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WellPoint Discloses Big Sign-Ups Through Health Exchanges

The biggest player in the Affordable Care Act’s online insurance marketplaces delivered encouraging news to Obamacare supporters Wednesday.

After weeks of uncertainty about how many people have been applying for coverage that started Jan. 1, their age spread and whether or not they’re paying premiums, WellPoint disclosed higher-than-expected early membership growth and said it expects to make money on the new enrollees. It’s the most substantial information so far on how a key part of the health law is working out.

“We do feel good about what we’ve seen thus far on the exchanges,” WellPoint CEO Joseph Swedish told stock analysts on a conference call to report 2013 financial results. “While it is early, we are encouraged by the level of applications we’ve received” as well as by the health-risk profiles of new members, he said.


Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Bid To Cover Abortion After Rape For Peace Corps Volunteers

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced a bill Thursday that would provide health insurance coverage for abortions to Peace Corps volunteers in the case of rape or incest.

The Peace Corps Equity Act of 2013 echoes the Shaheen Amendment, which President Barack Obama signed into law in 2012. That law provides military women coverage for abortions in these instances. The new bill, also co-sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D.-N.H.), would extend coverage to women volunteers – who make up about 60 percent of those serving abroad – and overturn a 1979 appropriations bill that banned the Peace Corps from offering this benefit in its federal health plan.

Peace Corps volunteers “face inherent risks to their safety and security,” according to a statement by Lautenberg. More than 1,000 Peace Corps volunteers reported experiencing sexual assault between 2000 and 2009, including more than 221 rapes or attempted rapes.

The bill does not yet have a House sponsor.


Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Waiver In Hand, Florida’s Rick Scott Backs Medicaid Expansion

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday that he would back expansion of the Medicaid program under the federal health law. At a hastily-called press conference, Scott, a Republican, said he supported expanding Medicaid for three years — the amount of time the federal government picks up the whole cost.

“Expanding access to Medicaid services for three years is a compassionate, common sense step forward. It is not the end of our work to improve health care,” Scott said. “And, it is not a white flag of surrender to government-run health care.”

The move makes Scott the seventh Republican governor to back Medicaid expansion.


Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Updated: FDA Temporarily Removes List Of Hospitals, Providers That Received Products From Mass. Compounder

Updated on Oct. 13 at 9:35 a.m.

Just hours after posting it Monday, the Food and Drug Administration removed from its website a list of hospitals and doctors that had received products from the compounding pharmacy now at the center of the fungal meningitis outbreak, saying data may be incorrect.

The agency said it is working to correct the list and will repost once it is completed. Data had been supplied to the agency by the pharmacy, the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts.

The original list included more than 1,000 hospitals, clinics and doctors nationwide, including some well-known facilities such as Brigham & Women’s, Beth Israel, the Mayo Clinic Health System, Children’s Hospital Boston and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

Contaminated steroid injections shipped from the New England Compounding Center are suspected in the meningitis outbreak that has been linked to 23 deaths nationwide. A second list on the FDA website detailed the many different types of medications shipped and has also been removed.

Hundreds of surgical centers, doctor’s offices and hospitals are named as recipients, illustrating the wide reach of the products shipped since May 21 by the pharmacy.

Federal law allows compounding, but generally only to fill individual prescriptions for products that are not commercially available. The FDA, however, has warned some pharmacies during the past decade that their efforts have crossed into mass production, sometimes of products that are made by commercial drug manufacturers.

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

CBO To Release New Budget Numbers for Health Law Week of July 23

The Congressional Budget Office will release its estimate of the federal budgetary impact of the Supreme Court health law ruling the week of July 23, according to a blog post by CBO Director Doug Elmendorf.

“Because such updated projections are the base against which CBO will estimate the budgetary effects of changes in the ACA, CBO cannot provide estimates of the effects of such changes—including the effects of repealing the ACA—until that assessment is completed during the week of July 23rd,” he wrote.

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Decision Day: Live Blog

6:11 p.m.: It’s been a long long day, and Atticus Finch, Esq., the Affordable Care Cat, is pooped. We’re going to wrap up for the day, but thanks so much for joining us here on the KHN live blog. It’s been swell.

6:04 p.m.: Governors from all sorts of states respond to the health law decision in this cool infographic from Statereforum.

5:48 p.m.: Don’t miss our KHN story on what the Medicaid ruling means for states.

