KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Oregon Insurance Exchange Never Worked, Officials Questioned On Problems

Oregon residents are facing a state health exchange application deadline in two weeks to get coverage at the beginning of 2014, even as the online aspect of the marketplace still doesn't work -- and never did. In the meantime, Oregon lawmakers question officials on the exchange's problems and when they knew about them.

Reuters: Oregon Health Care Exchange Website Never Worked, Has No Subscribers
Oregon, a state that fully embraced the Affordable Care Act, is enduring one of the rockiest rollouts of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, with an inoperative online exchange that has yet to enroll a single subscriber, requiring thousands to apply on paper instead. Unlike most other states, Oregon set an ambitious course to make its insurance exchange, dubbed Cover Oregon, an "all-in-one" website for every individual seeking health coverage, including those who are eligible for Medicaid (Kaminsky, 11/20).

The Associated Press: Cover Oregon Sets Application Deadline In 2 Weeks
People who want health coverage beginning in January through Oregon's troubled insurance exchange need to act fast. State officials said Wednesday they don't expect to have the online enrollment system working in time for people to enroll in plans that begin on the first of the year (Cooper, 11/20).

Oregonian: Cover Oregon Officials Knew Site Suffered From 'Significant Deficiencies' Last Spring
At one point Wednesday during legislative meetings on the state's problem-plagued health insurance exchange, the issue boiled down to one question: Does Cover Oregon have just one fax machine to accept the 19-page paper application that Oregonians must submit? The Cover Oregon website hasn't been able to enroll anybody since its scheduled Oct. 1 launch and won't be ready to sign people up until Dec. 16 -- one day after the deadline to enroll for benefits that go into effect Jan. 1 (Zheng, 11/20).

National Journal: Oregon Spent Millions On Trippy Commercials for A Health Care Website That Never Worked
These ads, and equally "creative" ones from other states, were meant in part to get young people aware of the exchanges, because their enrollment is crucial to the success of the marketplace. And they've worked in the sense that they've achieved some virality off the air and on the Web—where these young people tend to gather their information. In Oregon, 25,000 people have applied via paper applications because of the nonfunctioning website (Resnick, 11/20).

Exchanges, or lacks thereof, are also making news in Georgia, California and Colorado --

Atlanta Journal-Constitution: State Exchange Wouldn’t Have Solved Georgia’s Woes
You can tell Obamacare has Democrats worried, because they've shifted from telling everyone how wonderful it was going to be to blaming Republicans for how bad it's turned out (Wingfield, 11/20).

California Healthline: Exchange Readies Second Web Opening
The second unveiling happens this week for Covered California's health benefit exchange website. This time small businesses are the enrollment target. The exchange's website, which launched for individual California consumers on Oct. 1, will go through a weekend-long upgrade in preparation for a Monday re-launch with enrollment accessibility for the Small Business Health Options Program -- known as SHOP. Brokers and small-business employers will be able to sign up online starting Monday. Once employers sign up for coverage, employees will be able to look up the program online and choose a plan (Gorn, 11/20).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): After 37-Day Delay, Cancer Patient Gets Insurance
It took 37 days of waiting in a bureaucratic black hole, 22 minutes on hold, two dropped calls and a switch to a new health system, but Donna Smith finally succeeded in signing up for new health insurance. She is one of 6,001 people who have bought insurance through Connect for Health Colorado during its first six weeks of operations. … While Smith supports Obamacare as an interim step toward universal coverage, her experience over the past six weeks has underscored the need for additional changes (Kerwin McCrimmon, 11/20).

In news related to plans available on the exchanges and affordability concerns -

The Associated Press: Begich Proposes New Tier Of Insurance Policies
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has proposed creating a new tier of insurance policies with lower premiums under the federal health care law as a way to address affordability concerns. The Alaska Democrat said his proposed "copper plans" would cover the services listed as essential health benefits under the law, and ensure at least half of medical costs are covered (Bohrer, 11/20).

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