OVERNIGHT HEALTH: Uninsured rate headed for new low

The percent of Americans without insurance is on track to reach a historic low after the country’s unprecedented surge in healthcare sign-ups last year, newly released government data show. About 9.7 million people gained coverage in ObamaCare’s first year, reflecting the biggest jump since the government’s healthcare programs were expanded 40 years ago, according to a study by the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA).

A total of 11.3 percent of Americans were uninsured in the first half of this year, down from 14.4 percent last year before the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. “Following this year’s gains, we estimate that the nation’s uninsured rate is now at or near the lowest levels ever recorded across the slightly more than 50 years for which we have data,” CEA Chairman Jason FurmanJason FurmanTrillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and hardly a voice of caution to be heard Billionaires paid lower tax rate than working class for first time in US history: study Economy adds 130K jobs in August, falling below expectations MORE and Senior Economist Matt Fiedler wrote Thursday.

And the numbers are likely to keep improving in the second year of ObamaCare, the economists predicted. “These data imply that the uninsured rate will continue to fall in the year ahead, reaching low levels unprecedented in the nation’s history,” they wrote on the White House blog, describing the feat as a “historic accomplishment.” Read more here.

Hospital payments up as care improves: More hospitals will be rewarded with bigger payments from Medicare because of improved patient ratings this year, a sign that incentives under ObamaCare are helping to improve treatment. The number of hospitals receiving extra money from Medicare this year will outnumber those docked for subpar treatment for the first time, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced Thursday.

A total of 1,714 hospitals will receive extra payments from the federal government this year, compared to 1,375 hospitals with shrinking payments because of poor ratings. That marks a reversal of previous years, when most hospitals had scores too low to make them eligible for the extra federal dollars. Read more here.

HHS hit with FOIA suit: The conservative advocacy group challenging the validity of billions of dollars in ObamaCare subsidies is suing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for failing to respond to public records requests connected to the case. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) announced its suit on Thursday, claiming that HHS is "stonewalling" on three Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that probe the development of the federal exchange and its ability to offer tax credits. 

The three requests were filed in the first two weeks of September. One, sent Sept. 8, asks for all communications between HHS and Jonathan Gruber, the consultant now infamous for commenting that the "stupidity" of U.S. voters helped the Affordable Care Act become law. "Our document requests go to the heart of an important question: What did HHS think of Obamacare subsidies, and when did it think it?" said CEI general counsel Sam Kazman in a statement. "Given the current debate over this issue, HHS has no business stonewalling our request." Read more here.

Prepared for an outbreak? Major gaps exist in the country’s capacity to handle public health crises like Ebola despite massive government spending over the last decade, according to a new report. Inadequate funding, weak leadership and uneven standards are all putting Americans at risk for infectious diseases, according to an extensive 112-page report by the Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

“Much of the nation’s approach to fighting infectious disease has not been modernized in decades,” the report warns. “There have been troubling errors, lapses and scrambles to recreate practices and policies that were supposed to have been long considered and well established.”

Nearly half of states received failing scores on the National Health Security Preparedness Index, which measures states’ health spending, vaccination rates, food testing and HIV/AIDS prevention. Read more here.

State by state:

Ala. takes step toward overhauling Medicaid delivery

Wyo. lawmakers endorse Indiana-style Medicaid expansion

Feds reject La.'s Medicaid drug payment formula

Mo. rep pushes for bill requiring father's signature for abortion

What we're reading:

IRS partners with tax preparer groups, but warns of rogue preparers

257K docs will get Medicare pay cut for using paper records

Spending measure allows abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers

Looking outside the government box for suitable health coverage

Irish face new abortion row over brain-dead woman

What you might have missed:

UK report: WHO failed on Ebola

More people say healthcare is 'hardship' after ObamaCare, poll finds

Poll: Majority likes employer mandate, dislikes ObamaCare


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