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Obama hails 8 million enrollees for insurance under federal health-care law
The Washington Post
April 18, 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-hails-8-million-enrollees-for-insurance-under-federal-health-care-law/2014/04/17/db1892b2-c670-11e3-bf7a-be01a9b69cf1_story.html
President Obama announced Thursday that 8 million people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, calling the feat a success story that Democrats should “forcefully defend and be proud of” in the face of Republican election-year attacks on the law.  Speaking at an impromptu news conference, the president described how the law has helped make a difference for ordinary citizens such as a young woman in Pennsylvania with a self-employed husband and two young children who managed to get insurance despite being diagnosed with breast cancer.  “I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people like the woman I just described, who I saw in Pennsylvania yesterday, we’re helping because of something we did,” he said. “I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it. I think is a strong, good, right story to tell.”
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Incomplete Face-To-Face Doctor Exams Put Home Health Agencies In Tight Spot
Kaiser Health News
April 18, 2014
http://capsules.kaiserhealthnews.org/index.php/2014/04/incomplete-face-to-face-doctor-exams-put-home-health-agencies-in-tight-spot
Medicare is paying billions of dollars to home-health providers without adequate documentation of patients’ needs by doctors, according to a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.  The cost of caring for homebound patients is rising, and the government is trying to get a better grip on spending by requiring doctors to certify — with face to face examinations — Medicare beneficiaries’ eligibility for home health services, including intermittent skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech therapy and part-time home health aide services. The OIG estimated that $2 billion in inappropriate payments were made in 2011 and 2012 because of inadequate compliance with the rule.  But home health agencies, which billed Medicare $19.5 billion for these services in 2010, view the rule as burdensome and vague, and worry it will impede in their ability to deliver care.
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April 18, 2014: Obamacare's toll
The Boston Herald
April 18, 2014
http://bostonherald.com/news_opinion/page_one_blog/2014/04/april_18_2014_obamacares_toll
There (almost certainly) will be blood.  That's Congressman Stephen Lynch's (figurative) prediction for Obamacare's ballot-box toll on Democrats this November. “We will lose seats in the House,” the Southie Dem, interviewed on Herald Radio, said yesterday. “And I think we may lose the Senate.”  Coming from a member of said party — and the only member of the Massachusetts delegation to vote against the Affordable Care Act four years ago — that's news. Page One news, in fact. Columnist Adriana Cohen, in an accompanying column, praises Lynch for his frank appraisal, and opines that Democrats ignore him at their own peril.  Also on Page One today … Bruins fever! The B's pursuit of another Stanley Cup begins tonight in a first-round matchup with the Red Wings. Judging by Herald photographer Matt West's cover picture, star goalie Tuukka Rask is ready. So are we.
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Hiding ObamaCare Data with the Census Bureau
Canada Free Press
April 18, 2014
http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/62510
In 2009, within the first few weeks of taking office President Obama, moved control of the Census Bureau from the office of the Commerce Secretary to the White House ahead of the 2010 Census.  Republicans were irate, thinking it was an effort to politicize the 2010 headcount itself. Unfortunately, Republicans were thinking small. As the New York Times reveals, the Census Bureau “is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.”
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Late sign-ups improve outlook for Obama health law
Yahoo News
April 18, 2014
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/sign-ups-improve-outlook-obama-071855547.html;_ylt=AwrBJR52J1FTIS0A2qXQtDMD
A surge of eleventh-hour enrollments has improved the outlook for President Barack Obama's health care law, with more people signing up overall and a much-needed spark of interest among young adults.  Nonetheless, Obama's announcement Thursday that 8 million have signed up for subsidized private insurance, and that 35 percent of them are younger than 35, is just a peek at what might be going on with the nation's newest social program.  Still to be announced is what share of those enrolled were previously uninsured — the true test of Obama's Affordable Care Act — and how many actually secured coverage by paying their first month's premiums.
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Obama Announces 8 Million Have Enrolled In Marketplace Plans
Kaiser Health News
April 18, 2014
http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Multimedia/2014/April/obama-enrollment-8-million-announcement.aspx
In a White House news conference Thursday, President Barack Obama also announced that 35 percent of people who enrolled on the federally run healthcare.gov marketplace are under age 35.  A transcript follows.  PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Before I take questions, I'd also like to say a few words about how the Affordable Care Act is now covering more people at less cost than most would have predicted just a few months ago. The first open enrollment period under this law ended a little over two weeks ago. And as more data comes in, we now know that the number of Americans who've signed up for private insurance in the marketplaces has grown to 8 million people. Eight million people. Thirty-five percent of people who enrolled through the federal marketplace are under the age of 35.
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What’s next for ObamaCare?
The Hill
April 18, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203839-whats-next-for-obamacare
Eight million people have signed up for ObamaCare. So what now?  As ObamaCare enters its fifth year, big questions remain about how the law is working and whether it will live up to promises of providing affordable coverage and slowing the growth of medical costs.  The politics surrounding ObamaCare are equally uncertain.  The botched rollout of Healthcare.gov emboldened critics and stoked Democratic fears that the law would be an albatross in the midterm elections. But last month's late enrollment surge pushed the coverage numbers above expectations, and recent polls indicate that voter disapproval of the law is waning.  Republican leaders have made clear that their campaign strategy this year will center around attacks on ObamaCare, but Democrats say that plan will backfire.
