OVERNIGHT HEALTH: O-Care numbers inflated, HHS admits

A GOP investigation into ObamaCare enrollment figures has confirmed what many in the party have long alleged: the administration did not meet its target of 7 million sign-ups in the first year. 

While President Obama has said enrollment reached 7.3 million, the House Oversight Committee has found that total included about 400,000 people enrolled only in dental plans.  

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The GOP have seized on the inflated figures even as the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) maintained that the mistake was not intentional.

“While we understand some will be skeptical, our clarity that this is a mistake and the fact that we have quickly corrected the numbers should give people confidence,” Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell wrote during an online chat hosted by MSNBC.

But Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaCalifornia Republicans seek turnout boost to avert midterm disaster Is Paul Ryan the latest sign of crumbling Republican Party? Lawmakers question FBI director on encryption MORE (R-Calif.), who chairs the Oversight committee, said he doesn’t trust that the error was unintentional.

“The claim that this was only accident stretches credulity,” Issa wrote in a statement.

Issa is one of several Republicans demanding answers about the administration’s slip-up, as part of an overall effort to further undermine the law.

Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchSenate Finance leaders call on Commerce to improve the tariff-exclusion process GOP senators raise concerns about babies on Senate floor House passes series of bills to improve IRS MORE (R-Utah), the likely incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee next year, condemned the Obama administration for what he called a "numbers game."  

"Creative accounting aside, there are still many more questions the administration needs to answer regarding these numbers," Hatch said. Read more here.

Costs rise for popular plans: The average price of the most popular ObamaCare health insurance plans rose 10 percent for 2015, according to a new study of premium figures published Friday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Consulting firm Avalere Health analyzed the monthly price of the lowest-cost silver plan in each region. Twenty-eight percent of all marketplace enrollees chose the lowest-cost silver plan available to them.

Not only are premiums increasing, but if consumers do not pick a different plan, they could pay more due to annual changes in how subsidies are calculated. Read more here.

Abortion coverage in O-Care plans? Anti-abortion activists are claiming that the Obama administration is still ignoring its promise to allow healthcare customers to opt out of plans that cover abortions. Under ObamaCare, every state is required to offer at least one plan that does not cover abortion. But research from the Family Research Council and the Charlotte Lozier Institute has found that at least three states — with more than 100 plans altogether — are still not complying.

“The 2015 enrollment appears to be shaping up to include more abortion plans and companies switching policies to cover abortion on demand,” a coalition of conservative groups wrote Thursday. Criticism of the elective abortion plans is heating up more than a month after an investigation by the Government Accountability Office first found that more than 1,000 plans nationally were potentially violating federal law. 

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), co-chairman of the Pro Life Caucus, said he has demanded answers for months from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with no answer. 

“Can you imagine that? I’m in Rayburn [House office building]. I can throw a baseball and hit HHS and we can’t get any answer from them. It’s unbelievable,” Smith told The Hill. Read more here

People from Ebola countries can stay: The Obama administration is granting temporary protected status to roughly 8,000 people living in the United States whose home countries are stricken with Ebola. The move by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is intended to protect people from being deported back to places experiencing disaster conditions.

The government will allow people from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to apply for protection from deportation and for work permits that last 18 months, officials told Reuters. Grants of protected status will be re-evaluated after that period based on the state of the Ebola epidemic. DHS is placing several limits on the policy. Read more here

 

Friday’s schedule:

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) will give opening remarks at the Conference on Clinical Cancer Research, hosted by Friends of Cancer Research and the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will speak about the Ebola outbreak at the National Press Club.

 

State by state:

Montana Medicaid expansion plan is unveiled

Mississippi’s last abortion clinic stays open for now

Ohio governor defends Medicaid expansion

Florida warns company: Drop the word ObamaCare

 

Reading list:

How businesses are preparing for ObamaCare’s Cadillac tax

Why ObamaCare won’t stop the healthcare cost crisis

CDC: Many people who drink a lot aren’t alcoholics  

 

What you might have missed at The Hill:

Top policy group: SCOTUS move puts healthcare at stake

Pair exits DLA Piper to form healthcare consulting firm

Poll: Majority say universal healthcare coverage not a government role 

Medicaid spending soars under ObamaCare

SEC warns investors of Ebola stock scams

 

Please send tips and comments to Sarah Ferris, sferris@thehill.com, and Elise Viebeck, eviebeck@thehill.com.

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