KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Online Marketplace Still Not Ready To Offer Brokers ‘Direct Enrollment’ Option

The option, when it is finalized, will allow customers to go to an insurance broker who will be able to provide all the services of the federal website, including calculating subsidies and applying those to the premium. In other news about the upcoming enrollment season for the exchange, Oregon officials announce new insurance rates.

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: There's A Way Around Healthcare.gov, But It's Still Not That Great
Some of the behind-the-scenes functions that consumers don't see, like the systems allowing federal subsidy payments to insurers, still need to be built. But there's another part of the enrollment system that isn't quite ready, and it doesn't sound as if it will be by the time the Affordable Care Act's second enrollment period rolls around. It's known as "direct enrollment," in which a consumer can go to a private online Web broker who provides a similar function that HealthCare.gov does — the brokers can sell a range of ACA health plans and offer insurance subsidies to those who qualify. The federal government reached agreements with several such entities last summer, with the idea that they would provide more opportunities for people to enroll in ACA plans (Millman, 7/31).

The Associated Press: Oregon Releases 2015 Health Insurance Plan Rates
Oregon will see a much tighter range of premium prices in 2015 for individual and small employer health insurance plans, according to new rates announced Friday by state regulators. The Oregon Insurance Division says Moda, the company that captured nearly two-thirds of the individual market share with some of the lowest prices in 2014, will see a 10.6 percent rate hike on average. ... Some of the smaller carriers will see rate decreases in 2015. Plans from Providence Health and Trillium Community Health will both drop by about 14 percent on average (Wozniacka, 8/1).

Oregonian: State Releases Oregon's 2015 Health Insurance Rates For Individuals, Small Businesses
Last year, federal changes to expand coverage of pre-existing conditions caused many rates to go up in the individual market even as insurers cut back on benefits. In Oregon, one of the most competitive insurance markets in the nation, 2014 rate hikes did not hit consumers as badly as expected. In part that's because Moda came in with low rates - so low that some accused the insurer of underpricing to more than double its market share. Moda officials denied it. For 2015, other insurers have made aggressive moves to cut rates, which were largely approved by state regulators. Providence Health Plan rates, for example, will drop 14 percent in the individual market (Budnick, 8/1).

State officials are also dealing with Medicaid issues-

Kansas Health Institute News Service: Hutchinson Hospital CEO Calls For Medicaid Expansion
The top executive at the Hutchinson Regional Healthcare System says he and other hospital officials are "baffled" by Gov. Sam Brownback’s unwillingness to expand the state’s Medicaid program. "I have heard all the arguments, both pro and con, on Medicaid expansion, and am at a total loss as to what the downside … might be" of allowing the federal government to pump millions of additional dollars into the Kansas health care system, Kevin Miller wrote in a recent opinion piece for the Hutchinson News. Kansas is one of 24 states that have chosen not to expand eligibility for their Medicaid programs in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2012 that made expansion an optional component of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare (Ranney, 8/1).

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: Xerox's Medicaid Business Struggles
More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia contract with Xerox Corp. for help running their Medicaid programs. New York is expected to join them. But the company might not be able to count on glowing testimonials from some of its customers. The company has hit speed bumps with several states relating to its Medicaid work there. Texas canceled its Medicaid contract with Xerox in May, and is suing the company. Montana in June complained that Xerox is in breach of its contract, which the state said it was considering ending. Those problems were resolved last month. And Xerox and Alaska are in mediation over complaints Alaska has regarding the state's new Medicaid payment system, put in by Xerox. All of those are in addition to separate problems Xerox has encountered in a related business, running the Nevada health insurance exchange (Daneman, 8/4).

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