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Obamacare's impact: Differences emerge between states
CBS News
April 17, 2014
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/obamacares-impact-differences-emerge-between-states/
Two weeks after the close of open enrollment on the new Obamacare marketplaces, various surveys and studies released have given different estimates of the Affordable Care Act's impact on the uninsured. One clear finding, however, is the disparity between states that have more openly embraced the controversial health law and those that haven't.
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Here’s how we got to 8 million Obamacare signups
The Washington Post
April 17, 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/04/17/heres-how-we-got-to-8-million-obamacare-signups/?hpid=z1
After a two-week extension of the Obamacare open enrollment deadline, the White House announced today that 8 million people have signed up through the health-care law's insurance marketplaces since it opened in October. That means about 900,000 people picked a health plan in the two weeks since the end of the original March 31 enrollment deadline.  When signups hit 7 million on April 1, I wrote about why that number alone didn't necessarily say whether the Affordable Care Act would succeed. The same goes for the newly announced 8 million signups.  Now that we pretty much have the final tally (a few state-run exchanges, including the District's, are still allowing enrollment through the end of the month), here's what enrollment actually looked like vs. expectations set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September before the insurance marketplaces opened.
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Data from Inpatient Psychiatric Facilities Increase Transparency for Consumers Evaluating Facilities
CMS
April 17, 2014
http://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2014-Press-releases-items/2014-04-17.html
Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced for the first time that quality measures from inpatient psychiatric facilities will be publicly reported on Hospital Compare, a consumer-oriented website that provides information on the quality of care hospitals are providing to their patients.  “Patients and their families need facts to help them in making informed decisions about healthcare, and choosing the right facility for inpatient psychiatric care is an important decision to make,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.  Beginning April 17, 2014, Hospital Compare will feature data from 1,753 inpatient psychiatric facilities on patient care for the period of October 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013.  Public reporting will allow consumers to directly compare facilities based on data collected for the following measures:
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Hatch, Alexander, Thune Urge Census Bureau to Keep Questions on Uninsured in Order to Understand Impact of Obamacare
The Senate Finance Committee
April 17, 2014
http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/ranking/release/?id=c8e33736-b82b-4c34-a922-af7145e2715e
U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and John Thune (R-S.D.) today sent a letter to Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson urging the administration to continue asking the existing health insurance coverage questions in the Census Bureau’s annual survey, along with its planned new questions, for two years.  The New York Times reported Tuesday that the Census Bureau is this year changing its annual Current Population Survey questions regarding health insurance coverage to an extent that will make it difficult to measure the new health care law’s impact on health insurance coverage.  The senators write: “We respectfully request that you continue to collect data using both the old and new survey questions for this year and next year.  Of course we always want the best statistical information, but the collection of only one year of comparable data is insufficient.  Continuing to collect data using both the old and new survey questions will help ensure that you do not conflate a change in measurement with changes due to implementation of the new health care law.”
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Obamacare Spurs Jump in Consumers’ Health Spending: Economy
Bloomberg
April 17, 2014
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-04-17/consumer-spending-on-health-care-jumps-as-obamacare-takes-hold.html
Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn’t afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.  The law is prompting Beigel and others to spend more at the doctor’s office and pharmacy, and the impact is reflected in the latest data on consumer spending. It climbed by $20.4 billion at an annualized rate adjusted for inflation in February, and $13 billion of the increase came from outlays on health services spurred by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, according to figures from the Commerce Department.
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Enrollments Exceed Obama’s Target for Health Care Act
The New York Times
April 17, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/us/obama-says-young-adults-push-health-care-enrollment-above-targets.html?emc=edit_th_20140418&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=58462464
President Obama announced Thursday that eight million people have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, including what the White House said were a sufficient number of young, healthy adults, a critical milestone that might counter election-year attacks by Republicans on the law’s success and viability.  The total number of enrollees exceeds by a million the target set by the administration for people to buy insurance through government-run health care exchanges. In particular, the number of young people signing up appears to have surged during the final weeks of enrollment.
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Cost of Treatment May Influence Doctors
The New York Times
April 17, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/business/treatment-cost-could-influence-doctors-advice.html?emc=edit_tnt_20140417&nlid=58462464&tntemail0=y
Saying they can no longer ignore the rising prices of health care, some of the most influential medical groups in the nation are recommending that doctors weigh the costs, not just the effectiveness of treatments, as they make decisions about patient care.  The shift, little noticed outside the medical establishment but already controversial inside it, suggests that doctors are starting to redefine their roles, from being concerned exclusively about individual patients to exerting influence on how health care dollars are spent.  “We understand that we doctors should be and are stewards of the larger society as well as of the patient in our examination room,” said Dr. Lowell E. Schnipper, the chairman of a task force on value in cancer care at the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
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Health care enrollment hits 8 million, Obama says
McClatchy
April 17, 2014
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/04/17/224802/health-care-enrollment-hits-8.html
More than 8 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, a triumphant President Barack Obama announced Thursday.Obama hailed the number -- which exceeds expectations -- and said that 35 percent of those who enrolled through the federal marketplace are under the age of 35, a coveted demographic that is cheaper to insure.He argued that the law has also helped tame soaring health care costs, saying that since the law took effect, health care spending has risen more slowly than at any time in the past 50 years. In the decade before the Affordable Care Act, he said, employer-based insurance rose almost 8 percent a year. Last year, it grew at half that rate.“This thing is working,” Obama said, calling for Republicans to lay down their fight to repeal the law.“We know we've got more work to do,” he said. “But we now know for a fact that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit, raise premiums for millions of Americans, and take insurance away from millions more, which is why, as I've said before, I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that it has always been.”
