KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

California’s Exchange Undergoes A Weekend Tune-Up; Maryland Officials Say Site Is Improving, But Challenges Remain

In addition, news outlets offer progress reports on state-based health exchanges in Minnesota, Washington and Michigan as well as how the federal exchange is working for other states that opted not to run their own online insurance marketplace.

Los Angeles Times: California Health Exchange Looks To Speed Up Enrollment In Week 2
After a weekend tune-up, California's health insurance exchange will try to overcome first-week glitches that frustrated many consumers trying to sign up under Obamacare. The state marketplace, called Covered California, shut down its online enrollment system Saturday night through early Monday morning for what it described as "regular maintenance" (Terhune, 10/7).

Healthy Cal: Dialing In to Health Insurance
Almost as plentiful as the options for health insurance through Covered California are the ways in which a consumer may access information and sign up for coverage. A website at CoveredCa.com is supposed to make exploring and selecting a plan easy; community clinics and other health care organizations provide in-person applications; and the state has employed thousands of assisters to offer help for those not quite comfortable with the process of acquiring health insurance. While there’s been an emphasis on the usability of Covered California’s web portal – the site had 5 million hits by 3 p.m. on the first day live – and the accessibility provided by assisters, one of the options for applying for coverage that is available to the public may be sitting on a table at home or resting in a purse or pocket. The good ol’ telephone (Fulton, 10/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Online Health Marketplace Improving In Md., But Some Technical Issues Still Being Dealt With
Officials say more than 13,000 residents have created accounts on Maryland’s online marketplace for health insurance. But technical issues remain in using Maryland Health Connection, the state-based health insurance marketplace, officials said Monday (10/7).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Maryland Says It Has 326 Enrollees In Health Exchange
That number is one of the few trickling out about enrollment in the new health-insurance exchanges created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The federal government, which is operating exchanges on behalf of 36 states, hasn’t given enrollment numbers yet for its HealthCare.gov exchange, which, as The Wall Street Journal reported today, has been plagued by design and software problems (Landers, 10/7).

The Baltimore Sun: More Than 300 Marylanders Enroll In Health Plans In Six Days
Since it launched last week, the state's new health insurance exchange has been used by 326 Marylanders to enroll in plans, while thousands of others created accounts to start shopping, despite persistent technical problems. A new report released Monday outlining the performance of Maryland Health Connection in its first six days showed steady interest from Marylanders looking for health insurance (Walker and Cohn, 10/7).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Minnesota Health Exchange Reports ID Problems
A Minnesota official said the state’s insurance website, MNsure, is being hampered by new troubles with the federal government’s identify verification system that’s needed to create an account to buy health insurance. April Todd-Malmlov, MNsure’s executive director, didn’t elaborate on what the exact problem was but said late Monday that it "appears to be a different issue" than one that prevented many consumers from setting up an account late last week. She said MNsure staff is currently trying to figure out the details of the new problem with the federal government but said it appears related to a system update installed over the weekend meant to fix the original glitches (Dooren, 10/7).

Pioneer Press: MNsure Health Exchange Draws Praise, Confusion
With health insurance policies she's purchased in the past, Robyn Skrebes has been frustrated with flimsy coverage that left her with unexpected out-of-pocket costs. So she felt confident Monday buying a policy for next year through the website of MNsure, the state's new health insurance exchange (Snowbeck, 10/7).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure's Intermittent Problems Continue For Some Users
Days after Minnesota's online insurance marketplace had a less-than trouble-free launch, MNsure officials are betting that consumers will have a smoother experience this week. But the site is not in the clear yet. Intermittent problems with account creation continue for users of the online health insurance marketplace, and weekend fixes to a key federal component of the system appeared to trigger a new set of problems. "This is having a little bit of an impact on us," MNsure executive director April Todd-Malmlov. "We are working with the federal government right now to evaluate that. This issue appears to be minor so we do anticipate that we will be able to get this fixed with them quickly (Stawicki, 10/7).

The Star Tribune: New MNsure Site Fixes Old Problems But Another Arises
Despite the latest glitch, Todd-Malmlov said the insurance website continues to draw interest. The site drew 4,300 unique visitors on Monday. Nearly 6,000 people have created MNsure accounts since the site went live last week and started offering health insurance as a state exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. Of those, 163 accounts were created by employers, who will presumably offer health ­coverage to their workers. “People are getting through,” Todd-Malmlov said. “We are very excited to see the number of accounts ­increasing.” Challenges remain. American Indians are still discouraged from using the site for now because of problems interfacing with federal databases to verify their unique eligibility for certain subsidies and benefits. Plans to keep the state site open 24 hours a day have been shelved for now as well (Olson, 10/7).

The Associated Press: State Health Care Exchange Signs Up 9,452 In First Week
More than 9,400 people in Washington state have signed up for insurance for either themselves or their families in the first week of the state’s new health exchange open enrollment period, according to numbers released Monday. Numbers from the Washington Health Benefit Exchange show that 9,452 enrollments have been completed since the exchange went live Oct. 1 (La Corte, 10/8).

Detroit Free Press: Consumers Struggle To Sign Up For Health Care On Michigan Exchange
After more than a year revving up for the Oct. 1 launch of the Michigan Health Insurance Marketplace only to face error messages and other computer glitches during the first few days, field workers charged with assisting consumers are reworking plans and urging patience (Erb, 10/7).

St. Louis Beacon: Health Insurance Exchange Costs May Please Young Adults
When Alexis Young, a graduate student and part-time health researcher, began looking at her own insurance exchange options, she didn’t experience nearly as much sticker shock as she had expected…Contrary to some of the hype from critics of the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called Obamacare), expenses for these two plans suggest that young adults will have access to health care at reasonable prices (Joiner, 10/8).

The Associated Press: Nebraska Health Care Enrollment Inches Forward
Nonprofit groups were still working Monday to sign Nebraskans up for health insurance through the new federal marketplace, despite computer problems that have lasted for nearly a week. The nonprofit group Community of Nebraska reported that some residents were able to create accounts within the new federal website, healthcare.gov (Schulte, 10/7).

The Kansas City Star: Here Are The Obamacare Plans And Prices Offered To KC Area Buyers
Uninsured and insured alike want to know: What will it cost to buy health insurance on the new Health Insurance Marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act? The answers depend on individual circumstances, such as age, family and income, as well as plan choices and geographic location (Stafford, 10/8).

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