First Edition: October 9, 2014
Today's headlines include reports about the Obama administration preview of how healthcare.gov will function in the upcoming open enrollment period.
Kaiser Health News: Price Tags On Health Care? Only In Massachusetts
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in partnership with NPR, WBUR’s Martha Bebinger writes: “Without much fanfare, Massachusetts launched a new era of health care shopping last week. Anyone with private health insurance in the state can now go to his or her health insurer’s website and find the price of everything from an office visit to an MRI to a Cesarean section. For the first time, health care prices are public” (Bebinger, 10/9). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Federal Officials Unveil Streamlined Marketplace Website
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Julie Appleby writes: “Consumers using the federal healthcare.gov website when open enrollment begins next month should expect a faster website with a shorter application form and features making it easier to use on mobile devices, Obama administration officials said Wednesday. In a briefing with reporters, they showed off a live version of the updated site and said it has already been used to enroll about 20,000 people” (Appleby, 10/8). Check out what else is on the blog.
The New York Times: Easier Time In Health Marketplace Is Promised
Obama administration officials said Wednesday that consumers would have a much easier time buying health insurance in the federal marketplace this fall, and although they promised that HealthCare.gov would not crash, they provided few operational details to back up their confidence in the revamped website (Pear, 10/8).
Los Angeles Times: Redesigned Obamacare Website Is Faster And Easier To Use
Obama administration officials expressed confidence Wednesday that the government’s healthcare website will work far more quickly and dependably this year, cutting in half the time needed for most people to apply for insurance. In contrast to last year’s disastrous launch of the healthcare.gov website, in which the government had only a few days to perform full tests of the site, the final stage of “end-to-end” testing for this year’s site began Tuesday, 5 1/2 weeks before open enrollment begins Nov. 15 (Lauter, 10/8).
The Washington Post: Health Officials: Healthcare.Gov Enrollment Will Be Faster And Smoother
When the first year of open enrollment began last fall, Healthcare.gov had severe technical problems and frequently crashed, resulting in frustration for millions of people trying to sign up for health plans offered in the new online marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. Officials said Wednesday that the enrollment process has been streamlined, and that new customers may face as few as 16 steps — compared to as many as 76 last year (Ellis Nutt, 10/8).
The Wall Street Journal: Healthcare.gov Shortens Insurance Application
Under the revised system, about 70% of people who haven’t bought coverage through the site before are likely to go through an identity-verification portal and then complete an application that is 16 web-pages long, down from 76 pages last year, according to a version previewed by reporters Wednesday. The application to obtain coverage and possible tax credits toward premiums through the site still requires the consumer to provide their address, current income and related details, but no longer spreads the questions across multiple pages, one reason for long wait times and site strain last year. About 30% of new users will be diverted to the old system after the first few pages because their situations appear to be more complicated. That includes scenarios such as having a child living in a household who isn’t claimed as a dependent on a tax return (Radnofsky, 10/8).
The Wall Street Journal: Californians Split Over Letting Official Veto Insurers’ Rate Boosts
Californians are split over a high-profile voter initiative that opponents say could complicate the future of President Barack Obama ’s health-care law in one of the states that has gone furthest to embrace it. Proposition 45 would grant California’s insurance commissioner new powers to veto health-insurance premium increases for individual and small-group policies, a popular sentiment in a state that has seen large rate jumps in the past, though they have recently moderated (Lazo, 10/8).
USA Today: Federal Health Care Website: Easier But No Promises
Most of the consumers visiting the federal health care exchange to buy insurance for the first time next month will find a much shorter application that they can access with their smartphones, federal officials said Tuesday. It won't be the clunky, glitch-ridden site that marked the debut of the Affordable Care Act's federal exchange last October, but that's about as far as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services want to go this year when it comes to predictions (O’Donnell, 10/8).
The Associated Press: Federal Budget Deficit Falls To $486 Billion, Report Says
The federal government's budget deficit has fallen to $486 billion, the smallest pool of red ink of President Obama's six-year span in office, a new report said Wednesday. The Congressional Budget Office's latest estimate shows better results than earlier projections by both CBO and the White House budget office (10/8).
The Washington Post: Hillary Clinton Skirts Obamacare Tax Issue In Paid Speech
Hillary Rodham Clinton is in her hometown Wednesday for a mix of business and politics. She started with the business: a paid speech to a conference of medical device manufacturers. A declared supporter of the Affordable Care Act, Clinton skirted the issue of whether she opposes efforts by the Advanced Medical Technologies Association to repeal the law’s new tax on medical devices (Gearan, 10/8).
The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Democrat McAuliffe Sees Senate Toss-Up, Governor Gains
The deciding factor in the Senate races will be President Barack Obama’s sagging approval numbers, he said, which are weighing down Democrats like Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Sen. Mark Pryor in Arkansas “The president’s numbers are in tough shape there,” Mr. McAuliffe said, in an interview. He also predicted that Republicans might pick up eight or 10 seats in the U.S. House. But Mr. McAuliffe, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he likes his party’s gubernatorial chances in Pennsylvania, Maine, Michigan and Florida. “The silver lining is going to be those strategic governorships we’re going to pick up,” Mr. McAuliffe said. Mr. McAuliffe, who took office in January, lamented the partisan political environment in Washington and in the state capitol in Richmond. Mr. McAuliffe pushed Virginia legislators to expand the state’s Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act last summer, but Republicans wouldn’t have it (Bauerlein, 10/8).
The New York Times: U.S. To Begin Ebola Screenings At 5 Airports
Federal officials said Wednesday that they would begin temperature screenings of passengers arriving from West Africa at five American airports, beginning with Kennedy International in New York as early as this weekend, as the United States races to respond to a deadly Ebola outbreak (Tavernise and Shear, 10/8).
Los Angeles Times: Family, Friends Question Medical Care Given Texas Ebola Patient
There also are questions about how Duncan was treated when he first arrived at the hospital Sept. 25, complaining of symptoms and telling personnel that he had traveled from West Africa. The travel information should have been a warning sign, officials have said. Duncan was released with antibiotics. He was rushed back to the hospital three days later with more severe symptoms. … Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, raised questions over whether Duncan was initially released from a Dallas hospital because of his race and lack of health insurance (Hennessy-Fiske, Pearce and Muskal, 10/8).
The Washington Post: First Ebola Patient In U.S. Dies As Officials Announce New Airport Screening Measures
The first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died early Wednesday, as the government announced plans to step up screening of travelers at five of the nation’s busiest airports in an effort to prevent more cases of the deadly virus from reaching the country. Thomas Eric Duncan, who traveled from Liberia late last month and had been fighting for his life in a Dallas hospital, died at 7:51 a.m., according to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas (Berman, Dennis and Sun, 10/8).
Los Angeles Times: Health Agency Moving To Skid Row To Aid Homeless
A Los Angeles County health agency is moving its headquarters and medical clinic into the heart of skid row in what experts said could become a national model for curbing homelessness. The $18-million Housing for Health program aims to get 10,000 of the county's sickest, most vulnerable people off the streets and into permanent housing (Holland, 10/8).
The Wall Street Journal: Union Protests Trump Entertainment’s Bid To Cut Worker Benefits
The union for some 1,140 workers at Atlantic City, N.J.’s Trump Taj Mahal casino who are rallying to save their health-care and pension benefits are now fighting in two places: in the courtroom and on the streets. Several hundred protesters plan to block a major traffic intersection near the Atlantic City Expressway on Wednesday evening to draw attention to pressure that workers who are unionized through Unite Here Local 54 face, said union spokesman Ben Begleiter (Stech, 10/8).
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