First Edition: February 7, 2014

Published on February 9, 2014 at 4:18 AM · No Comments

Today's headlines include reports from Capitol Hill about the continuing efforts to overhaul Medicare's payment system for doctors. 

Kaiser Health News: Hill Plan Would Reward Medicare Doctors For Quality
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "Now comes the hard part. After negotiating for months over how to overhaul Medicare's troubled payment system for physicians, the bipartisan leadership of three Senate and House committees has reached a deal on the policy. Their next task could be even harder – finding a way to finance repeal of the 'doc fix,' the shorthand for the 1997 formula used to set physician payments, the sustainable growth rate" (Carey, 2/7). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Thrives In San Francisco's Chinatown
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sarah Varney, working in collaboration with NPR, reports: "Chinatown here is a city within a city. Built by immigrants in the latter half of the 19th century, Chinatown was a refuge from the era's vicious prejudice. But the crowded blocks of Chinatown were also somewhat of a prison. Chinese residents feared leaving the area after dark, and they were barred from local schools and the city's hospitals -- even during an outbreak of bubonic plague in San Francisco. It was painfully clear that when it came to medical care, they had to provide for themselves" (Varney, 2/6). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: Can Foreign Visitors Buy Health Insurance Exchange Plans?
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers this reader's question (2/7). Read her response.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Rocky Mountain High Insurance Prices Rankle Ski Towns
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Eric Whitney writes: "Colorado Insurance Commissioner Margeurite Salazar has been getting an earful about high health insurance premiums in pockets of the state since prices she approved were unveiled Oct. 1. She is under increasing pressure to do something about them now that part of Colorado has been identified as having the most expensive premiums in the country" (Whitney, 2/6). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: A Scramble To Sign Up The Young By Health Deadline
Nearly every day, Bransfield comes to a satellite campus of the University of the District of Columbia in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, sitting for hours behind a table in the lobby of a classroom building. Armed with an Apple laptop and a pile of fliers, he's part of the army of workers and volunteers fanned out around the country trying to enroll young -; and probably healthy -; people in health insurance available through President Barack Obama's signature law. Run largely by groups with close ties to the White House, the on-the-ground recruiting effort is based in part on lessons learned from Obama's two presidential bids, which revolutionized the way campaigns tracked and targeted voters (2/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Administration Said To Ponder Insurance Extension
The Obama administration is considering an extension of the president's decision to let people keep their individual insurance policies even if they are not compliant with the health care overhaul, industry and government officials said Thursday. Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson said Thursday that the administration may let policyholders keep that coverage for as long as an additional three years, stressing that no decision has been made. Policymakers are waiting to see what rate hikes health insurers plan for the insurance exchanges that are key to the overhaul's coverage expansions (2/6).

The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: The First Attacks Based On The CBO Report On Obamacare And Workers
The Congressional Budget Office report on the impact of the Affordable Care Act was released on Tuesday, and already we have the first attack ads. The Fact Checker devoted one column to explaining what the CBO's report actually meant. But we have long learned that all the fact checks in the world won't stop politicians if they think an attack line moves voters. So how do these early attacks fare? (Kessler, 2/7).

Politico: White House Embraces CBO Report
The Obama administration is going all out to turn the Congressional Budget Office's latest Obamacare report into a positive -; and they're confident they can convince Americans that it's a good thing if the health care law means they can work less. In a White House blog post Thursday, Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, fleshes out the administration's defense against a wave of publicity over the CBO report that said the health care law will lead to a reduction in work hours (Nather, 2/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Md. Panel To Examine Problems With Health Exchange
The panel, which will hold its first public meeting Monday, will include five state senators and five members of the House of Delegates. A main focus will be overseeing the progress of fixing technological problems and helping as many people as possible sign up before an open enrollment deadline of March 31. Members will later look at what led to the problems in the first place with an aim toward preventing it from happening again in the future (2/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Massachusetts To Retain Health-Exchange Vendor CGI
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said Thursday the state will retain the company behind its online health-insurance exchange but is bringing on additional help after an outside review found problems with the performance of vendor CGI Group Inc. His decision comes after the federal government in January chose not to renew CGI's contract overseeing key parts of, the federal health exchange that got off to a rocky start in October. The site has since seen significant improvement. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services chose Accenture as the new lead contractor. CGI's federal contract runs through February (Kamp, 2/6).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Model Arkansas Way Of Expanding Medicaid At Risk
Arkansas' plan for expanding Medicaid by buying private insurance policies for the poor instead of adding them to the rolls was heralded as a model for convincing more Republican-leaning states to adopt a key part of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul (2/6).

The New York Times: New Hampshire: Deal Reached On Medicaid Expansion
State senators said Thursday that they had reached a bipartisan deal on a framework to expand Medicaid to about 50,000 low-income adults. Under the agreement, the state will use federal money to buy private insurance, similar to a method adopted last year in Iowa and Arkansas (Bidgood, 2/6).

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Lawmakers Reach Accord On Paying Doctors For Medicare
In a rare bipartisan agreement, congressional leaders have settled on a plan to fix Medicare's system for paying physicians, potentially ending years of uncertainty that often held up fees for doctors who care for the nation's senior citizens. The proposed fix still must be paid for, requiring lawmakers to come up with as much as $150 billion in savings from elsewhere in the budget (Levey, 2/6).

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