GOP Attacks Over Small Biz Costs
ACTUARY - PREMIUMS UP FOR MOST SMALL BUSINESSES: Republicans are seizing on a newly released report from CMS' actuaries to argue that Obamacare is a bad deal for small businesses. The report, which Republicans requested, looks at the effects of requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions and preventing them from varying premiums based on those conditions, saying they'll cause premiums to rise for 65 percent of employers and to fall for about 35 percent. Democrats have already tried to pre-but the attack, noting that the actuary didn't expect the average premium to rise, but Republicans pressed ahead Monday, charging that the report proves Obama's promises about small businesses' premiums were inflated.
Top Health Care News
CMS ACTUARIES: "The report didn't estimate by how much premiums would increase or decrease for the groups. It also didn't take into account other parts of the health law that impact the cost of plans, such as tax credits that small businesses are eligible for if they offer insurance." (Jennifer Corbett Dooren, Wall Street Journal)
Republicans pounce, Democrats call foul (Lisa Desjardins, CNN)
REP. JOHN DINGELL WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION: During his nearly 60 years in the House, Dingell championed issues such as Medicare, children's health care, and drug safety. (Mary Agnes Carey, Kaiser Health News)
"I find serving in the House to be obnoxious," said the longest-serving member of Congress on his decision to retire. "It's become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets." (Nolan Finley, Detroit News)
Dingell's resignation continues the Democrats' health care brain drain in Congress. (Sam Baker, National Journal)
INSURERS FIND PROPOSED MEDICARE CUTS LESS THAN EXPECTED: Shares of Humana Inc. and other insurance companies rose Monday as concerns eased over proposed regulations issued by CMS on Friday. (Tess Stynes and Anna Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal)
Meanwhile, Governors in Washington, D.C. for the National Governors Association Winter meeting gave health care recommendations to President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, along with the release of their NGA Health Care Sustainability Task Force Report.
MARYLAND FIRES ACA CONTRACTOR: As Maryland's exchange continues to flounder, officials voted to terminate Noridian Healthcare Solutions' $193 million contract and hire Optum/QSSI--which Maryland brought in to help fix the exchange in December--as prime contractor. (Mary Pat Flaherty and Jenna Johnson, Washington Post)
CONNECTICUT ACA MARKETPLACE TO SELL "EXCHANGE IN A BOX": The Connecticut exchange is setting up a consulting business to help other states build and run their own exchanges. The state-based exchange has already enrolled about 55,000 people, surpassing its goal of 33,000 for the full open enrollment period ending March 31. (Robert Pear, New York Times)
GOP RUNNING FROM OBAMACARE LABEL, NOT OBAMACARE MONEY: "[Indiana Governor Mike] Pence is among a small but growing number of GOP governors and lawmakers looking for alternatives to expanding Medicaid. They don't want to be seen embracing a law that is almost universally loathed in their party, but the hundreds of millions of dollars available to their states through the law's provisions are too enticing to pass up." (Reid Wilson, Washington Post)
GOP GOVERNORS FAVORING EXPANSION WELL PLACED FOR REELECTION: "Around the country, Republicans who defied the base and embraced Obamacare's massive expansion of Medicaid are better positioned for reelection than those who did not. None has garnered a serious primary challenge so far, and even Democrats have struggled to field strong contenders to take them on." (Kyle Cheney and Jason Hohmann, Politico)
FACT CHECK: 7 MILLION 'GOT ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE FOR THE FIRST TIME' BECAUSE OF MEDICAID EXPANSION: Four Pinocchios. Medicaid enrollment numbers include those who were already eligible for Medicaid coverage prior to the Affordable Care Act. (Glenn Kessler, Washington Post)
STATE GOVERNMENTS COULD SHUT DOWN OVER OBAMACARE: Arkansas and Virginia could follow in Washington D.C.'s footsteps, if the legislatures are not able to come to agreements on Medicaid expansion, which is currently holding up passage of budgets in both states. (Dylan Scott, Talking Points Memo)
Number of times the Arkansas House has voted on the "private option" in the last week: 4
The Arkansas House is expected to vote for the fifth time this afternoon on a bill to renew funding for the state's Medicaid expansion plan. The Senate passed the bill last week, but the House has come up a few votes short of the needed 75 vote supermajority every time. Republican House Speaker Davy Carter has vowed to continue voting until the bill is passed; whether the next vote is held today is likely dependent on last-minute vote count.
