KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Questions Surround Future Of Some Troubled State Exchanges

State insurance exchanges in Maryland, Oregon and Colorado are under the microscope and drawing criticism. Meanwhile, Republican state lawmakers in Tennessee and Texas propose legislation to undermine the health law in those states. And a cybersecurity official at the Department of Health and Human Services tells congressional investigators that testing of healthcare.gov, the federal online exchange, was inadequate.

The Washington Post: Countdown Begins For Marylanders To Get Retroactive Private Health Insurance
Maryland health exchange workers are focusing the next few days on calling and emailing thousands of uninsured people to see if they need coverage for this month and to let them know they have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to sign up for private health insurance that would be retroactive to Jan. 1. To qualify, Marylanders must prove that they tried unsuccessfully to get health insurance through the state’s marketplace before the new year began, and they must be willing to pay premiums for January and February before Feb. 15. For those that get in, the insurance will cover medical expenses incurred this year (Johnson, 1/15).

The Washington Post: Maryland Senate Committee To Again Question State Official About Health Exchange Problems
The chairman of the Maryland Senate Finance Committee, after expressing frustration with not being informed of brewing problems with the state’s health exchange, has asked state officials to now provide updates on the status of the exchange every two weeks. Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) also asked Joshua M. Sharfstein, secretary of health and mental hygiene, to appear before the committee for a second time this month and again answer questions about what went wrong in the rollout of the state’s health exchange Web site. That briefing is expected early next week (Johnson, 1/15).

Fox News: Problems In State Health Care Exchanges May Reflect Glitches In Federal System
With all the focus on the federal health care exchange, some of the problems in state exchanges have gotten less attention. But they may offer a glimpse of future problems in the federal system. Vicki Rapoport is the face of the breakdown in state exchanges -- in her case, Maryland. "To me it's very personal," she says, "and it's very frustrating because the system has failed me” (Angle, 1/16).

The Denver Post: Audit Of Colorado’s Health-Care Exchange Proposal Underway
A Republican lawmaker's request to audit Colorado's state health care exchange was viewed favorably Tuesday because an audit already is underway. Rep. Jared Wright of Fruita requested the audit late last year when reports surfaced that enrollments had fallen short of projections, there were problems with the website, and the CEO of Connect for Health Colorado asked for a raise and bonus. That request was later withdrawn (Bartels, 1/15).

The Lund Report: Kitzhaber Hires Cover Oregon Examiner As Doubts Build On Fate Of Exchange
Gov. John Kitzhaber told reporters Thursday that the state has hired an independent examiner to critically analyze the mistakes of contractor Oracle Corp and the state in rolling out Cover Oregon, while he and other Democratic officials have skirted discussion of whether the insurance exchange can survive its botched roll out. Kitzhaber said 170,000 Oregonians now have health coverage thanks to the Affordable Care Act (Gray, 1/10).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Lawmakers Praise Hard Work, Question Its Future
Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, said Wednesday it may be "time to throw in the towel" on the state's nonfunctioning healthcare exchange website. "This is the most incredible train wreck I've ever seen," Conger said about Cover Oregon. "I don't believe anymore that it's going to happen tomorrow, next week or next month. Maybe it's time to declare a loss and stop throwing good money after bad." In response, Cover Oregon Interim Director Bruce Goldberg said only: "I share your frustration and embarrassment” (Budnick, 1/15).

The Dallas Morning News: Democrats In Congress Oppose Texas’ Proposed Rules For Obamacare ‘Navigators’
Texas Democrats in Congress slammed proposed state rules requiring extra training for Obamacare navigators Wednesday, and they’ve asked Attorney General Eric Holder to intervene. Navigators help consumers sign up for health insurance through online exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act. Federal rules require navigators to have 20 to 30 hours of training. Rules proposed by the Texas Department of Insurance would add 40 more hours, require criminal background checks, and charge a fee of up to $800 for certification (Swartsell, 1/15).

The Associated Press: Legislation Proposed By GOP Lawmakers Would Make Health Care Exchanges Illegal In Tenn.
Health insurance exchanges established under President Barack Obama's signature law would be illegal under legislation proposed Wednesday by Republicans aiming to prevent state agencies from carrying out the mandates of the health overhaul. Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet and Rep. Mark Pody of Lebanon held a news conference to announce the measure that seeks to prohibit any cooperation by the state or its agencies in implementing or administering the federal law (Johnson, 1/15).

The Associated Press: Cybersecurity Chief Had Qualms Over Health Website
The top cybersecurity officer for the Health and Human Services Department said he was concerned about potential vulnerabilities ahead of the launch of the Obama administration's health care website. But Kevin Charest told congressional investigators he was unable to get answers to his questions from others inside the department. He concluded that the testing of the site was substandard (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/16).

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