KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

50 States, 50 Views Of Health Exchanges

Media outlets across the country spotlight the opening of federal and state-run websites that are designed to be a portal into new insurance marketplaces where those without group coverage can compare and purchase plans. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel describes a fund created by the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics to pay the premiums of those who would have been eligible for expanded Medicaid had the state opted into that health law program. The Texas Tribune spotlights potential problems as a result of state restrictions on the navigators who are supposed to act as consumer guides.

The New York Times: Online Map Helps New Yorkers Understand Federal Health Law Benefits
More than one million New Yorkers are expected to gain coverage under the federal health care law, according to estimates from the New York State Health Foundation. On Monday, the foundation unveiled an online map, where people will be able to view estimates by region of how many people are expected to be covered under Medicaid and how many will get private insurance – as well as how many are likely to remain uninsured (Abelson, 9/30).

The Associated Press: Kansas Braces For Opening Of Health Care Exchanges
Kansas' health care exchange is set to go online Tuesday, but even the biggest proponents of the federal health care law that created the marketplace suggest that consumers might want to wait until any glitches have been fixed before they buy coverage. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and the GOP leaders of the Legislature have resisted implementing the Affordable Care Act since its passage three years ago, arguing that it represents a costly expansion of government and limiting the state's involvement in establishing and promoting its centerpiece, the health care exchange (Hegeman, 10/1).

The Associated Press: Advocate: W. Va. Misses Out On Health Care Ad Money
An advocacy group that's worked for months to spread the word about a new health insurance marketplace born of the Affordable Care Act says West Virginia has passed up millions of dollars in federal advertising money that could have helped. In July, the Associated Press found West Virginia was spending more per capita than any other state to promote awareness of the law and the new health care exchanges, with $17.1 million. That amounts to $9.23 per resident and was 11th among the states in total spending (Smith, 10/1).

The Associated Press: Illinois Unveils Health Marketplace Ads
Illinois officials plan to launch a long-delayed, $33 million advertising campaign to inform residents about a new health insurance marketplace Tuesday, the ads first appearing on the same day the marketplace goes live with details of benefits available under President Barack Obama's health care law. The Get Covered Illinois ad campaign will start slowly with full-color newspaper ads in 50 cities, said Kelly Sullivan, chief marketing and communication officer for the marketplace. She provided copies of the ads to The Associated Press (9/30).

The Associated Press: Health Exchange, Medicaid Enrollment Set To Start
New Mexicans can begin taking advantage of key portions of a federal health care law on Tuesday as the state launches a new marketplace for buying health insurance and the government-funded Medicaid program starts enrolling more low-income adults. Under federal law, individuals and small businesses can start shopping Tuesday for health insurance from private insurers through newly created health insurance exchanges. Insurance coverage will start in January (Massey, 9/30).

The Associated Press: Health Insurance Exchange Goes Live In Tennessee
Tennesseans can now sign up for health insurance under the federally run online marketplace. The state's average premiums in the exchange rank among the cheapest of the 36 states that have deferred to the federal government to run their exchanges (10/1).

Miami Herald: Health Insurance Marketplace Key To Reform Opens Tuesday
The Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges open Tuesday amid fierce political pushback, recent delays of important provisions and a whole lot of confusion among the public. The online exchanges — also known as marketplaces — are the centerpiece of healthcare reform, and they will give consumers unprecedented power to examine an extensive menu of health plans and to compare prices and benefits side by side (Chang, 9/30).

MinnPost: MNsure Health Exchange Scheduled To Go Live Tuesday Afternoon
MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange, is scheduled to go live Tuesday afternoon after several last-minute test and security checks, officials said Monday. The exchange will make Obamacare’s initial deadline, they said, though it will come online later in the day than originally planned (Nord, 10/1).

Marketplace: Health Exchanges Go Live, But Will The Young And Healthy Sign Up?
It’s October 1, this morning the new Affordable Care Act health exchanges go live. Beginning at 8 o’clock Tuesday morning consumers around the country can start to shop for insurance online at healthcare.gov. The success of Obamacare, in part, rests on the ability to attract young, healthy inexpensive people to the insurance market. They’re called ‘young invincibles’ (Gorenstein, 10/1).

Minnesota Public Radio: Minnesota’s Health Insurance Marketplace Opens For Business Today
Minnesota's health insurance exchange, MNsure, launches today along with similar programs across the country. But that doesn't mean you have to rush to a computer to sign up if you are uninsured. President Obama and health insurance experts are calling it a soft launch as glitches and other problems are sorted out. The insurance plans won't go into effect until Jan. 1 (10/1).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure: Who Is It For? Not Everyone
As health insurance marketplaces go online in every state today as part of the Affordable Care Act, surveys indicate that confusion abounds over how the so-called exchanges will work and who should use them. The president's health care overhaul relies heavily on the exchanges, like MNsure in Minnesota, to expand access to insurance. But MNsure isn't for everyone. "MNsure will be very helpful for people who don't have health insurance today," said Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. "It will also be a real option for people who are buying insurance on the individual market, especially for people who have pre-existing conditions and may not have access to affordable insurance before” (Stawicki, 10/1).

