Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Political Cartoon: 'Alternative Medicine'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Alternative Medicine'" by Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Constitution-Journal.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

HEALTH LAW FUNDERS FACE CHALLENGES IN THE BUDGET BILL

ACA  taxes…
If delayed in budget bill
Would it be a win?

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

3. Health Law Plans Draw 1 Million New Sign-Ups This Enrollment Season

Obama administration officials were upbeat in reporting the enrollment figures, saying the numbers are reason for confidence in Obamacare's long-term stability. They also downplayed concerns about rising costs of premiums and deductibles.

The New York Times: Affordable Care Act Plans Get 1 Million New Subscribers
A million new customers have signed up for health insurance during the Affordable Care Act’s third open-enrollment season, Obama administration officials said on Wednesday, and call centers have been deluged with requests from others eager to enroll. The officials brushed aside reports of rising premiums and deductibles and concerns expressed by UnitedHealth Group and other insurers that say they are losing money in the new online insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. (Pear, 12/9)

The Washington Post: One In 4 HealthCare.Gov Customers Renew Coverage So Far, HHS Says
Speaking to journalists, Slavitt said that some consumers are showing sophistication in scrutinizing the details of available plans before choosing coverage. Some 2 million people so far have used new features on HealthCare.gov that allow consumers to search whether a given health plan covers their medicine or includes their doctors. That online searching, Slavitt said, “means that people are not just ... going with the cheapest plan.” (Goldstein, 12/9)

USA Today: Healthcare.gov Starts To See Enrollment Boost, But Concerns Linger
The administration also says it won't be doing special enrollment periods for people who are shocked into wanting to sign up after they see their penalty at tax time for not having insurance, something they offered this year. Insurers have been critical of the unpredictability caused by these special periods — which are also offered for people in a variety of situations, such as those who move out of state, marry, divorce or lose their job. (O'Donnell, 12/9)

Reuters: Healthcare.gov Sign-Ups Exceed Last Year's Pace
The officials cited the latest enrollment data as a reason for confidence in the long-term stability of HealthCare.gov, which was created under President Barack Obama's national healthcare law and sells individual insurance plans in 37 states. (Humer, 12/9)

Bloomberg: Obamacare Sign-Ups Reach 2.84 Million As Deadline Nears
Ten days before the deadline to get health insurance through Obamacare, 2.84 million people have signed up through U.S.-run marketplaces, the government said Wednesday. For the week that ended Dec. 5, the U.S. said that 804,338 people chose plans -- the biggest week of sign-ups since the markets opened on Nov. 1. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects that millions more will be enrolled when people who had coverage for 2015 are automatically renewed this month, and when state-run markets, including California and New York, report their totals. (Tracer, 12/9)

4. Federal Officials Detail State Obamacare Enrollment Numbers

News outlets report on state-specific sign-up tallies and remind consumers that the health law's first deadline this open season is fast approaching.

Health News Florida: Florida Insurers Compete With 'Cost-Share' Plans
The latest numbers from federal health officials show Florida is continuing to lead in enrollment on HealthCare.gov, with nearly 600,000 who have signed up so far. "We're so pleased with the reduction in uninsured,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said after enrollment numbers were released Wednesday afternoon. “We also know there are still many folks in Florida who don't have coverage.” (Watts, 12/9)

Miami Herald: Nearly 600,000 Floridians Signed Up For Obamacare Plans So Far, Feds Say
Five weeks into open enrollment season, nearly 600,000 Floridians have signed up for coverage through the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchange at healthcare.gov, federal health officials reported Wednesday. Among the 38 states using the federal exchange, including Florida, about 2.8 million Americans have signed up for a plan, including about one million new consumers and about 1.8 million who renewed their coverage. (Chang, 12/9)

The Tennessean: ACA Sees Jump In Tennessee Enrollees
Tennessee saw the number of people enrolled jump from 62,922 to 88,007 in just a week's span — a stunning increase in enrollment. An average of 3,583 people across the state signed up each day of that week, according to new numbers from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (Fletcher, 12/9)

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: ACA Open Enrollment Deadline Nearing
With five days left before the first sign-up deadline, officials expect a surge of people logging on to Healthcare.gov to make sure they have coverage starting Jan. 1. As of Dec. 5, a total of 120,375 people in Virginia had made plan selections on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. (Smith, 12/9)

Concord (N.H.) Monitor: Dec. 15 Is Season’s First Deadline For Getting Health Insurance
The deadline is the first of several as part of the annual sign-ups for Obamacare, and this year there’s more incentive to participate because penalties for not having insurance continue to rise. ... It’s the first time that penalties are large enough that they exceed the cost of policies for some people, after income-based subsidies are applied. ... As of Dec. 5, 13,458 New Hampshire residents have signed up via the marketplace. It’s unclear how many are charging policies and how many had no previous health insurance. (Brooks, 12/10)

5. Calif.'s Three Largest Health Insurers Report Profits In Marketplace Business

The companies are among a select few yet to make money on this business, the Los Angeles Times reports. Also, health marketplace news reports from New Hampshire and Connecticut.

New Hampshire Public Radio: Citing Costs, N.H. Insurer Drops Out of Federal Exchange Early This Year
One of the five insurance companies on the federal health exchange in New Hampshire is unexpectedly backing out early this year. The CEO of Maine-based co-op Community Health Options says costs have simply gotten too high for them to continue. Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers can buy subsidized health insurance on the online federal marketplace. But those consumers tend to be the sickest, so they've got the highest healthcare costs. And CEO Kevin Lewis says that's pushing his company out of the individual market. (Rodolico, 12/9)

Modern Healthcare: Maine Co-Op Cuts Off Individual Enrollment
Community Health Options, a not-for-profit co-op insurance company based in Maine that also sells health plans in New Hampshire, will limit individual enrollments later this month because of “higher-than-expected claims costs.” ... The decision to halt enrollment early will not affect current members, and Community Health Options still plans on pursuing small employers into next year. (Herman, 12/9)

Capitol Hill Watch

6. Congress Continues To Wrestle With Budget Bill, ACA Funding Provisions In Play

The House will vote Friday on a short-term funding measure. Meanwhile, a proposed delay of the health law's so-called Cadillac tax is emerging as a point of contention in the negotiations.

The Associated Press: Possible Tax Deal Would Give Big Wins To Both Parties
The White House, against the will of some congressional Democrats, was resisting Republican attempts to pare taxes on medical devices and costly health insurance policies, which were enacted under Obama's 2010 health care law to help pay for that overhaul. "We're always willing to engage in conversations about ways to strengthen the ACA that don't harm health care access, affordability, quality or the middle class," said White House spokeswoman Katie Hill, using the acronym for Obama's Affordable Care Act. (Fram, 12/10)

Politico: Ryan, Pelosi In Staredown Over Budget
The House on Friday will vote on a short-term funding measure to keep the government open until Dec. 16, and additional continuing resolutions are possible. With both sides confident that
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