Guided self-implementation program for an organization to migrate to Microsoft SharePoint Online
Guided self-implementation program for an organization with up to 20 employees to move its email, calendar, and contact management systems to Microsoft Office 365
It's crunch time for Obamacare: With less than four weeks left to sign up for coverage this year through the health law’s insurance marketplaces, consumer groups, insurers, hospitals and state and federal officials are ratcheting up their enrollment campaigns to deliver more people — particularly young adults.
--Enroll America, a nonprofit group with ties to the Obama administration, is sending buses to Texas and Ohio to talk up new coverage options.
--Tenet Healthcare Corp., a large national hospital chain, is reaching out to people without insurance who frequent their emergency rooms.
--The federal government will air ads during the “March Madness” college basketball playoffs that start March 16, and during shows popular with young people, such as Family Guy, The Vampire Diaries and The X Factor.
After months of emphasizing low-cost deals and the value of coverage, officials running federal and state marketplaces are stressing the March 31 deadline to enroll. By that date, for the first time, most Americans will be required to have health insurance or risk paying a penalty of $95, or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater.
With more than 4 million people signed up in private health plans since Oct. 1, the Obama administration has recovered from the troubled start of open enrollment when few people could get through healthcare.gov, the federal enrollment portal used by 36 states But polls show that many of the uninsured don’t know they face a deadline – indeed, most know little about their options to get coverage under the law.
Though large signups may pay political dividends to the administration and make it harder to repeal the law, the final month is also about making sure enough young people sign up to balance out the insurance risk pool, which is vital to keep down premiums in 2015 and later years.
“If enrollment is high and more young people enroll, the administration can point to success,” said Paul Ginsberg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change.
Direct Appeals From President, First Lady
The federal government is stepping up advertising on television networks such as ESPN and Fox, and also running less traditional ads on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, which are favored by the young. From January through March, it has an advertising budget of $52 million for both traditional and digital media, twice the amount spent in the first three months of the enrollment drive, according to the Health and Human Services Department.
It is also bringing in big guns: President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and top White House officials are talking up health insurance on selected radio shows with big followings among African-Americans and Latinos, who are more likely to be uninsured.
On Thursday, the president is participating in a town hall meeting in Washington D.C. on Latinos and health coverage, which will be broadcast by some of the nation’s largest Spanish-language meda outlets, including Univision, Telemundo and La Opinion-impreMedia.
Jon Kingsdale, a consultant who led the Massachusetts exchange when it began in 2006, said the marketplaces should now be emphasizing the deadline and penalty for failing to enroll.
Though previous implementation deadlines have been extended, officials say there are no plans to do that with the enrollment deadline.
Navigators paid by the federal government to help consumers sign up are stepping up their enrollment events and setting up booths at college campuses, libraries and shopping malls.
“It’s all hands on deck,” said Jodi Ray, project director for Florida Covering Kids & Families based at the University of South Florida, who leads over 100 navigators in the state. Florida has the second highest rate of uninsured in the country, with about one in four residents younger than 65, or 3.8 million people, without coverage.
Ray said her organization has added navigators and volunteers in anticipation of a surge in interest. The city of Tampa has opened its recreation centers on weekends to help them sign people up for coverage.
“This is a hard deadline...and consumers will begin to feel that pressure,” she said.
State exchanges in Connecticut and Colorado are adding staffing and hours to retail stories where people can sign up in person.
‘A Lot Of Apathy Out There’
The challenge is immense particularly in areas with high rates of uninsured because getting health coverage may not be part of the culture.
Steve Israel, an insurance agent, last week went to a church in South Bay, Fla., where nearly a third of the residents are uninsured. Only eight of about 75 attendees stayed after the service to hear him talk about new insurance options.
“I think there is a lot of apathy out there,” said Israel, a board member of the Florida Association of Health Underwriters. “And I find people don’t want to spend the money for insurance, no matter what the cost.”
Other agents say they are swamped with people seeking help. “I am seeing a lot of traffic -- both walk-ins and people calling trying to choose a plan,” said Trish Atwell, an insurance agent in Vero Beach, Fla.
Allan Einboden, CEO of the Texas-based Scott & White Health Plan, said he expects March to be the busiest enrollment month. The insurer is using traditional and social media to coax young adults to buy policies, but efforts have been hampered by political TV advertising in Republican primaries in the state.
