KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Officials Look For Budget Fixes For Minnesota’s Insurance Exchange

In Minnesota, a proposed budget indicates that some officials want to spend $12.5 million to continue repairing the marketplace website and call center as well as spend $5 million in grants next year when the exchange is supposed to be self-sufficient.

Kaiser Health News: What Went Wrong With Minnesota’s Insurance Exchange
Behind MNsure's upbeat façade was a swamp of management failures and technical glitches that crippled the more-than $100 million website. MNsure leaders blamed tight deadlines and evolving federal requirements for the website's malfunctions. However, internal MNsure documents and interviews with insurance company officials, county workers and other stakeholders reveal a more complicated story (Stawicki and Richert, 3/12).

Pioneer Press: MNsure Tapping Grants To Fix Customer Services, Balance 2015 Budget 
MNsure wants to spend an additional $12.5 million this year to continue repairs to its website and call center, officials said Wednesday as they unveiled plans for a balanced budget in 2015. Meeting in St. Paul, the health insurance exchange's board approved a $39.8 million budget for next year that will be balanced if the federal government lets MNsure change the timing for when it can spend $5 million in grants (Snowbeck, 3/12).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure Faces $5M Shortfall Next Year
Preliminary budget projections for MNsure, the state's online insurance website, show a $5 million shortfall for next year. But officials say they won't need additional state funding because of left over federal funding. MNsure leaders estimate MNsure will have about $40 million in expenses but take in about $35 million in revenue next year. Although MNsure has $5 million in hand from federal grants, the federal government has limited states to using that money to create their insurance marketplaces in 2014 (Stawicki, 3/12).

The Star Tribune: MNsure Outlines Plans To Keep Its Budget In Balance
MNsure officials laid out figures Wednesday under which the exchange would put $10 million into fixing its website this year and the organization would become self-sufficient in 2015, as required by federal law. Next year’s $39.7 million budget does not seek additional funding from the Legislature, but it relies on getting federal approval to carry over $5 million in grants to fill a shortfall created by lower-than-expected enrollment in private health plans. MNsure leaders say they feel confident that federal officials will allow the state added flexibility to hold on to the last slice of a package of two-year grants totaling $155 million. Those funds were originally earmarked to build the MNsure system and to staff and operate the agency in its first year (Crosby, 3/13).

Elsewhere, exchanges make news in Washington state, Maryland and New Jersey --

The Seattle Times: Washington Insurance Sales Beat Most Other States
Nearly 800,000 people have used Washington’s insurance exchange to purchase health insurance or enroll in Medicaid. More than 109,000 residents have bought coverage through Healthplanfinder, while nearly 223,000 adults who now qualify for Medicaid under the recent expansion signed up for free medical care (Stiffler, 3/12).

The Baltimore Sun: Finger-Pointing Continues On Maryland's Health Exchange 
Weeks after officials at the state's health care exchange began blaming IBM software for the worst problems, including lost applications, IBM began pushing back, saying the state shares some of the blame. It's the latest salvo in the blame game that has been going on since the exchange launched, and crashed, on Oct. 1 (Cohn, 3/12).

Newark Star-Ledger: Widespread Backlog Roils NJ Health Insurance Market
The implementation of the Affordable Care Act has clogged the system for nearly all types of health insurance in New Jersey, causing frustration and delays for consumers, agents and policyholders say. Lingering backlogs have left thousands in limbo, unsure of whether they’re covered and unable to reach anyone to find out. Some people who completed applications late last year — before the deadline for coverage to begin on Jan. 1 — are still waiting for insurance cards. And so are those who have signed up for N.J. FamilyCare, the state’s newly expanded Medicaid program, and private policyholders (O'Brien, 3/13).

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