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Dylan Scott

Dylan Scott is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He previously reported for Governing magazine in Washington, D.C., and the Las Vegas Sun. His work has been recognized with a 2013 American Society of Business Publication Editors award for Best Feature Series and a 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio award for Best Investigative Reporting. He can be reached at dylan@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Dylan

President Obama defended the Affordable Care Act in a Tuesday speech, asserting that HealthCare.gov is working better and people are getting covered.

"The bottom line is this law is working and will work into the future," he said at the White House. "People want the financial stability of health insurance, and we're going to keep on working to fix whatever problems come up in any startup or launch of a project this big that has an impact on one-sixth of our economy."

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Nearly 1.5 million Americans have enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program since the state Obamacare marketplaces went live on Oct. 1, according to a new report released Tuesday.

The report from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the most comprehensive look yet at how the low-income public insurance programs are faring under the health care reform law. It covers the month of October, and CMS said that more reports would be released on a monthly basis.

The total includes both those who are newly eligible for Medicaid in states that expanded the program and those in all states who were already eligible. They were funneled to the program both through the state-based insurance marketplaces that have opened under Obamacare and other sources (applying through local government offices, etc.).

Coverage for those newly eligible under the Medicaid expansion starts on Jan. 1, 2014.

It does not, however, include those deemed eligible through HealthCare.gov, which is serving 36 states. According to CMS, the automatic transfer of applications from the federal website to state Medicaid agencies is not yet fully functional, so those numbers haven't been finalized. In the administration's last enrollment report, it said that 183,000 people in states using HealthCare.gov had been found eligible for Medicaid.

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President Barack Obama will aim to redirect the conversation about HealthCare.gov and the health care reform law in a Tuesday speech, emphasizing its benefits for Americans and warning about the dangers of repealing it.

It's yet another reboot of the White House's messaging campaign, a few days after the administration declared the insurance website fixed. The speech is the start of a three-week push, according to Politico, which first reported the White House's plans. That would take it up to Dec. 23, the last day people can enroll in a health plan that starts in January.

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HealthCare.gov, the federal website that serves 36 states, is basically fixed, according to the Obama administration. Some might quibble -- what about the back end, for instance -- but it is undoubtedly performing much better than it was in October.

As for the 15 Obamacare websites being operated by states (including Washington, D.C.), their performances are currently all over the proverbial map. Kentucky is almost universally regarded as the best, as TPM has reported, but what about the rest?

It's an inexact science, but a look at the enrollment data they've released as well as the headlines that they've attracted is a useful starting point. Here are three of the best and three of the worst performing state-run marketplaces.

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House Oversight Chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) sent letters Wednesday to 15 insurance companies demanding copies of their correspondence with the Obama administration in an effort to determine if the administration knew in advance that people could lose access to their doctors or have their existing health insurance policies canceled under Obamacare.

The letters were sent to major insurance companies -- Aetna, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealth Group among them. Issa asks for a response by Dec. 13.

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Administration officials boasted Monday that a significant bug on HealthCare.gov's back-end had been fixed, but then would not say how many people had been affected by the issue.

Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters that one bug involving Social Security numbers was responsible for 80 percent of the errors in data being transmitted to insurers when people submitted their applications through the website. That error -- a significant source of concern for insurers -- has been fixed, she said.

But when multiple reporters pressed Bataille to quantify what number or what percentage of applications had been transmitted with bad data, she said she could not provide any additional information.

"That is not something I have available," she said.

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Fixing HealthCare.gov, for which the Obama administration claimed victory this weekend, should help to put the public relations fiasco of the Obamacare website in the past. Consumers should finally be able to log onto a website that (mostly) works.

But that's not the end of the story for the President's signature legislative achievement. More still needs to be done, both within the website and outside of it, before it could be deemed a success. The White House has a to-do list of sorts, with items that need to be checked off over the next year. Here are five.

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The end of November has arrived, as has the Obama administration's self-imposed deadline to get HealthCare.gov working smoothly for the vast majority of users.

So how will we know if it is?

The White House's bottom line is: The site's capacity has now been doubled to handle 50,000 users at a time, up to 800,000 per day. In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, Jeff Zients, who has been tasked with overseeing the fixes, said that the administration believes that's enough capacity to meet demand.

There will be times when the site isn't working perfectly, Zients acknowledged. A senior administration official told TPM that HealthCare.gov sometimes saw as many as 250,000 users at once during its first month.

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The Obama administration is planning a soft launch for the Spanish-language version of HealthCare.gov in early December, after a two-month delay, a senior administration official told TPM Tuesday.

The site's enrollment tools will go live in the near future, and the administration plans to ask key outreach groups -- Enroll America, Planned Parenthood, Voto Latino among them -- to guide users through the process and provide feedback, the official said. It will be live for anyone to use, but, at first, the launch won't be widely advertised. Instead, the administration is hoping to identify any problems with the site's performance by testing it with select organizations and their constituents.

The administration was forced to delay enrollment on the Spanish-language website, which currently offers only informational materials, shortly before HealthCare.gov launched on Oct. 1. The enrollment tools were initially expected to go live in mid-October, but were then effectively delayed indefinitely after that deadline passed.

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Despite the supposed efforts of Senate Democrats and the White House to change the subject -- first through a historic change to the Senate's filibuster rules and then by reaching a tentative deal with Iran on its nuclear program -- Republicans have pledged to keep the country focused on the disastrous rollout of Obamacare.

It's a trainwreck. The president broke his promises. Democrats are running away from it.

No distraction will deter them -- and they've got a plan. As the New York Times reported last week, the House GOP has a detailed blueprint for how its members should be messaging about the health care reform law. It encourages a focus on broken promises and anecdotes of the law's negative impact. And, by and large, the GOP is operating by that playbook: highlighting national and local new reports of Obamacare problems, pushing accounts from people deemed losers under the new law, and trumpeting the troubles of HealthCare.gov.

The White House and Democrats have their own messaging push, too, including conference calls with reporters nearly every weekday. But for those who don't receive press releases day in and day out from the GOP, it might be hard to appreciate how relentless their messaging push has been. Here is a sampling of what's flowed into our inbox in just the last week (except for one particularly good example), culled from House and Senate Republican offices, as well as the Republican National Committee.

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