Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Texas' Changing Relationship To Obamacare

For the moment, Texas Republicans still consider the Affordable Care Act to be political kryptonite, but the story on the local level is different: many moderates want the money that would come with expanding Medicaid, the state-federal health care program for the poor. (Carrie Feibel, Houston Public Media, 11/3)

3. Why Nearly Half Of The Obamacare Co-Ops Have Folded

As open enrollment begins for the health exchanges, one development that's turning into a concern is the collapse of a number of alternative insurance plans known as co-ops. KHN's Mary Agnes Carey joins PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff to answer real Americans’ questions about shopping for coverage. (11/2)

4. Political Cartoon: 'Party Hearty'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Party Hearty'" by John Deering.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


State Medicaid plans
Hang in the balance as the
Voters go to polls.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. With Premiums Up For Some, Obamacare Affordability Concerns Could Hurt Enrollment

In related news, The Washington Post maps the state-by-state rate changes for health law plans. Elsewhere, The Fiscal Times offers a primer on how to sign up during open enrollment season and The Hill reports on the status of the Cadillac tax debate.

CBS News: For Some, Obamacare Does Not Seem So Affordable
The third year of open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act began this week. Premiums are up and some people have decided they are not so affordable. Lisa Patton turns 26 years old this month. That means, she will lose coverage under her parents health insurance. But she doesn't want to pay up to $250 a month for a plan under Obamacare. (Goldman, 11/2)

The Washington Post's The Fix: The GOP’s Potent New Anti-Obamacare Argument, In 2 Maps
In 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) articulated what was a general belief among Democrats: the Affordable Care Act would help the party. Granted, the timeframe Reid predicted was that it would help last November. ... But the idea that being the party that helped Americans get access to affordable health care would be a boon was not unique to Reid. For a long time, Obamacare was viewed fairly negatively, according to regular polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation. In recent surveys, though, attitudes are about evenly split. So maybe the legislation is poised to be a boon for Democrats in 2016! Or, maybe not. (Bump, 11/2)

The Fiscal Times: How To Apply For Obamacare In 2015
The latest open enrollment period to sign up for insurance from the Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) kicked off on Sunday, one that federal officials are anticipating to be their toughest season to date. (Dent, 11/2)

The Hill: Battle Over 'Cadillac Tax' Heats Up
Longtime opponents of the ObamaCare “Cadillac tax” met with lawmakers this week with a new message: We’re willing to compromise. In a fly-in visit with key members and committee staff, employer benefits lobbyists went in seeking a more politically viable solution than full repeal. (Ferris, 11/2)

6. Officials Urge Consumers To Shop Around For Health Coverage

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell says Americans looking for health insurance should take the time to look for better deals. It's a sentiment shared among many health law advocates, including the interim head of Minnesota's health exchange.

The Charlotte Observer: US Health Secretary Urges NC Residents To Shop Around For Health Insurance
As North Carolina is reeling from some of the highest health insurance rates in the nation under the Affordable Care Act, U.S. health secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell on Monday advised residents to shop around for better deals. Burwell stressed a lesson repeated often by ACA advocates: Rates can appear excessively high for the same plan year-over-year, but customers are likely to find better deals if they explore other plans. (Murawski, 11/2)

In other health law marketplace news, a large insurer in Kansas leaves the federal exchange, and enrollment is examined in Oregon and Virginia --

The Kansas Health Institute News Service: Marketplace Insurer's Departure Creates Enrollment Concerns
Groups working to boost health insurance enrollment in Kansas are concerned their efforts could be undermined by the last-minute departure of one of the state’s largest insurers. Coventry Health Care of Kansas Inc. and Coventry Health & Life Insurance Co. — both subsidiaries of Aetna — abruptly decided to stop offering policies to Kansas consumers in the federal marketplace. The decision, made two weeks before the start of the open enrollment period, surprised state insurance regulators. (McLean, 11/2)

The Oregonian: Open Enrollment Begins For Oregonians Buying Their Own Health Coverage
The once-a-year open enrollment period has begun for the more than 240,000 Oregonians who buy their own health coverage and are not on Medicare. Officials and insurance agents encourage consumers to start shopping now for next year's policy, as enrollment ends Jan. 31 – earlier than last year. If you want to have your new policy in place for the new year, you'll need to enroll in December – or by December 15 if you use the federal health insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov. (Budnick, 11/2)

7. Montana Wins Federal Approval Of Medicaid Expansion Plan

The state's plan, which won approval in a Republican-controlled legislature after a bitter fight, needed waivers from the federal government because the state is requiring participants to pay a small premium and take part in a jobs-skill survey.