“The negative energy from that has been a drag---you can’t go on radio or TV without hearing political advertising about how politicians are going to try to repeal the law,” he said.
In Colorado, officials running the state exchange are using a recreational vehicle to travel the state to get the word out.
“We want to make sure people know the urgency here and the deadline that if they don’t buy this month, they won’t be able to buy insurance again this year,” said Myung Kim, director of communications and outreach for Cover Colorado.
In Connecticut, which has already exceeded its first year goal by enrolling 138,000 people (40 percent into private health plans and the rest in Medicaid), officials have expanded hours at two brick-and-mortar stores in New Britain and New Haven. The exchange is also targeting towns and zip codes with high uninsured rates for events at libraries, churches and other places.
While outreach workers are stressing the deadline, they are focusing on the benefits of getting coverage rather than threatening people with penalties for not enrolling, said Jason Madrak, a spokesman for the Connecticut marketplace.
Enroll America workers and volunteers say the penalty for not carrying coverage won’t be front and center, but they will mention it.
“There will be places where we talk about that and if people are not aware that can be useful,” said Executive Director Anne Filipic. “But it won’t lead our messaging.”
The case is Commonwealth v. Scott, SJC-11465. March 5, 2014.
And, in another anticipated decision, "upskirting" is not against the law as it exists.
COMMONWEALTH vs. Michael ROBERTSON. SJC-11353. March 5, 2014
I am a native Marylander and grew up in the pastoral setting of the Ashton-Sandy Spring-Olney area. I spent my summers horseback riding with friends, rowing a home-built skiff on Triadelphia Lake, and to the dismay of my parents, amassing a huge model airplane collection. My longest time away from the Washington metropolitan area was the three years I served with the U.S. Army.
What is your academic/professional history?
I received my bachelor’s degree in history from The George Washington University and earned my master of library science (MLS) degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. My first job as a librarian was at the University of Maryland’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Library where I was promoted from serials librarian to head of the Circulation Department.
It wasn’t long before the draw of working for the Library of Congress had me filling out job applications. I began my career at the Library working for the Congressional Research Service (CRS) as a science policy bibliographer indexing and abstracting monographs, government documents, newspaper and journal articles for the Public Policy Literature File on the Library’s mainframe SCORPIO system. I was promoted to Senior Bibliographer and Bibliographic Specialist and worked in two other major legislative issue areas besides science policy – government and law, and education and public welfare.
My final positions in CRS were working with the CRS products database and the Legislative Information System, which is now transitioning to Congress.gov. These positions allowed me to focus more on information technology (IT) assignments and project management.
How would you describe your job to other people?
I lead a dedicated staff of IT professionals who split their time between being Help Desk first responders and supporting the Law Library’s IT infrastructure, automated workflows, web publishing, geospatial information systems, and other new technologies.
Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?
I was looking for a position that would allow me to utilize my library degree as well as my IT and project management skills. Lucky for me, a vacancy announcement was posted for the Law Library’s Information Technology Office to work on an international legal information database. Since 2001, I have had the good fortune to collaborate with many talented Law Library of Congress colleagues and take a leading role in a variety of challenging projects.
What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?
Even though the Law Library is a small service unit, I have always been impressed by the breadth of knowledge of its staff and their ability to create, maintain, and deliver many diverse products, projects, and enhancements of well-known services to Congress, the executive agencies, courts, and the legal community.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
After building countless model airplanes as a kid I decided, on the prompting of a colleague, to fulfill a life-long dream by taking flying lessons. I was thrilled to pilot myself in a 1972 Cessna Skyhawk from Fort Meade’s Tipton Airport to Ocean City, Maryland to fulfill the cross-country training requirement–unfortunately it was in the late fall and I didn’t get to take in the beach. But after all it was the journey not the destination that counted.
In the meantime, the budget also proposes $5.5 billion for "risk corridors" in 2015 to pay insurers who find themselves with a higher number of sicker and older people they must insure. Some call that program a bailout.
Kaiser Health News: HHS Seeks $600 Million For Health Law Enrollment Efforts
Just in case Congress doesn’t pass President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget plan, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services say they have other options for finding the money they need to implement the health care law (Carey, 3/5 ).
