Jayne O'Donnell, USA Today
"The Obama administration plans to close a loophole in the Affordable Care Act that allows large companies to refuse to cover in-patient hospital stays in any of their health insurance plans, according to an official involved in the internal discussions.
The official requested anonymity until the announcement is made because "the guidance that will be issued is not finalized.""
"Heading into the highly consequential midterm elections, voters continue to give the U.S. health care system less than stellar reviews and believe it will get worse under the national health care law.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 36% of Likely U.S. Voters rate the nation’s health care system as good or excellent, though that’s up from 32% in September and is the highest positive rating since April. Thirty-two percent (32%) still give it poor marks, showing no change from the previous survey."
Robert Pear, NY Times
"WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has discovered a number of defects in the online marketplace that will offer health insurance to millions of small-business employees, but federal officials said the problems could probably be fixed before the website goes live on Nov. 15.
The website, for businesses with 50 or fewer employees, was created by the Affordable Care Act and was supposed to open Oct. 1, 2013, but officials could not meet that deadline. Since then, they have been trying to build the site."
Nicholas Nehemas, Miami Herald
"When Tony Smith lost his job as a corporate paralegal two years ago, a state program stepped in to help him keep his health insurance — and the expensive drugs his life had depended on since his 2008 HIV diagnosis.
Now Smith, 42, of Coral Springs, has been told he must sign up for coverage on Florida’s federally run insurance exchange or the state will stop helping him pay his premiums.
“The landscape of healthcare has changed, and with the passage of the Affordable Care Act we have the opportunity to access and enroll in cost-effective health plans,” an official at the AIDS Insurance Continuation Program wrote in a letter to Smith and other AICP beneficiaries.
But it is not clear that ACA insurance plans will be cheaper — or even affordable — for those with HIV and AIDS, according to patient advocates."
John Murawski and Ann Doss Helms, Raleigh News and Observer
"Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer, said Thursday that about 42,000 customers around the state received insurance renewal letters with incorrect rates, some showing cost increases of more than 100 percent.
The Chapel Hill company has been flooded with calls since Wednesday from irate customers who began receiving their renewal notices this week. Blue Cross officials soon realized the insurance rates were incorrectly transferred from the company’s database to the computer-generated renewal notices."
The Associated Press
"Call it drugs for the departed: A quirky bureaucratic rule led Medicare’s prescription drug program to pay for costly medications even after the patients were dead.
That head-scratching policy is now getting a second look.
A report released Friday by the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general said the Medicare rule allows payment for prescriptions filled up to 32 days after a patient’s death — at odds with the program’s basic principles, not to mention common sense."
David Boucher, The Tennesseean
"Plans to find a way to expand Medicaid eligibility for Tennessee residents aren’t moving as quickly as expected, Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday morning.
The governor said he continues to work with federal health officials to find a solution that will work, but it’s taking longer than he had hoped.
“I would have hoped we would have made more progress by now, after the meeting we had up there five or six weeks ago,” Haslam said Tuesday morning after speaking at an education conference in Nashville."
Julian Hattem, The Hill
"The House Science Committee has issued a subpoena for former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park over his role in developing HealthCare.gov.
Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) issued the subpoena for the Obama administration’s former top tech advisor, demanding that he testify about his oversight of the ObamaCare website, including its security protocols.
The subpoena comes after Park’s previous refusals to testify and his recent cancellation of a meeting with House lawmakers after it became clear that the briefing would be public, the committee said."
Kelly Gilblom and Caroline Chen, Bloomberg
"U.S. small businesses are dropping health insurance for their workers, as Obamacare lets them send employees to new marketplaces where they can often get subsidies from the government to buy coverage.
WellPoint Inc. (WLP)’s small business insurance products lost 300,000 people this year, the company said today. Business owners are dropping coverage they previously bought through WellPoint and other insurers, and instead sending employees to shop for it on the government exchanges created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare."
Greg Stohr, Bloomberg
"The fate of President Barack Obama’s health-care law is again in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Two years after upholding the law by a single vote, the justices are weighing whether to hear a Republican-backed appeal that would block people in 36 states from getting tax subsidies to buy insurance. The justices are scheduled to discuss the matter tomorrow, with an announcement coming as soon as Nov. 3.
The tax credits have implications well beyond the 4.6 million people who receive them in those states. A high court decision against the administration would have ripple effects, undercutting other parts of the Affordable Care Act and potentially destabilizing insurance markets across the nation."