Posts Tagged ‘medicare

27
Aug
14

Medicare Is Not Destroying The Budget? Thanks, ObamaCare

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David Leonhardt: Medicare: Not Such A Budget-Buster Anymore

You’re looking at the biggest story involving the federal budget and a crucial one for the future of the American economy. Every year for the last six years in a row, the Congressional Budget Office has reduced its estimate for how much the federal government will need to spend on Medicare in coming years. The latest reduction came in a report from the budget office on Wednesday morning. The changes are big. The difference between the current estimate for Medicare’s 2019 budget and the estimate for the 2019 budget four years ago is about $95 billion dollars. That sum is greater than the government is expected to spend that year on unemployment insurance, welfare and Amtrak — combined. It’s equal to about one-fifth of the expected Pentagon budget in 2019. Widely discussed policy changes, like raising the estate tax, would generate just a tiny fraction of the budget savings relative to the recent changes in Medicare’s spending estimates.

In more concrete terms, the reduced estimates mean that the federal government’s long-term budget deficit is considerably less severe than commonly thought just a few years ago. The reduced estimates are also an indication of what’s happening in the overall health care system. Even as more people are getting access to health insurance, the costs of caring for individual patients is growing at a super-slow rate. That means that health care, which has eaten into salary gains for years and driven up debt and bankruptcies, may be starting to stabilize as a share of national spending. The Affordable Care Act, in particular, made significant reductions to Medicare’s spending on hospitals and private Medicare plans, to help subsidize insurance coverage for low- and middle-income Americans.

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08
Aug
14

ObamaCare: Helping Millions? ✓ Strengthening Medicare? ✓

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Alex Wayne: Medicare Reduces Payments For 2015 Hospital Admissions

Medicare, the U.S. program for the elderly and disabled, said payments for hospital admissions would fall $756 million next year as penalties stiffen for patients who return too early. Payments for inpatient services at about 3,400 acute-care hospitals will be cut about 0.6 percent in 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in a regulatory filing,

including reductions in funding for hospitals who provide care for many low-income patients, those with too many patients who contract infections while admitted and higher penalties for readmissions within 30 days. The Obama administration has applauded reduced Medicare spending for hospital admissions, a trend encouraged by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that has added 13 years to the life of Medicare’s key trust fund.

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Tony Carrk: Conservatives Want You To Pay More For The Health Plan You Like

The Affordable Care Act, or ACA, is working: The uninsured rate has fallen dramatically since the law went into effect. Newly released data published in The New England Journal of Medicine show that 10.3 million adults gained coverage during the first open enrollment period. According to a recent Commonwealth Fund survey, 60 percent of those with new coverage said they used their coverage to go to the doctor or hospital or to fill a prescription; 62 percent of those people said they would not have been able to do so without their new coverage. Moreover, of those who were looking for a doctor, two-thirds said they were able to get an appointment within two weeks. People are happy with their coverage. Overall, 78 percent of those surveyed said they were either somewhat

satisfied or very satisfied with their new coverage. This is about the same rate as those reported by both people who were previously insured and by those who newly gained coverage. Even 74 percent of self-identified Republicans reported being satisfied with their coverage. The ACA has not only led to millions of Americans getting health care coverage, but it has also benefited the country as a whole. Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, reported that the ACA is helping slow the growth rate of health care costs, which has positive consequences for the federal budget. It is also helping strengthen the solvency of Medicare.

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The New England Journal Of Medicine: Health Reform And Changes In Health Insurance Coverage In 2014

In this analysis of nationally representative survey data from January 2012 through June 2014, we found a significant decline in the uninsured rate among nonelderly adults that coincided with the initial open-enrollment period under the ACA. These changes remained highly significant after adjustment for potential confounders such as employment, demographic characteristics, and income. As compared with the baseline trend, the uninsured rate declined by 5.2 percentage points by the second quarter of 2014, a 26% relative decline from the 2012–2013 period. Combined with 2014 Census estimates of 198 million adults 18 to 64 years of age, this corresponds to 10.3 million adults gaining coverage, although depending on the model and confidence intervals,

our sensitivity analyses imply a wide range from 7.3 to 17.2 million adults. Absolute gains were largest among young adults and Hispanics, two groups with high uninsured rates at baseline. We found evidence that within the first 6 months of gaining insurance, more adults reported having a personal doctor and fewer had difficulties paying for medical care — even though the latter measure asked about the prior 12 months. These results are consistent with studies of previous insurance expansions that have shown that gains in coverage can lead to rapid improvements in access. In conclusion, we found that the number of Americans without health insurance declined significantly since the ACA open-enrollment period began in October 2013.