The Wall Street Journal: Obama Health Budget Seeks Funds For Health-Law Rollout, Doctor Training
The Obama administration has asked Congress for about $600 million in new funds to continue implementing the Affordable Care Act in 2015, including work on the insurance-enrollment website HealthCare.gov. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that it will cost about a total of $1.8 billion to keep rolling out the president's signature health-care law. However, the administration estimates that about $1.2 billion will come from various taxes and fees that were created by the health law. Part of the law's funding comes from fees imposed on the pharmaceutical and health-insurance industries (Corbett Dooren and Burton, 3/4).
Bloomberg: Insurers' Obamacare Losses May Reach $5.5 Billion in 2015
Health insurers such as WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Humana Inc. (HUM) stand to gain $5.5 billion next year to cover losses from Obamacare in a program the law’s opponents label a bailout. The money, outlined in President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins in October, is designated to help insurers who find the cost of the law higher than expected, based on the percentage of older, sicker people who sign up compared with younger enrollees (Wayne, 3/4).
The Hill: Budget Allots $5.5B For Obamacare Program Decried As A 'Bailout'
The White House’s 2015 budget proposes spending $5.5 billion next year on an Obamacare program that Republicans have labeled a “bailout” of the insurance industry. The Affordable Care Act creates a temporary pool of money, known as risk corridors, to pay insurers who enroll a higher-than-expected number of sick patients through 2016 (Easley, 3/4).
The Fiscal Times: $5.5 Billion For Obama’s Contested Risk Corridors
The president’s 2015 budget proposal includes $5.5 billion in new spending for a controversial Obamacare provision that Republicans have dubbed a “bailout” for insurance companies. Here’s how it works: If signups and pay-ups fall short of the administration’s anticipated goals of getting 6 - 7 million people to pay for Obamacare, with about 40 percent being young and healthy, the cost to insurers would explode. They would, in turn, pass those costs on to consumers in the form of increased premiums and deductibles. The “risk corridor” program establishes a safety net for insurers that don’t earn enough revenue in order to stabilize those premium prices under the health care law (Ehley, 3/4).
The cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office takes into account lower-than-projected enrollment this year. Meanwhile, Oregon's Democratic senators ask the Government Accountability Office to examine federal funding of that state's website a day after House Republicans make a similar request.
CQ HealthBeat: CBO Projects Lower 10-Year Cost For Health Insurance Expansion
The Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday reduced its estimate for the cost of expanding coverage under the health care law by $9 billion over 10 years, thanks mostly to lower-than-projected enrollment. In its annual budget outlook released last month, the CBO had said that 1 million fewer people will receive coverage through the law's exchanges in 2014 than previously projected (Ethridge, 3/4).
Politico Pro: Lawmakers Seek GAO Review Of Oregon Health Exchange Problems
Two Senate Democrats have joined a Republican call for a federal investigation into how federal money was spent implementing Obamacare in Oregon. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both of Oregon, have requested that the Government Accountability Office look into the approximately $300 million in federal money that was authorized to be spent on Cover Oregon, the state’s deeply troubled insurance exchange. Their request is dated the day after Republican Rep. Greg Walden and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton made a similar request of the GAO (Haberkorn, 3/4).
The Oregonian: Cover Oregon: Legislature Passes Bills On IT Contracting, Enrollment Deadline Extensions
Two bills aimed at addressing problems with the troubled Cover Oregon health insurance exchange passed in the [state] House and Senate on Tuesday. House Bill 4122 would require independent quality assurance oversight on contracted technology projects that cost more than $5 million and other projects that meet certain criteria. The bill passed the Senate 25 to 5 and returns to the House for approval of Senate amendments. House Bill 4154 would extend whistleblower protections to Cover Oregon employees and allow the governor to remove all Cover Oregon board members in a single year. It would also direct Cover Oregon to seek a federal waiver to extend the enrollment deadline by a month to April 30, and to seek federal tax credits for small businesses (Zheng, 3/4).
In other marketplace news -
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Washington State's Insurance Ads: Quirky And Hip Or Offensive?
