KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

D.C.’s Obamacare Insurance Exchange Hits Technology Snag

The District of Columbia's online health exchange will not be able to immediately calculate a person's subsidy to help them buy coverage or sign up for Medicaid when the health law exchange opens Oct. 1. Instead, such determinations will be done offline as officials try to fix the problems. D.C.'s online health exchange technology problems follow similar ones in Colorado and Oregon. 

The Washington Post: Navigating The Affordable Care Act, Whose Health Insurance Exchanges Open Tuesday
The plan is for millions of Americans to go online to compare health plans, find out if they’re eligible for federal help with premiums and buy coverage. But problems -- which include the District’s announcement on Wednesday that a major part of its online marketplace will not be ready Tuesday -- could impede the program’s debut (Sun, 9/25).

The Washington Post: District’s Health Exchange Hits Major Snag, Will Still Open Oct. 1
District officials announced Wednesday that a major part of a new health insurance system it is building under President Obama’s health-care overhaul will not be ready on Tuesday because of "a high error rate" discovered during recent testing. The online marketplace, in which uninsured people are supposed to be able to sign up under the Affordable Care Act, will open as scheduled. But it will not be able to immediately determine online whether people are eligible for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, or for government subsidies to afford premiums (Sun and Somashekhar, 9/25).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: D.C.'s Obamacare Fail: Prices Won’t Work Until November
While the D.C. Health Link will launch a Web site on October 1, shoppers will not have access to the their premium prices until mid-November. The delay comes after the District marketplace discovered "a high error rate" in calculating the tax credits that low- and middle-income people will use to purchase insurance on the marketplace. The insurance marketplaces, if working as plan, are supposed to spit out an estimate for a tax credit after a shopper enters in some basic information about where she lives and how much she earns. In the District, that won't happen next month. Instead, the eligibility determination will be made "off-line by experts" by early November (Kliff, 9/25).

Reuters: Computer Snags Delay Parts Of Obamacare In Some U.S. States
The District of Columbia's online health insurance exchange -- one of 51 set up under President Barack Obama's health care reform law -- will be unable to perform two key functions when it opens on October 1, exchange officials announced on Wednesday. The District joins Colorado and Oregon on the list of "Obamacare" exchanges hobbled by problems with information technology (IT), contributing to expectations that Obama's signature domestic achievement will get off to a slow start when the exchanges go live next Tuesday (Begley, 9/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Key Functions Of D.C. Health Exchange Delayed
The system is supposed to calculate the amount of tax credits lower earners can receive to help them pay for coverage, and it is also designed to determine whether people are newly eligible for Medicaid. But a spokesman for the exchange, known as DC Health Link, said those two functions won't be ready until about Nov. 1 (Dooren, 9/25).

McClatchy: Computer Glitch Delays Obamacare Insurance Exchange In D.C. 
In an unexpected setback, officials at the District of Columbia’s health insurance marketplace announced Wednesday that a computer glitch won’t allow consumers to get their federal tax credits that are key to helping them buy health coverage on Oct. 1 when the marketplace officially opens for business. The same problem will keep residents in the nation’s capital from enrolling electronically in the Medicaid program, said D.C. marketplace spokesman Richard Soriano. Workers will instead enroll Medicaid applicants manually on Oct. 1 without delay (Pugh, 9/25).

CQ HealthBeat: Online Subsidy Determinations Delayed in D.C., Colorado -- Elsewhere Too?
In recent days, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been downplaying concerns that computer systems involved in federally run marketplaces would not be able to reliably calculate premium costs taking subsidies into account. The agency said in response to a Wall Street Journal story reporting the problem that accurate premium calculations would be made when the marketplaces open on Oct. 1 (Reichard and Adams, 9/25).

