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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 Obama administration will require insurance companies to give people enrolling in health coverage under Obamacare until the ball drops on New Year's Eve to pay their first premium -- and is encouraging carriers to be even more flexible.

The new rules and recommendations were set out Thursday. They come amid growing concerns that people who have signed up for coverage, but have not yet paid their first premium, might see their coverage interrupted or delayed if they forget to pay that initial amount.

The administration will require insurers to accept premium payments through Dec. 31 for coverage that starts on Jan. 1.

On top of that, the administration is urging companies to allow people to make their first payment after Jan. 1 and apply their coverage retroactively to the first of the year. But carriers will have discretion about whether they will implement that policy.

The Obama administration is giving people enrolled in a special insurance plan for those with pre-existing conditions an extra month to sign up for new coverage under Obamacare.

People enrolled in the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan -- created as a bridge to 2014, when insurers can no longer discriminate against who have pre-existing conditions -- can remain enrolled in the plan through January, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday. It had been set to expire at the end of the year.

The plan provides insurance to those high-risk enrollees who were often refused coverage by private insurers prior to the health care reform law because of their medical conditions. It was created when the law was passed in 2010 as a means of providing some people with insurance until the law took full effect next year.

The administration said it made the move so that those enrolled through the program would not experience a lapse in coverage starting Jan. 1. It gives them more time to consider their options -- and ensures that they won't be left without coverage because of problems with HealthCare.gov.

Singer Adam Levine -- People's 2013 Sexiest Man Alive -- is among the celebrities being tapped to promote Obamacare as the law's first enrollment deadline approaches, Bloomberg reports.

The social media campaign -- which will also include actress Fran Drescher (known for "The Nanny" TV series) and actor Kal Penn (Kumar of "Harold and Kumar") -- will launch on Thursday. It will include online videos and outreach on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

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The ongoing problems with Oregon's state-based Obamacare website mean roughly 30,000 people who have applied for health coverage might not see it start on Jan. 1, 2014, as expected.

The Statesman Journal reported that about half of the 65,000 paper applications that the state has received -- the move to paper was necessitated by the broken website -- appear to be incomplete or have errors that prevent officials from processing them.

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Obamacare enrollment picked up in November, more than doubling the low numbers seen in October after HealthCare.gov's troubled rollout, but the pace still lags behind the targets set by the Obama administration.

More than 250,000 people enrolled in private plans last month through HealthCare.gov and the state-based marketplaces, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Add in the 100,000-plus who enrolled in October, and the two-month total comes to nearly 365,000.

But that figure falls short of the administration's pre-launch goals. The White House had been aiming for 500,000 private enrollments in October alone. By the end of 2013, the target was 3.3 million, leaving the administration with a lot of ground to make up this month.

Administration officials still expressed confidence that they could reach their ultimate goal: 7 million enrollees by March 31, 2014.

"We think we're on track, and we'll reach the total that we thought," Michael Hash, whose office is overseeing Obamacare implementation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told reporters Tuesday. "We're only two and a half months into a six-month open enrollment period. Based upon experience such as that in Massachusetts, we expect that a bulk of enrollees will occur toward the end of the enrollment period."

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Going into 2014, the United States is split down the middle: 25 states (plus Washington, D.C.) have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and 25 states have not.

Those 25 non-expanding states have left five million people below the poverty line uncovered under the health care reform law, but the White House isn't giving up the fight. Administration officials is actively stumping for expansion, holding conference calls with local officials and reporters and attending advocacy events in 11 of the non-expanding states since the beginning of November.

They think they've got quite a pitch. The federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs through 2016 and never less than 90 percent after that. That deal has already won over some GOP governors, and Obamacare supporters hope it will convince more. That's the leverage the administration and others plan to wield against skeptical state officials.

"I'm not sure there's a very good case for state legislators or governors to explain to people why they oppose Medicaid expansion," White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in response to a question from TPM during a Monday conference call. "It's unfortunate when the stakes are this high, when we're talking about giving people access to quality, affordable health insurance that there are still some politicians who would allow politics to get in the way. That is a tough case to make publicly."

Community organizations and lobbying groups for the medical industry have pledged to push state legislatures when they reconvene in the next year. For their biggest prize -- Texas -- they'll have to wait until lawmakers come back in 2015.

But the battle for many of the other states will begin in the new year. Here's a look at five states among the most likely to reverse course and expand Medicaid in the near future.

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The Obama administration has approved Iowa's alternative plan for expanding Medicaid under Obamacare -- but with one important tweak, which state officials will have to sign off on.

The approval was first reported by the Washington Post. A spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad (R), who proposed the alternative plan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Several Obamacare advocates told the Los Angeles Times that they've effectively given up relying on the White House for support in reaching out to people about the law and enrolling them in health coverage.

Their vocal frustrations speak to the rift that has grown between the administration and the advocacy community since the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov.

"The refrain we most often hear is: 'Where is the administration?'" M. Ryan Barker, vice president of the Missouri Foundation for Health, which has been working to support implementation in that state, told the newspaper. "It is very frustrating."

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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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