KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Md. Launches Health Reform Website For Consumers; Calif. Public Option Lives On

Maryland is launching a health care reform website to educate residents on how they can use benefits in the health law. In California, health reform already affects most residents while the state gets set to offer a version of its own "public option" to buy health insurance.

The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Launches Health Care Reform Website
The state will launch a website today that it hopes will give people a road map to health care reform as the country marks the second anniversary of the signing of the landmark legislation. The website, HealthReform.Maryland.gov, will provide users with information about benefits they can already take advantage of as well as those that will become available later. Most parts of the health care package won't take effect until 2014. Reform provisions already available include those giving seniors prescription drug rebate checks, allowing young adults to remain on their parents' policies until they are 26 and issuing small businesses tax credits for insurance (Walker, 2/23).

California Healthline: Designing Exchange Framework as Building Begins 
The public option did not survive in Washington, D.C., but it may take root in Sacramento. At least one county-based public health plan has announced plans to participate in the California Health Benefit Exchange. Others may follow. Details for how public and private plans might coexist or compete in California's exchange have not yet been determined. We invited experts and stakeholders to share their thoughts on those issues (3/22). 

Related, earlier KHN story: The Public Option Did Not Die (Varney, 1/12).

HealthyCal: Health Reform Already Affecting Most Californians 
With new federal money, California counties are creating or expanding what are known as Low-Income Health Plans, similar to the Medi-Cal program, but for people with higher incomes or who do not have children. So far, nearly 400,000 people in 47 counties have been enrolled in these programs. In 2014, they will become part of Medi-Cal, and the federal government will continue to pick up the cost of their care. California has also begun implementing what could become the most important piece of the new health care system: the creation of a Health Benefits Exchange (Weintraub, 3/23). 

Meanwhile, in other news --

The Associated Press/Des Moines Register: Iowa Bishops Urge Fasts On Birth Control Coverage
Iowa's bishops have asked Catholics to fast as a way to demonstrate their concerns over mandates in the federal health care law. Sioux City television station KTIV reports parishioners have been asked to fast on March 30 to highlight what the bishops call "ongoing religious liberty concerns."

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