KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

States Race To Fix Insurance Exchange Glitches

In Maryland, Vermont and Oregon, state officials are still hammering out technological issues preventing consumers from signing up for coverage. In California, in contrast, the pace of enrollment in December has been nearly three times that of a month earlier as the deadline approaches to sign up for coverage that takes effect Jan. 1.

The Washington Post: O'Malley: Nine 'Major' Problems With Online Health-Insurance Exchange Have Been Fixed
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said Saturday that his administration has met a mid-December deadline he set to fix the biggest technological problems hindering enrollment through the state’s online health insurance exchange. O’Malley (D) said that a list of nine “major fixes” that he demanded last month were made as of Friday morning. Among the big problems was the Web site’s tendency to freeze at a highly inopportune moment — just as users seeking to obtain insurance plans clicked the “Enroll” button (Wagner, 12/14).

The Baltimore Sun: O'Malley Says Major Health Exchange Problems Are Fixed
The state has resolved all "major issues" preventing its glitch-ridden health exchange from working, officials said Saturday, a milestone Gov. Martin O'Malley has framed as key to boosting the low enrollment in insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act. While officials cautioned that more repairs are necessary, O'Malley said through a spokeswoman that the site "is now functional for most citizens" (Cox, Fritz and Walker, 12/14). 

Los Angeles Times: Anthem Blue Cross Leads California Exchange Enrollment Two Months In
Amid rising enrollment for healthcare insurance in California, industry giant Anthem Blue Cross has seized the early lead with a 30% share of the state's exchange market. Two major rivals, Blue Shield of California and Kaiser Permanente, aren't far behind in newly released state figures (Terhune, 12/13). 

ProPublica: Turning The Corner? In California, At Least, Obamacare Sign-Ups Zoom
The statistics released yesterday from Covered California could bode well for health insurance exchanges that have their act together. Although the California exchange enrolled 109,000 in October and November combined, the tally from the first seven days in December — 49,708 — is nearly three times the pace from a month earlier (Ornstein, 12/13).

The Fresno Bee: Health Coverage Deadline May Be Hard To Meet In Valley
In the central San Joaquin Valley and statewide, a deadline is fast approaching for people to enroll in health plans so they can have insurance at the beginning of the new year. ... Valley insurance agents and health providers say the state's online system has slowed enrollments, and they suspect the agency will be buried by an expected avalanche of applications between now and Dec. 23 (Anderson, 12/14).

The San Francisco Chronicle: New Insurance Law: Long Hours, Low Commissions For Agents
When a client called with questions about applying for insurance under the new health care law, Bay Area insurance agent Simon Chew tried to help. He used the phone line dedicated for agents to call Covered California, the state's new health insurance marketplace. After a long wait he received a partial answer to a question about calculating income. He eventually got that client's application filed, but in the meantime many more questions from other clients started pouring in, and they haven't stopped (Udesky, 12/15).

The Oregonian: Kitzhaber Responds To Oregon's Health Exchange Fiasco With Information-Technology Reforms
Gov. John Kitzhaber announced a set of reforms Friday, saying he was in the dark as the rest of us about the technical difficulties plaguing Oregon's health care exchange. Kitzhaber was notified by Cover Oregon on Sept. 3 that due to technical challenges the state's vaunted new exchange website would be launched in stages. It wasn't until Sept. 30, the day before the federal deadline for exchanges to be fully operable, that the Governor learned the launch would be scrubbed altogether (Manning, 12/14). 

The Associated Press: Oregon Gives Insurance Applicants More Time
Oregon health officials announced a series of changes late Friday in hopes of giving some people more time to sign up for insurance through the state's health insurance exchange. With its online enrollment system not fully working, Cover Oregon announced that insurance companies have agreed to delay the deadline for people to select their plan, a final piece of the multi-step enrollment process (Wozniacka and Cooper, 12/13).

The Oregonian: State Officials Give Consumers More Time As Cover Oregon Logjam Persists
State officials, facing an increasingly chaotic insurance market of their own making, announced moves late Friday to give Oregonians more time to get low-cost insurance by year end. Cover Oregon, the state's troubled health insurance exchange, said it would give most consumers until Dec. 27 to pick a health plan that would take effect Jan. 1. The state's initial enrollment deadline was Sunday, but thousands of Oregonians still lack information they need from the exchange to select a plan. The new deadline applies only to those who postmarked their applications by Dec. 4, officials said (Hunsberger, 12/14).

The Associated Press: Vt. Gov. Urges Health Connect Sign Up By Dec. 23
Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday encouraged people who are eligible for health insurance through the Vermont Health Connect system to sign up by Dec. 23, the deadline to receive a federal subsidy and have coverage effective Jan. 1. Shumlin said the problems that plagued the state's health care website after its Oct. 1 launch are diminishing and residents are signing up in increasing numbers (Ring, 12/13).

The Hill: Report: House Panel Blasts Navigators
People responsible for helping consumers enroll in ObamaCare, known as navigators, were not required to undergo background checks, according to a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report obtained by Breitbart News (Shabad, 12/16).

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