States Continue Efforts To Advance Health Exchanges

States look for creative ways to publicize the online marketplaces where people can shop for and purchase coverage beginning next fall. Meanwhile, Minnesota legislators introduce a measure to set up such a market, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott releases new, much smaller estimates of the cost of expanding that state's Medicaid program.

Politico: States Struggle With How To Sell Their Exchanges
From Pandora radio to those paper coffee cup sleeves to the neighborhood laundromat, states are searching for creative ways to advertise their new health insurance exchanges to people who may not know much about how to get covered next year under the health care law — and who may not like what they've heard (Cunningham, 1/10).

MPR News: With Bill In Hand, Legislators Squeezed For Time To Establish Health Insurance Exchange
As the new legislative session gets underway this week, DFL and Republican lawmakers wasted no time in unveiling a bill to carry out a key part of the federal health care overhaul in Minnesota: establishing a state health insurance exchange. The exchange will provide an online gateway for up to a million Minnesotans to comparison shop for health insurance and enroll in Medicaid beginning Oct. 1. Lawmakers have about 10 weeks to pass a bill and get it on the governor's desk. Gov. Mark Dayton's administration has made great strides in creating a Minnesota insurance exchange: securing more than $70 million in federal funds, mobilizing task forces, signing contracts to build the exchange's technical backbone (Stawicki, 1/10).

MPR News: Minnesota Lawmakers Unveil Bill To Create Insurance Exchange
State lawmakers unveiled a bill Wednesday to create an insurance exchange in Minnesota. The exchange is an online gateway for more than million Minnesotans to shop comparatively for health insurance or enroll in Medicaid beginning Oct. 1. The bill calls for a seven-member board to govern the online marketplace, including choosing which insurance plans can be sold on the exchange. But Julie Brunner of the trade group representing the state's insurers, the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, said insurers don't think a board should be able to limit which plans sell on the exchange. "It should be automatic that if you meet the certification requirements to sell in the exchange, you can sell in the exchange," Brunner said. The bill calls for charging health insurers a 3.5 percent surcharge on premiums for plans they sell on the exchange through 2014 in order to fund the online marketplace (Stawicki, 1/9).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Work Begins On Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange
Minnesota is taking the first step toward sweeping changes in the way more than a million of its residents and businesses buy health insurance. A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to introduce long-delayed legislation that will set the groundwork for Minnesota's new health insurance exchanges. The system, a cornerstone of the federal Affordable Care Act, will allow consumers to shop online for their health coverage and choose the plans with the best coverage at the best price. "A year from now, as a result of this legislation, I hope to be able to have Minnesotans buy their health insurance on a device like this or on their home computer," said the chief House sponsor, Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, holding his iPad aloft. "The magnitude of this legislation is that 1.3 million Minnesotans are expected to be able to purchase their health insurance online." The health exchanges were mired in partisan gridlock last session (Brooks, 1/9).

California Healthline: New Year's Resolutions: Tasks For California's Exchange In 2013
All the way back in August 2011, HHS awarded California more than $38 million to begin work on its health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Flash forward to 2013, and the exchange already has cleared the sale of certain health plans and adopted a new name: Covered California. It even has a logo. Earlier this month, California was one of seven states to receive conditional federal approval for its exchange plan, making it a leader in national implementation efforts. … Between 150,000 and 430,000 individuals will have enrolled by next January, officials say, and by the end of 2016 the exchange will include about 4.4 million Californians. Set to cover more than half of the state's 7.1 million uninsured under age 65, the exchange will be a crucial tool for a significant percentage of California residents. 2013 is a critical year for state health officials, who are hoping to sustain the momentum created by the federal approval and have the exchange online by 2014 (Wayt, 1/9).

The Associated Press: Florida Governor Rick Scott Under Fire For Health Care Cost Estimate
Gov. Rick Scott is coming under fire again that he is overstating the potential cost to Florida taxpayers of the federal health care overhaul. Scott on Monday met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to express his concerns about the overhaul. A key part of the overhaul is the optional expansion of Medicaid to cover more of the state's working poor (1/9).

Health News Florida: New Report Slashes Cost Estimate On Medicaid Expansion
After two days of heavy criticism, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration released a new, much smaller estimate of the cost of expanding Florida Medicaid late Wednesday night. The new report pegs the price tag at about $3 billion. At the most, if all those eligible signed up, it would cost the state $5 billion over a decade, the new report says. That is less than one-fifth the cost that Scott has been citing. Over the same time span, the expansion would bring in about $30 billion in federal funds, the new analysis says, enough to cover 910,000 uninsured low-income Florida adults. In other words, Florida would get about $10 in federal funds for every $1 it put into the expansion, the new estimate says (Gentry, 1/10).

The Associated Press: Fla. Agency Drops Cost Of Health Care Overhaul
Just two days ago, Florida Gov. Rick Scott was in Washington declaring that the potential cost of the federal health care overhaul to state taxpayers would be as much as $26 billion. But on Wednesday, Scott's own health care agency released new cost estimates of as little as $3 billion over the next decade (Fineout, 1/9).

The Associated Press: New Mexico To Expand Medicaid Program
Republican Gov. Susana Martinez says New Mexico will follow provisions of a federal health care law to expand the state's Medicaid program to potentially provide medical services to 170,000 low-income adults. New Mexico will join at least 15 other states and the District of Columbia in broadening eligibility for the health care program under terms of a health care overhaul championed by President Barack Obama (Massey, 1/9).

Meanwhile, here are reports on ACOs and health insurance co-ops --

WBUR: Common Health: Beth Israel Deaconess Goes ACO; What Does That Mean?
Does "ACO" mean anything to you yet? Well if you want to do more than nod and smile the next time you’re around a lot of doctors, read the next couple of paragraphs. Hospitals that plan to stay in business in Massachusetts are either creating or joining Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Today we have a new one of these large “all care under one umbrella” groups: The Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization (BIDCO) includes the hospital, its physicians’ group and two affiliated hospitals. BIDCO is in talks with Cambridge Health Alliance, Signature Healthcare in Brockton and a few other organizations about joining. Dr. Kevin Tabb, who runs the hospital (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center), says ACOs offer a new and better way to deliver and pay for care (Bebinger, 1/9).

St. Louis Beacon: Plans To Set Up Health Insurance Cooperative In Missouri Is In Limbo
Buried in the Affordable Care Act is a provision to give individuals and small businesses in all states the option of buying their health insurance from a nonprofit cooperative. Missouri might have missed the boat because funding for low-interest federal loans to set up co-ops has been eliminated for now as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. The health-reform law provided seed money to add a co-op insurance option to insurance exchanges in all 50 states. The federal government already has approved about $1.9 billion in loans for co-ops in 24 states, including $160 million for one in Illinois. Missouri was among states awaiting funding when Congress eliminated the remaining $1.4 billion for the co-op loan program (Joiner, 1/10).

And in other news -

The Washington Post: Leading HHS: Staying Focused On The Goal Requires Teamwork, Innovation And Inspiration
As deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Bill Corr is responsible for the operations of the government's largest civilian department. He most recently served as executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and previously served for 12 years as counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. Corr spoke with Tom Fox, who is a guest writer of the Washington Post's Federal Coach blog and vice president for leadership and innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up the Partnership's Center for Government Leadership (Fox, 1/9).

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