Friday Short Cuts

A sweeping measure to offer state-subsidized healthcare coverage to people in the country illegally was significantly pared back Thursday in an effort to rein in costs as it cleared a key legislative hurdle.

Rather than extend Medi-Cal--California's healthcare coverage for the poor--to all eligible adults regardless of immigration status, as originally proposed, the amended bill by state Sen. Ricardo Lara would set up a limited enrollment healthcare program.

The board of Connecticut’s health insurance exchange approved a 22 percent hike in the fee it charges insurers to help fund its operations, a cost that’s likely to be passed on to insurance customers.

Access Health CT currently charges a 1.35 percent assessment on premiums for insurance plans sold to individuals and small groups, whether purchased on the exchange or not. The quasi-public agency’s board voted to raise the assessment to 1.65 percent, something exchange officials said would help build up the organization’s reserves. The higher rate was projected to bring in $36.2 million in 2016, compared to $29.6 million under the current rate.

Gov. Peter Shumlin remains “cautiously optimistic” the state and its contractors will complete the needed functionality for Vermont Health Connect, the state’s troubled health care exchange, by the May 31 (Sunday) deadline.

Shumlin said he receives daily, sometimes multiple, updates on VHC and the progress of its primary contractor, Optum, in automating the process for changing personal or plan information online.

Minnesota’s health insurance exchange is having a big problem with attracting small businesses.

MNsure was originally expected to cover 155,000 people in small-group plans by next year. Enrollment was only 1,405 earlier this month, the Star Tribune reported.

Insurance agents who help small companies cover their employees say several factors are at play, including a computer system they say is slow and cumbersome and can’t complete the full enrollment process online. Those problems discourage agents from using the exchange to line up coverage for those customers.