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Republicans question motive of Census Bureau survey changes
The Hill
April 17, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203831-republicans-question-motive-of-census-bureau
Republicans in both houses of Congress urged the Census Bureau Thursday to maintain its old questions used for tracking how many U.S. residents have health insurance in order to better observe any shifts caused by ObamaCare.  In the Senate, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sent a letter to Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson urging him to keep using current health insurance coverage questions for two more years while the bureau rolls out a set of new questions.  “We respectfully request that you continue to collect data using both the old and new survey questions for this year and next year,” the senators said in their letter. “Continuing to collect data using both the old and new survey questions will help ensure that you do not conflate a change in measurement with changes due to implementation of the new health care law.”  The Senators added that it was "alarming" that the administration appeared to be acting to obscure ObamaCare's effects, and asked for answers regarding what role the White House played in deciding to implement the new survey questions.
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Obama tells Dems to ‘be proud’ as ObamaCare enrollments reach 8 million
The Hill
April 17, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203810-obama-8-million-o-care-enrollments
A defiant President Obama on Thursday announced that 8 million people have enrolled in ObamaCare plans while exhorting Democrats to “be proud” of what they’ve achieved.  Holding an unscheduled press conference at the White House, Obama took a victory lap on the healthcare law and assailed Republicans as refusing "to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working."   "They said nobody would sign up. They were wrong about that. They said it would be unaffordable for the country. They were wrong about that," Obama said.  The president touted the enrollment total, which exceeded the most optimistic projections for the first year, and said members of his party should "forcefully defend” the law.  "We're helping because of something we did," Obama said. "I don't think we should apologize for it, and I don't think we should be defensive about it. I think is a strong, good, right story to tell."
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35 percent of O-Care enrollees are under 35, say insurance officials
The Hill
April 17, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203794-officials-35-percent-of-o-care-enrollees-are
A group of state insurance officials said they were told by the White House on Thursday that 35 percent of ObamaCare's enrollees are under 35 years of age.  That figure represents a four-point increase since March 1, indicating that health insurance enrollments from young people increased, as expected, toward the end of the sign-up deadline.  The percentage did not appear to refer exclusively to young adults between the ages of 18 and 35, whose participation is necessary to keep prices stable on the exchanges.  The White House revealed the number to members of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) after they met with President Obama midday Thursday. Some saw the number as a good sign that ObamaCare is attracting younger people into the insurance pool.  "That's a pretty good number in terms of trying to make sure that we have a healthy [risk] pool," NAIC President-Elect Monica J. Lindeen said of the 35 percent.
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Dems serious about Sebelius
The Hill
April 17, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/senate-races/203737-dems-serious-about-sebelius
Democrats are dying to have Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius enter the Senate race in Kansas.  It seems crazy to Republicans, who see Sebelius as the face of the botched ObamaCare rollout and believe her candidacy would make it even easier for them to win the Senate majority.  But Democrats say her candidacy would make Kansas more winnable, would blunt the problems ObamaCare poses to their party and would force Republicans to pour money into a red state.  “I can’t think of a person who’s in a better position to defend ObamaCare than Sebelius,” said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist. “If she runs and she becomes a viable and serious candidate for Senate, that really throws a wrench into the Republicans’ playbook and certainly their narrative that there’s this kryptonite out there called ObamaCare.”
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New National Biodefense Science Board members to advise HHS
HHS
April 16, 2014
http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2014pres/04/20140416a.html
Six experts from outside the federal government will join the National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB) to provide advice and guidance to HHS’ assistant secretary for preparedness and response, and to the HHS Secretary, on preventing, preparing for, and responding to adverse health effects of public health emergencies.  The new members replace members whose terms expire April 30.  The ASPR serves as the Secretary’s principal advisor on bioterrorism and other public health emergencies and coordinates the federal public health and medical response to disasters.  “NBSB members are vital to our operations here in HHS. They bring a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and experience. Over the past six years, the board has helped us improve federal policies and practices in disaster preparedness and response,” said Assistant Secretary Nicole Lurie, M.D. “I look forward to working with the new members in helping to build more resilient communities across the nation.”
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Census Bureau: Question changes make it easier to assess health insurance law
The Washington Post
April 16, 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/census-bureau-question-changes-make-it-easier-to-assess-health-insurance-law/2014/04/16/72f7a98a-c5a7-11e3-8b9a-8e0977a24aeb_story.html
The director of the Census Bureau said he is confident that new changes in the wording of survey questions on health insurance will not diminish its ability to measure the impact of the Affordable Care Act.  John H. Thompson, responding to critics, said the survey questions were rephrased specifically to establish a benchmark for how many people were uninsured in 2013, the year before the health insurance mandate took effect, so comparisons can be made in future years.  Concerns, first reported in the New York Times, have arisen that changes in the phrasing of one survey’s questions may make future comparisons more difficult. Critics of the health-care law have accused the Census Bureau of working to fudge the numbers so the White House can claim more success than is merited.
