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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 Bill Clinton said Tuesday that President Obama should do whatever it takes to fulfill his pledge that if Americans like their current health plan, they can keep it under Obamacare.

In an interview with OZY, Clinton said he had been talking to a young American with a family who had had his old health plan canceled and seen his premiums increase when it was replaced with an Obamacare-compliant plan. Clinton said the man said some of his benefits were better -- his co-pays and deductibles are lower -- but because he's young and healthy, that might not end up helping him or his family much.

It's those people -- young, healthy and affluent -- who took Obama's pledge to heart, Clinton said, and the administration should do what it takes to make things right with them.

"I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got," Clinton said.

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This week, the Obama administration will release its first official data on how many people have enrolled in health insurance under Obamacare.

The figures are highly anticipated. Reporters and members of Congress have been seeking them doggedly, only to be shut down by administration officials. It will be the first official check-up on how the health reform law is doing in actually getting people to sign up for its product.

If nothing else, we'll likely get a top-line number: Here are the number of people who have enrolled in coverage in the first month. That will tell us something, but how much can really be learned depends on how much additional information the administration releases.

Policy wonks aren't particularly optimistic that there will be much to glean from this week's data dump. So here's a useful way of thinking about the numbers.

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Between 40,000 and 50,000 people have enrolled in health insurance through HealthCare.gov as of last week, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The Obama administration is expected to release official enrollment data this week.

Citing "two people familiar with the matter," the newspaper reported that "private health plans have received enrollment data for between 40,000 and 50,000 federal marketplace customers."

HealthCare.gov serves more than 30 states. Earlier Monday, an independent analysis had concluded that about 50,000 people have enrolled so far through state-run marketplaces, which operate in 14 states and Washington, D.C.

The Obama administration had set a pre-launch goal of 500,000 October enrollments.

Nearly 50,000 people have enrolled in health insurance through state-run insurance marketplaces set up under Obamacare, according to a new analysis, one of the few early glimpses into how many people have signed up for coverage under Obamacare.

The federal government is expected to release enrollment data for HealthCare.gov, which serves more than 30 states, later this week.

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In an interview with NBC News last week, President Barack Obama apologized to Americans that his "If you like your health plan, you can keep it" pledge had not been kept and people's health insurance policies were in fact being canceled.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," Obama said. "We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this."

But that apology came with a few asterisks. For starters, Obama implied that this wasn't supposed to happen, that these canceled plans were some bug in the implementation of the law that his administration hadn't intended.

"First of all, I meant what I said. And we worked hard to try to make sure that we implemented it properly. But obviously, we didn't do a good enough job, and I regret that," he said. "Obviously, we didn't do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law. That's something that I regret. That's something that we're going to do everything we can to get fixed."

That struck health policy experts, even those supportive of the law, as an odd thing for the president to say. Obamacare was designed to disrupt the individual market, where medical underwriting had led to discrimination and high prices for a lot of people. The way that the law tried to correct some of those flaws was requiring comprehensive coverage, mandating that insurers cover everybody and effectively combining all of the market's participants into one big risk pool.

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The Obama administration is reportedly considering expanding the subsidies available to buy health insurance policies under Obamacare as a means of helping people who have recently seen their plans canceled or premiums increased.

The Huffington Post reported Friday that the proposed fix would assist people who must replace their existing plans with a new Obamacare plan but whose income (400 percent of the federal poverty level and above) is too high to qualify for financial assistance under the law. An official told Huffington Post that the White House is "looking at an administrative fix for the population of people in the individual market who may have an increase in premiums, but don’t get subsidies.”

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About one in five uninsured Americans have visited the online insurance marketplaces created by Obamacare, according to a new Gallup poll.

Gallup found that 18 percent of the uninsured had visited the sites, which include HealthCare.gov, the troubled federal site that serves more than 30 states. Among the uninsured who say they do plan to use the marketplaces to purchase insurance, the number who have visited the marketplaces ticks up to 22 percent.

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In an interview with NBC News, President Barack Obama apologized Thursday that people were seeing their health insurance policies canceled under Obamacare, despite the president's earlier pledge that they woud not.

"I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," Obama said, according to a portion of an interview released by NBC News. "We've got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and we are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this."

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Ten Republican senators have signed a letter to President Barack Obama, demanding that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius be forced to resign over HealthCare.gov

The letter was authored by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and signed by Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Enzi (R-WY), James Risch (R-ID), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John Barrasso (R-WY), James Inhofe (R-OK), and Rand Paul (R-KY).

A group of 32 House Republicans have also called on Sebelius to resign. The letter's text is below.

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC  20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

 

We write today to formally request that you immediately relieve Secretary Sebelius of her duties as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

 

After the failed October 1 launch of the federally-run Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) exchanges, HealthCare.gov, it must be acknowledged that the problems are profound, systemic and undeniable. The website repeatedly crashed. Many visitors were unable to create accounts. Individuals have reported waiting for days to register online and being put on hold for hours after calling the 1-800 helpline. Even after visitors create accounts, they are often unable to access accurate information about subsidies and Medicaid eligibility.  And when a user does select an insurance plan, insurers have reported that Healthcare.gov transmits error-filled applications to the insurance companies.  In addition, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials will not report how many individuals or families have been able to enroll in a plan on HealthCare.gov.

 

Regrettably, these problems were diagnosed early and ignored. The New York Times reports, “Confidential progress reports from the Health and Human Services Department show that senior officials repeatedly expressed doubts that the computer systems for the federal exchange would be ready on time” (From the Start, Signs of Trouble at Health Portal, October 12, 2013). The Government Accountability Office also issued warnings in June that HHS had to address many issues in a very short timeframe before the October 1 rollout. The contractor “status report” from early September warned that significant milestones were being missed and that timeframes were too short. Tests done just days before the launch reportedly showed the computer systems couldn't handle more than a few hundred hits at a time. However, the Secretary refused to give credence to these warnings. 

 

In the days immediately following the launch, when it was apparent that problems were deep-seeded, Secretary Sebelius misled the public by claiming the issues were the result of high volume. According to her statements to the press, she even failed to inform you, the President under whom she serves, until days after the website launch that there were systemic problems needing millions more dollars and man hours to fix.

 

There is bipartisan agreement that accountability is paramount. Your former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, “When they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people that were in charge of making sure that this thing was supposed to work.”

 

While assurances have been made that solutions are forthcoming, we have little confidence that immediate resolution is imminent. After spending more than $400 million on the failed website, taxpayers should not trust the same failed leadership to fix it. We believe that action must be taken swiftly to protect the American people from further fallout. If a similar rollout from any other national company or private sector business resulted in overwhelming and sustained problems, a high profile dismissal would be expected and appropriate.

 

Even worse, millions of Americans will lose their existing coverage starting January 1, 2014, because it does not meet new Obamacare requirements.  These people could be left without any insurance at all if the exchange systems are not working soon.

 

For these reasons, we ask that you relieve Secretary Sebelius of her position as Secretary of Health and Human Services immediately.  

TPMLivewire