Feds OK Health Insurance Exchange Plans For Three More States

The Obama administration gave conditional approvals to Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island, saying they will be ready to open new insurance markets in 2014, as required under the health care law. Meanwhile, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper indicates he's likely to push for a Medicaid expansion.

CQ HealthBeat: HHS Gives Conditional Approval To Three States For Exchanges
The Department of Health and Human Services officials said Thursday that they believe three more states have demonstrated that they will be ready to open exchanges in 2014, including one that will operate through a partnership with the federal government. HHS issued conditional approvals to Delaware, Minnesota and Rhode Island. Delaware is the first partnership exchange to win a conditional approval. Last week, HHS officials said they have deemed that Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon and Washington will be ready to operate state-based exchanges in time for open enrollment in October (Adams, 12/20).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minnesota’s Insurance Exchange Wins Approval
The federal government on Thursday approved Minnesota's plan for an insurance exchange under the new health care law. The conditional approval was a necessary step in Minnesota's effort to build and operate its own exchange, a key part of the Affordable Care Act, by a 2014 deadline. States that decline or are unable to establish exchanges will use one designed by the federal government (Crosby and Shaffer, 12/20).

MPR: Feds Approve Minn. Exchange, Insurers Scramble To Develop Health Plans
Without knowing what the new plans will be required to cover, insurers say they are scrambling to develop new health plans in a matter of months when the process would normally take at least a year. Insurance exchanges are online marketplaces where individuals and small groups will begin comparison shopping for health insurance. Those health plans have to be ready to accept enrollment Oct. 1, 2013. While that may seem like a long way off, the deadline insurers must meet to even be considered for the exchange is months sooner. They must submit their plans to the state for approval by May 17 (Stawicki, 12/20).

The Seattle Times: Shift In Senate May Affect How Olympia Handles Health Care
While a state Senate leadership coup backed by Republicans would impact budget and education debates, another issue could get caught in the crossfire: how to implement President Obama's health care law. A Senate health care committee under state Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, whom the new majority coalition has tapped as chairwoman, would likely focus more on controlling health care costs, reducing regulations and increasing competition (Ostrom and Rosenthal, 12/20).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Colorado Likely To Opt For Medicaid Expansion
Gov. John Hickenlooper has tipped his hand that he’s likely to push for Medicaid expansion. In documents presented Wednesday to the Legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, the governor’s staff wrote: “we are likely to opt in to the expansion.” The governor insisted that the decision to expand rests solely with his office, a contention that lawmakers challenged. … Colorado Medicaid managers at the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing have not yet released long-awaited cost estimates. In response to questions from JBC analysts, Hickenlooper’s office said that cost estimates will be final by Feb. 15, 2013 (Kerwin McCrimmon, 12/20).

Kansas Health Institute: Brownback Compiling Own Estimate Of Medicaid Expansion Cost
The Brownback administration has not ruled out implementing the Medicaid expansion called for in the federal health reform law. But a spokesman today told members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Health Policy Oversight that prior to making a decision administration officials want to develop their own estimate of how many Kansans are likely to sign up for the health care program and how much the expansion would cost the state (McLean, 12/20).

The Associated Press: Brown: Medi-Cal Expansion Could Hit Calif. Budget
Expanding the state's Medi-Cal program to meet new federal guidelines could increase costs by up to $4 billion a year at the same time California is implementing federal health reform, potentially putting its budget "right out of whack" if negotiations over the so-called fiscal cliff aren't favorable, Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday. In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Brown said his administration is seeking federal waivers for some of the proposed expansions to California's health care program for the poor (Williams, 12/20).

The Associated Press: Fla. Agency Says Health Care To Cost Billions More
[Fla. Gov Rick] Scott's health care agency has drawn up dramatic new estimates that now prices the cost of implementing the overhaul -- including expanding the state's safety net health care program to thousands of Floridians currently ineligible -- at nearly $26 billion over a 10 year period. ... Greg Mellowe, policy director for the health care advocacy group Florida CHAIN, blasted the new numbers as fantasy that rely on indefensible and unreasonable assumptions (Fineout, 12/21).

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