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New data signal smaller jump in health care costs
USA Today
April 16, 2014
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/16/lower-rise-in-health-care-costs/7515185/
Statisticians working with insurers to project next year's insurance premium rates say they expect to see an average increase of about 7%, well below the feared double-digit increases making recent headlines.  "The double-rate increases we've been hearing are probably exaggerated," says Dave Axene, a fellow with the Society of Actuaries, adding that there would be wide variation across the country. "That's not what we're seeing from the actuarial organizations — I guess we're being a little bit more optimistic."  Axene says that as insurers dig through the new health exchange enrollees to figure out their ages and health conditions to determine next year's premiums, he expects an overall increase of 6% to 8.5%. He bases that on work he and others within the society have done with insurance clients. Before the Affordable Care Act, premiums rose an average of 7-10% a year.
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Price transparency stinks in health care. Here’s how the industry wants to change that.
The Washington Post
April 16, 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/04/16/price-transparency-stinks-in-health-care-heres-how-the-industry-wants-to-change-that/
There's been much written in the past year about just how hard it is to get a simple price for a basic health-care procedure. The industry has heard the rumblings, and now it's responding.  About two dozen industry stakeholders, including main lobbying groups for hospitals and health insurers, this morning are issuing new recommendations for how they can provide the cost of health-care services to patients.  The focus on health-care price transparency — discussed in Steven Brill's 26,000-word opus on medical bills for Time last year — has intensified, not surprisingly, as people are picking up more of the tab for their health care. Employers are shifting more costs onto their workers, and many new health plans under Obamacare feature high out-of-pocket costs.
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For Diabetics, Health Risks Fall Sharply
The New York Times
April 16, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/health/diabetes-complications-show-sharp-decline-report-finds.html?_r=0
Federal researchers on Wednesday reported the first broad national picture of progress against some of the most devastating complications of diabetes, which affects millions of Americans, finding that rates of heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and amputations fell sharply over the past two decades.  The biggest declines were in the rates of heart attacks and deaths from high blood sugar, which dropped by more than 60 percent from 1990 to 2010, the period studied. While researchers had had patchy indications that outcomes were improving for diabetic patients in recent years, the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, documents startling gains.  “This is the first really credible, reliable data that demonstrates that all of the efforts at reducing risk have paid off,” said Dr. David M. Nathan, director of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, who was not involved in the study. “Given that diabetes is the chronic epidemic of this millennium, this is a very important finding.”
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Free Drug Samples Prompt Skin Doctors To Prescribe Costlier Meds
NPR
April 16, 2014
http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/04/16/303730781/free-drug-samples-prompt-skin-doctors-to-prescribe-costlier-meds
Every "free" sample comes with a price.  Dermatologists who accept free tubes and bottles of brand-name drugs are likelier to prescribe expensive medications for acne than doctors who are prohibited from taking samples, a study reports Wednesday.  The difference isn't chump change. When patients see a dermatologist who gets and gives free samples, the average cost of medicines prescribed is $465 per office visit. That cost drops to about $200 when patients see a doctor who can't hand out freebies, a team at Stanford University found.  The findings, published in the current issue of JAMA Dermatology, adds to the growing evidence that free handouts may influence doctors' prescribing habits — and the type of medications people request.  "When a doctor gives a sample to a patient, it's a very strong endorsement of a drug," says Georgetown University's Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, who wasn't involved in the study.
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Sebelius Said to Weigh Run for Kansas Senate Seat
The New York Times
April 16, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/17/us/politics/kathleen-sebelius.html
In her darkest hour last fall, Kathleen Sebelius suffered one of the deepest cuts from an old family friend who accused her of “gross incompetence” over the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and demanded that she resign as secretary of health and human services. Now she is weighing revenge.  Ms. Sebelius is considering entreaties from Democrats who want her to run against that old friend, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas.  Several Democrats said this week that Ms. Sebelius had been mentioned with growing frequency as someone who could wage a serious challenge to Mr. Roberts, 77, who is running for a fourth term and is considered vulnerable. One person who spoke directly to Ms. Sebelius said that she was thinking about it, but added that it was too soon to say how seriously she was taking the idea.
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Poll: Uninsured drops in key states
Politico
April 16, 2014
http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/uninsured-obamacare-medicaid-poll-105739.html?hp=l5
States that have expanded Medicaid and opened their own exchanges have seen a higher rate of decline in the number of uninsured, compared to other states, a new poll shows.  The 21 states and the District of Columbia, which have done both, saw an average decline in uninsured of 2.5 percent, according to a poll released Wednesday by Gallup. The other 29 states that didn’t enact both measure had a dip in uninsured of less than 1 percent on average.  The number of Americans who reported that they were uninsured has also dropped to 15.6 percent from 17.3 percent in 2013. The uninsured rate hit a high of 18 percent in the third quarter of 2013—ahead of the opening of exchanges.
