KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Data Suggest State-Run Online Insurance Marketplaces Making Progress

Meanwhile, headlines across the country offer updates on specific state exchanges in California, Florida, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota and Colorado.

The Wall Street Journal: State-Run Health Exchanges Gain Some Traction
At least 38,000 people have signed up for new health plans in the state-run insurance exchanges that opened Oct. 1, while more than 100,000 have completed applications and are close to finishing the process, according to state data (Schatz, 10/14).

Los Angeles Times: Online Firms To Help Enroll People In Obamacare, But Not In California
The nation's biggest online seller of health insurance has joined forces with the federal government to enroll people across the country in Obamacare, but EHealth Inc. won't be signing up any Californians (Terhune, 10/14).

The Sacramento Bee: Covered Calif.: Doctor, Hospital Directory Release Premature
Officials with the state's health insurance marketplace acknowledged prematurely releasing an online directory of doctors and hospitals on Tuesday, a week after opening enrollment for its version of the federal health care overhaul. Covered California removed the directory within a day of release after discovering it was plagued by inaccuracies and sluggish performance. The search tool was designed to allow customers to determine whether their providers were included in health plans offered by the exchange. In an interview with The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board Monday, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said the directory never should have been launched (Cadelago, 10/14).

The Sacramento Bee: Opt-Out Efforts Won’t Play In California, Insurance Chief Says
The chief of California's health insurance marketplace said he has no concerns about advertising campaigns designed to derail the federal health care law, arguing there is no "echo chamber" for such efforts in the Golden State. Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee has been crisscrossing the state for roughly two dozen town hall meetings and said he has been heckled just once - by an individual speaking out against U.S. intervention in Syria (Cadelago, 10/14).

The Miami Herald/Kaiser Health News: South Floridians' Biggest Question About Marketplace Plans: Will They Be Affordable?
One 47-year-old cancer survivor thinks the Affordable Care Act could save her life. But a 28-year-old real estate agent sees the law requiring health insurance for everyone as a safeguard he doesn’t need. And for an immigrant nursery worker in southern Miami-Dade County, health insurance is a luxury she never thought she could afford — and is afraid she still can't" (Borns, 10/14).

The Miami Herald/Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Obamacare Enrollees Become Urban Legend
Will the Floridians who have enrolled for Obamacare please stand up? Nearly two weeks after the federal government launched the online Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov, individuals who have successfully used the choked-up website to enroll for a subsidized health insurance plan have reached a status akin to urban legend: Everyone has heard of them, but very few people have actually met one (Borns and Chang, 10/15).

The Associated Press: Health Plan Sign-Ups On The Rise In Michigan
Amid the problems and political finger-pointing since the launch of online health care exchanges, Adnan Hammad sees progress. The community health director at Dearborn-based nonprofit organization ACCESS said his staff has helped hundreds of people enroll in plans under the federal health care overhaul and educated thousands about the available options (10/14).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Public Site Glitch Fixed So Browsers Can View Plan Details
Oregon's health insurance exchange has fixed a glitch that removed plan details from its public Cover Oregon website. Now plan details are up including information on copays, co-insurance and preventive coverage. Previously, the lack of information highly limited the website's usefulness for people hoping to buy their own policies on the individual market. The public browse-only website amounts to the state's backup plan as it tries to fix a larger glitch blocking enrollment on a separate website used by agents and application assisters. That site has had problems accurately determining whether a person is eligible for tax credits or other government assistance, such as the Medicaid-funded Oregon Health Plan. Cover Oregon officials had hoped to allow consumers to enroll themselves by Oct. 15, but now that function may not be available until November (Budnick, 10/14).

The CT Mirror: CT’s Newest Insurer Emphasizes Its Differences. Will That Win Customers?
In the quest to build an insurance company from scratch, Kenneth Lalime sees opportunity in mistaken phone calls. The new insurer Lalime runs is called HealthyCT, and it’s not uncommon for people to call trying to reach the state’s health insurance exchange, which is called Access Health CT. So the people who answer the phones at HealthyCT can transfer callers to Access Health, or they can answer questions themselves. Lalime hopes callers will remember that HealthyCT was helpful. Mistaken identity is just one of the quirks of being “the new guy on the block” at a time of major change for the health care and insurance industries (Becker, 10/14).

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland’s Obamacare Health Exchange Hit With Problems
As the nation prepared for the launch of federal health reforms, Maryland was lauded as a leader in adopting the president's signature program. Obama used a community college in Maryland as a backdrop to promote his plan — and to praise Maryland as a model (Cohn, 10/14).

The Baltimore Sun: Md. Insurance Exchange Shoppers Trend Young, Female, Officials Say
Young people are showing interest in buying insurance through Maryland Health Connection, the state marketplace created as part of federal health care reform, with those under 35 making up a third of those exploring the organization's website, officials said Friday. Users in the 25-29 and 30-34 age groups make up the largest and second-largest shares, respectively, of the 25,000 people who have created profiles on the marketplace's website, MarylandHealthConnection.gov, despite persistent technical difficulties (Dance, 10/11).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure After 2 Weeks: How’s It Working?
Elana Gravitz, Program Manager at Hennepin County Human Services Department sums up how many community organizations view MNsure, with a quick assessment: "Sometimes it works," she said. "Sometimes it doesn't work." MNsure officials say the on-again, off-again problems stem from the federal data hub, that insurance marketplaces such as MNsure must use to verify a person's income through the IRS. In recent weeks, the hub has been overwhelmed. But when it is working, Gravitz said, it automates the otherwise cumbersome enrollment process in Medicaid. "It's a great thing for the county," she said. "What it means is that eventually as the system gets smoother and smoother, we'll be able to have the workers spend the time with clients that have more complex issues and questions than the folks who have more straightforward cases might be able to take care of things on their own” (Stawicki, 10/15).

Kaiser Health News: Colorado Insurance Exchange Week One: Few Enrollments, Lots Of Interest
Connect for Health Colorado, which is branding itself as C4HCO, says it had 162,941 unique visitors to its website October 1-7. Of those, 226 purchased health coverage for themselves and dependents, totaling 305 covered lives (Whitney, 10/15). 

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Thousands Look, 226 Buy During Exchange Debut
Colorado’s new health exchange has attracted thousands of visitors since its launch on Oct. 1, but only 226 pulled the trigger and bought insurance as Obamacare officially launched. High traffic to the Connect for Health Colorado website caused technology glitches that prevented many people from being able to create accounts immediately after the exchange launched. Those problems continued through last week and prompted two unscheduled shutdowns to reboot the exchange’s software, technology managers said. Even so, as of Friday, about 28,000 people have created accounts and about 204,000 unique visitors have surfed the site that offers health plans to individuals and small businesses, managers said. They say the system overloads that prevented people from creating accounts are now largely resolved (Kerwin McCrimmon, 10/14).

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