Are the new ads promoting health insurance for Washington state's young people quirky, hip and funny — or are they insulting and offensive? Michael Marchand says it doesn't matter. "I don't care if people like or hate what I'm doing, so long as they get the URL right," said Marchand, director of communications for the Washington Healthplanfinder, the website where people can buy subsidized health insurance plans (Stiffler, 3/4).
The Associated Press: Fla. Health Choices Launches State Exchange
The troubled Florida Health Choices program launched an insurance exchange Tuesday, after several delays, that is separate from the Affordable Care Act marketplace. CEO Rose Naff delayed the launch last month after 10 times higher than anticipated interest in the site prompted technology experts to retool the website (Kennedy, 3/4).
The Baltimore Sun: Maryland Health Exchange To Create Advisory Panel
The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange said Tuesday it is forming a "standing advisory committee" to address policy and other issues (Walker, 3/4).
The budget proposal includes a provision to make wealthier seniors in Medicare pay more as well and another to try to drive down the cost of prescription drugs. A rival Republican plan is also expected to propose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
Los Angeles Times: Obama Issues A Campaign-Ready Budget Proposal
Obama's current plan would cut the deficit by adjusting the way the government means-tests Medicare, requiring higher premiums for some wealthy seniors. He would include measures to force down the cost of prescription drugs, which also reduces federal spending, and would count on the deficit-reducing impact of his proposed immigration reform measure (Hennessey and Parsons, 3/4).
The Associated Press: Obama’s Budget: Election-Year Themes To Rally Dems
The Obama budget projects a 2015 deficit of $564 billion and a shortfall this year of $649 billion. If those come true, it would mark three straight years of annual red ink under $1 trillion. … Overall, the 2015 budget projects a $250 billion increase in spending over the record $3.65 trillion expected for the current year. Spending actually dropped to $3.46 trillion in the 2013 fiscal year completed last Sept. 30. Republicans instead want Obama to join them in taking on expensive benefit programs like Medicare and Social Security, whose growth is driving future deficits and squeezing other priorities like defense, education, transportation and research. Medicare costs are projected to almost double over the coming decade. … The plan relies on tax increases and modest spending cuts such as curbing payments to Medicare providers to bring the budget deficit to sustainable levels of below 2 percent of the size of the economy by 2023 (Taylor, 3/4).
The Washington Post: Obama Sends $3.9 Trillion Budget Plan For Fiscal 2015 To Congress
Congress will again be required to address the federal debt limit next March. Lawmakers will face the prospect of full-strength sequester cuts in fiscal 2016 and beyond. And after three years of rapidly declining, deficits once again will begin to rise in 2016, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, creating new concern about the sustainability of federal health and retirement programs as the American population ages (Goldfarb, 3/4).
Los Angeles Times: Republicans Draw Election-Year Battle Line Over Obama Budget
House Republicans have promised to respond with their own 2015 budget proposal, even though their document, and the president's, are largely theoretical exercises this year. Thanks to a budget accord reached in December between [Republican Rep. Paul] Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), his counterpart in the Senate, spending levels for this year and next have already been approved by Congress and signed into law. Ryan's budget is expected to revisit his ideas for cutting Medicaid and Medicare, including his own signature proposal to cap health care spending for the next generation of Medicare recipients with a voucher program (Mascaro, 3/4).
And an up-close look at the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services -
The Associated Press: Health Care Agency Passes $1 Trillion Milestone
President Barack Obama’s budget pushes Health and Human Services spending over $1 trillion for the first time, reflecting an aging population adding to the Medicare rolls, as well as expanded coverage for younger people through the new health law. Released Tuesday, the HHS budget for the 2015 fiscal year calls for just over $1 trillion, which budget officials said is a new milestone for the department (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/4).
Feds Give South Dakota's Partial Medicaid Expansion Plan A Thumbs Down; Utah May Need A Special Session
News outlets report on these and other state efforts to address issues related to expanding the state-federal health insurance program for low-income people.
The Washington Post: Four States Maneuver On Medicaid Expansion
Faced with the prospect of tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, in federal funding, states are racing to find politically palatable ways to expand Medicaid. Here are the four states moving this week toward — or in one case away from — expanding Medicaid to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line (Wilson, 3/4).
