OVERNIGHT HEALTH: 'Young invincibles' want coverage

Still, affordability remains a key concern. Across all age groups, 40 percent of the uninsured people in the Kaiser poll said they lack insurance because it's too expensive, compared with just 11 percent who said they don't need it.

Uninsured lack info: The poll also found that few uninsured people have heard more than a little about the insurance exchanges, highlighting the task facing the Obama administration as it seeks to sell the law through education campaigns. 

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According to the survey, half of the uninsured said they've heard nothing at all about the marketplaces, while a third said they've heard "only a little." One in 10 have heard "some" or "a lot." 

Launch in doubt: The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) questioned Wednesday whether the insurance exchanges for individuals and small businesses will roll out smoothly and on time this fall.

In a report, the GAO cautioned that federal health officials still have an enormous task facing them, in part because they are standing up exchanges for 34 states that refused to create their own. The federal data hub has also not been extensively tested, and the Obama administration will need an additional $1.5 billion from Congress to operate the marketplaces next year, according to the GAO.

Republicans jumped on the report to argue that ObamaCare will fail. “This law has been unpopular and unwieldy every step of the way," said House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) in a statement.

Healthwatch has the story.

Break for employers: A bipartisan bill in the Senate would soften ObamaCare's employer mandate. The bill, sponsored by Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), would require employers to offer healthcare coverage to employees who work at least 40 hours a week — as opposed to 30 hours per week, where the threshold stands now. 

The National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses, praised the bill.

“There is more to be done to help job creators and their employees cope with rising health insurance costs and other collateral damage of [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act], but this adjustment will provide some much-needed relief, reduce widespread confusion and minimize one of the most pressing challenges small employers face when it comes to complying with a complex and cumbersome law," the NFIB said in a statement.

Some Republicans don't want to do anything to "fix" ObamaCare or mitigate any of the negative effects it might have. But Collins said she thinks it's "incumbent upon us" to fix problems when possible.

Healthwatch has the full story on the bipartisan proposal. 

Flashback: Just last month, we asked why no one in Congress had introduced a bill to make this change, given all the talk about how ObamaCare will affect small businesses. 

Self-insurance gets the side-eye: The Center for American Progress said Wednesday that self-insurance poses a threat to the Affordable Care Act's success. Most of the law's regulations don't apply to self-insured plans, so some small businesses are looking toward self-insurance as a way to provide coverage without meeting the law's minimum requirements for coverage. But that strategy means employees won't be able to rely on the same consumer protections, and it draws potentially healthy workers out of the broader marketplace for small-business coverage, the group argued.

Read the full analysis here.

AAP blasts farm bill: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) voiced strong opposition to the House farm bill because it would cut food stamps for kids. The measure contains about $20.5 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which the AAP says is vital to children's health and well-being. 

"The child poverty rate in the United States is the highest it’s been in twenty years," said James Perrin, AAP president-elect, in a statement. "Pediatricians understand firsthand that hungry children are less likely to be healthy, suffer developmental delays and have behavioral problems that hurt their academic performance."

Final votes on the measure could happen Thursday. Read more at The Hill's Floor Action blog. 

Reforming PAC: Committee leaders in the House and Senate called for proposals Wednesday on how to improve post-acute care (PAC) in Medicare while controlling costs. In a letter to stakeholders, the Republican and Democratic leaders on the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees noted that it is hard to evaluate the system because of "varying mixes of patients across facilities," among other factors.

"We find the substantial variation in Medicare spending, utilization, quality and Medicare profit margins in the post-acute sector troubling," the lawmakers wrote. "Our goal should be to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries receive the right PAC, in the right setting, at the right time, with the highest level of quality."

The letter asks stakeholders to weigh in on hospital readmissions, value-based purchasing, bundled payments and site-neutral payments. Read it here.

Thursday's schedule

The House Ways and Means subcommittee on Health will look at the 2013 Medicare trustees report in a hearing. The panel will debate Medicare's financial status and how to strengthen it.

The Bipartisan Policy Center will host former Agriculture Secretaries Dan Glickman and Ann Veneman, former Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and others for a discussion on the effect food and farm policy has on health and healthcare costs. 


State by state

Maine House fails to override veto of Medicaid expansion

ND judge allows new complaint to abortion lawsuit

Ohio lawmakers offer 2 bills to change Medicaid

Dewhurst tweet says Texas bill attempts to close abortion clinics


Lobbying registrations

Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti / American Board of Internal Medicine

Barbour Griffith & Rogers / The Working Group on Pharmaceutical Safety


Reading list

Small drop in number of uninsured in 2012, CDC estimates [free registration required]

ObamaCare provision to expand kids' dental coverage may fall short, advocates say

Cancer-causing sex virus cut in teen girls by vaccines

Medical pot laws get tougher [subscription required]


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Former HHS chief urges crackdown on compounding pharmacies

McConnell slams Dems for spending millions on ObamaCare 'PR blitz'

Report: White House seeking help from the NBA to enroll people in ObamaCare


Comments / complaints / suggestions?


Please let us know:

Sam Baker: sbaker@thehill.com / 202-628-8351

Elise Viebeck: eviebeck@thehill.com / 202-628-8523

Follow us on Twitter @hillhealthwatch