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06
Aug
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: President Obama greets a young supporter at a campaign rally for gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds in Tyson’s Corner Va., on Aug. 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Today (All Times Eastern)

10:0: The President delivers remarks and participates in Session One of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit at the State Department: Investing in Africa’s Future.

12:30: Participates in Session Two: Peace and Regional Stability

2:30: Participates in Session Three: Governing the Next Generation

5:0: Holds a press conference, State Department

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10:0: First Lady Michelle Obama, in partnership with former First Lady Laura Bush and the Bush Institute, will host a day-long spouses symposium at the Kennedy Center focused on the impact of investments in education, health, and public-private partnerships.

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Jonathan Cohn: Obamacare’s Impact On The Uninsured, State By State: Where Officials Wanted It To Work, It Did

Need another reminder of why Obamacare’s impact depends heavily on the state where you live? Gallup has one for you. On Tuesday, the organization published a state-by-state breakdown of how the law has affected the rate of uninsurance, at least according to its polling. Arkansas seemed to make the most progress: In that state, by Gallup’s reckoning, the ranks of the uninsured fell by 10.1 percentage points. Next was Kentucky, at 8.5 percentage points. The states that made the most headway covering the uninsured,

according to Gallup, are states in which officials decided to build their own insurance marketplaces and to make all low-income people eligible for Medicaid, as the Affordable Care Act originally envisioned. The Medicaid expansion is obviously the big factor here, because it meant many more people (into the millions, in the largest states) became eligible for government-subsidized insurance. But it’s safe to assume that the states that undertook both steps were also the ones that put the most thought and effort into promoting the program.

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Michelle Jamrisko: Services In U.S. Expand At Fastest Pace Since 2005

Service industries such as builders and retailers grew in July at the fastest pace since December 2005, signaling the U.S. economy was hitting its stride entering the second half of 2014. The Institute for Supply Management’s non-manufacturing index increased to 58.7, exceeding the highest estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists, from the prior month’s 56, the Tempe, Arizona-based group’s report showed today. Readings greater than 50 indicate expansion. The median estimate in the Bloomberg survey called for 56.5.

Prospects for the world’s largest economy are improving as the group’s orders index reached an almost nine-year high, reflecting broad-based gains. Combined with another report showing factory bookings are also jumping, the pickup in demand raises the odds the job market will extend its recent progress. “We’re seeing numbers that we haven’t seen since well before the financial crisis and recession, and they seem to be more sustained,” said Terry Sheehan, an economist at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates in Princeton, New Jersey, whose ISM index projection of 57 was among the highest in the Bloomberg survey. The strengthening is “pretty much across the board for business activity, new orders and employment.”

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Shobhana Chandra: Trade Gap Shrinks To Five-Month Low As U.S. Imports Drop

The trade deficit in the U.S. unexpectedly narrowed in June, reflecting the biggest drop in imports in a year as the economy moved closer to energy independence. The gap shrank 7 percent to $41.5 billion, the smallest since January, from May’s $44.7 billion, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 66 economists called for a deficit of $44.8 billion. The drop in purchases of foreign goods included declines in autos and cellular phones, while petroleum imports were the lowest in more than three years.

Demand for goods made overseas will probably rebound in coming months, helped by growing household spending and business investment. Exports were little changed at a record, a sign markets overseas will represent less growth for American factories as Europe’s economy struggles to pick up and geopolitical tensions mount. “Imports are going to bounce back because of the strength of the U.S. consumer,” said Jay Bryson, global economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The U.S. is doing better than most advanced countries.”

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Roberto A. Ferdman: Why Immigrants Are The Best Thing That Happened To Medicare

America’s growing immigrant population might not be all that bad for the country’s health-care system. In fact, it’s probably playing an important role in helping to keep it afloat. U.S. immigrants’ net contribution to Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, the program’s core funding source, was $183 billion between 1996 and 2011. US-born Americans? Negative $69 billion, according to a new report by the Partnership for the New American Economy, an immigration advocacy group. That means that immigrants have been pumping a lot more money in than they take out, while the rest of the population has been doing just the opposite. On a per person basis, immigrants contributed $62 more per person to the trust fund than the U.S.-born, and claim $172 less in benefits.

