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Baucus Departing, Short-Term Fixes Abound: Health Care Edge - Brought to you by United Healthcare Group

Health Industries Lose Ally In Baucus; Premium Payment Deadline Extended

By Sam Baker, Sophie Novack and Clara Ritger

 

TODAY IN ONE PARAGRAPH: Health care lobbyists are losing an ally in Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., earlier than expected. Baucus, Finance Committee chairman and frustrated architect of the Affordable Care Act, had already announced he wouldn't run in 2014. Now he's headed off to be Obama's next ambassador to China, departing in the midst of an ongoing effort to pass a permanent "doc fix." The budget deal--which includes a short-term "doc fix," and eases some of the sequestration cuts to the National Institutes of Health--passed the Senate Wednesday evening, and will head to the president's desk. Meanwhile, insurers heeded the administration's pleas to extend the premium payment deadline, as the White House appeals to consumers to spread the word about Obamacare ahead of the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for Jan. 1 coverage.

Top Health Care News

BAUCUS. "The [ACA] is hugely unpopular in Montana, and some analysts say it could have cost Mr. Baucus, who has been in the Senate 35 years, his re-election in 2014. At 72 and newly remarried, he said last week that he was ready for 'a whole new adventure, a whole new chapter.'" (Sheryl Gay Stolberg, The New York Times)

BUDGET. The bill extends current Medicare physician payment levels three months, avoiding an almost 24 percent payment cut to doctors set to take effect Jan. 1. Lawmakers have until March to pass a permanent fix--or a sixteenth patch--for doc fees. (Julie Rovner, NPR)

 

PREMIUM PAYMENT. Consumers in the 36 states under the federal exchange will have until Jan. 10 to pay their premiums for coverage beginning Jan. 1; states running their own exchanges have some variation in premium payment deadlines. (Jeffrey Young, The Huffington Post)

States

STATES REPORT ENROLLMENT GROWTH. In some of the states running their own exchanges, enrollment has surged 30 to 40 percent since last week. (Kelly Kennedy, USA Today)

MASSACHUSETTS STRUGGLES WITH OBAMACARE EXCHANGE SITE. "It's a story that's been told in several of the 14 states running their own Obamacare insurance exchanges with one big difference: it wasn't supposed to happen in the birthplace of health reform." (Kyle Cheney, Politico)

WALKER PICKS 'THIRD WAY' FOR MEDICAID IN WISCONSIN. Republican Gov. Scott Walker says he wants to protect the poorest by changing the state's Medicaid rules to cover only those at or below poverty level, but his plan would refuse federal funds for Medicaid expansion and leave about 77,000 people without the coverage they have under existing rules. (Mark Peters and Louise Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal)

 

White House

OBAMACARE BLITZ COMING TO AN END. The 16 day media blitz to promote the Affordable Care Act will conclude Thursday with a series of reports on state-specific benefits of the law. (Justin Sink, The Hill)

FIRST LADY TO PROMOTE OBAMACARE. Michelle Obama co-hosted a group of mothers in the Oval Office and sat for interviews with African American radio hosts Wednesday to help sell the health care law. (Jennifer Epstein, Politico)

HOUSE VET TO HELP EASE CONGRESS HEALTH CARE WORRIES. "[Phil] Schiliro, who spent most of his 26 years on Capitol Hill as a senior House aide, helped pass the 2010 Affordable Care Act as President Barack Obama's legislative director. This month, the White House lured him back to Washington to help Democrats pitch the law to voters in the 2014 midterm elections." (Julie Bykowicz, Bloomberg News)

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Providers

DOCTORS TO LAWMAKERS: REMEMBER PEOPLE LIKE US. Physicians look to leverage their popularity amid contentious debate over nurses. (Sam Baker, National Journal)

CHARTS: CATHOLIC HOSPITALS DON'T DO MUCH FOR THE POOR. Should they be getting the tax breaks for their services? (Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones)

Drugs and Medication

HYPERTENSION GUIDELINES CAN BE EASED. "New guidelines suggest that people over 60 can have a higher blood pressure than previously recommended before starting treatment to lower it. The advice, criticized by some physicians, changes treatment goals that have been in place for more than 30 years." (Gina Kolata, The New York Times)

SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE DEATH. The story of the biggest advance in birth control since the pill. (Sabrina Siddiqui, Huffington Post)

GOP

MCCAIN INTRODUCES BILL TO REPEAL AND REPLACE OBAMACARE. It's the Senate companion to Rep. Tom Price's Empowering Patients First Act. (Clara Ritger, National Journal)

Polls

UNINSURED SKEPTICAL OF OBAMACARE. Fifty-three percent of the uninsured disapprove of the health care law, compared with 51 percent of those with coverage, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. (Abby Goodnough and Allison Kopicki, The New York Times)

Happening Today

SEBELIUS ON HUFFPOST LIVE. The HHS Secretary will answer consumer questions about the Affordable Care Act at 10 a.m.

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