Enrollment Wave Isn't As Big As It Looks
ABOUT THOSE ENROLLMENT FIGURES: Right now, Obamacare is riding a wave of positive enrollment numbers. But all waves recede at some point, and enrollment statistics will, too. Democrats have trumpeted the number of sign-ups as proof that the law is working, but it's important to remember that today's enrollment numbers are based on people selecting a plan, and those numbers will inevitably fall once we know how many people actually "effectuated" their coverage by paying the first month's premium. Will the difference be enough to call into question the law's long-term sustainability? No. Will it hand Republicans an easy talking point in a year and on an issue that already works to their advantage? Yes.
Top Health Care News
THE OBAMACARE ENROLLMENT CRASH IS COMING: Anecdotal estimates from insurance companies suggest 20-30 percent of those who signed up for Obamacare did not pay their premiums. (Sam Baker, National Journal)
Joe Biden is on the ground lowering enrollment expectations (Associated Press)
FOUR PERCENT OF MEDICAID BENEFICIARIES ACCOUNT FOR NEARLY ONE THIRD OF THE PROGRAM'S COSTS: The GAO found that high-expenditure beneficiaries were more likely to be in long term care facilities, have immunodeficiency viruses, disabilities, or be new mothers or infants. (Clara Ritger, National Journal)
Read the full report here
SEN. GRASSLEY SCOLDS HHS OVER HEALTH LAW GUIDANCE: Some hospitals want to pay premiums for some people so that they are covered in the event that they turn up seeking services. Insurance companies say this is a conflict of interest and would likely lead to more sick people gaining coverage--a higher cost to the insurer. Grassley is pressing HHS for clarification but it appears HHS will allow hospitals to pay premiums for some people, given that--for now--they do not see health insurance offered on the exchanges as a federal program. (Louise Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal)
CALIFORNIA'S OBAMACARE PROGRAM IS SUCCEEDING--JUST NOT AMONG LATINOS: With six weeks left of open enrollment, Covered California has already surpassed enrollment projections. But lagging enrollment among the state's large uninsured Latino population has prompted the exchange to increase outreach efforts to Spanish-speaking residents. (Sophie Novack, National Journal)
California exceeds 2014 exchange enrollment goals (Kelly Kennedy, USA Today)
Some 95 percent of Californians are selecting from only four insurance plans (Dan Diamond, MedPage Today)
MARYLAND IS SO DEMOCRATIC ITS RESIDENTS LOVE OBAMACARE DESPITE HAVING ONE OF THE WORST ONLINE EXCHANGES: A January national poll found 49 percent of Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act and 46 percent supporting. In Maryland, only 40 percent oppose. (Jenna Johnson and Peyton M. Craighill, Washington Post)
IS THIRD TIME THE CHARM FOR ARKANSAS MEDICAID EXPANSION? With coverage for 100,000 residents on the line, neither the Arkansas House nor the Senate wants to be the first to approve continuing the state's "private option" plan. After the House failed to pass the bill for the second time Wednesday, both chambers will vote on the legislation today. (Sophie Novack, National Journal)
Members expect that a few House votes could flip to approve the bill, if the Senate passes it first. (David Ramsey, Arkansas Times)
VIRGINIA REPUBLICANS TO FORCE A VOTE ON EXPANDING MEDICAID: The move is expected to show overwhelming GOP opposition to the new Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe's top legislative goal. (Laura Vozzella and Michael Laris, Washington Post)
PENNSYLVANIA SUBMITS MEDICAID WAIVER TO THE FEDS: HHS has 45 days to approve or deny the request, which imposes work requirements and allows some of the state's lowest-income residents to purchase subsidized insurance on the exchange. (Steve Esack, The Morning Call)
Read the letter from Republican Governor Tom Corbett to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius here
MISSOURI MAY BE CONSIDERING MEDICAID EXPANSION: A House Republican has filed a bill to expand the state's Medicaid program, but with a Pennsylvania-twist: workers would have to have jobs and some would be required to pay premiums. (Virginia Young, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
WIKIPEDIA IS A MASSIVELY POPULAR (YET UNTESTED) DOCTOR: Nearly three-fourths of internet users look up health information online. Wikipedia wants to make sure they're not getting mislead. (Clara Ritger, National Journal)
HOW IMMIGRANTS DOCTOR THE NURSING CORPS: A Florida University that helps physicians credentialed in their homelands train as nurses is adding much-needed diversity to the health-care workforce. (Sophie Quinton, National Journal)
Drugs and Disease
DEATH TOLL FROM SWINE FLU RISES, 'YOUNG INVINCIBLES' HARDEST HIT: The CDC says the flu has been killing at epidemic levels since mid-January. (Ariana Eunjung Cha, Washington Post)
FEMALE VIAGRA FINDS A DIFFICULT PATH AT THE FDA: The feds have approved 24 drugs for male sexual dysfunction. None have made it through for women. (Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post)
ARKANSAS LEGISLATURE TO VOTE ON "PRIVATE OPTION." The House will vote for the third time, and the Senate for the first, on a bill to renew funding for the state's Medicaid expansion plan.
MACPAC PUBLIC MEETING ON MEDICAID ENROLLMENT: Congress's advisory board on all things Medicaid and CHIP will meet beginning at 8:30 a.m. to discuss beneficiaries' enrollment figures, emergency room use, express lane eligibility and population health.
BRIEFING FROM STATE MEDICAID DIRECTORS ON ENROLLMENT: Families USA holds a noon conference call with officials from Arkansas, Oregon and West Virginia to discuss enrollment in Medicaid.
HOUSE VETERANS' AFFAIRS COMMITTEE HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING: A 10 a.m. PST, 1 p.m. EST meeting in California to discuss veteran access to mental health therapy.