KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Weekend Maintenance Will Affect Healthcare.gov

Meanwhile, Maryland officials say the problems with that state's enrollment website are unlikely to be fixed before the March 31 enrollment deadline. Elsewhere, California is hiring more call center workers, and Illinois is reaching out to young adults with ads in the satirical online newspaper, The Onion.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Weekend Tech Maintenance To Affect Healthcare.gov
This time, they’re giving you notice. Some consumers won’t be able to finish their online health insurance applications this weekend because Social Security’s computer system will be undergoing heavy maintenance. It will not be able to verify Social Security numbers and certain other personal details needed for coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law (2/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Official: Md. Looking At Health Exchange Options
Maryland’s online health care exchange has some significant problems that are not on track to be corrected by the March 31 deadline for open enrollment, and officials are exploring other options for the second enrollment period starting in November, state officials told a legislative oversight panel on Monday (2/10).

The New York Times: California’s Physician Directories Removed Because Of Errors
The California health care exchange has taken down its physician directories, amid continuing complaints from doctors and patients alike that the lists of doctors and hospitals included in each insurance plan were error-riddled and unreliable. Since the October rollout of Covered California, inaccuracies have posed countless problems: The lists described doctors as fluent in languages they did not speak; obstetricians were labeled as ophthalmologists; and physicians were falsely listed under insurance plans that did not cover care at their offices (Lovett, 2/10).

Los Angeles Times: Covered California Is Hiring More Workers To Fix Service Problems
California's health insurance exchange is racing to fix persistent service problems before it faces another surge of Obamacare applicants eager to beat a March enrollment deadline. The Covered California exchange said 250 new call-center workers began training Monday, and as many as 150 more employees will come on board in the coming weeks to ease phone wait times that stretch nearly an hour. Those additions would bring the total number of call-center staff to 900 people from about 500 now (Karlmangla, 2/10).

The Associated Press: California Expands Health Exchange Call Centers
The executive director of California's health insurance exchange said Monday that he is hiring 400 call-center workers, many in Fresno, with the goal of alleviating telephone backlogs that have frustrated those applying for health care. Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, formally announced the staffing increase in a visit to a Fresno call center, where 250 new employees began training on their first day of work (Smith, 2/10).

The San Jose Mercury News: 350 Workers Added To Covered California Call Lines
Hundreds of customer service representatives will be added to Covered California’s phone lines, to help cut wait times and to enroll more state residents into health care plans before a March deadline, state officials announced Monday. At least 350 customer service representatives will be added to the 900 already in place, said Peter Lee, Executive Director for Covered California. About 30 of the new people hired will speak Spanish, while others will offer help in Mandarin, Vietnamese and Korean languages. The extra employees represent an increase in staff of roughly 40 percent and the hiring comes just as Covered California, the state’s health plan exchange, is hoping to enroll thousands of state residents by their March 31 deadline (Abram, 2/10).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Health Exchange Insures Thousands More 
The state's new health exchange reports nearly 697,000 New Yorkers have completed applications for insurance while more than 412,000 of them have now enrolled for specific coverage (2/11).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Illinois Using The Onion To Reach Young Uninsured
Trying to sell young adults on the idea of health insurance before an upcoming deadline, Illinois officials announced Monday they are launching an ad campaign with the satirical online newspaper The Onion (2/10).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Senate Panel Advances Bill Extending Health Insurance To High-Risk Oregonians
A Senate panel on Monday advanced a bill to extend health insurance to high-risk people previously covered under theOregon Medical Insurance Pool. Senate Bill 1582 would ensure money is available for a temporary health plan that Oregon Health Authority officials created at the beginning of the year to provide continued coverage for pool members who weren’t able to enroll through Cover Oregon by Jan. 1. The bill, sponsored by Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, is one of several on Cover Oregon that lawmakers are considering (Zheng, 2/10).

The Star Tribune: Cost Of MNsure Insurance May Leave Target Group No Better Off
Jamie Ward has run the numbers over and over -- even consulting a financial counselor -- and still doesn’t know if she can afford the health insurance she found on MNsure. With two months left to enroll for benefits this year, the 29-year-old from East Bethel must decide whether to buy coverage for herself and her husband -- or risk staying uninsured and paying a penalty imposed by the new federal health law. “It might be cheaper to pay a hospital bill if something happens than to pay a premium every month,” she said in a recent interview. Setting aside the problems that have hounded the state’s troubled health insurance website, the key measure of MNsure -- and the federal health law it embodies -- is whether it successfully extends health benefits to Minnesota’s estimated 490,000 uninsured -- people such as the Wards (Olson, 2/11).

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