Calif. Extends Payment Deadline For New Insurance Plans; Md. Gov. To Push Emergency Legislation For Exchange Woes

Meanwhile, news outlets also report on state health law implementation action in Minnesota, Iowa and Pennsylvania.   

Los Angeles Times: California Extends Payment Deadline For Obamacare Policies To Jan. 15 
Amid deepening consumer frustration, California's health exchange extended the payment deadline to Jan. 15 for insurance coverage starting Jan. 1 under the federal healthcare law. The state's move late Saturday comes as many enrollees continue to report problems getting an invoice from their insurance company or paying their first month's premium so coverage is retroactive to Jan. 1. Consumers say they have encountered website glitches trying to pay online and jammed phone lines when attempting to get help from their insurer or the Covered California exchange (Terhune, 1/4).

The San Jose Mercury News: Covered California Extends Deadline To Pay Health Insurance Premiums To Jan. 15
Californians scrambling to pay their first month's health insurance premium, originally due Monday, now have until Jan. 15 to do so, according to the state's health insurance exchange. Covered California announced the reprieve late Saturday, saying its 11 participating health insurance companies had agreed to the extension, which also assures those companies have time to mail invoices, and for consumers to have received their insurance documents. The exchange said payment for coverage taking effect Jan. 1 must be in the hands of the health insurance companies by Jan. 15, and not simply postmarked or in-transit (Seipel, 1/5).

The Associated Press: Calif. Health Exchange Extends Payment Deadline
The agency running California's health insurance exchange extended the deadline for payments until Jan. 15 following a surge in the number of consumers signing up for coverage. Covered California said on its website that health coverage still took effect Jan. 1 but the payment deadline was pushed back to prevent consumers from feeling rushed to pay recently received invoices (1/5).

The Washington Post: O'Malley To Push Emergency Health Insurance Legislation
Maryland lawmakers are expected to pass legislation as soon as next week to assist the hundreds of people — or, possibly, thousands — who tried to sign up for health insurance through the state's new exchange program, encountered problems and were left uncovered when the new year began. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) said Friday that they plan to introduce emergency legislation that would expand enrollment in the Maryland Health Insurance Plan, a separate state-run program that normally covers high-risk individuals. Those enrolled would have to pay a premium, which is determined by income but is often slightly higher than market rates, and would probably be allowed to stay on the plan for only a few months (Johnson and Davis, 1/3).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Maryland Plan Offers Retroactive Coverage Due To Sign-Up Problems
A consumer-owned cooperative started with federal loans, Evergreen runs four health centers in metro Baltimore and Greenbelt, near Washington, D.C. Since Oct. 1, the company has struggled with Maryland’s dysfunctional online insurance marketplace, Maryland Health Connection, which so far has enrolled 18,257 people in private health plans like the ones sold by Evergreen. The online exchange has gotten "mildly better," [CEO Peter] Beilenson said. But even after the New Year launch date of coverage under the health law Evergreen got "significant numbers of calls — in the dozens of people — who have tried to go on the exchange for between a week and 10 weeks and have been frozen out," he said. "Now they're calling us out of desperation" (Hancock, 1/5).

MinnPost: Dayton Blames Tech Vendor IBM Curam For Many Of MNsure’s Problems
Gov. Mark Dayton has accused one of MNsure's main technology vendors of misleading the health insurance exchange about the status and reliability of its product — a key system used to determine insurance eligibility. Problems with the function have plagued MNsure since its launch (Nord, 1/3).

Pioneer Press: Dayton Letter Blasts IBM For MNsure Website Failings
In a letter last month, the governor blamed the IBM software for everything from a "black hole" where applications were irretrievably lost to inaccurate determinations for whether consumers should get financial assistance from the government for their coverage. The letter was made public Friday. IBM's Curam division is one of four primary software vendors on the MNsure health insurance exchange project, and Dayton sent the letter to a company official Dec. 13 (Snowbeck, 1/3).

The Star Tribune: Dayton Slams IBM For Failures With MNsure Website
A little more than a week before Minnesotans faced the first deadline to purchase coverage under the new health law, Gov. Mark Dayton fired off an angry letter to the chief executive of IBM Corp., in which he blamed the technology services giant for troubles plaguing the state’s online health insurance exchange. In the five-page letter, dated Dec. 13, Dayton told CEO Virginia Rometty about 21 specific problems in IBM software and demanded that the company "immediately deploy whatever people or resources are needed to correct the defects in your product that are preventing Minnesotans from obtaining health insurance through MNsure." The response was swift: IBM sent dozens of workers to St. Paul and pledged to spend up to 4,000 man-hours working on MNsure, the state's new insurance exchange, with no expense to the state (Crosby, 1/4).

Minnesota Public Radio: Most Of MNsure's Website Shut Down This Weekend
Most of Minnesota's troubled online health insurance website will be shut down this weekend while improvements are made. As a result, people who want to use the MNsure site to apply for insurance will have to wait until Monday. MNsure's website has been a source of much consumer frustration as at least 2,000 users have been stuck in the process of applying for insurance online (Stawicki, 1/3).

Minnesota Public Radio: MNsure Enrollment Picked Up At Year's End
Enrollment in health care policies sold on Minnesota 's online health insurance marketplace surged in the final days of 2013. Nearly 68,000 people had picked a plan and were in the process of paying for it by Dec. 31, MNsure officials said. Here's how the numbers break down (Richert, 1/3).

The Associated Press: Iowans Grapple With New Health Law
The federal health care law is now in effect, but many Iowa residents are still trying to figure out their new insurance plans or are continuing to seek health coverage. Jan. 1 marked the first day for many provisions of the new law, including insurance coverage for those who signed up for private plans on the federal enrollment website. Iowa's modified Medicaid expansion — which uses federal dollars to offer coverage to some low-income Iowans — also started that day (Lucey, 1/5).

The Philadelphia Inquirer: You're Covered; Now, Find The Right Doctor
Three, two, one -- happy health insurance. OK, so no one yelled that at the stroke of midnight Wednesday. But if someone had, it would have been understandable. After all, for many of the more than a million Americans who signed up on healthcare.gov by Dec. 24 -- including tens of thousands of Pennsylvania and New Jersey residents -- the new year heralded health insurance coverage (Calandra, 1/5).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.