The Wall Street Journal: Montana Is 30th State To Expand Medicaid Under Health Law
Montana became the 30th state to opt into the health law’s expansion of Medicaid on Monday, after federal officials said they’d signed off on a plan under which the state would increase the number of low-income residents it covers but impose certain eligibility conditions. The announcement brings the Obama administration to a critical milestone in its effort to persuade states to go along with a key tenet of the Affordable Care Act, after a 2012 Supreme Court decision that effectively gave the states a choice over the matter. (Radnofsky, 11/2)

The Hill: Montana Is 30th State To Accept ObamaCare Medicaid Expansion
Montana officially became the 30th state to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare on Monday when the Obama administration approved its expansion plan. In April, Montana’s Republican legislature approved Medicaid expansion, but like other Republican-controlled states, it made some changes to put a conservative twist on the program. (Sullivan, 11/2)

MTPR: Montana's Medicaid Expansion Plan Gets Green Light From Feds
Montana’s plan calls for some recipients to pay a token premium that still might pose a challenge for some living just above the poverty level. It also asks participants to take part in a job skills survey. Both of those features were the subject of intense negotiations between the state and federal governments. The state expects about 45,000 of the estimated 70,000 eligible low-income people to sign up. For many, it will just mean having access to check-ups and other wellness care, but for a few it could literally be a lifesaver. (Jess, 11/2)

The Associated Press: Federal Health Officials Approve Montana Medicaid Waiver
The Democratic governor said gaining federal approval of the Montana plan was difficult after the nearly three-year fight to pass the compromise legislation. ... The state Legislature rejected a Medicaid expansion bill in 2013 and a proposed voter initiative failed to qualify for the 2014 election ballot. Bullock's plan was rejected again in this year's legislative session, but this time was replaced by a compromise bill sponsored by Sen. Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls. Lawmakers passed that measure, but the state needed a waiver by the federal government because of the changes, such as charging premiums and outsourcing the program's administration to a third party. (Volz, 11/2)

In Texas, a state known for strong opposition to the federal health law, officials in at least one city are more open to Medicaid expansion arguments --

Kaiser Health News: Texas’ Changing Relationship To Obamacare
The online federal insurance marketplace opened for business Sunday. It’s the third year of open enrollment for these subsidized plans, established by the Affordable Care Act. Many Texans still oppose the law, even though the state is home to the most uninsured people in the country. For the moment, Texas Republicans still consider the Affordable Care Act to be political kryptonite. ... But the story on the local level is different. Harris County is home to Houston, where Judge Ed Emmett, a moderate Republican who is chief executive for the county, has supported it for years. The CEO of the taxpayer-supported Harris Health System, George Masi, says he needs the revenue that Medicaid expansion would bring. He’s had to lay off more than 100 employees and cut back on charity care. (Feibel, 11/3)

8. As Arizona Co-Op Folds, 59,000 Must Search For Alternate 2016 Coverage

Meanwhile, reporters from KHN and PBS NewsHour discuss the factors that have contributed to the collapse of a growing number of nonprofit insurance co-operatives set up by the 2010 health law.

The Associated Press: Health Insurance Co-Op Order Means 59,000 Must Find Coverage
About a third of the Arizonans who bought health insurance on the federal marketplace for 2015 will have to find a new provider following action by state insurance regulators to suspend the state's nonprofit insurance co-op's ability to sell new policies over concerns it could fail. The suspension of Meritus Health Partners means about 59,000 people will need new insurance unless the order is lifted. More than 50,000 of those people bought their plans through the marketplace. (Christie, 11/2)

Kaiser Health News: Why Nearly Half Of The Obamacare Co-Ops Have Folded
As open enrollment begins for the health exchanges, one development that’s turning into a concern is the collapse of a number of alternative insurance plans known as co-ops. KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey joins PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff to answer real Americans’ questions about shopping for coverage. Watch the video. (11/2)