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Obama to meet with healthcare leaders
The Hill
April 16, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203736-obama-to-meet-with-healthcare-leaders
President Obama is scheduled to meet with health insurance executives and state insurance commissioners on Thursday, just two days after ObamaCare's special enrollment period officially closed.  The meetings, which will include at least one photo-op, are a chance for the White House to telegraph unity with health insurance companies and state regulators involved with the rollout of the healthcare law.  The announcement of new enrollment figures was also expected separately on Thursday.  It is possible Obama could reveal the numbers before one of the two meetings.  Total exchange enrollment is likely to have risen since last week, when Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said 7.5 million people had enrolled in the new insurance exchanges.  The Obama administration is riding high after exceeding an original enrollment goal for the system despite persistent glitches with HealthCare.gov last fall.
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Sebelius allies doubt Senate run
The Hill
April 16, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/senate-races/203695-sebelius-allies-doubt-senate-run
Friends and former colleagues of Kathleen Sebelius say the odds are low that she will jump into the Kansas Senate race this summer.  They overwhelmingly dismissed the idea of her entering into a heated campaign against Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) so soon after stepping down as secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).  "I have a hard time imagining her jumping from the frying pan to the fire on this sort of thing," said Burdett "Bird" Loomis, a well-connected Kansas Democrat and longtime professor of political science at the University of Kansas.  Loomis also served as communications director for Sebelius in 2005 when she was governor of Kansas.
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Gallup finds rate of uninsured dropped in states that embraced ObamaCare
The Hill
April 16, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203668-gallup-states-that-embrace-obamacare-see
States that expanded Medicaid and set up health exchanges under ObamaCare are seeing their uninsured rates drop faster than other sates, according to Gallup.  A new survey released Tuesday from the polling firm found the rate of the uninsured fell 2.5 percent in the states that embraced ObamaCare by opening state exchanges and accepting federal money to expand Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor.  States that didn't make both reforms also saw the percentage of people with health insurance climb, but not by as much. The uninsured rate dropped by 0.8 percent in states that implemented one or neither of the reforms.  Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have both expanded Medicaid and set up their own insurance exchange for people on the individual market to purchase insurance. In those states, 13.6 percent of residents lack insurance.
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O-Care data is muddied by Census
The Hill
April 15, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203559-report-census-overhaul-will-obscure-o-care
The Census Bureau is changing the way it calculates the number of people with health insurance, a move researchers say could obscure the true impact of ObamaCare.  The bureau is overhauling the questions on its annual health insurance survey to make sure people understand that they are being asked whether they had coverage in the previous year.  But the shift in methodology means that researchers will be comparing apples and oranges if they try to weigh data from the start of ObamaCare to the years after the initial launch, a so-called “break in trend.”  The change was first reported Tuesday by The New York Times and the timing was widely questioned by health researchers and journalists, who count on consistent data from the agency in order to write about ObamaCare.  “Altering the questions right now so that we can’t measure what’s going on is terrible,” Aaron Carroll wrote on the influential healthcare blog “The Incidental Economist.”
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FTC challenger remains defiant over charges
The Hill
April 15, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/203611-ftc-challenger-remains-defiant-over-charges
The head of a medical lab charged with letting thieves steal patient data is refusing to back down from his fight against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  A court’s decision this month to allow the FTC to pursue similar charges against the Wyndham hotel chain shouldn’t have much impact on LabMD’s campaign against the regulator, CEO Michael Daugherty said on Tuesday. He pledged to continue fighting the “bullies” at the agency to prevent them from regulating companies’ data security without explicit regulations.  “I would find most people are going to not say it’s okay to have a government agency that assumes all powers are there until they’re told they’re not,” he said in an interview with The Hill.  Daugherty was on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to talk with congressional staff, many of whom he said have been supportive of his case.
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Census Survey Revisions Mask Health Law Effects
The New York Times
April 15, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/16/us/politics/census-survey-revisions-mask-health-law-effects.html?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults&mabReward=csesort%3As&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26contentCollection%3DInternational%2520Business%26region%3DTopBar%26WT.nav%3DsearchWidget%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26pgtype%3Darticle%23%2Fhealth%2Blaw%2F24hours%2F&_r=0#
The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.  The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.  An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.
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Insurers see brighter Obamacare skies
Politico
April 15, 2014
http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/health-insurers-obamacare-105676.html?hp=r5
Health insurers got their first taste of Obamacare this year. And they want seconds.  Insurers saw disaster in the fall when Obamacare’s rollout flopped and HealthCare.gov was a mess. But a strong March enrollment surge, along with indications that younger and healthier people had begun signing up, has changed their attitude. Around the country, insurers are considering expanding their stake in the Obamacare exchanges next year, bringing their business to more states and counties. Some health plans that skipped the new marketplaces altogether this year are ready to dive in next year.
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Scientists embark on unprecedented effort to connect millions of patient medical records
The Washington Post
April 15, 2014
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/scientists-embark-on-unprecedented-effort-to-connect-millions-of-patient-medical-records/2014/04/15/ea7c966a-b12e-11e3-9627-c65021d6d572_story.html
Inside an otherwise ordinary office building in lower Manhattan, government-funded scientists have begun collecting and connecting together terabytes of patient medical records in what may be one of the most radical projects in health care ever attempted.  The data — from every patient treated at one of New York’s major hospital centers over the past few years — include some of the most intimate details of a life. Vital signs. Diagnoses and conditions. Results of blood tests, X-rays, MRI scans. Surgeries. Insurance claims. And in some cases, links to genetic samples.  The effort is being duplicated at 10 other sites across the country using data from hospitals, academic research centers, community health clinics, insurers and other sources. If all goes well, by September 2015 they will be linked together to create a giant repository of medical information from 26 million to 30 million Americans.
