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 is planning an ad blitz for Obamacare during the Winter Olympics next month, according to Politico.

The administration told the news outlet that significant ad spots had been purchased in markets with high rates of uninsured. They will run during NBC's coverage of the Sochi Olympics from Feb. 7 to Feb. 23. The ads will be catered toward young uninsured people and their families.

The buy was motivated in part because viewership for other sports or primetime programming typically decreases during the Olympics, Politico reported.

The administration did not confirm the full dollar size of the ad campaign.

To anyone who will listen, the White House has been emphasizing and re-emphasizing that the key to Obamacare's success isn't what raw number of people signs up for health coverage -- it's who signs up.

That has partially been a case of backtracking after HealthCare.gov's early troubles had made the administration's raw enrollment goals difficult to achieve. But it's also true. Insurance carriers can't discriminate against older and sicker people anymore, so they need young (and presumably healthier) people to balance them out.

And now we've gotten some of the first numbers from state-based Obamacare marketplaces, providing the initial glimpse of the demographics of the first wave of enrollees. Here are the percentages of enrollees between ages 18 and 34, from six states, including California, the most populous:

  • California: 21 percent
  • Colorado: 18 percent
  • Kentucky: 32 percent*
  • Maryland: 25 percent
  • Rhode Island: 20 percent
  • Washington: 18 percent
At first glance, those figures don't look all that great. But the full story is a bit more complicated. (The Obama administration hasn't released any demographic data on Obamacare enrollees from the 36 states being served by HealthCare.gov yet.)

So let's break down the numbers.

First off, how many young and healthy enrollees Obamacare actually needs to work economically has become a source of serious and often conflicting discussion. There's no bright line, some percentage above which the insurance market is guaranteed to flourish and below which it is doomed to a death spiral.

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A Maryland congressman has proposed exploring an unexpected solution for his state's troubled Obamacare website: moving its operations to HealthCare.gov.

Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) asked the Maryland Department of Health in a letter Monday to examine the pros and cons of making the transition, either partially or fully. He noted that the state has only signed up about 18,250 people for private coverage thus far, about 12 percent of its goal of 150,000 by the end of March.

The state site has been dealing with technical problems since its Oct. 1 launch, though officials had asserted in mid-December that its major issues had been resolved. It is one of 14 states operating its own Obamacare marketplace.

"The ACA can accomplish two very important things: ensuring all Americans have access to health care and bending the cost curve on health care expenditures," Delaney wrote. "For the ACA to accomplish these objectives, however, it must be implemented correctly. Effective implementation includes a large number of Americans successfully enrolling in private health care coverage."

A spokesperson for the health department told the Wall Street Journal that the state was still exploring all options, including whether it would be possible to use part of the federal system.

The GOP's relentless assault on Obamacare hasn't succeeded in repealing or defunding the law, but it has managed to do something: prevent a lot of uninsured Americans from getting health insurance.

With three months of Obamacare enrollment completed, the effect of the Republican intransigence on health care reform can be seen in new data compiled by Theda Skocpol, professor of government and sociology at Harvard University and director of the Scholars Strategy Network.

Though it is a federal law, the Affordable Care Act is a program that relies on states. States had the opportunity to set up its own health insurance marketplace, and states were heavily incentivized to expand Medicaid to cover their poor -- though the choice was up to them.

Largely as a result of the entrenched opposition of state GOP leaders, only 14 states (plus D.C.) have built their own marketplaces, and just half the states decided to expand Medicaid in the first year. Heading into 2014, those two state-based decisions have created a huge disparity between states under the law.

Skocpol has quantified that disparity in the chart above -- see the larger version. She's attempted to measure how much progress different groups of states -- those that both expanded Medicaid and built their marketplace, for example -- have made in signing their residents up for private coverage and Medicaid under Obamacare.

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Obamacare's opponents are running out of options to stop the law.

The Supreme Court upheld it in the summer of 2012. President Obama was re-elected a few months later. The congressional GOP's strategy of shutting down the federal government to de-fund the law proved a disaster.

That might help explain why the conservative movement's latest tactics seem a little more desperate -- and, according to experts, equally unlikely to succeed.

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U.S. Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) asked the National Security Agency in a letter Friday if it had spied on members of Congress.

Sanders cited recent revelations that the NSA has collected information on American citizens, actions that he called "clearly unconstitutional," and spied on foreign leaders.

"I am writing today to ask you one very simple question. Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?" he wrote in the letter to NSA director Keith Alexander.

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In a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 11 Republican state attorneys general slammed the Obama administration's fix for people whose health policies have been canceled under Obamacare, saying that the new policy was based on "illegal executive actions."

The letter, sent Dec. 26 and publicly announced on Thursday, was signed by Republican officials from Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

It addresses a new proposed HHS rule that would formalize President Barack Obama's pledge to allow people to keep their non-Obamacare-compliant health plan, which he made in November after outcry over canceled coverage.

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The director of the embattled Oregon Obamacare website has submitted his resignation, The Oregonian reported Thursday.

Rocky King, who oversaw the website's development, took medical leave on Dec. 2. His resignation will take effect on March 1. King is the fourth official who oversaw a state-based Obamacare website to resign, following officials in Hawaii, Maryland and Minnesota.

Oregon's website, Cover Oregon, has been plagued by problems since its Oct. 1 launch. Residents were forced to submit paper applications, and the marketplace had only enrolled 44 people in private coverage by the end of November.

Belief in evolution among Republicans has dropped more than 10 percentage points since 2009, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.

Pew found that 43 percent of Republicans said they believed humans and other living beings had evolved over time, down from 54 percent in 2009. More (48 percent) said they believed all living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

The percentages for Democrats and independents were considerably more stable: Democratic belief in evolution went from 64 percent in 2009 to 67 percent in 2013; independent belief dipped from 67 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2013.

Among all American adults, 60 percent said they believe in evolution, according to Pew, and 33 percent do not.

The poll surveyed 1,983 Americans ages 18 and older from March 21 to April 8.

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