A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "States"

Staggered launch could help Md. 'kick the tires' of its new health exchange website

Meredith Cohn, Baltimore Sun
Fri, 2014-09-19
"A day after Maryland committed to a gradual launch of its health exchange, state officials are still working out some key details — including where the opening day sign-up will be held — but experts say it could be a way to avoid a repeat of last year's botched rollout. Several health experts said the approach that limits enrollment in the first few days could allow Maryland to "kick the tires" on its new website. "It's a controlled way to open enrollment," said Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. "They can work with a controlled number of people for the first couple of days to see how this works in practice. I'm assuming there is some plan at the end of the day when people gather in a room and compare notes and say we need to fix this or that.""

Lawmakers call for more complete information on Medicaid privatization program going forward

Cole Avery, NOLA.com
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Lawmakers told officials with the Department of Health and Hospitals on Wednesday they needed to provide more complete information going forward about Bayou Health, Gov. Bobby Jindal's Medicaid privatization program. The Legislative Audit Advisory Council heard testimony from DHH and the Legislative Auditor's Office about an audit that raised a number of questions about the program. Auditors testified 74 percent of the transparency report was based on self-reported data with no corroborating documentation."

Va. House of Delegates plans to vote on Medicaid expansion

Laura Vozzella, Washington Post
Fri, 2014-09-19
"RICHMOND — Republican leaders of Virginia’s House of Delegates, who have staunchly opposed Medicaid expansion all year, plan to put the question to a floor vote as early as Thursday in a special legislative session. The GOP-dominated chamber is widely expected to shoot down the proposed $2 billion-a-year expansion, although a few conservative legislators have expressed fears that the measure might defy expectations and pass — just as a then-record tax hike did when Democrat Mark R. Warner was governor a decade ago."

Missouri's Medicaid Applicants Get Put On Hold

Samantha Liss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Fri, 2014-09-19
"Enrolling in Missouri’s Medicaid program has not been easy. Many applicants have experienced a barrage of problems when trying to sign up for the program, including long delays until coverage kicks in, lost paperwork and a lack of one-on-one interaction with caseworkers. State officials have blamed a new computer system used to process Medicaid applications. But there is another reason why some Missourians struggle to get help. When Deborah Weaver, 28, had issues enrolling in the state’s Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, a switch from her Medicaid disability coverage, she was directed to use a toll-free number, 1-855-373-4636. When she called, Weaver endured long waits and received no guidance."

Vermont Takes Exchange Offline For Repairs Until Open Enrollment

http://www.insidehealthpolicy.com/vermont-takes-exchange-offline-repairs-until-open-enrollment
Wed, 2014-09-17
"Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) said Tuesday (Sept. 16) that the state has shut down its exchange website as it scrambles to finish operational and other improvements by Nov. 15, but the state expects the site to be “restored to full, improved operation before the start of open enrollment.” The state made the decision to shut down the site after consulting with CMS, Shumlin said in a statement. The state also announced a number of management changes that will remove oversight of the exchange from the Department of Vermont Health Access and install Lawrence Miller, a senior advisor to the governor, as the person responsible for operational leadership of Vermont Health Connect. The Department of Vermont Health Access oversees the state's Medicaid program. “As all Vermonters know, we’ve had disappointment after disappointment with the Vermont Health Connect website,” Shumlin said. “I have been very frustrated that the website remains incomplete.

In South Florida And The Nation, Health Care Costs Often Are Shrouded In Secrecy

Daniel Chang, Miami Herald
Tue, 2014-09-16
"At a hearing to discuss the rising costs of healthcare benefits for Miami-Dade County, Fla., employees this year, a labor union consultant raised his hand to ask what seemed like a basic question. Could the committee charged with reducing Miami-Dade labor’s healthcare expenses look at the spreadsheet showing the rates that the county pays local hospitals and doctors for medical services to employees? “We really need to understand where the money is being spent in order to be insightful about benefit design changes,’’ said Duane Fitch, a healthcare consultant for SEIU Local 1991, which represents physicians and nurses at the county-owned Jackson Health System."

Health Law Falls Flat With Kentucky Voters, Even Those It Helps

Abby Goodnough
New York Times
Tue, 2014-09-16
"Despite the success of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, state Democrats are having a hard time winning over even those Republicans who admit they are benefiting from the law. The Affordable Care Act allowed Robin Evans, an eBay warehouse packer earning $9 an hour, to sign up for Medicaid this year. She is being treated for high blood pressure and Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, after years of going uninsured and rarely seeing doctors. “I’m tickled to death with it,” Ms. Evans, 49, said of her new coverage as she walked around the Kentucky State Fair recently with her daughter, who also qualified for Medicaid under the law. “It’s helped me out a bunch.” But Ms.

Reality check: New anti-Prop. 45 ad is partially misleading

Josh Richman, San Jose Mercury-News
Mon, 2014-09-15
"Proposition 45 would give California's elected insurance commissioner the authority to reject excessive health insurance rate hikes, a power the commissioner already wields for auto and homeowners insurance rates. The campaign against it -- for which the insurance industry has so far put up $37.3 million -- is now airing a 60-second radio ad narrated by a nurse named Candy Campbell. What does the ad say? Campbell says voters have a choice between letting the state's "new independent commission" negotiate rates and reject expensive plans, or handing that power over to "one politician" who can "take millions in campaign contributions from special interests." Is it true? The "commission" Campbell is referring to is the board of Covered California, the state's new health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act, commonly called "Obamacare." Covered California is indeed an independent part of state government.

How states have gamed Medicaid for hundreds of millions of dollars

Josh Hicks, Washington Post
Mon, 2014-09-15
"States have developed various ways to avoid paying their fair share of Medicaid expenses over the years, in some cases costing the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding for the program. The Department of Health and Human Services, which runs Medicaid through its Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has known about the issue for more than a decade, but states still find ways to game the system. The agency’s inspector general this year listed the issue among 25 key problems the agency needs to address."

Ohio: Law Against Lies Is Nullified

The Associated Press
The New York Times
Fri, 2014-09-12
"A federal judge on Thursday struck down Ohio’s law barring people from knowingly or recklessly making false statements about candidates in a case that the United States Supreme Court said needed to be heard. The judge, Timothy Black, said that the answer to false statements in politics is “not to force silence, but to encourage truthful speech in response, and to let the voters, not the government, decide what the political truth is.” The case began in the 2010 congressional race after Steve Driehaus, a congressman at the time, filed a complaint when the Susan B. Anthony List planned to post billboards claiming the Democrat’s support for President Obama’s health care overhaul equated with support for abortion, even though he opposed abortion."

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