First Edition: January 23, 2014
Today's headlines include reports about a new survey indicating that the nation's uninsured rate dropped modestly this month.
Kaiser Health News: In Western N.C., Getting Health Coverage Means Getting Creative
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "In the mountains of Western North Carolina, health insurance navigator Julia Buckner spends hours driving around what she calls 'God's Country' — miles and miles of mountains, rivers and winding roads. Her job - and her passion - is to help the rural residents of some of the poorest counties in North Carolina sign up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act" (Gold, 1/22). Read the story.
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Poll Finds Drop In Uninsured Rate
The nation’s uninsured rate dropped modestly this month as the major coverage expansion under President Barack Obama’s health care law got underway, according to a closely watched survey released Thursday. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that the uninsured rate for U.S. adults dropped by 1.2 percentage points in January, to 16.1 percent. The biggest change was for unemployed people, a drop of 6.7 percentage points. That was followed by a 2.6 percentage-point decline for nonwhites. Traditionally both groups are far more likely to be uninsured than the population as a whole (1/23).
Politico: Survey: Uninsured Rate Falls
The rate of uninsured Americans has dropped in the early stages of 2014, dipping in the less than one month since coverage from the Obamacare exchanges took effect. So far in January, 16.1 percent of Americans are uninsured, down from 17.3 percent in December before the exchange coverage began for those who signed up for Jan. 1 health insurance, according to a Gallup poll out Thursday. That’s down from a high of 18.6 percent earlier in 2013 and the lowest registered rate since December 2012 (Kopan, 1/23).
The Washington Post: Obama's 7 State Of The Union Talking Points. No. 1: Defending Obamacare
When President Obama brings up health care during his State of the Union address on Jan. 28, he will make one issue clear (yet) again: He will defend the Affordable Care Act against any and all political attacks this year. Unlike some other initiatives such as immigration, Obama will not ask Congress for anything, focusing instead on the law's ongoing implementation as the top priority. While the Oct. 1 botched rollout of Healthcare.gov represented a significant blow to both the White House and Democrats more broadly (especially those on the ballot this November), the high-profile speech gives Obama the chance to tout the law's benefits and shore up the political fortunes of the men and women who backed it (Eilperin, 1/22).
Los Angeles Times: Anthem Still Tops California Exchange Enrollment; Kaiser Drops Back
At the halfway mark, industry giant Anthem Blue Cross is holding on to a slim lead among health insurance providers with a 31% share of California's exchange market. The Covered California exchange released enrollment figures Tuesday for its 11 health plans from Oct. 1 to the end of December. Open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act runs through March 31. Anthem, the state's largest for-profit health insurer and a unit of WellPoint Inc., has signed up 155,146 people (Terhune, 1/22).
The Wall Street Journal: IBM Software Blamed For Health Exchange Woes
Software from International Business Machines Corp. has been singled out for technical problems affecting both the Maryland and Minnesota online health exchanges. Officials from both states have blamed IBM's Cúram, used to determine consumers' eligibility for health-insurance coverage, for a number of website performance issues, including losing consumer applications (Boulton, 1/23).
Politico: Big Jump Seen In Medicaid Signups
More than 6.3 million people have been determined eligible for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage since the October start of open enrollment, the Obama administration announced Wednesday — but it’s still impossible to say how many are newly insured because of Obamacare. At least 2.3 million people were found eligible for Medicaid and CHIP in December alone, the same month that enrollment in private health plans also spiked sharply, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. These determinations include people who renewed coverage or were previously eligible for coverage but had not enrolled (Millman, 1/22).
The Washington Post: Medicaid Expansion In Va. Gets A Boost
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s key priority this year, expanding Medicaid in Virginia under the Affordable Care Act, got a boost Wednesday with a new estimate showing that the program would save far more money than previously thought. The expansion, along with other savings expected under the federal health-care law, is now expected to save Virginia more than $1 billion through 2022, according to William A. Hazel Jr., Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources. Previously, the new programs were projected to cost the state $137 million over that period (Weiner, 1/22).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Revised Estimate Shows Lower Medicaid Costs
Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration says the state would save money instead of spending it by implementing the new federal health care law. The administration told lawmakers Wednesday that a 2012 estimate, which predicted the cost of the implementing the new law through 2022 would be $137 million, was now incorrect (1/22).
The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: The Phony Ratio Comparing Insurance Cancellations To Health Plans On Healthcare.gov
Caitlin Dunn, a spokeswoman for Portman, immediately fessed up and said the senator had made a mistake. “Senator Portman knew the updated numbers (2.2 million sign ups versus about 5 million cancellations), but misspoke given that the ratio had previously been 10-20:1 when the process began,” she said. “We don’t have any alternate data.” We do not play gotcha when politicians explain that they made a mistake, especially if they had been speaking on live television. But Portman’s error points out a fallacy of even trying to cite such a statistic (Kessler, 1/23).
Los Angeles Times: Target To Drop Health Policies For Part-Time Workers
Target Corp. became the latest major company to say it will stop offering healthcare coverage for part-time workers, and experts said it won't be the last. … Target joins a growing list of retailers and restaurants that are making changes to their health benefits as the rollout of President Obama's healthcare law continues. Home Depot Inc. in September said it would drop coverage for part-time workers in January, a change that would affect roughly 5% of its workforce. Walgreens Co. switched its more than 160,000 employees to employer-sponsored coverage through a private health exchange. Experts predict more employers in industries with large numbers of part-time workers will make similar decisions to keep costs low (Lopez and Hsu, 1/22).
The Washington Post: Target Is Dropping Insurance For Some Because Of Obamacare. That Could Be Good News For Workers.
Target made a very big announcement this week ---one that, for the first time in a while, had nothing to do with credit card breaches. The Fortune 500 company said Tuesday that it would stop providing health-care benefits to its part-time workers, instead directing them to purchase coverage through the health law's exchange. This adds Target to a growing list of companies that have dropped health benefits for part-time workers --including Home Depot and Trader Joe's -- pointing a finger squarely at Obamacare. Like companies before it, Target has framed the change, which begins April 1, as not so bad for employees, arguing that the decision could instead prove advantageous (Kliff, 1/22).
The New York Times: Abortion Opponents March In Washington On Anniversary Of Roe V. Wade Decision
Thousands of abortion opponents descended on Washington for the annual March for Life rally on Wednesday on the 41st anniversary of the decision in Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion. Despite wind chills in the single digits and crunchy snow underfoot, a crowd spanning several blocks huddled on the National Mall to hear speakers such as Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican House majority leader, before marching past the Capitol to the Supreme Court (Southall, 1/22).
The Washington Post: Thousands Brave Cold For Abortion Protest In DC
Thousands of abortion opponents confronted wind chills in the single digits Wednesday to rally and march on Capitol Hill to protest legalized abortion, with a signal of support from Pope Francis. The annual “March for Life” is held every January on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision that declared a constitutional right to abortion. The event draws many Catholic high school and college students from across the country for a series of events and prayer vigils that led up to a rally and march on the snow-covered National Mall (1/22).
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