OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Mass. to drop O-Care website

Massachusetts is preparing to abandon its troubled ObamaCare enrollment website, a system so problematic that the state was forced to enroll tens of thousands of people in temporary insurance plans through Medicaid.

The news underscores the depth of technical problems with the Massachusetts Health Connector and echoes a recent decision by Cover Oregon, another glitch-ridden marketplace, to hand federal health officials the reins to its system this month.

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Massachusetts officials are pursuing what they described as a "dual-track strategy" for their insurance marketplace: combining new, off-the-shelf enrollment software with a back-up plan to shift the system into HealthCare.gov if the transition takes too long.

"I’ve said all along that no option on the table would be perfect, and the dual track certainly has its benefits and its challenges," said Sarah Iselin, special assistant to Gov. Deval Patrick (D), in a statement Monday.

"It does, however, solve for two realities: we need a reliable website to help people during the next open enrollment period, and we need to be in a position to achieve a fully integrated system in 2015," she added.

Iselin will present the plan to the Connector's board of directors on Thursday.

In Oregon, meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has reportedly launched a preliminary inquiry into the botched rollout of the state exchange. While the agency would not confirm a probe is underway, the Portland Oregonian wrote Friday that some suspect Oregon officials misled the federal government about the exchange's progress.

Read about the stories here and here

 

RomneyCare and mortality: A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine is spurring debate over the effects of the Massachusetts health reform law on mortality and whether the positive effects are worth the cost. Read someone who says yes here and someone who says no here

Opposition hits new high: While Democrats are hoping higher than expected ObamaCare enrollment will raise the laws popularity that doesn’t seem to be the case yet according to a new Pew and USA Today poll. Disapproval of the new healthcare law has actually gone up to 55 percent from 53 percent last September, before the launch of Healthcare.gov. However, 45 percent of people surveyed trusted Congressional Democrats to manage healthcare policy versus 37 percent who trusted Republicans.

Uninsured lowest since'08: The number of uninsured has dropped significantly from 18 percent last summer to 13.4 percent in April according to a Gallup poll. The decline coincided with the opening of ObamaCare health insurance exchanges on Oct.1 last year and the March 31 deadline to enroll. The deadline was later extended to April 15 for those who had trouble signing up.

Today in mental health: The White House is touting actions taken on mental health policy after Vice President Biden addressed the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in New York. Read the administration's crib sheet here

Pros and cons of aspirin: The FDA says people taking aspirin without a history of heart problems and stroke may be putting themselves at unnecessary risk for brain and stomach bleeds. Contrary to some conventional wisdom, research shows people on the anti-inflammatory drug without the preconditions get no significant benefit and could actually be putting themselves at greater risk. The agency says patients without a history of heart and stroke problems should talk to their doctors about whether they should keep taking aspirin.

Lawmakers zero in on MERS: Top House Democrats are asking Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to hold a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing to discuss measures to protect Americans from the outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The first case of MERS on U.S. soil was detected in Indiana last week.

Spending watch: Health care spending for the elderly grew at the lowest rate in the last decade compared to all other age groups according to a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary published in the journal Health Affairs. Those 65 and older saw healthcare spending grow only 4.1 percent between 2002 and 2010. Among some of the possible causes, the agency says slower Medicare spending and continued slow growth in spending for nursing care facilities and continuing care retirement communities likely contributed to the low rate of growth.

 

Tuesday's schedule

The American Hospital Association will continue its annual membership meeting.

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans will continue its Washington Legislative Update event.

The National Council for Behavioral Health will continue its annual national conference, with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius set to deliver remarks. 

The Association of American Medical Colleges will hold a briefing on Capitol Hill about the U.S. physician shortage.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will hold a launch event for National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day. 

 

State by state

Colorado health care exchange faces financial challenges

Healthcare costs squeezing Long Island workers

New Healthcare navigator regulations being pushed in Missouri

State lawmaker says Obamacare signups like Nazi 'train rides'

 

Lobbying registrations

Lobbyit.com / AWARE Inc.

Lobbyit.com / American Case Management Association

Lobbyit.com / Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association

 

Reading list 

Hospitals’ purchase of doctors leads to higher prices, spending, study finds

First U.S. MERS patient improving, gets ready for discharge

Pfizer open to hostile option for AstraZeneca

Healthcare’s $85 billion challenge – uncompensated care in the Obamacare age

Polio spreading at alarming rates, World Health Organization declares

State exchanges, when working, helped boost enrollments

Can young blood reverse aging in old mice?

 

What you might have missed at The Hill

U.S. teen pregnancy is at an all-time low according to a new study.

Survey finds most top benefit providers think healthcare costs will rise due to ObamaCare

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wants powdered alcohol banned and an FDA investigation