Elsewhere, other states deal with online exchange issues of their own, including with outreach -- 

The Wall Street Journal: Insurance Push Nears Liftoff
Tuesday marks the debut of New York state's health-insurance exchange, an online marketplace that will allow consumers to choose between more than a dozen coverage plans. Albany wants to enroll 1.1 million people over the next three years, a mix of individuals and employees of small businesses. The state has made a special push in New York City, home to 1.5 million of the state's 2.7 million uninsured. A range of challenges loom. Many people are so poor they won't be able to afford the insurance; others don't speak English and are still others are leery of revealing personal medical information to the government. Then there is the simple lack of awareness (Dawsey, 9/25).

The Associated Press/St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Marketplace To Be Called 'Get Covered Illinois' 
The brand name of Illinois' new health insurance marketplace does something that other states' names don't. "Get Covered Illinois" tells the 1.8 million uninsured residents what they need to do. Gov. Pat Quinn's administration unveiled the name Wednesday, less than a week ahead of the launch of the online marketplace where people can comparison-shop for the coverage required under President Barack Obama's health care law (Johnson, 9/25). 

Detroit Free Press: 13 Insurers To Offer Plans On The State's Exchange
Michigan consumers will have13 insurers to choose from on the state’s health insurance exchange. Priority Health offers plans under two licenses. It won’t be clear until Oct. 1 how much their plans will cost (9/25).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: County Would Spend Up To $729,000 On Obamacare Outreach, Under Compromise 
A plan to spend up to $729,000 in Milwaukee County taxpayer funds to help with outreach for the rollout of the Affordable Care Act won the endorsement of a County Board panel Wednesday. The plan would give $379,000 to four agencies to help reach low-income people who might not otherwise understand they could be losing coverage they now have under BadgerCare or might want to purchase health insurance through a new online insurance exchange created by the health law, commonly known as Obamacare (Schultze, 9/25).

California Healthline: Exchange Officials Field Readiness Queries
The Assembly Committee on Health this week held a hearing to determine readiness of the Covered California health benefit exchange -- just a week before open enrollment season starts. Covered California begins enrolling Californians for health coverage Oct. 1. The enrollment period for subsidy-eligible Californians will last six months.   "We don't need everyone to sign up on Oct. 1 itself, but we do want people to be signing up between Oct. 1 and Mar. 31," said Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), chair of Assembly Health (Gorn, 9/25).

In other news --

Miami Herald: Miami-Dade Weighs Gov. Rick Scott’s Obamacare 'Navigators' Ban 
Miami-Dade, Florida’s largest county and the one with the largest number of uninsured, is making plans to join Broward and defy Gov. Rick Scott’s decision banning Obamacare coordinators from operating at local health departments. Miami-Dade’s mayor and commissioners began weighing the decision Tuesday as Broward County voted overwhelmingly to allow the so-called "navigators" at health departments to spread the word about, and sign people up for, new Affordable Healthcare Act plans that could come online Oct. 1 (Caputo, Mazzei and Rabin, 9/24).

NPR: A Medicaid Expansion In Pennsylvania May Take Time
In Pennsylvania, more than a half-million people who don't have insurance are waiting to hear whether the state will take advantage of a Medicaid expansion that's part of the Affordable Care Act. The federal law would allow people earning up to 138 percent of federal poverty guidelines to sign up for Medicaid. But a Supreme Court ruling that largely upheld the law gave states the choice whether to expand their Medicaid programs (Brady, 9/26).

KUT/The Texas Tribune: Exchanges May Provide Relief To Families Seeking Coverage For Kids (AUDIO)
The new federal health care exchanges opening Oct. 1 could provide a safety net for the families who earn too much money to qualify for state and federally subsidized health care plans like Medicaid and CHIP (Zaragovia, 9/26).

California Healthline: California Raced To 'Set The Pace' On Obamacare Implementation. Did It Pay Off?
Every expert suggested that the ACA's rapid implementation in California could be traced back to [former Calif. Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger's efforts in 2007 and 2008 to enact universal health care. … Although the Schwarzenegger plan ultimately failed, many of its components -- from big elements like the exchanges to smaller pieces like guaranteed issue -- ended up in the ACA. And because state leaders had already done much of the foundational work, they were better positioned to speedily roll out the national law (Diamond, 9/25).

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