Despite the ongoing legislative drama, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe remained cautiously optimistic of the bill's passage at a press event Monday. And if the House doesn't approve the funding today? "They'll vote again Wednesday," he said. "And Thursday."
'GAME-TIME' DECISION ON TODAY'S HOUSE VOTE: "There's nothing changed on the effort to garnish three-fourths support, but we can't have that taking up the entire day's business every day because we're running out of days," said Speaker Carter, who had previously pledged to continue voting every day until the bill passes. Carter said he hopes to finish the session by March 6. (Andrew DeMillo and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press)
REP NATE BELL: AMENDMENT INTENDED TO 'FREEZE EXPANSION IN TIME': The writer of the main amendment to the original private option plan in Arkansas, Bell opposes the program and wants to wait until there is more stability before it grows any bigger. "I'm a builder by trade," he said. "I would never go build the foundations of a building on unstable mud." (Olga Khazan, The Atlantic)
PRIVATE OPTION SUPPORTERS RALLY OUTSIDE ARKANSAS CAPITOL: "It would be devastating to have that insurance for a few months and then have it taken away," Ali Taylor said of her fiance's new insurance coverage under the state's Medicaid plan. If the House does not reauthorize funding, the nearly 100,000 Arkansans who have enrolled in the program will lose their coverage after June 30. (John Lyon, Arkansas News)
FIGHT OVER MEDICAID EXPANSION RAGES ON: Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe is advocating for Medicaid expansion to extend coverage to about 400,000 Virginians, and the Senate has included a proposal for "private option" Medicaid in its budget, but the Republican-led House remains opposed. It is unclear whether the deadlock will end before the scheduled close of the General Assembly session March 8. (Michael Laris and Laura Vozzella, Washington Post)
BUSINESS LEADERS URGE MEDICAID EXPANSION: The Virginia Chamber of Commerce and state business leaders are calling on GOP lawmakers in the Virginia House to accept Medicaid expansion, saying it would benefit the state's economy. (Alan Suderman, Associated Press)
SCOTUS REFUSES TO REVIVE ABORTION LAW IN ARIZONA: The U.S. Supreme Court refused to bring back an Arizona law that would prohibit abortion providers from receiving public funding for other medical services. (Associated Press)
Studies and Polls
POLL: ECONOMISTS HAVE NO IDEA IF OBAMACARE WILL HURT THE ECONOMY: The National Association of Business Economists surveyed 230 members and found that 42 percent said the health law will have no significant effect on economic growth, 30 percent say it will reduce growth and 18 percent say it will raise growth. Ten percent didn't know or had no opinion.(Zachary Goldfarb, Washington Post)
INSURANCE HELPS YOUNG PEOPLE DETECT CANCER IN TIME: Women ages 15-39 without insurance are twice as likely as their peers with insurance to receive late-stage cancer diagnoses. (Clara Ritger, National Journal)
EXAMINING MENTAL HEALTH: TREATMENT OPTIONS AND TRENDS: The full Senate HELP committee meets at 10:00 a.m. in 430 Dirksen.
ARKANSAS HOUSE MAY VOTE ON 'PRIVATE OPTION' PLAN: The House will likely make a last minute decision on whether to vote for the fifth time on a bill to renew funding for the state's Medicaid expansion plan at 2:30 p.m (EST).
HHS SECRETARY KATHLEEN SEBELIUS ON HUFFPOST LIVE: She'll discuss the latest about the Affordable Care Act and the administration's outreach efforts to African-American consumers at 10:15 a.m (EST).