Sioux City Argus Leader: Feds Reject Daugaard's Partial Medicaid Plan
Republican leaders in South Dakota had hope Monday that the U.S. government would let them cover only half the people federal law calls on South Dakota to add to Medicaid. On Tuesday, that hope was quashed. In a conference call late Tuesday afternoon involving legislative leaders from both parties and federal Medicaid chief Cindy Mann, South Dakota officials were told their request for a partial Medicaid expansion would not be allowed (Montgomery, 3/5).
Salt Lake Tribune: Will Utah’s Lawmakers Take Action On Medicaid This Session?
With time running out in the 2014 session, Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund says it is likely that the Legislature will not act on Medicaid expansion or any of the various health reform proposals on the table. "It’s definitely getting less and less likely as we get closer to the end of the session that [senators] end up taking a firm position," Okerlund, R-Monroe, said in an interview (Gerhke, 3/4).
Deseret News: Governor Says Special Session May Be Needed On Medicaid Expansion
After pitching his plan personally to GOP lawmakers Tuesday, Gov. Gary Herbert said the details of how Medicaid expansion money would be used may have to be sorted out in a special session of the Legislature. But the governor said he expects "clear direction" before the 2014 Legislature ends March 13 to start negotiations about how the state can use what he says is $258 million available under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare (Riley Roche, 3/4).
The expansion is currently being tackled as part of the state's two-year budget blueprint, but the House GOP are urging that it be considered separately in order to avert a potential government shutdown.
The Washington Post: Va. House Republicans Up Political Ante, Call For Special Session On Medicaid Expansion
House Republicans on Tuesday called for a special legislative session on Medicaid expansion, a surprise move meant to extricate the issue from the state budget, avert a potential government shutdown — and put Democrats on the defensive. With just days left in the regular session, the evenly split Senate and GOP-dominated House are deadlocked on whether to expand Medicaid under the federal health-care law known as Obamacare (Vozzella, 3/4).
The Richmond Times-Dispatch: As Adjournment Nears, Medicaid Divide Persists
Four days before the legislature’s scheduled adjournment, House Republicans on Tuesday urged Gov. Terry McAuliffe and a Senate majority to pass a budget without any form of Medicaid expansion and debate the issue in a special session. At the same time, Senate negotiators faulted the House for refusing to discuss the issue as part of the conference to resolve differences over the two-year budget. Speaker of the House William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said at a news conference that school boards and others need information for their own budgeting process before the July 1 deadline to approve a new state funding plan (Meola, 3/4).
Norfolk Virginian-Pilot: Va. Senators: Medicaid 'Integral' To Budget Talks
Virginia Senate budget negotiators say considering Medicaid expansion in deliberations on the proposed two-year state spending plan is appropriate, a forceful response to House of Delegates Republicans who see it as a separate issue. Senate budget negotiators staked out that position in a written statement Tuesday evening, hours after a House GOP leaders in a morning news conference again accused Democrats of causing gridlock over Medicaid. Those GOP officials said the General Assembly should allow the proposed $96 billion budget to pass in time for the legislature's scheduled March 8 adjournment, then convene a Medicaid special session. "We flatly reject this notion," the senators wrote in the two-page statement. "As we stated previously, the Marketplace Virginia proposal is integral to the Senate budget" (Walker, 3/4).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: McAuliffe Stumps For Medicaid Expansion In SW Va.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe went to the heart of coal country in one of the state’s poorest regions Tuesday to make the case that Virginia needs to expand Medicaid eligibility to about 400,000 low-income residents (3/4).
A selection of health policy stories from Texas, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Virginia and Georgia.
The New York Times: Texas G.O.P. Beats Back Challengers From Right
The primary served as a kind of referendum on Mr. Cornyn. He faced seven challengers, a sign of the frustration among some Tea Party activists and conservative groups with him for failing to back Mr. Cruz in his efforts to shut down the government over Mr. Obama’s health care law and to block a vote to raise the federal debt ceiling. But Mr. Cornyn’s main challenger, Representative Steve Stockman, made few campaign appearances, and Mr. Cornyn beat him easily (Fernandez, 3/4).
