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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 last few times that the Obama administration has released a new Obamacare enrollment report or announced a new enrollment milestone, a familiar chorus has come up from the right: Those numbers aren't quite right.

It happened again Thursday when the White House proclaimed six million people had signed up for private coverage under the law.

The origin of the criticsm is based in very legitimate questions about the numbers: How many of those people paid their first premium, formally initiating their new coverage? How many were previously uninsured, rather than previously insured people who just moved over to a new plan?

But those are questions the Obama administration says it isn't able to answer yet. Premiums are paid directly to the insurance companies, and the administration says it doesn't yet have accurate information about how many people have paid them. The online application on HealthCare.gov doesn't include a question about an applicant's prior insurance status, which makes that metric difficult to track.

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Of the many ways Republicans might target Obamacare if they win the Senate this fall, at least one should have a decent chance of earning the approval of the White House: repealing the law's employer mandate.

The employer mandate is supposed to require companies with more than 50 employees to provide health coverage to their workers or pay a fine. It's unpopular with the business community, though the general public supports it.

If the GOP held the House and the Senate, insiders expect the employer mandate to be a likely target for their anti-Obamacare agenda. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), in line to assume control of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, has already introduced a repeal bill this Congress.

"If things were to turn, if Republicans were to take a simple majority, I think this would be one of the top things that Republicans would look at," Amanda Austin, health policy expert for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit to overturn Obamacare and one major force behind the repeal effort, told TPM.

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In what must be considered a victory for the little-known but very real knife rights movement, the Tennessee legislature has repealed the state's ban on switchblades.

The Associated Press reported that switchblades and knives longer than four inches had been included on a state list of weapons that could not been knowingly possessed or sold. The legislation removed that prohibition and doubled the maximum fine for using a switchblade while committing a felony.

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A group of moderate Senate Democrats, including several in tough reelection races this fall, proposed Thursday a package of "fixes" to the Affordable Care Act.

Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA), Mark Begich (AK), Mark Warner (VA), Joe Manchin (WV) and Angus King (I-ME) released the proposals in tandem, along with a co-written op-ed in Politico. Begich and Landrieu have particularly tough reelection bids, already taking a hammering from conservative groups for their support of Obamacare.

"As I have said from the beginning, the Affordable Care Act is not perfect," Landrieu said in a statement. "No law is. That is why I am happy to join with several of my colleagues to put forth some ideas to make it work even better. I hope some, if not all of these, suggestions will gain support from Republicans and Democrats to become law."

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The thinking is so ingrained now that it seems superfluous to point it out: Republicans are convinced that Obamacare's unpopularity will propel them to midterm victories in November, enough to take back control of the Senate and therefore Congress. Simple as that.

“I don’t think there’s any serious observer that believes Democrats can take the House, and the Senate is slipping away from them,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said last week. “That’s because Americans are hurting from this law.”

But a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation might bring the GOP's certainty into question: 53 percent of Americans, including 51 percent of independents, say they're tired of debating Obamacare and think that the country should focus on other issues.

Even among Republicans, the numbers are almost evenly split: 47 percent are tired of the debate, while 49 percent think it should continue.

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The deadline to sign up for health coverage through Obamacare is less than a week away, give or take, but most uninsured Americans don't know it, according to a new poll.

The Kaiser Family Foundation's monthly tracking poll found that 60 percent of uninsured people couldn't come up with the March 31 deadline when asked. And relatedly: 50 percent said that they expected to remain uninsured.

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Obamacare's open enrollment ends next week. Soon after, the Obama administration will announce how many people -- with a few caveats -- signed up for private health coverage through the law for 2014.

At that point, the evaluation will truly begin. Some on the right will inevitably observe that the law fell well short of the original Congressional Budget Office projection of 7 million enrollees. Others on the left will likely counter that it still hit (or came close) to the revised 6 million projection that CBO made after the disastrous launch of HealthCare.gov. Charles Gaba, who has been tracking the enrollment process, anticipates 6.2 million enrollments.

None of that really matters. Health policy experts and insurance companies themselves agree that the raw number of enrollees isn't really significant when the difference is 6 million versus 7 million. If nobody had signed up, that would have been a problem. But that didn't happen.

The real data for measuring Obamacare's success aren't in yet, but they eventually will be. At the top of the list: What happens with premiums in 2015? Plus: Do insurance companies leave the market or enter it? And the ultimate barometer: Has the number of uninsured Americans dropped significantly?

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