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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

The emerging deal on food stamp spending, part of the House and Senate's ongoing negotiations over the farm bill, would include dollar savings, but would not kick anybody off the program -- a far cry from the bill passed by the House GOP this fall.

The framework of the deal is a dramatic comedown for Republicans, especially in the House, which already passed $40 billion in cuts to the food stamp program in September. The total cuts in the new deal would likely come in less than $10 billion -- Roll Call reported $8 billion as a possible figure Monday. It's a slight come-up for Senate Democrats, who passed a bill with $4 billion in cuts in the summer. The bulk of the spending cuts would come from an administrative fix, according to sources familiar with the talks.

But importantly for Democrats, no one would be removed from the program's rolls in the deal being finalized in the talks, being led by Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and House Agriculture Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK). The House-passed bill would have resulted in 3.6 million people losing food stamp benefits, according to outside estimates.

Specifics are still being ironed out, and the hope is that the committee will meet this week. Assuming that happens, the Senate could pass the bill before the end of the year and the House will follow suit when it returns in January.

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U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced Monday that he would not use his federally-funded employer subsidy to pay for health insurance under Obamacare.

Members of Congress are required to purchase insurance through the law's insurance marketplaces, but the federal government had ruled that they could still use their government-funded employer contribution to pay for it. Graham said Monday he would decline the contribution, which his office said would have covered about 75 percent of the costs.

“I don’t think Members of Congress should get a special deal,” Graham said in a statement. “Obamacare is being pushed on the American people and we should live under it just like everyone else.”

With HealthCare.gov working better and the first deadline to sign up for health coverage that starts in January approaching, Obamacare's so-called navigators -- the people and organizations receiving federal funds to help people enroll -- are seeing more and more people come through the doors and out to their events.

Navigators are community organizations, higher education institutions and government agencies. They keep offices and phone hot lines open and go out to community events, handing out flyers and giving presentations so people know how they can get insurance under the health care reform law. If somebody needs help navigating the insurance websites, they provide it. And with HealthCare.gov finally functioning, this has been their busiest time since the Oct. 1 launch.

But in 25 states, that robust interest has a downside: Navigators are forced to tell more and more people that they probably won't be able to get covered because their states, all of which had a GOP-controlled legislative chamber or governor, have refused to expand Medicaid. Lynne Thorp, who is overseeing the University of South Florida's navigator program in that state, told TPM that about one in four people who contact her team fall into that Medicaid gap.

"Those are hardest phone calls because it doesn't make any sense to them," Thorp said. "We have to explain that they fall into this gap where this program can't assist them."

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One of the outstanding issues for HealthCare.gov to resolve is bad or missing data being sent to insurers. But according to a new report, those problems are being fixed, too.

The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn cites an "administration official" saying that the error rate for the data files being sent to insurers had dropped from one in four in October to one in 10 currently. Insurance companies have complained on numerous occasions that they were receiving incorrect information from the site or no information at all.

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Rick Santorum said Thursday that Nelson Mandela had fought against "some great injustice" -- apartheid -- just as Republicans are fighting against the great injustice of Obamacare.

“He was fighting against some great injustice, and I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever-increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people’s lives -- and Obamacare is front and center in that,” Santorum said Thursday in an interview with Bill O'Reilly on Fox News.

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Jane Orient, a physician in Tucson, Ariz., says she's never accepted a dollar of third-party medical payments, whether from a government program or a private insurance company. She has a "philosophical and ethical" opposition to the U.S. health care infrastructure, and she's put it into practice for more than 20 years.

But with Obamacare set to take full effect in January, Orient says more and more physicians are joining with her in opting out of a payment system that she describes as co-opted by "insurance cartels" and the nanny state.

Orient is the executive director of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons, a free-market group that claims 4,000 members nationwide, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul himself hasn't endorsed physicians pulling out of the third-party system, but he has said that if a "right to health care" is invoked, then doctors could be conscripted against their will.

"It means you believe in slavery," Paul said in a clip from a Senate committee hearing posted by the AAPS YouTube account.

More than half of AAPS members have stopped accepting Medicaid payments, Orient says, though she stresses that they'll still see patients if they either pay for themselves or come to a free charity clinic. A smaller number of her membership is also bucking the private insurance industry, asking for direct payments from customers and telling them to seek reimbursements from their insurers on their own.

They see themselves as the front lines in the fight against a "plan ... to destroy the current infrastructure," as Orient put it in a recent interview with TPM. Winning that fight starts with convincing their peers and patients to break away from the system set up under the health care reform law.

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Enrollment on HealthCare.gov continued its upward swing this Tuesday, according to a report by the Washington Post.

Tuesday's enrollment was 27,000, the Post reported, citing "internal figures." As TPM reported Wednesday, enrollment on Sunday and Monday -- the first two days after the Obama administration declared the federal website fixed -- came in at 29,000.

That brings the three-day December total to roughly 56,000. Enrollment in all of October was less than 27,000 through HealthCare.gov.

Official November figures are expected to be released by the middle of December.

HealthCare.gov is having trouble transmitting data to state Medicaid agencies to verify that consumers are eligible for the program under Obamacare.

TPM reported Tuesday on the problem. A CMS official said that the automatic data transfer process is not yet fully functional, so Medicaid enrollment numbers through the federal website have not been finalized.

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States not expanding Medicaid under Obamacare will be collectively lose more than $35 billion in federal funds in 2022 alone, according to a new report from the Commonwealth Fund.

Texas ($9.2 billion), Florida ($5 billion), Georgia ($2.9 billion), Virginia ($2.8 billion) and North Carolina ($2.6 billion) will be the biggest losers, according to the organization, which supports Obamacare. The study's projections of the budget impact nearly a decade out relied on estimates of Medicaid expansion eligibility and spending in 2022 from the Urban Institute to reach its conclusion.

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Enrollment on HealthCare.gov in the first two days of December, after the Obama administration declared the website fixed, eclipsed enrollment in the entire month of October.

About 29,000 people signed up for health coverage on Sunday and Monday through the site, according to a source familiar with the numbers. October enrollment on HealthCare.gov totaled less than 27,000. State-specific data is not yet available, and the figures are preliminary.

The new enrollment data were first reported by Politico.

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