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Doctors, medical staff on drugs put patients at risk
USA Today
April 15, 2014
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/15/doctors-addicted-drugs-health-care-diversion/7588401/
Anita Bertrand doesn't remember much about the first time she stole narcotics she was supposed to administer to surgical patients. She doesn't remember exactly when she installed the intravenous port in her ankle so she could inject the drugs more efficiently. And she doesn't remember how many patients she may have put at risk before getting into treatment.  But she remembers how easy it was to get away with it.  "I was absolutely impaired, using narcotics while working. … And no one ever noticed," says Bertrand, 49, a nurse anesthetist in Houston. "Did I make mistakes? I don't know, and that's the scary part. I'm not aware of any, but I certainly would not say I was immune to that."
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U.S. healthcare usage and spending resumes rise in 2013 –report
Reuters
April 15, 2014
http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/15/health-spending-rise-idUSL2N0N60WN20140415
Americans used more health services and spent more on prescription drugs in 2013, reversing a recent trend, though greater use of cheaper generic drugs helped control spending, according to a report issued on Tuesday by a leading healthcare information company.  Spending on medicines rose 3.2 percent in the United States last year to $329.2 billion. While that was far less than the double-digit increases seen in previous decades, it was a rebound from a 1 percent decline in 2012, the report by IMS Health Holdings Inc. found.  Among factors driving the increased spending were the cost of new medicines, price increases on some branded drugs, a $10 billion reduced impact of patent expirations compared with 2012, and the first rise in the use of healthcare services in three years, IMS found.  IMS compiles and provides data on prescription drug use and trends for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry.
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Prices Soaring for Specialty Drugs, Researchers Find
The New York Times
April 15, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/15/business/prices-soaring-for-specialty-drugs-researchers-find.html?hpw&rref=business&action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults&mabReward=csesort%3As&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26contentCollection%3DEurope%26region%3DTopBar%26WT.nav%3DsearchWidget%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26pgtype%3Darticle%23%2Fhealth%2Blaw%2F24hours%2F
Even as the cost of prescription drugs has plummeted for many Americans, a small slice of the population is being asked to shoulder more and more of the cost of expensive treatments for diseases like cancer and hepatitis C, according to a report to be released on Tuesday by a major drug research firm.  The findings echo the conclusions of two other reports released last week by major pharmacy benefit managers, which predicted that spending on so-called specialty drugs would continue to rise.  The report, by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, also found that consumers’ use of health care — visits to the doctor, hospital admissions and prescription drug use — rose in 2013 for the first time in three years, mainly because of the improving economy, it said.
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CBO sees lower costs for Affordable Care Act insurance provisions
McClatchy
April 14, 2014
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2014/04/14/224379/cbo-sees-lower-costs-for-aca-insurance.html?sp=/99/200/328/
The Affordable Care Act’s insurance coverage provisions will be less costly to the federal budget than first projected and premiums for a key health plan are expected to rise by about 6 percent a year, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday.Updating estimates issued in February, the non-partisan CBO said the cost to the federal government for the insurance provisions is $5 billion less than thought earlier this year. From 2015 through 2024, the provisions should prove $104 billion less costly. That’s 7 percent below earlier projections.  The falling cost projections from the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation of Congress are due in part to further analysis of retirement trends and of the health plans being offered on the public exchanges created to help individuals buy health insurance.
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Tax Preparers’ New Role: Health-Coverage Advisers
The New York times
April 14, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/15/us/politics/new-role-for-tax-preparers-health-coverage-advisers.html?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults&mabReward=csesort%3As&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26contentCollection%3DEurope%26region%3DTopBar%26WT.nav%3DsearchWidget%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26pgtype%3Darticle%23%2Fhealth%2Blaw%2F24hours%2F
Iris I. Burnell, an adviser at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, has prepared scores of returns in the last few months, as she does every year ahead of the April 15 filing deadline. But many of her consultations this year have also included educating clients about the tax implications of the Affordable Care Act.  “Many people don’t realize that it’s the law, and you have to have insurance,” said Ms. Burnell, the manager of a busy storefront tax preparation office just a few blocks from the Capitol. “They still think there’s a way to worm out of it. When I ask if they have insurance, they hem and haw. They are in a wait-and-see mode.”
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Budget Office Lowers Estimate for the Cost of Expanding Health Coverage
The New York Times
April 14, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/15/us/politics/budget-office-lowers-estimate-for-cost-of-expanding-health-coverage.html?action=click&module=Search&region=searchResults&mabReward=csesort%3As&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26contentCollection%3DEurope%26region%3DTopBar%26WT.nav%3DsearchWidget%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26pgtype%3Darticle%23%2Fhealth%2Blaw%2F24hours%2F&_r=0
The insurance expansion under the Affordable Care Act will cost $1.383 trillion over the next decade, more than $100 billion less than previous forecasts, the Congressional Budget Office said Monday.  The nonpartisan budget office’s report, an update to projections from February, shows the law costing less than in previous estimates in part because of the broad and persistent slowdown in the growth of health care costs. The news might come as welcome to Democrats on Capitol Hill and in the White House who are struggling to defend the law in an election year.  “Today’s C.B.O. update shows once again that the Affordable Care Act will help reduce our deficits while offering more Americans access to quality, affordable health care,” said Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and the head of the Senate Budget Committee. “We need to keep building on this progress rather than turning back the clock on the millions of people who have now signed up for coverage.”
