KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

States Ask, Answer Questions On Health Law Implementation

Even as some states didn't meet the target set by the Department of Health and Human Services for submitting their "benchmark" plans regarding the health law's essential health benefits, others offered specifics about what would be covered and what plans would be their choice.

Politico Pro: Dem Governors Fail To Pick EHB Plans
It's not just Republican-led states that didn't turn in their homework when the teacher asked for it -- a handful of states with Democratic governors didn't meet HHS's suggested target for submitting their essential health benefit benchmark plans, either. HHS said Monday wasn't a hard deadline for states to make their EHB picks known, but plenty of red states opposed to the law certainly treated it that way. They used it as a day to blast the Obama administration for dumping the EHB decision in their laps without issuing formal rules, and a number of Republican state executives made it clear they didn't think they had enough information from the feds to set a benchmark plan in their state (Millman, 10/3).

Kaiser Health News: States Requiring Broader Drug Choices Than Federal Limit
When the Obama administration set initial rules last December to determine what minimum benefits insurers must offer in plans sold to individuals and small groups starting in 2014, one provision stood out: Insurers selling small group and individual policies would have to provide at least one drug per class of drug. In other words, insurers could cover just one drug for cholesterol, one for high blood pressure or one drug for attention deficit disorder (Galewitz, 10/2).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Picks Oxford Plan As Exchange Benchmark
New York's Health Department has selected a health care plan offered by Oxford as the benchmark for the state's health insurance exchange, which is intended to help extend coverage to the uninsured and reduce costs for individuals, small businesses and local governments. The New York Health Benefit Exchange Gov. Andrew Cuomo established by executive order is a federally required and subsidized marketplace scheduled to start in 2014 (10/2).

The Associated Press: Hawaii Sets Insurance Minimums For Health Care
Hawaii has set minimum standards for health care insurance plans that can be sold in Hawaii under new federal guidelines. Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie announced the minimums at a press conference on Monday. Abercrombie says the minimums will help Hawaii lead the nationwide health care transition (10/2).

CQ HealthBeat: Nebraska Raises A Question: What's The Future Of HSAs In The Exchanges?
An announcement by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman that his state is proposing a benchmark plan for essential health benefits coverage that's also a high-deductible plan combined with a Health Savings Account raised an intriguing question Tuesday: Could such increasingly popular plans find a home in state insurance exchanges? The answer from experts on the health care law appears to be that it's possible that the plans could be offered in the exchanges if they met other requirements in the law. That might be tough, though, since the deductibles for such plans -- frequently offered by employers trying to trim their health care costs -- tend to run higher than the $2,000 limit for individuals and $4,000 limit for families the law sets for small group plans (Norman, 10/2).

CQ HealthBeat: California Asks Insurers For Input Into Exchange
Insurers that want to participate in the California health care exchange have until Oct. 12 to submit letters of intent, according to state officials who were poised to release a notice about the process late Tuesday. California was the first state to establish a health benefits exchange after the 2010 health care law passed. A spokesman said that California officials expect between 1.8 million and 2.1 million people to obtain subsidized coverage through the exchange with another 2.1 million Californians purchasing unsubsidized coverage in the exchange, which the law says should be up and running in 2014 (Adams, 10/2).

The Associated Press: Officials Raise Questions About Health Care Law
West Virginia officials are questioning another major provision of the federal health care overhaul, this one calling on states to set basic levels for 10 categories of services that many insurance policies must cover. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin wrote U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday, posing seven questions regarding benchmarks for essential health benefits (Messina, 10/2).

Meanwhile, Medicaid also gets state attention --

Stateline: Maine Seeks To Cut Medicaid Eligibility
Under the Affordable Care Act , beginning in 2014 every state is supposed to expand Medicaid coverage to all adults and children in households earning 133 percent or less of the federal poverty level. But in June the Supreme Court struck down that provision, making Medicaid expansion optional. LePage, like at least six other Republican governors, has already declared that Maine will opt out of the expansion. But he’s the only governor who is taking his opposition to the federal health law even further by attempting to scale back his state's Medicaid enrollment. Other states, particularly those led by Republicans, are watching closely to see whether LePage's proposed cuts, which will likely be reviewed by a federal court, are upheld (Ollove, 10/3).

Politico: Red-State Counties Back Off Medicaid Expansion Talk
Texas counties made waves this summer after reports surfaced that they were interested in moving forward on their own with a Medicaid expansion at the local level -- without Gov. Rick Perry's signoff. But now, they're backing off (Smith, 10/3).

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