“The Supreme Court has given states a way out of expanding the Medicaid program under the health law, but governors will be under strong pressure to take the federal money that would pay for coverage for millions of low-income people,” KHN’s Phil Galewitz and Marilyn Werber Serafini report.

5:40 p.m.: Missouri won’t take the federal money for expanding Medicaid, Missouri House Budget Chairman Ryan Silvey told KHN’s Phil Galewitz in a phone interview. “I don’t see any chance of that happening,” he said.

According to Silvey, Missouri can’t afford to pay more than $100 million a year starting in 2017 to pay its portion of the coverage expansion. “Its just not a sustainable option,” he explained. He expects that most states will opt out.

The expansion would result in cuts in state spending on education and public safety, he added.

Asked how turning down the expansion money would play, Silvey told KHN, “My job is to balance the state budget.”

5:32 p.m.: NPR has a useful interactive look at the Supreme Court’s written decision that allows you to navigate to key portions. Check it out here.

5:13 p.m.: In a strange and mysterious way, “Obamacare comes full circle.” Check out this circle chart from ABC News.

4:51 p.m.: On the blog Just Enrichment, Adam Chandler has some fodder on what internal deliberations in the court brought about this decision, suggesting that Roberts may have changed sides at the last minute.

Jeffrey Toobin tweeted that ‘Roberts was red-eyed and unhappy as he read’ his opinion in Court this morning, which might be grist for speculation that he came to his position late and grudgingly. One wonders why we didn’t hear Justice’s Scalia’s voice on this. He would have been the senior Justice in the coalition of four, giving him assigning power on an issue that animated him a great deal during oral argument. Was it too late for him to whip out his poison pen after Roberts decided to uphold the Act? The only conservative dissenter to write separately was Justice Thomas, and his separate dissent was just a paragraph. Did Roberts act so late in the day that none of them had time to write a full dissent from scratch?”

In an update, Chandler adds that “Justice Ginsburg’s opinion uses strongly critical language throughout, directed almost exclusively at the Chief Justice rather than the other four conservatives. It does not read as someone trying to woo him to her side, but rather as a stinging dissent from a decision striking down the individual mandate.”


Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Decision Day: How It’s Playing On Twitter

We’re watching Twitter so you don’t have to. We will update this page throughout the day with the most interesting and provocative reactions from social media.

6:25 p.m. update:

5:45 p.m. update:


Thursday, June 28th, 2012

States Must Submit Plans For Insurance Marketplaces By Nov. 16

States must provide details to the federal government by Nov. 16 – just 10 days after the presidential election – on how they will run online insurance marketplaces, according to guidance released Wednesday.

Those that don’t meet the deadline – or that can’t operate their own marketplaces, called exchanges  – will have it done for them by the federal government, starting in January 2014.

The marketplaces, which are mandated by the 2010 health law, are designed to increase competition among insurers and to make coverage more affordable. States can choose to run the exchanges, elect to perform only some services or cede control to the federal government, officials said Wednesday.  The Department of Health & Human Services “will seek to harmonize … policies with existing state programs and laws wherever possible,” according to a separate report offering a few details on what a federal exchange might look like.


Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Final Rule Issued On Consumer Rebates And Notification

Most health insurers this year must at least inform policyholders that their coverage met the minimum spending threshold under the federal health law, even if they don’t owe consumers a rebate, a final rule out Friday says.

The rule splits the difference between industry, which did not want to send any notice to those not owed a rebate, and consumer groups, which said informing policyholders of the exact percent that each insurer spent on medical care would be valuable. Under the rule, the notices do not need to include the exact figure. The rule says such notices are a one-time effort to reflect spending in 2011.

Insurers are required to offer rebates if they fail to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on medical care or quality improvements.

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Medicare To Add Hospital Efficiency, Patient Safety To Payment Formula

Medicare is proposing a significant change in how it decides on hospital reimbursements, adding two measures of patient safety and a financial assessment of whether hospitals are careful stewards of Medicare’s money.

The changes represent a broadening of the way Medicare plans to pay hospitals through its value-based purchasing program, which is set to begin in October. Medicare has already decided that in the initial year of the program, it will pay more to hospitals that follow clinical guidelines for recommended care and do better than average in patient surveys of their experiences.

Hospitals that fall short will get less money, initially losing up to 1 percent of their regular Medicare reimbursements, with even more at stake in 2013 and beyond.


Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

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