Sunday Short Cuts

Lawmakers and the governor reached a deal to pass a health care package that, as one senator put it, will “keep the lights on” for health care reform.

The package contains $3.2 million in new state health care spending, which is eligible for roughly another $3 million in federal match. The money will be used to level-fund exchange subsidies for out-of-pocket costs, target increases to Medicaid rates and invest in initiatives to strengthen the primary care system.

Until 2010, when the Affordable Care Act expanded coverage to all low-income adults, most men in the correctional system were not eligible for Medicaid. It was restricted to children, poor pregnant women, parents with young children, the elderly and people with disabilities. Ali, however, had been eligible for Medicaid throughout because of his disability. But he didn’t enroll until six years after his release.

This gap in care is a huge concern as Medicaid adds 15.1 million new beneficiaries – 35% of whom have interacted with the criminal justice system, according toearly estimates.

Jails and prisons are enrolling people in the hope that access to care will cut recidivism and costs in the long run. Several studies argue that without healthcare, former prisoners, and especially those struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, are likely to break the law again.

Optum’s rescue work on the federal government’s website is done.

The technology division of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group said Friday it won’t continue work as the senior adviser overseeing the federal website, which was created as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

When Optum was hired as senior adviser in October 2013, the website had become an embarrassment for the Obama administration.

In a matter of months, Optum was winning praise for a dramatic turnaround. The company was called on by states including Minnesota to help fix troubled insurance exchanges.

“The goal was to make a stable, reliable platform for people seeking coverage,” said Matt Stearns, a vice president with Optum. “We did it.”

The state health insurance exchange's financial viability hinges on recovering millions of dollars in costs inflicted by Medicaid expansion, officials say, but Connect for Health Colorado wasn't set up to either count or collect reimbursement.

"We right now have zero in terms of our Medicaid reimbursement," said Kevin Patterson, the exchange's new interim CEO. "Zero is not the right number."

Former interim CEO Gary Drews said recouping Medicaid costs is "the make-or-break piece" of the exchange's financial puzzle as federal grants run out this year.

The other big piece fell into place Thursday, as the exchange's board of directors voted unanimously to raise its fees. A charge that insurers pay for each plan sold over the exchange, and pass on to consumers, was more than doubled to 3.5 percent, from 1.4 percent. The increase amounts to $84 a year on a $4,000 insurance plan.

The request comes as Assurant’s parent company prepares to exit its money-losing health insurance business.

New York-based Assurant Inc., which trades on the New York Stock Exchange, is pursuing a sale of its health and employee benefits business to focus on “niche housing and lifestyle protection offerings where it holds market leading positions,” it said in an April 28 announcement.