OVERNIGHT HEALTH: HHS says enrollment process improving

The enrollment process for ObamaCare's insurance exchanges is getting better, the Health and Human Services Department said Thursday. HHS said healthcare.gov, the main portal to sign up for coverage, received 7 million visits in its first 48 hours of operation. And the agency said the long waits that shut consumers out of the system are getting better. Wait times for healthcare.gov have fallen by one-third, the department said, and the wait times for the federally run call centers have been cut even more.

HHS still isn't releasing the number of people who have signed up for coverage through the federal marketplace. 

Healthwatch has the latest on the federal exchange's rollout.

Contraception injunction upheld: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that Colorado-based Hercules Industries doesn't have to comply with ObamaCare's contraception mandate while challenges to the policy work their way through the courts. The 10th Circuit previously upheld an injunction for Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts store that has filed the highest-profile challenge to the mandate. The court said Thursday that Hercules also does not have to comply with the mandate as it works its way toward a likely Supreme Court challenge.

The opinion is available here.

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Anecdotes from enrollment: People wanting ObamaCare are reportedly calling the exchanges with "raw emotion," hoping for healthcare coverage. An official with Xerox, which helped construct Nevada's exchange, said callers have been in tears.

"They were calling up saying, ‘Can I get my coverage today so I can see my doctor this afternoon?'" Kevin Walsh told Bloomberg Businessweek. “That is in one sense moving but also frustrating because sure, you can sign up—but the coverage can’t be effective until January 1.”

Read the report here.

Gold plan required: Regulations issued by the Obama administration this week would require members of Congress to buy one of the top-tier insurance plans from the ObamaCare exchanges. The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the House sent guidance to members of Congress this week, based on a directive from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), that says they must choose plans from the "gold" level of insurance coverage, not "bronze" or "silver" plans.

"For plan year 2014, Members of Congress and designated congressional staff will choose from 112 options in the Gold Metal tier on the DC SHOP," CAO said in a fact sheet that was emailed to Congress.

The Hill's Floor Action blog has the story.

About that device tax: A bipartisan group of House lawmakers say they’d support legislation to fund the government that repealed a medical device tax that is a major funding source of President Obama's healthcare law. The measure was put together by Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Charlie Dent (Pa.), one of a handful of House Republicans who has called for moving a clean bill to fund the government.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quickly rejected the plan. "We're willing to talk about that and anything else, but this proposal is an act of desperation on their standpoint. You can't do it. It involves tens of billions of dollars," Reid said.

Read more at Healthwatch.


State by state

Shutdown to stop DC Medicaid payments

Delaware seeks ways to reduce costs of Medicaid

Texas turned to compounding pharmacy for execution drugs [free registration required]


Lobbying registrations

East End Group / Smith & Nephew

Barnes & Thornburg / American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons

Denny Miller Associates / Kalispell Regional Healthcare

McGuireWoods Consulting / Hill-Rom Company

Power Pyles Sutter & Verbille / Physician Clinical Registry Coalition


Reading list

Meet one of the first ObamaCare enrollees

Doctor shortage, increased demand could crash healthcare system

Medicaid looks good to a former young invincible


What you might have missed on Healthwatch


Lady Gaga to Twitter followers: 'Get covered' by ObamaCare

Obama seizes on GOP remarks to blame Tea Party for shutdown

Cantor suggests 'clean' continuing resolution wouldn't pass House

Reid refuses to consider piecemeal House funding measures

Senate health aide joins top lobby firm

Reid: Republicans don't know what they want

Priebus ridicules ObamaCare rollout

Former Obama adviser teams up with pro-Hillary PAC to promote ObamaCare


Comments / complaints / suggestions?


Please let us know:

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

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