KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

For States, ‘Churn’ Is A Matter Of Concern

California Healthline reports on how life events can cause individuals' incomes to change enough that it will also impact whether they qualify for subsidies to shop for insurance on the state's health exchange, or whether they should apply for Medicaid. It's an issue on which states are beginning to focus. 

California Healthline: 'Churning': The Latest Watchword For States Working On Health Reform
Under the law, if a person's annual income is below 138% of the federal poverty level -- or about $15,850 -- he or she qualifies for coverage under the Medicaid expansion. If a person's income is between 138% and 400% of the federal poverty level, he or she qualifies for federal tax subsidies to purchase private coverage through the state insurance exchanges. However, normal life events -- such as getting married or divorced, having children or taking a second job -- can alter an individual's income and push him or her back and forth between the two coverage levels, according to experts. … What strategy has Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, selected? "Currently there is no strategy," Dana Howard -- Covered California spokesperson -- told California Healthline (Wayt, 7/31).

Meanwhile, news outlets report on premium rates in Maine and Florida for plans purchased on the exchange and examine Maryland's rates more closely.  

Bangor Daily News: Regulators Approve Maine Health Plans Under Obamacare, But Impact Remains Unclear
The state's insurance bureau met a deadline Wednesday to report on how much some Maine consumers and businesses will pay for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, but the impact of the new federal health law remains unclear. ... Maine's submission to the feds was expected to shed light on how much consumers and small businesses will pay for insurance through the exchange and what benefits the plans will include. The trove of documents included a framework for how the insurers will set rates, but not a summary or side-by-side comparison of the plans, making it difficult to determine what consumers actually will pay, said Joe Ditre, executive director of the Augusta-based Consumers for Affordable Health Care (Farwell, 8/1).

Miami Herald: Florida Says Health Insurance Prices Will Spike; Feds Disagree
Florida insurance regulators unveiled for the first time Wednesday the prices proposed by private insurers for individual health plans to be sold on the state’s federally-run exchange, which is scheduled to launch Oct. 1. But the proposed health plans and prices — and the state’s analysis that federal healthcare reform would cause premiums to rise — were hardly definitive of the actual costs that Floridians are likely to pay for health insurance next year. That’s because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has yet to approve the proposed health plans for Florida’s exchange, and those plans, including the prices, may change as they have in other states (Chang and Borns, 7/31).

CQ HealthBeat: Keeping Risk Pool Open A Factor In Lower Exchange Rates For Maryland
A number of the 35 states that set up high-risk pools to help uninsurable residents get health coverage are in the process of winding them down as the coverage expansion provisions of the health care law are set to take effect next year. But some of these pools will stay open, at least for a while (Reichard, 7/31).

Related KHN Coverage: Patient Advocates Seek A Gentle Transition From High Risk Pools To New Exchange Plans (Andrews, 7/23).

Also, two companies depart from Georgia's state exchange; Virginia is poised to approve 15 plans to participate on the marketplace the federal government will operate for its residents; and the latest on Michigan's Medicaid expansion.  

Georgia Health News: Aetna, Coventry Back Out Of State Exchange
Aetna and the company it recently acquired, Coventry, have dropped out of the Georgia health insurance exchange. The two companies’ departure Wednesday means there are just five insurers left to offer coverage in the Georgia exchange, also known as a marketplace, which starts enrollment Oct. 1. (Miller, 7/31).

Richmond Times Dispatch: Va. OKs Health Plans For New Exchange
Virginia is poised to approve 15 health plans to compete in a new insurance benefit exchange the federal government will begin operating in the state on Jan. 1. But the final rates that eligible Virginians will pay for insurance in the new electronic marketplace will remain unknown until the federal government decides which plans will compete on the exchange and what they can charge. … The SCC Bureau of Insurance had approved five of the nine proposed plans for individual insurance coverage and all six plans proposed for small businesses as the deadline approached for state action late Wednesday. The remaining four individual market plans were still under review at the close of business (Martz, 8/1).

Detroit Free Press: Three State Medicaid Expansion Plans Move Out Of Committee To Full Senate
A Michigan Senate committee has moved to the full Senate not one, but three different plans to expand Medicaid. The first bill, passed by a 4-0 vote, builds on an earlier plan passed by the state House and is supported by Gov. Rick Snyder, who, in a written statement, praised the committee's action to move the bill forward and urged quick action by the full Senate (Gray and Erb, 7/31).

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