By the institute’s estimates, the cash contributed by immigrants over the 16-year span was more than a mere inconsequential boost. “Our analysis indicates that non-citizen immigrants, a group that includes both authorized and unauthorized immigrants, played a particularly large role subsidizing the care of the U.S.-born population,” the report says. The net $183 billion contribution was enough to ensure the prolonged buoyancy of Medicare trust fund, which according to the most recent projection will remain solvent through 2030.

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On This Day

President Obama carries a cake into the Oval Office for a birthday party for Phil Schiliro, assistant to the president for legislative affairs, on Aug. 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama waits to speak at a campaign rally for gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds in Tyson’s Corner Va., on Aug. 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama waits backstage to speak at a reception in Tyson’s Corner Va., for gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, on Aug. 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

 President Obama speaks at a campaign rally for gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds in Tyson’s Corner Va., on Aug. 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama shakes hands at a reception in Tyson’s Corner Va., for gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds, on Aug. 6, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama walks into the Oval Office with newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, Aug. 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama signs Elena Kagan’s commission in the Oval Office, before a reception in the East Room celebrating her confirmation to the Supreme Court, Aug. 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama visits with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in the Blue Room of the White House, prior to Kagan’s confirmation reception in the East Room, Aug. 6, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama is briefed on the tragedy in Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, and national security staff, at Camp David, Aug. 6, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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Members of the press document President Obama during the Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 signing ceremony in the Oval Office, Aug. 6, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

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President Obama takes the stage to deliver remarks on housing and home ownership at Desert Vista High School in Phoenix, Ariz., Aug. 6, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama joins Jay Leno for a taping of the “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in Burbank, Calif., Aug. 6, 2013 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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04
Aug
14

ObamaCare: Helping Medicare Function Efficiently

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Sara Kliff: The Amazing News Buried Inside A 283-Page Medicare Report

This is arguably the most unexpected piece of news in the new Medicare Trustees report: the government’s hospital insurance program might be spending less money to cover more beneficiaries than it did a year ago. Medicare’s hospital insurance program — known to wonks as Medicare Part A — spent $266.8 billion covering 50.3 million people in 2012. In 2013, the the same program spent $266.2 billion to cover 51.9 million people. what’s definitely clear — and what’s driving this trend — is that Medicare is spending significantly less per person than they did two years ago.

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And this report expects that trend to continue for another two years going forward. By 2015, the Medicare Trustees’ Report projects that the program will spend less per person on hospital care than it did in 2008. This doesn’t happen much in health care: not just slower growth, but the actual dollar amount spent on a given type of care dropping. The Affordable Care Act, for example, penalizes preventable readmissions — times when seniors turn up at the hospital a second time after something goes wrong during their first visit. Readmissions have been falling pretty steadily for the last few years, and those reductions could be showing up in the lower per-person spending.

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30
Jul
14

ObamaCare: Making Medicare Stronger For Future Generations

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White House: Medicare Trustees Report Shows Significant Improvements For Seniors And Taxpayers

Today’s annual report from the Medicare program’s Boards of Trustees brings good news about the program’s financial future: Its Trust Fund will last four more years, to 2030, and projected Part B premiums for 2015 will not increase for the second year in a row. As we celebrate Medicare’s 49th birthday this week, we will recommit to ensuring that the program continues providing health and economic security for the nation’s elderly and people with disabilities through the 21st century and beyond. Today’s news shows that we are on the right track, and we are optimistic that the promising results we’ve seen in recent years can continue into the future. In 2009, the Trustees projected the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would not be able to pay its bills in 2017 – just three years from now. Today’s new date is 2030, 13 years later than that projection – an improvement that is thanks in part to reforms in the Affordable Care Act (Chart 1).

The law implemented changes to promote value-based payments, reduce waste and fraud, and strengthen the program’s benefits. These changes, for example, have reduced hospital spending on preventable readmissions, helping to lower hospital costs, which constitute a significant portion of trust fund spending. Lower Medicare spending means lower cost sharing and lower premiums for Medicare beneficiaries. For the second year in a row, premiums in Part B are projected to stay the same in 2015 as in 2013 and 2014. This means seniors are expected to keep more of their annual Social Security cost of living adjustment. In fact, the last six years have seen some of the slowest premium growth in the program’s history. Moreover, the Affordable Care Act has saved millions of beneficiaries over $10 billion in prescription drug costs by improving prescription drug benefits and closing the “donut hole.”

