KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Ore. Health Exchange, Oracle Begin ‘Transition’ Agreement; Md. Marketplace Wrestles With Next Steps

Updates on state-based exchanges in Minnesota and Washington as well as news from Wyoming regarding the Medicaid expansion.

The Baltimore Sun: Health Exchange Mulling Scenarios To Move Beyond Troubled Site 
After the state severed ties with the contractor that built its problem-plagued health insurance exchange, officials face the looming question of what to do with it — continue throwing money toward fixing it or replace it. Every option is potentially fraught with more technical headaches and expense (Walker and Cohn, 3/1).

The Associated Press: Cover Oregon, Oracle Enter Transition Agreement
Oregon's troubled health insurance exchange said Monday it will pay its main technology contractor much of the money it's been withholding in payments, in exchange for Oracle's promise to continue working with the state during a transition period. Meanwhile, Gov. John Kitzhaber expressed pessimism about the prospects for Cover Oregon and Oracle finishing the website before the end of March, when nearly all Americans are required to have insurance under the federal health care law (Wozniacka, 3/3).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Oregon Reaches 'Transition Agreement' With Oracle
Oracle Corp. delivered an ultimatum to the state of Oregon last week and it has paid off handsomely. After Oracle threatened to walk away from the state's health care exchange with the IT project still unfinished, the state agreed to pay $24 million to the company on Monday and will pay them another $19.9 million by Thursday. Oregon did withhold payment of $26.5 million and reserved its right haul Oracle into court and litigate their dispute over the troubled technology project
(Manning, 3/3).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Legislature's Budget Committed Approves Two Bills
Two bills on Cover Oregon, the state's troubled health insurance exchange, are headed to the House and Senate floors after the Legislature's main budget committee approved them Monday. Senate Bill 1582 would ensure money is available for a temporary health plan that Oregon Health Authority officials created at the beginning of the year to provide continued coverage for a pool of high-risk residents who weren’t able to enroll through Cover Oregon by Jan. 1. House Bill 4154 would extend whistleblower protections to Cover Oregon employees and allow the governor to remove all Cover Oregon board members in a single year
(Zheng, 3/3).

The Oregonian: Oregon's U.S. Senators Join Call For Federal Probe Of Cover Oregon Health Insurance Exchange
A decision on whether the investigative arm of Congress will probe the Cover Oregon health insurance exchange could come as early as this week, and the request for an audit has gone bipartisan. Oregon’s two U.S. Senators, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, both Democrats, have joined a call by Congressional Republicans for a federal audit of the Oregon’s exchange. Thanks to technical problems, Oregon’s is the last exchange in the country that doesn’t allow the public to self-enroll (Budnick, 3/3).

The Seattle Times: 15,000 Applicants 'Stuck' In State's Insurance Exchange 
Five months since the launch of the Washington Healthplanfinder insurance exchange, officials say many of the website problems consumers experienced in the early weeks have been fully resolved. At the same time, they acknowledge there are still thorny issues they are working to fix (Marshall, 3/2).

The Star Tribune: Glitch-Weary MNsure Customers May Get Break
Minnesotans who threw up their hands in frustration over technical problems with the MNsure website and bought health insurance outside of the state exchange may be able to apply for subsidies retroactively. The Obama administration made the policy change in part to help states such as Minnesota, where technical problems prevented consumers from using exchanges to buy insurance. In a bulletin issued last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said consumers who were prevented from shopping for coverage because of technical issues “may be considered an exceptional circumstance,” but offered vague guidance in how to carry out the new policy (Crosby, 3/4).

Meanwhile, in state action on Medicaid expansion -

The Associated Press: Wyoming Legislature Moves Medicaid Expansion Study
Both houses of the Wyoming Legislature on passed a budget bill Monday that calls on Gov. Matt Mead and other Wyoming officials to investigate whether they can reach an agreement with the federal government to expand Medicaid on the state's terms. The Senate voted 20-10 to approve the general government appropriations bill including the Medicaid negotiation language (Neary, 3/3).

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