OVERNIGHT HEALTH: White House downplays delays

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Monday defended the administration's decision to delay ObamaCare's employer mandate, and said the law's central pieces will take effect as planned.

Carney said state-based insurance exchanges are set to launch "as advertised" by Oct. 1, despite delays implementing other provisions. In addition to delaying the employer mandate, the administration has rolled back provisions requiring the exchanges to verify information about applicants' income and ability to buy health insurance through an employer.

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Republicans have seized on the delays — particularly the employer mandate — to argue that the healthcare law is unworkable. Democrats, meanwhile, have said the delay in requiring employers to cover their full-time workers will help the law function more effectively.

"We're interested in getting it right because we believe that getting it right will further the benefits that are available to more Americans," Carney said Monday.

The Hill has the story.

With a little help from my friends: Chris Jennings, a widely respected healthcare strategist with 30 years of Washington experience, is joining the White House to help with the ObamaCare implementation effort. Jennings is a veteran of the Clinton administration, where he helped implement the Children's Health Insurance Program, and has emerged as a top political defender of the Affordable Care Act. His move to the White House — first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by The Hill — is one of several new healthcare hires for the administration.

Taxman: The administration's decision to scale back verification requirements for the exchanges could cause some low-income people to over-report their income. Yes, over-report — an unusual form of tax fraud. But the thinking works like this: If a person lives in a state that didn't expand Medicaid, it might be worth claiming a few extra dollars to hit the federal poverty line and become eligible for subsidized private insurance through the exchanges. There are many reasons why that's a bad idea; it could mean paying higher income taxes, or losing out on other government benefits. But it's one area to watch as the exchanges defer more to self-reported income data.

Healthwatch has more on the subject here.

Measuring the damage: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is requesting a new cost estimate for ObamaCare in light of a decision to delay the law's employer mandate. 

Ryan's staff asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to reevaluate the law's budget impact after the White House said Tuesday that larger employers will not be required to offer health insurance until 2015. The Obama administration also announced Friday that ObamaCare's new insurance exchanges will not have to verify income information provided by applicants for another year.

"Chairman Ryan’s staff asked CBO to evaluate the impact of the administration’s recent decisions," House Budget Committee spokesman William Allison told The Hill.

Read more at Healthwatch, and visit NBC News for speculation about how these developments could affect the law's cost. 

Worse than expected? Sara Rosenbaum, a health policy expert at The George Washington University, said Monday that the impact of delaying the employer mandate has been under-appreciated. It might not sidetrack the exchanges, she said, but it's still a big problem for millions of people working 30 hours per week.

"It’s a very sizable number of people who are hurt and I don’t think we should lose sight (of that)," Rosenbaum said.

The employer mandate has been seen as one of the only ways to ensure people on the cusp — who work 30 hours per week, not 40, and therefore might not have an offer of employer-based coverage — are covered, without saddling taxpayers with even higher costs. Delaying it will have a real effect, Rosenbaum said, and not everyone will make enough money to qualify for tax subsidies in the exchanges.

“It’s a substantial setback, but one that we just solider on through," she said.

Showdown in Texas: Activists from both sides of the abortion debate are converging in Texas this week as state lawmakers debate restrictions on the procedure. A proposed bill would ban abortions after 20 weeks and impose a variety of new regulations on abortion clinics, potentially forcing many of the facilities to close.

The face-off between supporters and opponents of abortion rights is expected to intensify as groups like Students for Life and Planned Parenthood Action Fund mount events at the State Capitol building. In one case, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and reality television stars Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar will speak in support of the bill.

The legislation is expected to see a vote Tuesday. Read a round-up of scheduled events at US News and World Report.

Today in yogurt: Coming soon to school lunch menus — Greek yogurt. The Obama administration announced Monday that it will introduce the high-protein snack in a federally subsidized school lunch program in Arizona, Idaho, New York and Tennessee.

The Hill's RegWatch blog has the story.

Back to the IRS scandal:
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is doubling down on his push to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing parts of ObamaCare until controversy surrounding the agency's targeting of political groups is resolved. In a letter Monday, Heller said leaders of the Appropriations subcommittee on Financial Services should begin work on a bill for fiscal 2014 that defunds the IRS's role in the Affordable Care Act.

"After revelations that the agency spent around $49 million on conferences between 2010 and 2012, it is even clearer that the IRS be investigated before receiving its full funding," Heller wrote to Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

Heller had previously introduced legislation and written to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius voicing the same concern.

Read about his effort at Healthwatch. 


Tuesday's schedule

The Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education will meet to consider the fical 2014 Appropriations bill.

Cancer activists will come to Capitol Hill for the One Voice Against Cancer Lobby Day, where patients, survivors, physicians and researchers will push for funding for cancer research and prevention programs. Volunteers with the Livestrong Foundation will join more than 10 other groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, for more than 150 meetings with lawmakers and staff.

Members of the National Center for Assisted Living will meet with lawmakers and staff about rulemaking at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that could mean reduced Medicaid funding for people in assisted living facilities. Twenty-six states will be represented. 


State by state

Twist in ObamaCare may create two-tiered Medicaid

Physician participation under Medicaid expansion may vary

NH Medicaid study panel holds first meeting

Gov. McCrory voices concern over abortion bill passed by NC Senate


Lobbying registrations

LaRocco & Associates / Albertson's

Burton Kamins Advocacy / Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association

Ashcroft Group / Share Our Strength

Rock & Associates / Capitol Hill Consulting Group, on behalf of Wellness Pharmacy

McGuireWoods Consulting / Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County

Connolly / self-registration


What you might have missed on Healthwatch

Pro-Obama group unveils new ad touting healthcare reform law

Week ahead: GOP hopes to capitalize on ObamaCare delay

ObamaCare delay may encourage false tax reports, experts say

Guest column: ObamaCare must move forward

Bill from Senate hopeful targets Medicare drug abuse

GOP accuses Obama of playing politics with ObamaCare delays

Obama to meet with healthcare innovators

Study touts progress for health IT


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

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