KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Inaccurate Doctor Lists Hurt Access For Low-Income Californians

Meanwhile, confusion over limited providers also has led to unforeseen bills for enrollees in private plans in California, reports The Los Angeles Times. Other stories look at the growing number of insurers who want to participate in the online marketplaces and how 19 states have passed laws restricting the workers who help consumers sign up, despite a new federal rule eliminating many such restrictions.

The California Health Report: Directories Of Doctors Who Treat The Poor Are Inaccurate, Hurting Access
Directories of doctors given to low-income patients across California are highly inaccurate, making it difficult for them to get the health care they’re entitled to under state law, the California Health Report has found. More than half of the primary-care doctors in provider directories given to low-income patients in three counties in Northern, Central and Southern California are not accepting new patients with Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health plan, or could not be reached by telephone. At one plan in Butte County, more than 95 percent of the doctors listed in the printed directory were either unavailable to new patients or could not be reached. Even in the most accurate directory, from a plan in Fresno County, reporters were able to confirm that a doctor would see a new patient at only six out of every ten offices listed (Guzik, 6/29).

Los Angeles Times: Confusion Over Doctor Lists Is Costly For Obamacare Enrollees In State
Frustration and legal challenges over the network of doctors and hospitals for Obamacare patients have marred an otherwise successful rollout of the federal healthcare law in California. Limiting the number of medical providers was part of an effort by insurers to hold down premiums. But confusion over the new plans has led to unforeseen medical bills for some patients and prompted a state investigation. More complaints are surfacing as patients start to use their new coverage bought through Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange (Terhune, 6/28).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Washington And Other States See New Insurers On Exchanges
Washington State’s health insurance exchange is looking to be an attractive marketplace for new health insurance carriers, according to an early analysis of insurer premium rate filings by McKinsey & Company. Four new insurers have applied to sell individual policies in the state’s exchange next year, making Washington among the states with the highest number of new exchange entrants of the 12 states where preliminary 2015 rates have been filed, according to McKinsey. If insurance regulators approve the new carriers, Washington will have 12 insurers on the exchange in 2015, up from eight participating this year (Bartolone, 6/30).

CNN Money: Obamacare = Opportunity For Insurers
For insurers, Obamacare spells opportunity: They are flocking to sell more policies on more state exchanges for 2015. In Illinois, for example, 10 insurers are submitting proposals to state regulators to market 504 plans on the Obamacare exchange, a huge jump from the eight insurers that offered 165 plans for this year. ... UnitedHealthcare (UNH) has applied to be on the exchanges in Illinois and Washington. This year, it took a cautious approach and only provided policies in a dozen insurance exchanges. "We feel the exchange markets hold opportunity," said Tyler Mason, a spokesman for UnitedHealthcare (Luhby, 6/27).

The Washington Post: How States Are Still Limiting Obamacare’s Outreach Program
If you think back to the time before the rollout of Obamacare's coverage expansion, there was one controversy that fired up opponents and supporters of the law more than any other: the role of in-person enrollment aides. ... last month, the administration issued new rules trying to crack down on these state laws. In all, 19 states have laws placing additional requirements on navigators, and 15 of those appear to violate the new federal guidelines, according to Georgetown University Health Policy Institute researchers (Millman, 6/27).

Fox News: ObamaCare Whistleblower Claims Retaliation, Republicans Cry Foul
A political storm has erupted in Washington state involving a whistleblower who claims she was retaliated against after raising concerns about ObamaCare's implementation.  Patricia Petersen, a hearings officer in the state's Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC), filed a whistleblower complaint alleging coercion and corruption in the OIC, which is tasked with implementing the Affordable Care Act. She said Chief Deputy James Odiorne threatened her job if she didn’t rule the way Commissioner Mike Kreidler -- a supporter of the law – wanted (Springer, 6/28).

Pioneer Press:  Tale Of Two Health Care Websites:  Minnesota Presses On; Maryland Moves On
A year ago, Minnesota and Maryland were at a similar place in developing new websites for their health insurance exchanges. Both states were using a similar group of information technology vendors. And Minnesota and Maryland were helping each another by sharing code, according to comments from MNsure's former executive director at a June 2013 board meeting. But today, the two states seem to be charting very different courses. Maryland decided this spring to pull the plug on its health insurance exchange website and instead use a system developed by the state of Connecticut. The decision followed a judgment that the Maryland system "remains deeply flawed," according to a March report (Snowbeck, 6/29).

Meanwhile, in Connecticut, Anthem Blue Cross proposes 12.5 percent premium increases on average for individual market policies to cover rising pharmaceutical costs, and a report finds the state's small businesses pay more to cover their workers than those in other states -

The CT Mirror: Consumers Call Anthem Rate Hike Proposal 'Unaffordable'
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield officials said Friday that the company needs to raise rates on its individual-market policies by an average of 12.5 percent to account for rising pharmaceutical costs, particularly costly new Hepatitis C drugs. During a public hearing at the Connecticut Insurance Department, Anthem officials also cited federal fees meant to cover the cost of subsidizing people’s premiums and reduced federal risk protection for insurers as reasons for seeking to raise rates. Customers, meanwhile, expressed outrage at the proposed rate hikes (Becker, 6/27).

The CT Mirror: GAO: CT Small Businesses Paid More Than Most Others For Health Care
Federal researchers have determined that Connecticut’s small businesses and non-profits pay more than those in every other state – except Alaska – to provide health care coverage to their workers. The Government Accountability Office studied the average premium charged by small group policy providers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and determined it cost an average of $6,080 to cover an individual in Connecticut in the first quarter of 2013. That was just before implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s prohibition against considering the health or gender of members of a small group when determining premiums. Only Alaska, with an average annual premium of $7,691, had costlier small group health insurance plans than Connecticut (Radelat, 6/30).

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