KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Officials Confront Health Law Paperwork Backlog

Meanwhile, health law insurance subsidy calculations by the Internal Revenue Service may not have been as inaccurate as first thought, an audit suggests. And the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel parses the health law stances of candidates in the race for governor.

Fox News: HHS Grapples With Massive Obamacare Backlog
Now that the Obamacare exchange websites are largely up and running, federal health officials are finding themselves swamped as they fact-check a flood of paperwork from applicants seeking taxpayer subsidies. The Department of Health and Human Services seems to be caught between critics on both sides as it confronts the task. The department, which oversees the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, has gotten hit by audits showing it hasn't done enough to crack down on fraudsters trying to scam the system. At the same time, some frustrated applicants say they have played by the rules -- signed up on time and submitted the necessary paperwork -- only to be caught up in bureaucratic red tape (Chakraborty, 8/5).

The Hill: O-Care Subsidy Calculations Accurate Last October, Audit Finds
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) might have a better track record in determining Obamacare premium subsidies than previously thought, a new audit suggests.  A government investigation released Tuesday found that the agency was 100 percent accurate in calculating the maximum monthly subsidy for all requests in the first two weeks of October.  While the report did not track activity throughout Obamacare's first enrollment period, it hints that reports of more than 1 million incorrect subsidy determinations may overstate the problem.  The investigation was released by the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) (Viebeck, 8/5).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Gov. Scott Walker And Mary Burke On The Affordable Care Act
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is taking a closer look at the positions being taken by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle executive and state Commerce secretary. Each week, the newspaper will be putting questions on key issues to Burke and Walker and then running their answers on the All Politics Blog, in regular stories and in larger packages that will run closer to the November election. Here’s the next question and set of answers, this time on the Affordable Care Act: Did Wisconsin make the right decision by declining to create its own online health insurance marketplace under Obamacare and by declining to accept additional federal money to expand the state’s BadgerCare Plus Medicaid coverage? (Stein, 8/5).

And many low-income patients are still finding it difficult to get specialty care under the health law --

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Access To Specialty Health Care Out Of Reach For Low-Income Patients
[Myrtis] Henderson, who is in her 40s, is one of many patients who fall into a yawning gap in the nation's health safety net. They need care from a specialist but are unable to get it because they don't have insurance or have inadequate coverage. They either can't get a specialist to accept them as a patient or can't afford to pay up front for the visit. The gap exists because many clinics for low-income patients have only primary care doctors and nurses on staff and often have no direct connection with specialists, who are typically affiliated with hospitals or large practices. Even when they do have connections, they can't always arrange timely, affordable specialty care. And many specialists aren't eager to take low-income patients because they aren't likely to be reimbursed well for the care. While the Affordable Care Act opens up coverage to patients who didn't have it before, some plans carry deductibles that are so high patients still can't afford to see specialists. (Hamill, 8/5).

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