Friday Night Short Cuts

As I reported Wednesday, brokers and small businesses using the D.C. Health Link exchange say the website is plagued with technical problems that have led to ongoing delays and frustrations. Among the problems: frozen screens, lost enrollment information, repeat error messages and other glitches. They also described ongoing delayed responses when they've reached out to the help resources for D.C. Health Link.

California's Obamacare exchange rejected a bid from the nation's largest health insurer to start selling coverage statewide next year.

The Covered California board adopted new rules Thursday that sharply limit where industry giant UnitedHealth Group Inc. could offer policies to individuals.

Many consumer advocates backed the exchange's decision. But California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones panned it, saying Californians deserve more choice and competition statewide.

Covered California's move to limit UnitedHealth could be a boost to the four largest health insurers already in the exchange. Led by Anthem Inc., they accounted for 94% of state enrollment in the first year.

...Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said established insurers shouldn't be free to come in right away. Those insurers, he said, should not be allowed to undercut rivals who stepped up at the start and made significant investments to sign up 1.2 million Californians during the first open enrollment.

Marilyn B. Tavenner, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who helped preside over the rollout of sweeping changes in the nation’s health care system, said Friday that she was resigning.

“February will be my last month serving as the administrator for C.M.S.,” Ms. Tavenner said in an email to agency employees.

...Ms. Burwell said that Andrew M. Slavitt, the No. 2 official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would become the acting administrator after Ms. Tavenner leaves.

Mr. Slavitt started work at the agency in July 2014. He had been a top executive at Optum, a unit of UnitedHealth, one of the nation’s largest insurance companies. Optum helped build and operate the federal insurance exchange, and another unit of UnitedHealth sells health plans to consumers through the exchange in several states.

U.S. healthcare executives say Obamacare is likely here to stay, despite repeated calls from Republican lawmakers for repeal of the 2010 law aimed at providing health coverage for millions of uninsured Americans.

Top executives who gathered in San Francisco this week for the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference, say that while President Obama's signature domestic policy achievement may well be tweaked, it is too entrenched to be removed.

Colorado’s state-run health insurance exchange is on track to be self-sustaining by the end of the year, but is vowing to improve customer service and make other upgrades, exchange officials told lawmakers late last week.

“This organization is still very much a startup organization,” said Gary Drews, interim CEO for Connect for Health Colorado.

Drews cited bumps in the exchange’s first year — including long wait times for some customers — but compared the operation to a train speeding at 200 mph while still laying tracks in front of it.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R) has become a forceful advocate for Medicaid expansion, using his State of the State address on Wednesday to demand Wyoming's legislature adopt the key Obamacare provision.

"We have fought the fight against the (Affordable Care Act)," he said at the statehouse, according to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. "We've done our best to find a fit for Wyoming. We are out of timeouts, and we need to address Medicaid expansion this session."

Vermont's health exchange remains a mess more than a year after its launch. That's the characterization from the state's health care consumer advocate.

Lawmakers remain committed to health reforms despite scrapping the state's planned transition to single-payer health care.

That includes any work needed to fix the exchange though administrators say solutions are just a matter of time.

The cast of characters sitting on the House Health Care Committee is new this year. But the refrain from those tasked with protecting customers like health care consumer advocate Trinka Kerr remains consistent.

Cover Oregon, Oregon's state health insurance exchange, failed.

Now, a 10-member joint committee of the 2015 Legislature is burdened with the task of what to do with the failed program.

While the state already has moved to signing up Oregonians for health care through the federal Website, doing away with Cover Oregon and its role in working with providers, for example, is anything but simple.

So now, they get to decide on the details of replacing the white elephant in the room.