KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Oregon, Minnesota Exchanges Weigh Next Steps

Officials overseeing the troubled exchanges examine what went wrong this year and debate how to proceed. Meanwhile, a small business exchange in Georgia gets few enrollees and The Denver Post reports that more residents signed up for Medicaid than for private insurance.

The Oregonian: Decision To Scrap Or Salvage Cover Oregon Health Insurance Exchange Poses Risks Either Way
In January, Cover Oregon officials told lawmakers that efforts to fix the health insurance exchange had steadily cut the number of most serious programming bugs to just 13. Since then, that tally has grown to about 300. The disturbing trend underlines the uncertainty Cover Oregon and Gov. John Kitzhaber wrestle with as they decide whether to try to salvage the unfinished insurance exchange -- or scrap the whole thing and move to the federal exchange. The exchange board will hear an update on the process at its Thursday meeting (Budnick, 4/9).

Minnesota Public Radio: Legislative Auditor To Investigate MNsure
The bi-partisan Legislative Audit Commission has directed the state's internal government watchdog to perform a broad audit of MNsure, Minnesota's online health insurance marketplace. Legislative Auditor James Nobles' office already has two limited examinations of MNsure underway. One is a federally required review of how MNsure spent more than $150 million in federal grants. It also is reviewing the security of MNsure's website (Stawicki, 4/9).

Minnesota Public Radio: Health Exchange Enrollment Passes 181K
The operators of Minnesota's health insurance exchange say enrollment has risen to about 181,000 people as they continue to process applications that were started before the March 31 enrollment deadline. MNsure is working through a backlog of some 36,000 insurance applications from people who started but could not complete the process by the close of open enrollment. The agency says that, so far, 47,697 Minnesotans have enrolled in a commercial health plan; the rest are in MinnesotaCare (37,050) and Medical Assistance (96,610), government-sponsored coverage (Catlin, 4/9).

Pioneer Press: MNsure To Undergo Evaluation By Auditor, Analysis Of Its Coverage Effectiveness
As Minnesota's legislative auditor announced Wednesday a full evaluation of MNsure, state officials revealed plans to address a key question: Did the federal health law reduce the number of Minnesotans lacking coverage. MNsure has asked University of Minnesota researchers to work with insurance companies and the state Department of Human Services to provide a preliminary estimate for the impact of the federal Affordable Care Act on the uninsured rate in Minnesota (Snowbeck, 4/09).

Georgia Health News: Small Firms’ Exchange Has A Big Problem: It’s Off To A Very Slow Start
The health insurance marketplace for small businesses is now open. But Mom and Pop aren’t buying. Many small employers do not even appear interested in checking out this feature of the Affordable Care Act, which is different from the better-known individual exchange where people buy coverage for themselves (Empinado, 4/9).

Meanwhile, on the topic of Medicaid expansion --

ProPublica: Medicaid Programs Drowning in Backlog
Last week, federal health officials celebrated two milestones related to the Affordable Care Act. The first, which got considerable attention, was that more than 7 million people selected private health plans in state and federal health insurance exchanges. The second, which got less attention, was that some 3 million additional enrollees had signed up for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (public health insurance programs for the poor), many as a result of Medicaid's expansion. But there are growing signs that Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is a victim of its own success, unable to keep up with demand. While about half the states have refused to expand their Medicaid programs' eligibility, among those that have, some can't process applications fast enough (Ornstein, 4/9).

The Denver Post: More In Denver Signed Up For Medicaid Than For Private Insurance
In Denver, 2 1/2 times as many people enrolled in the taxpayer-funded Medicaid program from October through the first quarter of 2014 as those who signed up for private insurance through the state exchange, state figures show. And in Colorado and nationwide, Medicaid enrollments outpace private insurance registrants. Colorado ranked 11th in the nation of states with the highest percentage of Medicaid enrollments compared with private insurance subscribers through marketplaces as of the end of February, a Denver Post analysis of federal numbers shows (Kane, 4/10).

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