Kaiser Health News: L.A. County Health Officials Grilled Over Nursing Home Inspections
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously ordered an audit Tuesday of how the public health department oversees nursing homes, after a news report revealed that managers told inspectors to close cases without fully investigating them. Expressing anger and shock, the supervisors summoned Department of Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding to the meeting to answer questions about the nursing home inspection process. During the heated discussion, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas called for the audit (Gorman, 3/5).
Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Orders Audit Of Department Over Nursing Home Complaints
Los Angeles County supervisors ordered an audit Tuesday of how the county's Public Health Department investigates complaints about health and safety issues at nursing homes. Members of the county board sharply criticized health officials over a report that complaints were not always thoroughly investigated. An investigation by Kaiser Health News found that public health officials told inspectors to close certain cases without fully investigating them in an effort to reduce a backlog (Sewell and Brown, 3/4).
Kaiser Health News: Health Workers' Union Pushes Hospital Cost Control In California
A California health care workers’ union is collecting signatures to get two measures onto the ballot that it says would lower health care costs. United Health Care Workers West, or SEIU-UHW, wants to cap what hospitals can charge to 25 percent above the actual cost of services. SEIU-UHW says on average, hospitals charge 320 percent above the cost of care (Bartolone, 3/5).
The Arizona Republic: Childhood Trauma Common In Arizona
Growing up in a single-parent household as a result of divorce, death or incarceration. Being the victim of racial or ethnic discrimination. Witnessing gun violence in the neighborhood. A report being released today concludes that children in Arizona experience more trauma than those in other states and that those experiences put them at greater risk for health problems later in life. Several Arizona leaders say the data are the latest alarm bell indicating that the state should focus more resources on child welfare (Wang, 3/4).
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Bill Creating Mental Health Board For Milwaukee County Advances
A bill with bipartisan support that would put control of Milwaukee County's troubled mental health system in the hands of a board of professionals is advancing despite union opposition. A final vote could come as soon as March 18. The measure was prompted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Chronic Crisis" investigation, which showed how politicians had ignored decades of calls for reform while patients suffered, many dying of neglect or abuse, in an outdated system (Kissinger, 3/4).
The CT Mirror: Analysis: Obamacare Won’t Replace Connecticut’s Mental Health Cuts
An early analysis suggests that the assumptions behind a $15.2 million cut to mental health and substance abuse treatment services in this year’s budget aren’t being realized and could leave some service providers with significantly less funding than lawmakers intended. And several legislators said Monday that they’re concerned about what the cuts could mean for access to care. “We’re going to have to do something because we can’t go down this path,” Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, said during a work session with other members of the legislature’s Appropriations Committee (Becker, 3/4).
The CT Mirror: CT Mission Of Mercy Free Dental Clinic Targets Pregnant Women
Hoping to correct misconceptions while providing care, the organizers of the Connecticut Mission of Mercy dental clinic are planning a special section for pregnant women at this year’s free clinic in Hartford. Research suggests that fewer than half of pregnant women seek dental care, despite evidence that mothers’ oral health is strongly connected to their children’s dental health. Some research has also suggested that women who don't receive dental care during pregnancy are at a slightly higher risk for preterm delivery (Becker, 3/4).
The Richmond Times-Dispatch: Resignation Raises Questions In Mental Health Probe
A cloud hangs over a state inspector general’s investigation that is supposed to give a long-awaited public accounting of how Virginia’s mental health system treated the son of Sen. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, before he attacked his father Nov. 19. G. Douglas Bevelacqua, who led the investigation as director of the behavioral health division of the Office of the State Inspector General, abruptly resigned his position Tuesday, citing interference by office leadership that weakened the still-unreleased report. The investigation has focused on why Austin C. “Gus” Deeds was released from an expired emergency custody order 13 hours before he stabbed his father multiple times and then shot himself to death at their home in rural Millboro (Martz, 3/4).
Georgia Health News: Hospitalists: The Specialists Whose Patients All Have Beds
Morgan Memorial Hospital in Madison got tired of having so many patients who were just passing through. Too often in the past, the hospital has stabilized newly arrived patients, only to see them quickly bundled off to Athens for further treatment. Ralph Castillo, the administrator for the 25-bed hospital in one of the most famously beautiful communities in Georgia, thinks he has the solution to this stopover problem. He has launched a program that he says will save lives and keep more patients in Morgan County, closer to home and family. Castillo introduced a team of hospitalists -- mainly physicians who specialize in the care of patients who are admitted to a hospital (Adcock, 3/4).
