OVERNIGHT HEALTH: HealthCare.gov issues linger

The Obama administration acknowledged Wednesday that problems persist on the back-end of HealthCare.gov, which transmits applicants' information to insurance companies.

In a joint statement with insurers, federal health officials said they were working closely with the industry to "resolve back-end issues between health plans and HealthCare.gov," and would report on their progress at a later date.

The administration has received strong criticism for failing to disclose the error rate for forms known as 834s, which send information about ObamaCare enrollees to health insures. 

The administration's failure to disclose the error rate has led to a series of tense exchanges with journalists on a daily conference call. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said this week that it addressed a single glitch apparently responsible for 80 percent of the problems. But insurers begged to differ, saying they were still receiving garbled and incomplete data as of this week. Elise Viebeck at The Hill reports.

Not a fix: Former Rep. Mike Kreidler (D-Wash.), the Washington state insurance commissioner, testified on Wednesday that the administration’s proposal to allow people to keep their existing coverage won’t work.

Kreidler, a healthcare law supporter, has declined President Obama’s offer to allow states to continue offering plans that don't meet ObamaCare's mandated requirements for an additional year. He argued that allowing the discontinued plans back into the marketplace at this late date would create “uncertainty and disruption” for his state’s exchange, could lead to a premium spike in 2015, and would contribute to prolonging a “failing system” whereby insurers can gouge consumers with bare-bones plans and high out-of-pocket costs.

Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.

BREAKING: The House Ways and Means Committee could mark up a replacement bill for the sustainable growth rate next week, moving the chamber one step closer to overhauling Medicare's flawed physician payment system. The possibility doesn't mean that lawmakers are set on a permanent "doc fix," however — they're still looking at a temporary option, CQ/Roll Call reported.

Fine: More than a quarter of people without health insurance say they are willing to pay a fine rather than enroll in ObamaCare. While a majority of uninsured people surveyed by Gallup — 63 percent — say they intend to enroll in the health exchange, 28 percent said they would not enroll and would instead pay a fine. The fine in 2014 is 1 percent of the person's income or $95, whichever is higher. The maximum penalty for a family is $285. Rebecca Shabad at The Hill reports.

Optimistic: Democratic women lawmakers on Wednesday said they are confident the Supreme Court would uphold an ObamaCare mandate that requires most employers to cover birth control in their insurance plans. In a conference call with reporters, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.); Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D-Calif.); Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.); and Marcia Greenberger, the co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, said they couldn’t see a scenario where the high court strikes down the mandate. The Supreme Court last week agreed to hear a challenge to the mandate brought by two private companies that argue the federal government couldn’t order businesses to pay for contraception coverage that goes against the owners’ religious beliefs. Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.

Youth: President Obama continued to sell his signature healthcare law to young people at a White House event on Wednesday. Uninsured young people are the one demographic the Obama administration wanted to target with the reform law. Most young people who lack insurance, Obama said, could sign up for a plan that costs less than $100 per month. The event took place as the White House is cleaning up its messy implementation and ramping up efforts to tout the law’s benefits in the next few weeks before the Dec. 23 enrollment deadline for coverage that starts Jan. 1. Rebecca Shabbad at The Hill reports.


State by State:

The state of Washington is seeking to combine Medicaid and Medicare, The Seattle Times reports.

Medicaid expansion becomes a weapon against GOP governors, The Washington Post reports.


Reading List:

Ron Fournier at The National Journal says young people are turning on President Obama and his healthcare law.

Brian Beutler at Salon says conservatives are fundamentally dishonest about ObamaCare.

Joe McLean at The Daily Beast prescribes a chill pill for ObamaCare fever.


What you may have missed at HealthWatch:

Issa says HealthCare.gov costs could top $1 billion.

Report says 29,000 enrolled in ObamaCare in two days starting over the weekend.


Comments / complaints / suggestions?

Please let us know:

Jonathan Easley/ jeasley@thehill.com / 202-407-8014 / @joneasley

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