State health insurance marketplaces progress with fits and starts

The Washington Post reports on tools that will be available to residents in D.C., Maryland and Virginia to help them get up to speed on the health law, and The Associated Press details how some insurers are opening retail stores to help educate potential consumers about the health law. Other news outlets report on the latest developments in Georgia, Oregon, California, Idaho, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Minnesota.

The Washington Post: Uninsured Will See Differing Levels Of Help For Obamacare In Maryland, Virginia, D.C.
Maryland consumers who want to buy health insurance under Obamacare in the fall will be able to read glossy fact sheets that spell out the law in simple language. Or talk to one of 325 specially trained workers who will explain the intricacies and help them enroll. Or get information via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In Virginia, it's a different story. People can seek assistance from about two dozen special guides. Or they can go to their state legislators, who might refer them to phone numbers and Web sites operated by the federal government (Sun, 8/9).

The Associated Press: Blue Cross Reaches Out Over Insurance Law Changes
Just down from the Target and Gander Mountain big-box stores and between a nail salon and dental office, North Carolina's largest health insurer opened its first retail store. It has some exercise offerings -- step aerobics classes and stationary bike workouts -- but for now, its main product is providing in-person information about changes coming in October with the health insurance overhaul law. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is opening half a dozen of these offices in strip malls statewide to first educate and then, starting in October, enroll consumers shopping for coverage because of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare." Blue Cross affiliates in Florida and Pennsylvania have had similar stores open for years (Dalesio, 8/10).

Georgia Health News: Just Around The Corner, A Big Change In Coverage
Fifty-one days. That's the time left until enrollment starts on the health insurance exchange. "The clock is ticking," said Sandy Praeger, the Kansas insurance commissioner, during a health care panel Sunday at the legislative summit for the National Conference of State Legislatures, which opened in Atlanta (Miller, 8/11).

The Wall Street Journal: Oregon To Debug Insurance Exchange
Oregon's health-insurance exchange -- the marketplace created by federal law to let consumers shop online for coverage -- will open for business on Oct. 1, but with a glitch: Consumers won't be able to access it online. Officials at Cover Oregon, as the exchange is called, said people will be able to use the new website at home by the end of October. They decided to limit access for two to four weeks while they debug the site, fixing flaws before opening it up to the general public (Weaver, 8/9).

Bloomberg: Oregon Exchange Delay Adds To Scale-Down Of Health Law
Oregon, a Democratic-led state that has embraced President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, won't meet all the requirements for its health-insurance exchange when the online marketplace opens Oct. 1. For at least two weeks, people using Cover Oregon won't be able to complete their purchase without help from a certified insurance broker or community group, said Lisa Morawski, an exchange spokeswoman. Consumers in all 50 states were supposed to be able to freely shop for health plans on their own (Wayne, 8/9).

Los Angeles Times: Health Insurance Ratings To Be Dropped From State Website
Californians shopping for health insurance in a new state-run market this fall may not see quality ratings for those health plans alongside the monthly price. To the dismay of consumer groups, state officials are dropping plans to post those insurance company ratings in their online enrollment system, which opens Oct. 1 under the federal health care law (Terhune, 8/9).

The Spokesman-Review: Idaho Must Rely On Feds' Site In First Year
The Idaho Legislature will not get its wish for a health insurance exchange website built by and for Idahoans. Not in the first year, anyway. The Legislature's decision simply came too late. Federal law requires creation of a marketplace for health insurance coverage by Oct. 1 for every state. If states don't do it, the law says, the federal government will. ... According to Jody Olson, the spokesman for Idaho's exchange, for 2014 Idaho will rely on the federal government's exchange site, Idaho's new contract calls for the Boston firm to put an Idaho "skin" on Idaho's section of the federal site. Skin, Olson said, means the Web pages will feature a few pictures of Idaho and some Idaho-selected colors (Webster, 8/11).

The Associated Press: State-Run Health Insurance Exchange To Be Delayed A Year
Idaho will be relying on the federal health insurance exchange for at least a year while it develops its own. Idaho was late to endorse the idea of its own insurance exchange, a key component to the 2010 federal health care law. States that don't run their own, will have a federally run exchange (8/11).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: An Early Look At Health Exchanges In Pa. And N.J.
Health insurance marketplaces in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are open -- but not for business. People who need health insurance can now go online to and create an account with a user name, password, and security questions so they will be ready to go when enrollment begins Oct. 1. When the exchanges do open for business, Pennsylvanians will find as many as 15 insurers -- including Independence Blue Cross and Aetna but not UnitedHealthcare -- competing for their business (Calandra, 8/11).

MPR: MNSure Forum Via Twitter Set For Monday
Minnesota's upcoming online insurance marketplace will be holding a different kind of town hall forum on Monday to answer questions about how MNsure will work. The forum will take place on the social networking site Twitter. It's a site for short comments and questions, and messages cannot exceed 140 characters (Stawicki, 8/10).

On the Medicaid front -

USA Today: States Scramble To Drive Down Medicaid Drug Costs
A little-known provision of the 2010 health care law has states and their governors scrambling to take advantage of potential savings in how states distribute medication to Medicaid patients. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows states to receive drug rebates even if they move their Medicaid prescription benefit to managed-care organizations. The federal government has also asked states to fix the wide disparities in dispensing costs for drugs distributed through Medicaid (Kennedy, 8/11).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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