KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Accommodations Sought For Chronically Ill, Victims Of Domestic Violence

Advocates press for help for thousands of consumers with pre-existing illnesses who face a March 31 closure of high-risk insurance pools and also for married victims of domestic abuse to allow them to qualify for subsidized coverage. Meanwhile, the administration signals that, because health plans have seen added costs caused by the troubled rollout of the health exchanges, the government may relax a requirement that insurers spend 80 percent of all premium dollars on medical care because of their added expense due to the troubled rollout of the exchanges.

The Wall Street Journal: Deadline Looms for 'High Risk' Enrollees
Thousands of "high risk" people with existing medical conditions remain enrolled in a federal health-insurance program slated to close March 31, making it likely the Obama administration again will have to extend the program or risk seeing sick people lose coverage. The program was set up soon after the 2010 health law was passed to offer temporary assistance to people who couldn't get coverage from commercial insurers (Radnofsky, 3/13).

Kaiser Health News: Advocates Press For Insurance Subsidies For Domestic Abuse Victims
Spouses who file their taxes separately, sometimes because of domestic violence or abandonment, often can’t get government subsidies to purchase health insurance -- and advocates say the Obama administration hasn’t done enough to help them. With the March 31 sign-up deadline approaching, advocates are urging the administration to give domestic violence victims more time to sign up and to make it easier for them to get tax credits even if they don’t file a joint tax return (Appleby, 3/13).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Insurers May Get Cost Break Thanks To Rocky ACA Rollout
On Tuesday the Department of Health and Human Services signaled its intention to temporarily give insurers a break on the portion of premiums they must spend on medical care or return to policyholders. The switch could shrink consumer rebate checks. But considering what insurers have gone through with balky online marketplaces and shifting regulations, even consumer advocates don’t seem to object (Hancock and Appleby, 3/13).

Politico Pro: Administration May Change MLR Rules
The Obama administration’s next adjustment to the Affordable Care Act could be just what the insurance companies ordered: changes to the MLR rules. And it’s partly because of all the extra expense the insurers incurred because of the HealthCare.gov mess. In a filing this week, federal health officials signaled that they’re considering relaxing an ACA requirement that insurers spend 80 percent of all premium dollars on medical care, rather than administrative costs. Insurers that fail to meet the medical loss ratio standard have to give rebates to customers (Cheney, 3/13).

Bloomberg: Obamacare Co-Ops Defy Forecasts To Win Market Share
In Maine, the insurer that has enrolled the most Obamacare customers isn’t the state’s well-established Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, owned by WellPoint Inc. It’s WellPoint’s only rival: Maine Community Health Options, a startup that didn’t exist three years ago. The newcomer, funded primarily by taxpayer money lent under the U.S. health-care law, has won about 80 percent of the market so far in Maine’s new insurance exchange, exceeding its own expectations, said Kevin Lewis, the chief executive officer (Wayne, 3/13).

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