Doc Fix Vote
ANOTHER BAND-AID FOR DOCTORS: The House is expected to pass a one-year "doc fix" today, extending the seemingly endless series of temporary patches to Medicare's payment system for doctors. Speaker John Boehner said the House is still working on a permanent replacement -- there's broad agreement on the policy, but not on how to pay for it. The stopgap bill avoids a 24 percent cut in doctors' payments, but the cut will be back -- and bigger -- a year from now.
Top Health Care News
DOC FIX: The short-term bill is paid for by reductions to other Medicare spending and realigning sequester savings to occur in 2024 instead of 2015. (Billy House, National Journal)
Drama before the House vote: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, a Democrat, came out against the one-year plan, and is attempting to gather support for a longer-term fix. Major physician lobbying groups oppose the House plan as well, in favor of a permanent solution. (Jennifer Haberkorn, Politico)
Here's a breakdown of the changes included in the bill. (Committee For a Responsible Federal Budget)
Here's CBO's score of the bill.
CMS CLARIFIES OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT EXTENSION: "Just like Election Day," CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said, "if you were in line when the polls closed, you get to vote." A simple attestation is all it takes to sign up for coverage after March 31. (Clara Ritger and Sam Baker, National Journal)
More on that March 31 deadline. (Jason Millman, Washington Post)
Here are the 17 ways you can qualify for an extension. (Sam Baker and Clara Ritger, National Journal)
Insurers are concerned about the enrollment period extension, as it could make it difficult to set rates for 2015. (Louise Radnofsky and Anna Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal)
Enrollment and Implementation
ANALYSTS: 6 MILLION ACA ENROLLMENT TARGET IN SIGHT: "'It's clear that March is going to be better than February,' said Dan Mendelson, CEO of Avalere Health, a health care consulting firm. 'They could do something over six.'" (Kelly Kennedy, USA Today)
"WHAT THE HELL IS THIS, A JOKE?" Republican House Speaker John Boehner was not happy about the ACA special enrollment period at a news conference Wednesday. "The law says that enrollment stops at the end of March. I've got to live by the law, you've got live by the law and the American people have to live by the law. The president needs to live by the law, too," he said. (Alex Wayne, Bloomberg News)
DEMOCRATS TO PROPOSE ACA FIXES: "Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, as well as Sen. Angus King (I., Maine), plan to introduce as soon as Thursday a set of principles and legislation aimed at strengthening the health law, according to lawmakers and Senate Democratic aides...It is unclear if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) would bring any of the bills to the floor. One worry is that devoting Senate debate to the health-care changes would return attention to the law's glitches, rather than refocusing attention on Democrats' core issues, Democratic aides said." (Kristina Peterson, Wall Street Journal)
FINAL ENROLLMENT PUSH IN CALIFORNIA: Over one million have signed up for private plans through Covered California, about one third of the 3.3 million people potentially eligible. The state is not extending the deadline to apply, but those who begin an application online by March 31 will have until April 15 to complete them. (Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News/Press-Enterprise)
Covered California executive director Peter Lee said yesterday that over 50,000 individuals opened exchange accounts Tuesday--more than in any single day in the last six months.
OREGON EXTENDS ACA OPEN ENROLLMENT PERIOD: In what comes as little surprise, Cover Oregon, the troubled state exchange, announced that consumers will have until April 30 to enroll in private coverage. (Jeff Manning, Oregonian)
CONSUMERS HAVE QUALIFIED FOR $10 BILLION IN SUBSIDIES THROUGH ACA: "That's an average of $2,890 for each of the 3.5 million people who qualified for a subsidy as of March 1—about 83 percent of those who enrolled in an exchange plan. But four of five Americans who could qualify for a subsidy hadn't applied for coverage by that date. And sign-up rates varied greatly by state. More than half of the subsidy money allotted so far will go to consumers in California, Florida, North Carolina, Texas and New York." The study was published by the Kaiser Family Foundation today. (Jenny Gold, Kaiser Health News)
WHAT DID PRE-OBAMACARE AMERICA LOOK LIKE? "A large slice of Americans lacked adequate health coverage, according to a Tuesday Commonwealth Fund report. About 79 million—more than one in four Americans—either lacked health insurance or were underinsured." (Niraj Chokshi, Washington Post)
STUDY: NEW MEDICAID RECIPIENTS ARE HEALTHIER THAN PRE-ACA ENROLLEES: By expanding Medicaid eligibility, states could provide coverage to millions of healthier adults as well as to millions who have chronic conditions and who need care. (Stephen C. Hill, Salam Abdus, Julie L. Hudson and Thomas M. Selden, Health Affairs)
MISSOURI HOUSE BLOCKS MEDICAID EXPANSION: The state House gave first-round approval to the state budget for next year, with two failed attempts to expand Medicaid. Another round of budget votes is expected today, before the budget is passed on to the Missouri Senate. (Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio)
HOUSE GOP WEIGHS NEXT MOVE ON ACA CONTRACEPTION MANDATE: ""I don't think there is any reason to wait to see what the Supreme Court is going to do," said Rep. Michele Bachmann. "We write the laws not the Supreme Court; the Supreme Court is supposed to interpret the laws that we write." Essentially every House Republican believes something needs to be done against the requirement that employer-based coverage include contraceptives, but they are split on whether to act legislatively while the case is before the Supreme Court. (Kate Nocera, Buzzfeed)
HOW A POT-WORSHIPPING CHURCH COULD PLAY INTO THE HOBBY LOBBY CASE: "A federal government operation that placed an undercover agent in a small church in Hawaii wound up shutting down the institution, led to the loss of thousands of dollars worth of 'sacramental' items, and will likely put a minister and some members of his congregation behind bars for years. That case also demonstrates why it would be OK to exempt Hobby Lobby from a federal regulation requiring for-profit companies to provide health insurance that covers birth control, according to lawyer Paul Clement." (Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post)
ONE IN 25 PATIENTS HAS AN INFECTION ACQUIRED DURING HOSPITAL STAY, CDC SAYS: "The most common infections are pneumonia (22 percent), surgical site infections (22 percent), gastrointestinal infections (17 percent), urinary tract infections (13 percent), and bloodstream infections (10 percent), the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] reported in the study." (Lenny Bernstein, Washington Post)
The number has fallen dramatically in the last decade. (Sabrina Tavernese, New York Times)
HOUSE HEARING ON FY 2015 BUDGET FOR FDA: The House Appropriations Committee's Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Subcommittee will hold a hearing in Rayburn at 10 a.m.
HOUSE TO CONSIDER SHORT TERM DOC FIX: The House brings to the floor a one-year patch to the SGR.