States Report Surges In Health Plan Sign-Ups; California At The Front Of The Pack

The increase has ranged from 30 percent to 40 percent, reports ABC News. In California, an estimated 50,000 people picked a health plan in the first week of December. News outlets also reported on the latest developments in Maryland, Oregon and Minnesota.  

ABC News: States Cite Surge In Obamacare Sign-Ups Ahead Of First Deadline
States running their own Obamacare insurance exchanges are reporting a significant surge in sign-ups just four days before the first major enrollment deadline. The increase has ranged from 30 percent to 40 percent in the past few weeks, according to state officials who briefed reporters Wednesday. Monday is the last day to sign up for a plan that will guarantee health coverage effective Jan. 1. California, which has one of the most successful programs, averaged 15,000 enrollments a day last week, up from an average 7,000 a day the week before, state officials said. In all of November, 80,000 Californians picked a plan; in the first week of December, 50,000 signed up (Dwyer, 12/19).

Los Angeles Times: State Healthcare Exchange Reports Share Increase In Enrollment
California's health insurance exchange reported sharply higher enrollment ahead of Monday's sign-up deadline for Jan. 1 coverage, amid mounting criticism over how it handles consumer privacy. The Covered California exchange said Thursday that 53,510 people enrolled in health plans over a three-day period this week, culminating with more than 20,000 people picking an insurance company on Wednesday alone. Last week, about 15,000 people were enrolling daily (Terhune, 12/19).

The Sacramento Bee: More Than 50K Californians Enroll In Obamacare In Three-Day Period
Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, is experiencing a significant surge in enrollment, officials said Thursday. More than 53,500 customers selected health coverage plans in the last three days - about 60 percent more than the entire month of October when the exchange opened for business. That includes 20,506 customers Wednesday, 19,351 Tuesday and 13,653 Monday, Executive Director Peter V. Lee told reporters. He said the increases illustrate how hundreds of thousands of residents are "anxious, excited and determined to get coverage” (Cadelago, 12/19).

The Washington Post: Gansler: Maryland’s Health Exchange Reminds Him Of ‘Saturday Night Live’ Sketch
Gansler, a Democratic candidate for governor, has been highly critical of the role played by his rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), in overseeing the implementation of the federal health care law in Maryland. Brown co-chairs a council that has guided reforms in the state but has said he was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the exchange (Wagner, 12/19).

The Associated Press: Oregon Health Care Official Carolyn Lawson Resigns
A senior state manager who oversaw most of the development of Oregon's struggling health insurance exchange resigned Thursday as developers continue trying to find some way get the online enrollment system to work. Carolyn Lawson stepped down as chief information officer of the Oregon Health Authority and the Department of Human Services for "personal reasons," the agencies' leaders wrote in a terse memo to Lawson's staff and other senior officials (12/19).

The Oregonian: Cover Oregon, Insurers Extend Premium Payment Deadline To Jan. 15
Health insurance carriers and the state's troubled exchange agreed to give individuals buying coverage on Cover Oregon more time to pay their first binding premium. Consumers purchasing individual polices through Cover Oregon will have until Jan. 15 to get their first premium payment to the insurer, exchange spokesman Michael Cox said late Thursday. Coverage will be retroactive to Jan. 1. Washington's exchange announced the same extension on Wednesday, and insurers nationwide are giving consumers buying coverage on other federal and state exchanges until Jan. 10 to make a payment. The moves are being made to address technological hangups and other problems the exchanges are having meeting initial enrollment deadlines (Hunsberger, 12/19).

Minnesota Public Radio: Dayton On MNsure Problems: 'The Buck Stops Here'
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton wouldn’t say today whether he asked April Todd-Malmlov to resign earlier this week as director of Minnesota’s new health insurance exchange. Dayton declined to answer the question several times during a state Capitol news conference, which was his first public appearance since Todd-Malmlov tendered her resignation Tuesday. Dayton said he has indirect influence over the MNsure board and had publicly expressed his displeasure with recent enrollment problems. But he stressed that the independent MNsure board has sole authority over personnel decisions (Pugmire, 12/19).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure Officials, Insurance Companies Consider Deadline Extension
Five of the state's insurance companies and officials with the state's online health insurance marketplace are discussing a possible extension to a key deadline for people to obtain health insurance. Under current rules, consumers who use the MNsure site must pick a plan by Dec. 23 to be covered on Jan. 1. But in the midst of ongoing technical problems with the site that are preventing people from signing up, extending the deadline is a good idea, MNsure Board Chair Brian Beutner said (Richert, 12/19).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: After Exposure, Security Holes Sealed In Minnesota's Health Exchange
A security flaw has been fixed on MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace — one that had left users vulnerable to data interception by hackers. The fix follows an MPR story last week and a meeting Monday between forensic analyst Mark Lanterman and the state’s chief information security officer, Chris Buse. At the meeting, Lanterman explained how he discovered the flaw and how the state could resolve the problem (Stawicki, 12/19).

Pioneer Press: MNsure ‘Tech Surge’ To Rescue Health Exchange; Call Center Average Waits Top 90 Minutes
A "tech surge" has been launched at MNsure headquarters in St. Paul, with IBM workers brought in to try to rescue an overwhelmed call center and free about 1,100 insurance applications stuck in computer limbo. No state money is being spent on the extra workers, Jenni Bowring-McDonough, a MNsure spokeswoman, said in a statement (Snowbeck, 12/19).

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