The Star Tribune: MNsure Health Insurance Exchange Opening Awaits Final Test
Minnesota’s new health insurance exchange won’t go live until sometime Tuesday afternoon, as testing of the complex system continues into launch day. After a series of glitches attracted criticism in recent weeks, officials of the MNsure exchange insisted Monday that the afternoon opening does not reflect a delay. Executive director April Todd-Malmlov said at a late afternoon news conference that the exchange’s connection with a federal hub needs a “final check” and that it would take “a little bit of time” to make sure everything is secure (Crosby, 10/1).

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Prepares For Opening Day Of Health Insurance Exchanges
The state marketplace where the uninsured can buy health plans beginning Tuesday is ready for business, but state health officials are prepared for glitches in the system. Maryland Health Connection, which operates much like a travel or other online shopping website, opens at 8 a.m. and will allow people to search 45 plans offered by six insurers (Walker, 9/30).

The Arizona Republic: Health Exchange Sign-Ups Now Open
Nearly 1 million uninsured Arizonans today can begin shopping for health insurance through the new federal marketplace established under the nation’s health-care law. But despite years of planning, health experts predict some consumers may experience temporary setbacks when applying for coverage today through the new government-run website, healthcare.gov. One problem: People who may be eligible for Medicaid won’t have their applications immediately processed due to a computer glitch. Federal and state health officials expect the problem will be fixed by November, long before any coverage kicks in under the Affordable Care Act (Alltucker, 9/30).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Chris Abele Considers Dropping Health Coverage In Favor Of Exchanges
Milwaukee County would end health insurance coverage for some or all of its 4,400 employees and instead provide a subsidy toward individual coverage purchased through the new federal exchanges, under an idea floated in County Executive Chris Abele's 2014 budget. The shift could save the county at least $10 million a year, according to an estimate included in Abele's budget, which must be approved by the County Board. But that estimate is based on hypothetical figures, not the actual cost of health plans that will be available in the Milwaukee marketplace (Schultze and Boulton, 9/30).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: UW Hospital And Clinics Donates $2 Million To Defray Obamacare Premium Costs
University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics is contributing $2 million to United Way of Dane County to create a program that will pay for the cost of insurance premiums for plans bought on the marketplace set up through the Affordable Care Act. The program, HealthConnect, will help about 7,300 adults in Dane County who have household incomes between 100% and 133% of the federal poverty threshold — or $11,490 to $15,281 a year for one person (Boulton, 9/30).

The CT Mirror: Obamacare Insurance Enrollment Begins As Officials Warn Of Potential Glitches
Rather than touting the upcoming changes on the eve of opening, Access Health officials took a more cautious approach. In a press release issued Monday evening, they focused largely on the likelihood of errors occuring once customers begin using the system, in spite of what the statement called “rigorous testing” prior to launching. “We know there will be defects that we will continue to uncover as we roll out this system to residents,” Access Health CEO Kevin Counihan said in the release (Becker, 10/1).

PBS NewsHour: California Reaches Out to Educate Latino Community on New Insurance Exchange
On the eve of open enrollment for insurance exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act, the state of California is making a big push among Latinos, who make up a third of the uninsured nationwide. Kwame Holman reports on the $60 million effort to educate and enroll Californians in the new health care program (Woodruff, 9/30).

California Healthline: Let The Exchange Begin
State health officials will appear at events all over the state [Tuesday] to mark the official launch of California's new health benefit exchange. Covered California’s enrollment and eligibility website goes live Tuesday. Community groups also are holding events across the state this week to drum up interest and awareness in the exchange. A health fair is scheduled Wednesday in Salinas (Monterey County), for instance, and the California Primary Care Association Wednesday is hosting an outreach and enrollment Educational Expo in Sacramento. The Service Employees International Union has posted an online Spanish-language video series to help educate Latinos about the exchange. The first video is up, and is available in English, as well (Gorn, 9/30).

The Associated Press: Michigan To Release Cost Of Health Insurance Plans
Michigan's uninsured residents will soon learn the cost of health insurance plans being offered on a new marketplace created under the federal health care overhaul. Officials today will release premium information for 73 Michigan health plans approved by the federal and state governments. The release coincides with the first day of a six-month enrollment window (10/1).

The Texas Tribune: Some Fear Impact Of State Rules On Health Navigators
The day before the launch of the federal health insurance marketplace, Democratic lawmakers alleged that Gov. Rick Perry ordered restrictive new rules on so-called navigators trained to help Texans find coverage to intentionally impede implementation of Obamacare (Aaronson, 9/30).

Dallas Morning News: Obamacare Supporters Want Texas To Delay Rules For Insurance Helpers
Advocates for the poor and Democratic lawmakers urged the state Monday not to issue rules on health “navigators” unless federal safeguards fail to protect Texas consumers. Senate Democratic leader Kirk Watson of Austin said it would be premature for the Texas Department of Insurance to weigh in. A state health insurance marketplace opens Tuesday, as provided under the federal health care overhaul. The federal government is running the online marketplace, after Texas declined to do so. Navigators are employees of nonprofit groups that obtained federal grants. They will counsel people who want to explore their coverage options (Garrett, 9/30).

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: As Insurance Marketplace Opens, Focus Is On Recruiting Young Adults
Sher-rÈ Bird, 30, doesn’t see much point in buying health insurance…Her attitude foretells the challenge faced by the national campaign that kicks off today to get the uninsured to use new online marketplaces to buy health plans (Young, 10/1).

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