KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Shoppers Confront More Glitches, Frustrations From State Health Exchanges

Whether it is long waits for marketplace helplines or news that some people in California will have to redo their applications, problems persist. News outlets offer more examples and updates with reports from Maryland, Oregon, Washington, Georgia and Colorado.

The Associated Press: Long Waits Frustrate Callers To Health Exchanges
For those trying to enroll through online health exchanges, help has long been advertised as just a phone call away. Yet the challenge in some states has been trying to get a call through at all, never mind the multiple transfers once contact has been made. Long wait times of an hour or more have been commonplace in some states, primarily those running their own health care exchanges. California, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada and Washington are among the states in which consumers and insurance agents have complained. One consequence is that people just give up because they are unable to wait indefinitely (Witte, 3/1).

Los Angeles Times: California Says 14,500 Must Redo Obamacare Applications After Glitch
California's health insurance exchange said about 14,500 people have to redo their online applications for Obamacare coverage because of a software error. The state's announcement late Friday comes shortly after a five-day outage of the Covered California enrollment website. About 14,500 people who partially completed applications or updated them Feb. 17-19 -- just before the website went down -- have to either start over or resubmit any changes they made, the exchange said (Karlamangla, 2/28).

The Sacramento Bee: Covered California Software Glitch Affects 37,000 Health Care Applicants
Computer problems that darkened Covered California’s website last week will force as many as 14,500 customers with partially completed applications to either resubmit the changes or begin a new request, officials at the health exchange said Friday. Overall, about 37,000 Californians were affected by a software malfunction that led officials to ground the enrollment portal for five days. Those who submitted updates between Feb. 17 and Feb. 19 may have to start over (Cadelago, 2/28).

The Washington Post: Only Nine Marylanders Have Signed Up For The State's Retroactive Health Insurance
Only nine Marylanders have signed up for temporary, retroactive health insurance made possible by emergency legislation aimed at helping people who tried to get coverage through the state’s faulty online health insurance marketplace, encountered problems and were stuck with medical bills to pay (Johnson, 3/1).

The Washington Post: About 19,000 Have Paid First Premium Through Maryland Health Insurance Exchange
About 19,000 Marylanders who signed up for a private health insurance plan through the state’s new online marketplace have paid their first premium, state health officials announced Friday. Although the state announces its number of private plan enrollees each week, this is the first time officials have made public the number of enrollees who have actually paid for their insurance — the ultimate sign of commitment and one closely watched by insurance companies (Johnson, 2/28).

The Baltimore Sun: Health Exchange Mulling Scenarios for How To Move Beyond Troubled Site
After the state severed ties with the contractor that built its problem-plagued health insurance exchange, officials face the looming question of what to do with it — continue throwing money toward fixing it or replace it. Every option is potentially fraught with more technical headaches and expense (Walker and Cohn, 3/1).

Fox News: Costs Of ObamaCare Bungles Start To Add Up, With Maryland First At About $30.5M
Maryland could end up spending as much as $30.5 million as a result of a glitch in its ObamaCare website, as the Obama administration steps in to help states with problematic exchanges. Because of Maryland’s defective exchange, the state cannot determine whether customers remain eligible for Medicaid, according to a report by state budget analysts released Thursday. As a result, the state has agreed with the federal government to a six-month delay in determining eligibility, meaning that payments will continue to be made to customers who are not eligible until the system is fixed. The delay will cost the state $17.8 million in fiscal 2014 and $12.7 million in fiscal 2015, the analysts estimated (3/2).

The Seattle Times: 15,000 Applicants 'Stuck' In State's Insurance Exchange 
Five months since the launch of the Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange, officials say many of the website problems consumers experienced in the early weeks have been fully resolved. At the same time, they acknowledge there are still thorny issues they are working to fix (Marshall, 3/2).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Carolyn Lawson, Departed IT Director, Says She's Been Unfairly Scapegoated
Carolyn Lawson, the former senior IT manager forced to resign after the Oregon's disastrous health care exchange rollout, said she's wrongfully been made the scapegoat for the technology fiasco. In her first lengthy interview since she quit the state in December, Lawson said Friday she was removed from most daily oversight of the exchange project in November 2012. Cover Oregon demanded more independence from Lawson and the Oregon Health Authority, she claims, and Cover Oregon management called the shots from that point on. Lawson said, "there is plenty of blame to go around," for the exchange's issues (Manning, 2/28).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon Health Insurance Exchange Fiasco Spawns Problems For Low-Income Oregonians' Health Plan
Nearly 4,000 applicants for a state program that provides undocumented immigrants with pregnancy services were instead enrolled in full Oregon Health Plan coverage, contrary to federal law, thanks to problems with the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange. State officials say they discovered the problem several weeks ago and are correcting it.?The pregnancy program goof, however, is just one of many little-known problems that Oregon Health Plan members, providers, care groups and state officials have wrestled with as Oregon’s system for enrolling people undergoes chaotic change (Budnick, 3/1). 

Georgia Health News: Black Churches Play Big Role In ACA Outreach
Willie Johnson of Doraville didn’t know what to expect when he went to a recent health care information event in Stone Mountain. Johnson, a part-time restaurant worker, had no health insurance. So when he heard a spot on radio station V-103 about the event at Berean Christian Church, he decided to find out for himself. At the church, he met officials with Enroll America, a nonprofit organization seeking to help people gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act. They gave him information about the health insurance exchange that the federal government operates in Georgia. Soon afterward, Johnson, 47, enrolled in an exchange policy that he says will cost him just $30 a month (Miller, 2/28).

Health News Colorado: Lawmakers Support Comprehensive Exchange Audit
Members of the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee voted 9 to 2 on Thursday to support the audit. Colorado Auditor Dianne Ray is already working on a narrow examination of how the exchange is spending $177 million in federal funds. If House Bill 14-1257 passes the full House, then the Senate, Ray will conduct a much more thorough examination. It will include how funds have been spent, whether the exchange is on track to be financially self-sustaining as planned by January 2015, if employee background checks are working and whether workers are safely handling private customer data (McCrimmon, 2/28).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.