firm Accenture to serve as the site's primary contractor in the coming year (Eilperin, 1/14).

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