OVERNIGHT HEALTH: O-Care enrollments dipped in February

ObamaCare enrollments fell from 1.1 million in January to 942,000 in February, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Tuesday. Still, the administration says it remains optimistic it will see a surge of enrollees prior to the March 31 enrollment deadline. The HHS said an “action-forcing” event, like the end of an open enrollment period, “often results in a spike in enrollment activity.”

More than 4.2 million people have enrolled in ObamaCare as of March 1, the department said.

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The number of people who have actually purchased coverage is likely significantly lower. Analysts estimate that as many as 20 percent of enrollees haven’t paid their first month's premium, meaning that roughly 840,000 of that 4.2 million do not actually have insurance coverage. The administration has also said it doesn’t know yet how many enrollees already had an insurance plan and how many are obtaining coverage for the first time. Read more from Jonathan Easley at The Hill.

GOP slams 'panicked' White House: Republicans slammed the report for lacking detail about the new policyholders, such as how many have paid their first premiums or were previously uninsured.

"These reports tell us nothing about the success or failure of the president's healthcare law," a spokeswoman for the House Energy and Commerce Committee said in a statement. "The president's recent media appearances suggest that the administration is panicked as the March 31 deadline fast approaches. Does the administration not think Americans can handle the truth regarding the status of their health care system? It is time for the facts."

Meanwhile, at 'Funny or Die': President Obama’s Internet comedy sketch with Zach Galifianakis was the top driver of Web traffic to the HealthCare.gov website for a time on Tuesday, White House communications adviser Tara McGuinness said over Twitter. Obama appeared on "Between Two Ferns," a show featuring the comedian badgering celebrities, to promote the Affordable Care Act in an episode that earned millions of hits.

The White House later said Obama's appearance was the "right call." "The video itself was causing the action that we'd hoped it would cause, which is getting folks to go to HealthCare.gov and look at the options available to them and hopefully enroll," said press secretary Jay Carney. See the video here.

Sebelius to testify: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will appear before the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday morning to discuss President Obama's proposed budget for 2015. The hearing is likely to explore other topics as lawmakers grills Sebelius about the latest enrollment numbers and the administration's final push to register patients before March 31.

House drops Part D vote: The House will no longer vote to block the Obama administration's now-defunct proposal to make changes in Medicare Part D, House Republican Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced Tuesday.

The move follows the administration's about-face on the regulations, which would have lifted "protected status" from three classes of drugs, among other controversial reforms. Republicans had been eager to highlight strong opposition to the proposal among Democrats.

Hoyer on 'poison pill' pay-for: The second-ranking House Democrat on Tuesday said a Republican attempt to pay for a bipartisan Medicare fix by delaying ObamaCare’s individual mandate was a “poison pill,” and party leaders were inclined to urge their members to oppose it. “The Republicans continue to turn bipartisan agreement into partisan confrontation,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said.

The House legislation, expected to come for a vote on Friday, would permanently repeal annual cuts to Medicare provider payments, long opposed by both parties and subject to yearly patches. But while that measure is the product of bipartisan negotiations in both the House and Senate, Republican leaders plan to use revenue generated by delaying the healthcare law’s insurance requirement to pay for it. The Hill has more details.

Survey shows uptick in O-Care support: With fewer than three weeks to enroll in ObamaCare, support is growing for the president's signature law, according to a new poll. A survey released Tuesday from CNN and ORC showed that 39 percent of Americans support the Affordable Care Act, up from 35 percent in December. A majority — 57 percent — still say they oppose the law, down from 62 percent in December. Read more at The Hill.


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