Kaiser Health News Original Stories

Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. As Enrollment Deadline Approaches, Last-Minute Surge Overwhelms Call Centers

The administration is bombarding potential enrollees with email reminders to get health care coverage as it pushes to hit a modest 10 million goal before Tuesday's midnight deadline.

The New York Times: As Health Care Act Insurance Deadline Nears, ‘Unprecedented Demand’
Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia have done the best among 20 cities competing to sign up people for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, while Dallas, Denver and Las Vegas are lagging, the White House said Monday ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to enroll for coverage that takes effect on Jan. 1. A surge of callers temporarily overwhelmed the government’s capacity to enroll consumers on Monday, prompting officials to record telephone numbers so they could return calls later to arrange for coverage. (Pear, 12/14)

NBC News: Feds Make Push As Obamacare Sign-Up Deadline Arrives Tuesday
Tuesday's the last day for people to sign up for health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges if they want coverage to start Jan. 1, and federal officials are making a last-minute push. This is the third year people will be able to buy federally subsidized health insurance on the government-sponsored exchanges, and while no one expects people to sign up in the millions like they did during the disastrous first-year rollout, officials said the websites were busy. (Fox, 12/14)

USA Today: Late Rush Before Open Enrollment Deadline Jams Federal Phone Lines
Consumers anxious to beat the midnight Tuesday deadline to enroll on the federal insurance exchange overwhelmed call center lines Monday, federal officials said. Some people were being asked to leave their names so they could be called back after the deadline to be enrolled. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said they would still be able to have coverage effective Jan. 1 if they left their contact information before the deadline. (O'Donnell, 12/14)

NPR: Obamacare Sign-Ups Could Get A Bump As Higher Penalties Kick In
Tuesday is the last day to choose a health plan under the Affordable Care Act if you want insurance coverage to begin by Jan. 1. And officials who have spent the last two years using the carrot of persuasion to get people to buy insurance through the state or federal exchanges say the time has come for the stick. That stick is a hefty fine. (Kodjak, 12/15)

Meanwhile, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell travels to Texas to highlight a success --

The San Antonio Express News: Burwell Spotlights Health Insurance Enrollment At San Antonio H-E-B
The nation’s top health services official stood in the middle of the produce section at an H-E-B grocery store on San Antonio’s East Side Monday to talk about affordability and access. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell’s reason for venturing into the store was clear. She wanted to remind consumers of today’s enrollment deadline for those wanting their health insurance policies to become active Jan. 1. And she wanted to spotlight the new and improved HealthCare.gov enrollment website and its low-cost options for Texans. (O'Hare, 12/14)

6. Wyoming Lawmakers Asked To Reconsider Governor's Medicaid Expansion Plan

The state's health director outlined to appropriators how the governor's plan would help cover rising costs. Also, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard continues to pitch his plan to expand the health care program for low-income people.

Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune/Wyoming Tribune Eagle: Projections Show Medicaid Expansion Would Cover 20K In Wyoming
After rejecting Medicaid expansion in each of the past three years, state lawmakers are being asked to reconsider the proposal once again. Wyoming Department of Health Director Tom Forslund briefed the Joint Appropriations Committee on Monday on the governor’s plan to use Medicaid expansion to cover rising costs in the Department of Health’s budget. Forslund said accepting the expansion would extend health coverage to an estimated 20,000 low-income adults -- a 14 percent increase from past projections -- and send $268.4 million in federal funds to the state over the next two years. (Brown, 12/15)

Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader: Daugaard Touts Medicaid Expansion Plan
Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he knows he'll have a tough sell in convincing a majority Republican Legislature to approve Medicaid expansion. The Republican governor took his plan on the road Monday, meeting with legislators and business leaders in Sioux Falls. In an interview with Argus Leader Media, Daugaard said he's crafted a plan designed to defend it against those who don't think it's "conservative enough." (Ferguson, 12/14)

In the news from Louisiana -

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Bobby Jindal Isn't Preparing Louisiana For Likely Medicaid Expansion
Gov. Bobby Jindal said his administration is willing to provide information to Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards on anything he might need, but Jindal won't actively ready the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals for Medicaid expansion -- one of Edwards' top priorities -- before the governor leaves office. ... Edwards has said he wants to implement Medicaid expansion as quickly as possible once he is sworn in on Jan. 11. The move could cause Louisiana's enrollment in the federal health care program to swell by as many as 500,000 additional people, according to state health officials. Legislators worry how the current Medicaid program would handle such a surge in participation. (O'Donoghue, 12/14)

Capitol Hill Watch

7. Lawmakers Polish Off Budget Deal As They Near Finish Line

Although Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., expects a two-year postponement of the "Cadillac Tax," he considers it a “glass half-empty” win because he wanted an end to the levy on high-cost health plans.

The Associated Press: Bargainers Resolving Last Hurdles To Spending, Tax Deal
Lobbyists say bargainers had tentatively agreed to postpone the launch of a tax on high-value health insurance plans from 2018 to 2020. There may also be a two-year pause in the existing 2.3 percent medical device tax and a one-year suspension of a levy currently imposed on health insurers, which the companies generally pass on to customers as higher premiums. (Fram, 12/15)

The New York Times: McConnell Takes Credit For Resuscitating The Senate
Mr. McConnell can tick off the bills he sees as victories — a budget, a long-sought solution to a perennial problem with Medicare doctor fees, the first changes to Social Security in decades, a cybersecurity bill, a reconciliation measure undercutting the health care law, Keystone XL oil pipeline approval, the Iran nuclear review law and, most recently, major transportation and education bills. He admits he could not have compiled those achievements without significant help from an unlikely quarter — the Senate Democrats he so frustrated in his position as minority leader. (Hulse, 12/14)

Campaign 2016

8. Rubio Claiming A Victory Against Obamacare That Isn't His Alone, Some Republicans Say

Though GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio, R- Fla., was instrumental in undoing a health law provision, other Republicans also helped deliver the defeat. The Associated Press investigates these claims. In other 2016 news, The Washington Post's Fact Checker calls out Republican candidate Carly Fiorina's statements about Americans' views on abortion and Planned Parenthood.

The Associated Press: Fact Check: Rubio’s Single-Handed ‘Obamacare’ Win Questioned
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says he’s the only Republican running for president who’s actually notched a win against President Barack Obama’s health care law, widely loathed on the political right. But other Republicans who quietly worked to outwit the Obama administration say Rubio is taking credit for a victory he didn’t deliver alone. (Alonso-Zaldivar and Sergio Bustos, 12/15)

The Washington Post's Fact Checker: Fact Checker Carly Fiorina’s Exaggerated Claims About Americans’ Views On Planned Parenthood And The 20-Week Abortion Ban
It's always interesting when a politician links a political stance with a large swath of American voters, evidently without citing any poll. This is a timely topic that Congress has debated for months, and may come up again during the GOP and Democratic debates this week. Our friends at FactCheck.org have written about this, and we wanted to explore it as well using the Post’s polling research and standards. How accurate is Fiorina’s claim?

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