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Smaller premium hikes forecast in 2015 for Obamacare
Politico
April 14, 2014
http://www.politico.com/story/2014/04/obamacare-premium-increase-2015-105685.html?hp=l1
Insurance premiums under Obamacare are projected to rise less than 3 percent in 2015, a smaller-than-expected jump as the health insurance exchanges enter their second year.  The CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation released a series of new estimates Monday on the law’s costs and the number of people it will cover. The figures show that 12 million more Americans will have health coverage in 2014 than would have been the case without Obamacare — down from a February projection of 13 million because of a dip in expected Medicaid enrollment. Many Republican critics of the ACA have sharply questioned whether the program is reaching the nation’s uninsured.
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CBO lowers estimate of health care law costs
USA Today
April 14, 2014
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/04/14/cbo-obamacare-aca-costs/7703327/
The Affordable Care Act will cost $5 billion less than originally projected for 2014, according to a Congressional Budget Office report released Monday.  From 2015 to 2024, the law is now expected to cost $1.38 trillion, or $104 billion less than prior projections, with a $36 billion cost in 2014.  Net costs in 2014 are due almost entirely to subsidies paid out to those who make less than 400% of the federal poverty level who enrolled in the health insurance exchanges, as well as the Medicaid expansion in some states.  The government will pay out $1.84 trillion through 2024 for health exchanges and subsidies, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program and tax credits for small employers. But the budget office expects $456 billion in penalty payments from those who do not have health insurance as well as excise taxes on high-premium insurance plans, income taxes for those who make more than $200,000 a year, and payroll taxes that come from changes in employer coverage.
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ObamaCare costs lower than expected, CBO says
The Hill
April 14, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203464-cbo-lowers-o-care-cost-projection
ObamaCare's health insurance benefits will cost the federal government $104 billion less than previously expected over the next decade, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Monday.   The law's insurance coverage provisions are now projected to cost close to $1.4 trillion between 2015 and 2024, a decline of about $100 billion from previous estimates, the CBO found.  The benefits will cost taxpayers $36 billion this year, or $5 billion less than past projections. The coverage provisions include tax subsidies to help people purchase coverage on the health exchanges as well as the law's expansion of Medicaid.  The cost figures do not include the law's projected impact on the budget deficit.  The White House called the report evidence that the president's signature law "is working."
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Dems: E-cigarette makers ‘prey’ on kids
The Hill
April 14, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/203446-dems-e-cigarette-companies-prey-on-kids
Democratic lawmakers on Monday accused e-cigarette companies of marketing their products toward children.  The lawmakers released a new report finding that e-cigarette companies are targeting children by using candy flavors and promoting their products at rock concerts and through social media.  “For years, federal regulations prohibiting tobacco companies from targeting young people have helped to protect a new generation of smokers from getting hooked on nicotine,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “Now, we must close this new gateway to addiction to protect our children.”  Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) joined Durbin in calling for government regulations of e-cigarettes, along with Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).
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Burwell's top five challenges at HHS
The Hill
April 14, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203410-burwells-top-five-challenges-at-hhs
Sylvia Mathews Burwell will have a lot on her plate as the next leader of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  If she's confirmed, the outgoing White House budget director will head up one of Washington's largest and most unwieldy bureaucracies.  She will preside over the next phase of ObamaCare's implementation, including the second enrollment period, which is just seven months away.  And she'll enter amid high political stakes, as Democrats seek to neutralize criticism of the healthcare law and maintain control of the Senate.  Burwell's tenure will not be as challenging as that of her predecessor, departing Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  The new HHS chief will take control at a time when much of the heavy lifting on ObamaCare has been done already.
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Sebelius says departure was her choice
Politico
April 13, 2014
http://www.politico.com/blogs/politico-live/2014/04/sebelius-says-departure-was-her-choice-186786.html
Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says her departure after Obamacare’s first, rocky open enrollment period was her own choice and that it was “a logical time to leave.”  The president and I began to talk, you know, after the first of the year,” Sebelius told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell in an interview that aired Sunday on “Meet the Press." “And I went back to him in early March and said, ‘You know, I'm really optimistic we’re going to meet the targets and the enrollment is good, the site is working well. I think once we finish this first chapter you really should begin to look for the next secretary who can be here through the end of your term.’ And that really wasn't a commitment I was willing to make. And he knew that.”
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Burwell hearings to be debate over health care
USA Today
April 13, 2014
http://www.usatoday.com/story/theoval/2014/04/13/obama-kathleen-sebelius-sylvia-burwell-health-care-tim-scott-sheldon-whitehouse/7667541/
Confirmation hearings for the next secretary of health and human services are likely to be more about the health care law than nominee Sylvia Mathews Burwell.  Republicans are serving notice that they will use the Burwell hearings to spotlight what they call problems with the health care law, including canceled policies, higher premiums, and delay of some provisions.  Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., told Fox News Sunday that Republicans want to know whether new Health and Human Services nominee Burwell will speak for "the American people" or for "politics."
