Final Countdown On For Health Exchange Launches

Federal officials are happy with what may turn out to be a soft launch of the health law's insurance exchanges Oct. 1. In the meantime, states are busy readying consumers for the exchanges' kickoffs with informational sessions and campaigns designed at creating a better-informed public.

Politico: Obamacare D-Day Becomes A Soft Launch
For months all eyes have been on October 1 -- the first day people can sign up for Obamacare. But as that day approaches, many people working on the nuts and bolts of the health law are tamping down any expectations of a sign-up stampede. Not everyone will enroll immediately. And that, they say, is the way they want it (Haberkorn, 9/14).

The Associated Press: Details Elusive As Mo. Awaits Health Care Overhaul
The St. Louis Public Library auditorium was filled with a cross-section of city residents: college students, small-business owners, church volunteers, working parents, the unemployed, retirees and more. What brought them together was a chance to learn more about a linchpin of the federal Affordable Care Act -- the online health insurance marketplaces that will give the uninsured a chance to purchase coverage in the months leading up to 2014, when those without insurance under President Barack Obama's new health care plan face financial penalties (9/15).

The Associated Press: Deadline Looms For Neb. Insurance Marketplace
Community groups are hustling to meet an Oct. 1 deadline to launch a new health insurance marketplace in Nebraska, a key piece of the federal health care law designed to steer users toward a coverage plan. Nebraska state officials have maintained a hands-off approach to the marketplace, which requires hiring and training a small army of experts to guide newcomers through the process. Gov. Dave Heineman rejected a state-run option in November, saying it was too expensive for Nebraska taxpayers, so the federal government took charge of setting it up (Schulte, 9/15).

Boston Globe: Mass. Health Connector Offering Guidance With New Law 
Being a consumer in Massachusetts can be unlike the experience anywhere else. We’ve got all sorts of laws -- good as well as quirky. So it stands to reason that as the first state in the country with its own health care insurance exchange, the Massachusetts Health Connector, there might be some confusion. We’re about two weeks away from the first stage of the new federal health care law reaching consumers. And while the law is similar to what we have in Massachusetts, it isn’t the same. The result is going to be some changes that the quarter-million consumers using the Connector are going to have deal with (Lipka, 9/15).

St. Louis Beacon: No Info On Insurance Cost And Carriers Until Health Exchanges Open
Missouri consumers wanting to know who will sell them insurance and at what cost through the health reform law's online marketplace system won’t have answers until Oct. 1, the day the program begins taking applications. That's the word from Nanette Foster Reilly, consortium administrator for region 7 of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Joiner, 9/16).

Miami Herald: Showcase Offered A Look Into A Health Care Hub In Action
South Florida’s emerging health care hub received a broad endorsement Thursday night: More than 300 people representing 180 companies, 25 investment groups, five hospitals, banks, universities and government turned out for the HealthTech Showcase at the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park. While the numbers were impressive, the signs of a growing ecosystem did not end there (Dahlberg, 9/15).

Problems persist, however, with Minnesota probing that state's exchange for data security breaches, and the Labor Department says it won't penalize employers for not making the new options explicit for workers --

Minnesota Public Radio: Legislative Auditor To Probe MNsure Data Security Breach 
The state's legislative auditor will investigate a data security breach at MNsure, the state's new health insurance exchange. Auditor Jim Nobles acted after MNsure acknowledged one of its employees inadvertently emailed the names, Social Security numbers and other identifying information of 2,400 insurance agents to another broker. "We hadn't planned to be at MNsure quite this quickly, but we certainly planned to be there in the months to come," Nobles said. "It's extremely important that the public understands that we take (data privacy issues) very seriously and that we will investigate them” (Minnesota Public Radio, 9/13).

Minnesota Public Radio: Dayton Satisfied With MNsure Security, GOP Lawmakers Aren't
Gov. Mark Dayton said today that he still has great confidence in Minnesota’s new online health insurance exchange, even after the recent accidental release of some confidential information. The Star Tribune reported that a MNsure employee sent an email to an insurance brokerThursday afternoon that contained private information about hundreds of insurance agents (Pugmire, 9/13). 

CQ HealthBeat: Labor Department Won't Penalize Employers Who Don’t Notify Workers About Exchanges
Employers won't be penalized if they don't comply with a health care law requirement that they notify workers by Oct. 1 about the availability of possibly lower cost coverage on insurance exchanges, according to the Labor Department. The notification requirement was added to the health law to educate workers about their coverage options (Reichard, 9/15).

Also, more in the news on private exchanges --

Miami Herald: More Companies Steering Retirees To Private Health-Insurance Exchanges
Thousands of retirees covered by company health insurance plans will soon see their benefits shifted toward private health-insurance exchanges.  IBM and Time Warner announced the change last week. They’ll provide retirees money to buy Medicare Advantage or supplemental Medigap policies instead, part of a push by businesses to move away from the increasingly costly group-coverage model (McGrory, 9/15).

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