The California Health Report: As Doctors Struggle With New Electronic Record Systems, Care Can Suffer
According to recent surveys, more than half of California physicians and clinics have switched to electronic health records to comply with the federal Affordable Care Act -- but for many it has not been a smooth process. Implementation problems are, in some cases, hurting patients. “While vendors are making an effort to make their (electronic health) systems more usable, there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” said Glen Moy, senior program officer at the California Healthcare Foundation (Guzik, 3/5).
The measure, which extended for one year this "private" approach to expanding health insurance coverage to low-income state residents, failed in four previous votes. Its opponents say the debate is not over -- they are just "hitting the pause button."
Arkansas News: House Approves Funding For Private Option
The private option is Arkansas’ alternative to the expansion of state Medicaid rolls that was proposed under the federal Affordable Care Act. The state obtained permission from the federal government to use the federal Medicaid money that would have gone to state Medicaid expansion to subsidize private health insurance for people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. About 94,000 people have enrolled in private plans through the program, and another 11,000 who applied have been enrolled in traditional Medicaid because that program is more suited to their needs, according to the state Department of Human Services. About 105,000 people have applied since the program launched in October (Lyon, 3/4).
KUAR: Arkansas House Passes Private Option On 5th Vote
State Representatives Kim Hammer of Saline County, Mary Slinkard of Gravette and Les Carnine of Rogers reversed their positions and voted yes on the appropriation bill. On the House floor, Hammer explained his new stance. He said through the private option, those with “honorable needs” and those who are “probably just trying to build their welthfare portfolio” are likely part of the mix of healthcare recipients. “But for me to point and to say which ones that are and which ones that aren't, I can't do that. But I do know this: there are people that are going to be hurt if I don't vote for this,” he said (Hickey, 3/4).
The New York Times: Arkansas House Votes To Extend Health Insurance Program
The Arkansas House of Representatives voted Tuesday to let the state keep taking federal money for the expansion of Medicaid under President Obama’s health care law and using it to buy private insurance for poor people. The measure, which failed in four previous votes, extended coverage for another year under the so-called private option, which the state’s Republican-controlled legislature devised last year as a politically acceptable alternative to expanding traditional Medicaid. Nearly 100,000 people have enrolled in the coverage so far, which allows them to choose among plans offered by four companies on the state’s new health insurance exchange (Goodnough, 3 4).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Ark. Medicaid Plan Opponents Hit Pause On Fight
Ending a budget standoff reminiscent of the fight that shuttered the federal government last year, Arkansas lawmakers have spared the state’s first-in-the nation plan to use Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance for the poor. But opponents said they’re merely hitting the pause button on debating a program that has extended health coverage to nearly 94,000 people (3/5).
The Wall Street Journal: Arkansas Lawmakers Pass 'Private Option' Health-Care Law
Arkansas last fall became the first state to offer a "private option" to extend coverage to lower-income residents, the result of a compromise between state Republicans and Democrats over how to implement a crucial provision of the health law. The program, endorsed by the Obama administration, was seen by supporters in Arkansas as a way to accept federal dollars and cut the number of uninsured residents without enlarging Medicaid (Campoy and Radnofsky, 3/4).
Reuters: Arkansas Lawmakers Vote To Fund State's Alternative To Obamacare
The Arkansas House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to fund the state's so-called "Private Option" medical insurance program that has drawn interest from lawmakers in other states as an alternative to Obamacare. The measure, which had earlier passed the state Senate, received 76 votes, one more than necessary in the 100-member House (Barnes, 3/4).
The President's proposal would save $402 billion from Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years, mostly from lower reimbursements to health care providers and drugmakers.
Reuters: Obama Budget Sets Medicare Savings, Hospitals Seek Reprieve
President Barack Obama's budget plan for 2015 would save $402 billion from the Medicare and Medicaid government health care programs for the elderly and poor over the next 10 years, primarily due to reduced reimbursement to health care providers and drugmakers. A White House budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning October 1, released on Tuesday, would save more than $350 billion by pursuing a familiar menu of options that range from increased drug rebates to more efficient post-acute care, reduced hospital admissions and new means testing for Medicare (Morgan, 3/4).