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In New York, Hard Choices on Health Exchange Spell Success
The New York Times
April 13, 2014
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/nyregion/in-new-york-hard-choices-on-health-exchange-spell-success.html?emc=edit_tnt_20140413&nlid=58462464&tntemail0=y&_r=0
In contrast with the early stumbles in most of the country, New York State, almost from the start, has provided a textbook lesson in how to make the Affordable Care Act work. But it has done so by making some tough decisions.  New York has signed up more than 900,000 people for commercial or government plans, lured 16 insurance companies onto its exchange, provided subsidies for most customers and reduced premiums across the board.  “I have to say that on the whole this is a very savvy bunch of people they have operating the exchange,” Mark P. Scherzer, a lawyer and consumer advocate , said. “It really is a story of something that government could actually do right.”
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Cummings: Dems should campaign on ‘moral issues’ on ObamaCare
The Hill
April 13, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203429-cummings-dems-should-argue-moral-issues-on
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on Sunday said that despite the unpopularity of ObamaCare, Democrats should “go out there and argue the moral issues” on the president’s signature healthcare reform legislation.  “I've never ran away from ObamaCare, because I see in my district (and I have a very diverse district) people who have been helped by it,” Cummings said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”  “And the idea that we now have gotten rid of preexisting conditions, which was affecting millions upon millions of Americans, stopping them from getting insurance. I think that's very significant. We have got to look at the good things. And we've got to go out there and make it clear that it's something good for America,” he added.  Cummings also said that Kathleen Sebelius “accomplished a lot” as Health and Human Services secretary. Sebelius announced her resignation on Friday.
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HHS pick selected to ‘spin the numbers’?
The Hill
April 13, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203422-blackburn-hhs-pick-selected-to-spin-the
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) on Sunday said that the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services secretary will increase the controversy over ObamaCare.  Blackburn, who attended the New Hampshire Freedom Summit that attracted potential GOP presidential candidates on Saturday, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the resignation has only elevated concerns.  The Tennessee Republican called White House budget director Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Obama’s pick to replace Sebelius at HHS, an “interesting choice.” “I think there are many of us and probably a bit of a growing consensus that they know they've got a math problem with ObamaCare,” Blackburn said. “And the numbers are not going to work out so that the program is actuarially sound. And they're going to have to have somebody to kind of spin the numbers.
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Sebelius: Pressure after rollout was 'awful'
The Hill
April 13, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203417-sebelius-pressure-after-rollout-was-awful
Outgoing Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she was "flat-out wrong" to believe that HealthCare.gov was ready to go on Oct. 1, 2013.  Sebelius made the comment to NBC's Andrea Mitchell on "Meet the Press" in her first post-resignation interview. The secretary has only a handful of weeks left at HHS until her replacement is confirmed.  In candid remarks about the healthcare rollout, Sebelius said she regretted not taking a different approach when HealthCare.gov was under construction.  "If I had a magic wand and could go back to mid-September and ask different questions based on what I know now," I would, she said. "I thought I was getting the best information from the best experts but clearly that didn't go well."  "The launch of the website was terribly flawed, terribly difficult," she added. "Could we have used more time and testing? You bet."
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Dem: 'Probably a good thing' Sebelius is out
The Hill
April 13, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/other/203418-democrat-probably-a-good-thing-sebelius-is-out
A Democratic senator said Sunday that it's "probably a good thing" that Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is on her way out.  In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) praised Sebelius for her six years at HHS, but suggested a "new face" would benefit the healthcare rollout.  "She gave a lot of good service to the president and to the country," Whitehouse said.  “She was there nearly six years in an extremely tough job, at a very consequential time through the whole healthcare bill, through the rollout with all its malfunctions. I think it probably is a good thing to have a new face going forward."
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Dems target Medicare Advantage changes
The Hill
April 12, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/medicare/203408-dem-bill-targets-mid-year-medicare-advantage-doc-cuts
A new Democratic bill would prevent Medicare Advantage (MA) plans from dropping providers in the middle of the year.  The measure is forthcoming from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and responds to UnitedHealth's move to drop thousands of doctors from its MA policies at the end of last year.  "The timing and scale of UnitedHealth Group's provider cuts have been extremely disruptive to patient care and put participants at risk," said DeLauro in a statement.  "Congress has to hold these companies accountable, and make sure they are putting the care of their enrollees ahead of their profits."  Fights over Medicare Advantage are especially hot this year given the issue's relevance in the midterm elections.
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Can Burwell turn HHS around?
The Hill
April 12, 2014
http://thehill.com/blogs/healthwatch/health-reform-implementation/203394-can-burwell-turn-hhs-around
Sylvia Mathews Burwell has a big task ahead of her.  The outgoing White House budget official is poised to take the reins of one of the largest bureaucracies in the United States as it implements ObamaCare, the most sweeping new social program since Medicare.  But as President Obama's nominee to head the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Burwell would have more on her plate than just the healthcare law.  The HHS secretary is in charge of a volatile mix of programs, politics and stakeholders that makes it among the hardest of all the Cabinet positions.  The job is a magnet for partisan attacks, and Burwell would assume her new role in a high-stakes election year when Republicans hope to use the healthcare law to take back the Senate.


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