KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

HHS Warns Texas Gov. Against Adding ‘Cumbersome Requirements’ For Navigators

The federal letter comes in response to an effort by Gov. Perry to tighten rules to protect consumers' confidential information. Also in news about the efforts to get the online marketplaces running, federal and some state officials again pledge that exchanges will be ready for operation on Oct. 1, but the Wall Street Journal reports on some new glitches.

The Houston Chronicle: Perry And Feds At Odds Over Health Care Navigators
The Obama administration is accusing Gov. Rick Perry of making a "blatant attempt to add cumbersome requirements" for people hired to help uninsured Texans enroll in health coverage, just two weeks before health care reform insurance marketplaces open. Federal officials responded to a Tuesday letter Perry sent to state Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber. The governor said it is imperative that the state adopt more stringent regulations than the federal government's to protect Texans and their confidential information, including birth dates, Social Security numbers and financial information. (Hines and Hart, 9/19).

CQ HealthBeat: GOP Lawmakers Blast Oversight of Navigators, Question Exchange Readiness
With a dozen days left to go before insurance exchanges open on Oct. 1, Republicans at a House subcommittee hearing Thursday lit into one of the top federal officials in charge of implementing the health law. During two hours of questioning they accused Gary Cohen of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the hearing's sole witness, of mismanaging the navigator program, which was created under the law to help guide uninsured Americans through the complexities of the enrollment process (Reichard, 9/19).

Politico: Obamacare Official: Go For Launch Oct. 1
Obamacare enrollment is on track to launch Oct. 1, a top Obama administration official overseeing the rollout of the massive new health care law said on Thursday. And even if there are problems in the first days of enrollment, Cohen assured the subcommittee, the millions of people who get health insurance through Obamacare won't remember them in the long run (Millman, 9/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Pricing Glitch Afflicts Rollout Of Online Health Exchanges
Less than two weeks before the launch of insurance marketplaces created by the federal health overhaul, the government's software can't reliably determine how much people need to pay for coverage, according to insurance executives and people familiar with the program (Weaver, Martin and Dooren, 9/19).

Bloomberg: California Online Health Exchange Said Ready For Oct. 1
California, the most populous U.S. state, said the health insurance exchange it's building as part of the Affordable Care Act will be ready on Oct. 1.  Delayed testing of computers and other missed milestones have raised questions about whether exchanges nationwide would be ready to start enrolling as many as 7 million customers next month for subsidized private medical plans that are the centerpiece of the 2010 health law (Marois, 9/19).

MinnPost: Reports Find Potentially Serious Problems, But MNSure Director Says Health Exchange Is A Go
Despite internal documents identifying potentially serious problems, the head of Minnesota’s new health exchange expressed confidence Thursday that the system will go online Oct. 1 with at least barebones functions. The MNsure documents, obtained by MinnPost, note staff and consultants' specific concerns about issues involving small businesses using the exchange, as well as eligibility verification and user testing (Nord, 9/19).

In other exchange news -

CT Mirror: Obamacare Insurance: What The Standard Gold, Silver And Bronze Plans Look Like
Here's a look at the deductibles, copays and coinsurance requirements for the standard plans that will be offered through Access Health CT, the state's health insurance exchange. There are six plan types listed here. Bronze, silver and gold are available to any exchange customers. The bottom three -- silver 94, silver 87 and silver 73 -- are only available to people with low incomes and have reduced cost-sharing (9/19).

The Seattle Times: Don't Be Fooled By Site Similar To Official Health Exchange
If you go to washingtonhealthplanfinder.org you’ll see a "Welcome to the exchange" message inviting you to compare and sign up for health-insurance plans. You can get quotes and there's an online chat utility you can use to ask questions.  But the site isn't what you may think it is. It isn't the Washington Healthplanfinder, the state online exchange set up under the Affordable Care Act to find and purchase individual insurance plans. You'll find that at wahealthplanfinder.org (Marshall, 9/19).

Earlier related KHN coverage: Consumer, State Officials Warn Buyers To Be On the Lookout For Fake, Look-Alike Exchange Sites (Miller, 9/12).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure Outreach Criticized By Minority Groups 
A state senator says the $9 million marketing campaign for the state's new online health insurance marketplace is under review for its appeal to minority groups. Marketing for MNsure may also need to be expanded, said DFL state Sen. Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis (Shenoy, 9/19).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure Data Security Breach Prompts New Bill 
A data security breach at the state's new online insurance marketplace has prompted two members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation to write a bill designed to prevent confidential information from being leaked again. Starting Oct. 1, uninsured Minnesotans will be using MNsure to purchase health insurance, and they'll have to provide information about themselves in the process (Richert, 9/19).

Detroit Free Press: How Michigan's Health Insurance Exchange Will Work
Because Michigan lawmakers delayed action, the Michigan Health Insurance Marketplace, also called the exchange, will be operated by the federal government. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will run the exchange, as well as out-of-state call centers that will provide consumers with information (Erb, 9/19).

Also, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urges Missouri to reconsider its Medicaid actions --

St. Louis Beacon: HHS Secretary Urges Missouri To Take Medicaid Expansion Money
Missouri could lose $8 billion in federal funding during the first six years of health reform if state lawmakers continue to refuse to expand Medicaid to insure more of the needy, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. She spoke during a stop in St. Louis for a meeting with St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, County Executive Charlie Dooley, health leaders and others working to help prepare consumers for the reform law’s insurance exchange marketplace, which opens for business on Oct. 1 (Joiner, 9/20).

CQ HealthBeat: How Exchanges Will Impact Medicaid On MACPAC’s Future Agenda
The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission discussed at its meeting on Thursday its priorities for the coming year, with a focus on the implementation of the health care law and the intersection of Medicaid with new marketplaces that will start enrolling people in less than two weeks. Commissioners on the panel, known as MACPAC, batted around half a dozen ideas that they had discussed at a private planning retreat in July and said they want to explore more (Adams, 9/19).

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