Modern Healthcare: Health Care Providers Oppose Medicare Cuts In Obama's 2025 Budget
President Barack Obama is proposing more than $400 billion in cuts to Medicare over the next decade in his fiscal 2015 budget, an almost identical amount to what he recommended last year. But those cuts are heavily weighted toward future years, with only $3.5 billion occurring in 2015 (Demko and Zigmond, 3/4).
CQ HealthBeat: White House Shies Away From Major Change In Medicare, Medicaid
President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget would fully fund ongoing implementation of his health care overhaul, while again calling on Medicare beneficiaries and providers to pay more to extend the program’s solvency. Obama’s budget proposal draws on familiar ideas for revamping Medicare and Medicaid and avoids major structural changes to the programs. The proposal’s changes to federal health programs would save approximately $402 billion over 10 years, including $354.1 billion in cuts to Medicare providers and $8.9 billion in savings from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (Ethridge, 3/4).
The Hill: Obama Budget Hits Post-Acute Care, Drugmakers
President Obama's latest budget proposal would hit post-acute-care providers, drug companies and wealthier seniors on Medicare as part of $402 billion in estimated health care savings over the next decade. Familiar from previous White House budgets, the proposals appeared in a document notable for its continuity on health care spending for 2015 (Easley, 3/4).
Americans who kept health plans that didn't comply with the health law's coverage requirements will be able to renew those policies again, sources tell media outlets. The Obama administration is expected to announce the extension today.
The Washington Post: Americans May Be Able To Keep Old Insurance Plans Longer Under Rewrite Of Health-Care Rules
The Obama administration is preparing to announce that Americans who want to keep their old health plans may do so for at least one year longer than they expected, even if the policies don't comply with law, according to insurance industry officials familiar with the latest rewrite of federal health-care rules (Goldstein, 3/4).
The Wall Street Journal: Extension Expected On Health Policies Not Meeting Law
The Obama administration plans to let insurers sell policies that don't comply with the federal health law for at least 12 more months—a second delay aimed at averting another furor over canceled plans, insurance-industry officials said. Millions of Americans received notices last fall saying their health-insurance policies would be canceled because they didn't meet the Affordable Care Act's stricter coverage standards. In November, President Barack Obama said state insurance commissioners could let health plans reinstate such policies for 12 months since many consumers were unable to use the balky HealthCare.gov website to obtain replacement coverage (Radnofsky and Mathews, 3/4).
Reuters: White House Readies Health Insurance Renewal Extension - Sources
The Obama administration will allow consumers to extend health insurance plans that fail to comply with President Barack Obama's health care law beyond 2014, according to three people familiar with the matter. In a move that could help Democrats avoid a repeat of last autumn's public outcry over canceled health policies, administration officials are expected to announce the change within the next few days, according to the sources (Morgan, 3/4).
Bloomberg: Obama Said To Allow Two-Year Renewal For Old Health Plans
Americans who kept their health plans that didn’t comply with Obamacare requirements will be able to renew those policies for two more years, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Obama administration, which has been deliberating the issue since November, is expected to announce today the extension of the health plans, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the decision wasn't yet public (Wayne, 3/5).
CBS News: Obamacare's "Keep Your Plan" Fix To Be Extended
President Obama took some serious heat last year when insurers started dropping millions of Americans from health plans that were no longer Obamacare-compliant, seemingly breaking his promise, "If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance." Consequently, he enacted an administrative policy change allowing insurers to extend existing plans on the individual and small-group markets for a year. Now, the administration will extend that policy again, CBS News confirms. The administration has said officially that it does not at this time have any policy changes to announce (Condon, 3/4).
Marketplace: Another Delay For The Affordable Care Act?
Remember last fall, when health insurers sent out cancellation letters because some policies didn't meet the Affordable Care Acts requirements? President Obama decided to let people keep those policies a while longer -- in some cases, for a year. Which means they'd be getting cancellation letters again this fall, right before the congressional elections. So the Obama administration could announce as soon as this week that it's rolling back the deadline for people to get off these barebones plans. How many people would be affected? "Probably we're talking about thousands. Certainly not hundreds of thousands," says former insurance executive Wendell Potter (Marshall-Genzer, 3/5).