State Roundup: WA, IA, MA, NV, CA

WASHINGTON: Health Exchange leaders are trying to solve the problems from the first sign-up period

CLARKSTON, WA – Leaders with Washington’s Health Care Exchange are preparing for the second open enrollment period, but at the same time they are still working on resolving billing and computer problems for 1,300 accounts from the first sign-up period.

IOWA: Three health insurers get OK to increase rates

This is very confusingly worded, because it makes it sound like all 3 companies have been operating on the exchange when it turns out that only 2 of them have. Wellmark did not participate in the ACA exchange; the 19,000 customers referred to here have off-exchange policies which are still ACA-compliant:

Commissioner Nick Gerhart said today that he has approved premium increases from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, CoOportunity Health and Coventry Health.

Des Moines-based Wellmark had sought a rate increase of between 11.9 percent and 14.5 percent for about 19,000 of its customers. That increase is for individual policyholders who have Affordable Care Act-compliant plans.

The dominant health insurer in Iowa, Wellmark is raising rates on about 250,000 policies. A vast majority of those rate increases are less than the 6.1 percent threshold that would require Gerhart's approval.

CoOportunity had initially requested a rate increase of 14.3 percent. That increase was later revised to 19 percent on average, the commissioner said.

Coventry requested an 8.7 percent rate increase on average.

Iowa had around 26,000 paid enrollees as of early May. CoOportunity makes up around 9,100 of theseCoventry holds about 14,000, and two other companies make up the rest, but I don't have exact numbers so it's hard to run a weighted average, but overall it looks like roughly an 11.3% increase for Iowa.

MASSACHUSETTS: Why the Mass. Health Connector website will work

The Special Assistant to the Governor for Project Delivery writes an op-ed in which plenty of promises are made about the completely overhauled MA Health Connector. We'll see...

CMS supported our August assessment that the new system will be ready for open enrollment, allowing Massachusetts to remain a state-based marketplace. Since then, we have finished IT system development and executed over 3,000 test cases. We’ve also developed comprehensive operations and contingency plans, including adding 430 staff to process applications. This planning shows we know that no matter how well built or tested, no IT system rollout is ever perfect.

NEVADA: Cautious optimism pervades launch of Nevada Health Link 2.0.

It may seem a little silly to worry so much about Nevada this year since they're dumping their own exchange website in favor of moving to anyway, but you have to keep in mind that the insurance companies still have to hook into a new (to them) infrastructure, and of course the state itself still has to have staff trained to deal with applications handled via the federal exchange instead of their own. In any event, it's looking good so far:

...And unlike the health link’s first iteration, when the state amended its contract with Xerox to extend some milestones and testing deadlines, the exchange said it was on track as of mid-September with its project milestones. Exchange staff members were set the week of Sept. 22 to begin testing the shopping process, starting with creating an application and continuing with the tax-credit eligibility process and actually signing up for coverage. They were also scheduled to begin visiting on-site with carriers Tuesday to watch and help out as insurers began enrollment testing.

Insurance Division officials say loading up plans onto the federal site has been pretty much glitch-free, and with the state exchange handling fewer functions, the process should improve.

CALIFORNIA: California gives no-bid health pacts

(sigh) this isn't good...

LOS ANGELES — California's health insurance exchange has awarded $184 million in contracts without the competitive bidding and oversight that is standard practice across state government, including deals that sent millions of dollars to a firm whose employees have long-standing ties to the agency's executive director.