KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Health Exchange Countdown: Insurers, Regulators Test Drive New Plans, TV Ads

News outlets report on how the health law's online health insurance marketplaces will work, the products that will be available through them and the efforts to enroll millions of uninsured or underinsured people.

Reuters: Analysis: Obamacare Struggles To Meet Make-Or-Break Deadline
With time running out, U.S. officials are struggling to cope with the task of launching the new online health insurance exchanges at the heart of President Barack Obama's signature health reforms by an October 1 deadline. ... Current and former administration officials, independent experts and business representatives say the three priorities are the creation of an online portal that will make it easy for consumers to compare insurance plans and enroll in coverage; the capacity to effectively process and deliver government subsidies that help consumers pay for the insurance; and retention of the law's individual mandate, which requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance when Obama's healthcare reform law comes into full force in 2014 (Morgan, 7/14).

Dallas Morning News: Medicare Chief: Things Are On Track In Carrying Out Health Care Law
We’re less than three months away from the start of open enrollment for the health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, and Marilyn Tavenner is busily trying to spread the word. Tavenner manages the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the $820 billion federal agency charged with implementing the rollout of the exchanges. The state-based exchanges will enable individuals and small businesses to shop for health plans. … Tavenner came to Dallas last week to address a conference of the National Association of County and City Health Officials and to enlist members’ help in spreading the word about the exchanges. She also visited with business and health care leaders (Yip, 7/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Test Drive New Health Plans
The federal health overhaul's big requirement that most people carry health insurance is still months away, but already insurers like Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island have a sense of what will matter most to consumers: price. "To me, it's all about money," said Rob Roy, who compared plans in a consumer test for the insurer. Currently uninsured and working as a cook in a pub, Mr. Roy said he found the choices too expensive. He ended up opting for a competitor's plan instead of Blue Cross (Mathews, 7/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Seek Right Balance Of Risk, Reward
In the insurance business, some customers are more desirable than others—and insurers will be seeking to woo them in preparation for the health law's new marketplaces. Customers not only bring revenue in the form of the premiums they pay. They also come with costs, since the insurer will be on the hook for medical expenses (Mathews, 7/14).

The Wall Street Journal's Corporate Intelligence: How Will Health Insurance Exchanges Work?
This fall, people in every state are supposed to be able to buy health insurance through new online marketplaces, or exchanges, instituted by the federal health-care law. Insurers have been preparing for the rollout with research, trying to figure out what products to offer and how to market them. For consumers, here are some important questions and answers about the exchanges (Mathews, 7/14).

Bloomberg: Obama's Employer Health Care Delay May Goose Exchange Enrollment
Freeing companies from a U.S.- government mandate to offer employees health care is setting off a chain of events that may enlarge the pool of uninsured Americans. That may be good for President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul. The success of the 2010 Affordable Care Act is largely dependent on how many people are willing to buy subsidized health plans through government exchanges (Wayne, 7/15).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: State Insurance Exchanges Launching TV Ads To Encourage Enrollment
A folk singer playing guitar in front of a mountain stream. A Disney-like animated video about how "a new day is coming." An announcer talking about "change is here." A woman jumping up and down in celebration in a baseball team locker room. These images are from the first television advertisements being aired by state-run health insurance exchanges created under the federal health law. Oregon, Kentucky, Colorado and Connecticut produced them. Several more states, including Hawaii and Vermont, are expected to launch ads in the coming weeks, ahead of the Oct. 1 start of open enrollment (Galewitz, 7/15).

MPR News: Health Care Town Hall Meeting Set For Tuesday
Several DFL lawmakers will hold a health care town hall meeting Tuesday to explain how the new health care law will affect Minnesotans and answer their questions. One of those lawmakers, Sen. Bobby Joe Champion of Minneapolis, said there has been a lot of anxiety surrounding the health care law and he hopes the forum will quell some of those fears. … The marketplace, MNSURE, will allow Minnesotans to enroll in health coverage including government programs and commercial insurance starting this fall for coverage that begins Jan. 1 (Stawicki, 7/14).

CQ HealthBeat: Debate Over Abortion Moves To Coverage In New Marketplaces
Abortion rights advocates are fighting on two fronts right now: the public abortion debates in statehouses that have drawn national attention, and a more quiet initiative intended to ensure that the procedure is covered in the new health law marketplaces opening this fall (Adams, 7/12).

Also in the news, the latest on navigators --

The Hill: HHS Releases Final Rules For ObamaCare 'Navigators'
The Health and Human Services Department on Friday finalized rules for the "navigators" who will help people make sense of their options under ObamaCare. In a 145-page regulation, HHS finalized standards for training and certifying navigators (Baker, 7/12).

CQ HealthBeat: Final Navigator Rule Calls For 30 Hours Of Training
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a final regulation late Friday that calls for 30 hours of training for "navigators," the people who will be charged with providing expert advice on a wide range of issues to people signing up for insurance coverage under the health law. The rule also outlines standards for certified application counselors, who will also help people with their questions about how to get coverage (Reichard, 7/12).

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