OVERNIGHT HEALTH: House GOP ObamaCare alternative looks less likely

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday defended the House GOP’s go-slow approach on immigration, tax reform and replacing ObamaCare, saying the party wanted to avoid repeating mistakes Democrats made and had to face the “reality” of its limited power in Washington.

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When pressed on whether the House would actually hold votes on major legislation in 2014, the Speaker quickly backed away, and wouldn’t commit to anything more than continued “conversations” in the coming month.

On healthcare, he noted that party leaders were meeting on Friday to discuss a Republican proposal, but he said members were still going through hundreds of ideas that have been put forward.

A handful of GOP senators produced an alternative to ObamaCare earlier this year. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has been charged with putting together a Republican proposal that leaders have said will get a vote later this year.

However, in a letter to the House GOP caucus sent this month, Cantor made no mention of the House taking up such legislation in the near term. Russell Berman at The Hill reports.

BREAKING: The Associated Press is reporting that Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) has rejected a full Medicaid expansion but is backing block grants to cover the poor.

MA: The health insurance industry fighting proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage payments argued it will raise seniors' out-of-pocket costs next year. America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a trade group, blasted the reductions with a report Thursday finding that beneficiaries could pay as much as $900 more in 2015 if the cuts take effect.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services floated a 2015 cut of roughly 2 percent on Friday. The number was lower than many insurers expected, causing major gains for several insurance stocks this week. Elise Viebeck at The Hill reports.

Chaos: President Obama considered scrapping HealthCare.gov and starting over at the height of the website's problems last fall, according to a report in Time magazine.

The revelation underscores the total chaos that faced the White House and federal health officials in October when ObamaCare's enrollment website was barely functioning.

In a lengthy piece, journalist Steven Brill reported that Obama sent White House chief of staff Denis McDonough to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in October to determine whether the site could be fixed. McDonough described the central question of his mission as: "Can it be patched and improved to work, or does it need to be scrapped to start over?

Elise Viebeck at The Hill reports.

Last century: The U.S. healthcare delivery system is stuck in "the 20th century" for failing to keep up with recent medical and technological advances, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday. The secretary said the overall experience of going to the doctor was little-changed from 40 years ago.

“The only difference is the dates on the magazines in the waiting room,” Sebelius said in her keynote address at The Aspen Institute’s Care Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C. Sebelius called the disparity between the “march of human progress” in medicine and information technology and the stasis in the doctor-patient relationship “the great dichotomy” of modern-day healthcare in the United States.

Jonathan Easley at The Hill reports.

State by State:

North Dakota seeks to link federal healthcare computers.

California has legislative options to restore funding to Medi-Cal.

Reading List:

ObamaCare’s failed state-run exchanges.

Democrats pressure Reid to ObamaCare votes.

Feds, states scramble to recruit young and healthy to ObamaCare.

What you may have missed at HealthWatch:

McConnell: Reid attack ‘astonishing’

Insurers become ObamaCare foot soldiers.

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