KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Contractor Got Extra $8.7M Days Before Healthcare.gov Launch

Politico reports that federal officials made the emergency payment to Verizon Terremark after discovering the federal website was unable to handle sufficient traffic. Also in the news, the Maryland House is scheduled to vote on legislation to provide insurance to people who tried unsuccessfully to buy coverage through the state website. The state will also push back the launch of a website for small businesses.

Politico Pro: Document Details Healthcare.Gov Emergency, $8.7 Million Payment
Federal health officials awarded a prominent Obamacare contractor an additional $8.7 million just days before the website’s launch because they discovered it couldn’t handle nearly enough simultaneous visitors, according to a newly released government document. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it made the emergency award to Verizon Terremark for cloud computing services after learning on Sept. 26 that HealthCare.gov could only take 10,000 concurrent users. Officials expected the site to handle 50,000 during its busiest times. CMS decided earlier that year it wouldn’t extend Terremark’s contract (Millman and Meyers, 1/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House Set To Vote On Health Exchange Bill
The Maryland House of Delegates is on track to vote for a measure to provide health insurance to people who tried to enroll on the state’s online health exchange but couldn’t get through due to computer problems. The House is scheduled to vote on Tuesday (1/28).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Exchange Website For Businesses Delayed
Maryland’s health exchange board approved a plan Monday to allow eligible small businesses to begin offering employees small group health plans and to access federal tax credits in April, but the state is pushing back the launch of a website for the program until Jan. 1, 2015. The delay puts Maryland’s Small Business Health Options Program Exchange on the same timeline as the federal government. It was initially set to open in October, but was delayed until January to fix technical problems. Still, state officials said certified plans and access to tax credits worth up to 50 percent of the employer’s contribution toward employee premium costs, will be available directly through carriers, third party administrators and brokers starting on April 1 (1/27).

Media outlets also follow developments with California's insurance exchange -

The Sacramento Bee: California Health Exchange Locks Down Six-Figure Consultants
The state's health insurance exchange is handing out six-figure contracts to a pair of consultants and a new marketing director that officials say will enhance the sustainability and help expand the program. Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the consulting contracts would give the agency the "the exceptional staff and resources we need to make history." Jeffrey Rideout will stay on as senior medical adviser on a one-year contract worth more than $411,000. A consultant in the areas of clinical quality, network management, delivery system reform and clinical and network analytics, Rideout previously served in senior executive and chief medical officer positions with Cisco Systems and Blue Shield of California.

ProPublica: Consumers With Canceled Insurance Plans Shifted To New Ones Without Their Permission
When California pharmacist Kevin Kingma received a letter last fall notifying him that his high-deductible health plan was being canceled because of the Affordable Care Act, he logged into his state’s health insurance exchange and chose another plan beginning Jan. 1 (Ornstein, 1/27).

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