Republicans say the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has shown it's too easy for fake applicants to sign-up for health insurance through the federal exchange, but the agency counters it’s too early to draw conclusions.

The House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday about an undercover investigation by the GAO that found it was able to sign up 11 out of 12 fake applicants using false citizenship/immigration and income documents.

“The initial findings are deeply troubling to me,” said subcommittee Chairman Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Americans worried about retirement should look to employee ownership Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns MORE (R-La.). “We’re in an area, where tax credits are being utilized to undermine the program. ... These kinds of situations are intolerable, whether you are a Republican or a Democratic.”

However, Seto Bagdoyan, acting director of the GAO’s investigative services, said the investigation is too small to draw conclusions that people might be using fake documents to sign up for health insurance and receive federal subsidies.

Bagdoyan said the agency is using what it learned from the sting to expand its investigation, but he couldn’t provide any more details since the probe is ongoing. He says the GAO will provide an updated report in a few months to expand on the controls that are in place to stop people from signing up using false information. Read more: http://bit.ly/1ug6VXA.


Changes to birth-control mandate: The White House is developing a workaround to let religious nonprofits opt out of ObamaCare's contraception mandate without filing a form they say violates their religious beliefs, according to a senior administration official.

Religious nonprofits that do not want to provide free contraception to their workers can now opt out by submitting a Form 700 stating their religious objection to contraception. Insurance companies can then use the form to provide free contraception to workers and get tax credits from the government in return.

However, some religious organizations have objected to filling out the form because they argue it amounts to participation in providing birth control.

On Tuesday, a senior administration official said they are working on an alternative option for religious nonprofits that do not want to fill out the document and will issue a federal regulation in the next month. Read more: http://bit.ly/1qAzdul.


Committee approves health bills: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously approved six public health bills Wednesday, including measures promoting exercise (S. 531) and improved care for traumatic brain injuries (S. 2539).

At least two of the bills are likely to become law this year. Already passed by the House, one would expand the federal definition of trauma (S. 2406) and the other would reauthorize programs to improve emergency care (S. 2405).

Committee Chairman Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinDem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Trump should require federal contractors to follow the law MORE (D-Iowa) singled out the bill on physical activity, which would require federal health officials to publish a report every 10 years with exercise recommendations.

"This important bill will help ensure that all Americans have access to the information they need to support an active and healthy lifestyle by giving them clear, science-based guidelines on physical activity," Harkin said in a statement.


ObamaCare still unpopular: Fifty-nine percent of registered voters oppose the Affordable Care Act in a poll released Wednesday, a figure largely unchanged since March.

According to the CNN poll, another 40 percent are in favor of the law.

The law's favorability has increased 5 percent since December, when it received its lowest rating yet amid the shaky rollout of the healthcare exchanges.

CNN noted that 38 percent oppose the law because it is too liberal, while 17 percent oppose it because it is not liberal enough.

When asked if they are better off because of the healthcare law, a plurality of respondents, 46 percent, say their family is about the same. Thirty-five percent believe other families around the country are better off now because of the law. Read more http://bit.ly/1rLQTA5.


Thursday’s schedule:

The House Ways and Means subcommittee on health is holding a hearing on the “Future of Medicare Advantage Health Plans.”


State by state:

Mass. House debating abortion clinic safety bill: http://bit.ly/1kVsTFT

KC-area clinic to be one of first to offer HIV drug as preventive measure: http://bit.ly/1rBY3JM

Rhode Island hospital to pay Mass. attorney general $150k in data breach:http://bit.ly/1nVCXia

New Texas law led to statewide drop in abortions, report says: http://bit.ly/1nVDXmh


Lobbying registration:

Sustainable Strategies DC/ Greater Johnstown Regional Partnership

VENN STRATEGIES, LLC/ Safe Vision Alliance


Reading list:

Clyburn announces State Medicaid Expansion Caucus: http://bit.ly/1rC0snM

Bob Dole won't give up on disability treaty: http://cbsn.ws/1kcFVUA

Report: Hispanic Americans need tailored heart care http://reut.rs/1ruBwNg

Did the Supreme Court already tip its hand on Obamacare subsidies?: http://wapo.st/1nBKuZa

TRICARE increases mental healthcare providers: http://bit.ly/UoH7rP

Senate panel backs McDonald for VA secretary: http://bit.ly/1jW1Sae


What you might have missed at The Hill:

Groups accuse Tennessee of stalling Medicaid enrollments: http://bit.ly/WDv8IE

CDC official resigns after anthrax scare: http://bit.ly/1tBHmvW

Advocates call on lawmakers to expand palliative care: http://bit.ly/UtCNqV

Burwell appoints new counselor from Wal-Mart: http://bit.ly/UtCOv8

Investigation exposes holes in ObamaCare sign-up system: http://bit.ly/1rtzqxb