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Sahil Kapur: Obamacare Will Help Medicare Remain Solvent Even Longer, Trustees Report Says

The Medicare insurance trust fund will be solvent until 2030, four years longer than projected last year, according to a trustees report released Monday. The trustees report chalked up the new projection to the recent slowdown in health spending growth and various cost-saving reforms enacted under Obamacare. “In recent years U.S. national health expenditure (NHE) growth has slowed relative to previous historical patterns,” the report read.

It added: “The Board assumes that the various cost-reduction measures … will occur as the Affordable Care Act requires.” (Obamacare has been credited in recent years with extending the life of Medicare beyond 2016, the year it was projected to go in the red prior to the ACA’s enactment.)

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Amy Goldstein: Medicare Finances Improve Partly Due To ACA, Hospital Expenses, Trustee Report Says

Medicare’s financial stability has been strengthened by the Affordable Care Act and other forces that have been subduing health-care spending, according to a new official forecast that says the fund covering the program’s hospital costs will remain solvent until 2030 — four years later than expected a year ago. The trustees’ forecast said that the trust fund that pays for hospital care — Medicare Part A — has been strengthened significantly,

with the date when it is predicted to start running short of money extended by 14 years since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010. The report also predicted that the insurance premiums that older Americans pay for the portion of Medicare that covers doctors’ visits and other outpatient care would probably remain the same for a third year in a row.

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11
Jul
14

ObamaCare: Preserving Medicare For Future Generations

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Mother Jones: Medicare Just Keeps Producing Great Budget News

Medicare has been a bastion of good news lately. Every year, the CBO reduces its baseline estimate of Medicare costs, which have dropped by more than $1,000 since 2010. It is clear that the Medicare savings provisions in the ACA, such as reductions in provider payment updates and Medicare Advantage payments, have played a major role. In addition to scheduled reductions in Medicare’s more formulaic payment rates, providers may be tightening their belts and looking to deliver care more efficiently in response to financial incentives included in the ACA, and it is possible that these changes are having a bigger effect than expected.

For example, CMS recently reported that hospital readmission rates dropped by 130,000 between January 2012 and August 2013. It is also possible that hospitals and other providers are using data and other analytic tools more successfully to track utilization and spending and to reduce excess costs. Another more straightforward factor is that several expensive and popular brand-name drugs have gone off patent in recent years, which has helped to keep Medicare drug spending in check.

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16
Jun
14

ObamaCare: Good News All Around

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Amy Lynn Smith: Survey Shows The Newly Enrolled Are Happy About Their Health Insurance

A national survey conducted by PerryUndem for Enroll America provides some of the first insights into how people who got covered during the first Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period feel about their new insurance. Not surprisingly, they feel pretty darn good. The newly enrolled are four times more likely to say they are happy with their coverage than unhappy — 41% compared to 11%. 74% of new enrollees were very or somewhat confident they would be able to pay their premiums moving forward. The feeling that best expresses how the newly enrolled feel about having health insurance is “relieved.”

Although Republicans like Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg continue hunting for “horror stories” about the ACA, or Obamacare, they’re coming up empty-handed. Walberg asked about the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the center and the physicians responded that with the expansion of Medicaid [under the ACA] more people are coming to the practice instead of the emergency room. With improved access to health care, the new patients are getting better care for improved health.

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Steve Benen: Everything’s Coming Up Aces For The ACA

The news surrounding the Affordable Care Act has been so good this week, it’s almost hard to know where to start. We could start with the fact that private insurers who skipped the exchanges now want in … or we could go with the fact, as expected, consumers are paying their premiums … … or we could talk about “Obamacare” cutting the rate of uninsured in New Jersey by 38%, Minnesota by 40%, and Kentucky by 50%.*

In all, a little less than a third of the country supports repealing the Affordable Care Act – the position Republicans have spent years touting as smart policy and politics. Looking at all of the good ACA news last week, Simon Maloy said, “We’re only six days into June, and opponents of the ACA have already had a terrible month.” For the health care opponents on the right, June looks even worse this week.

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German Lopez: 2 promising Signs For Us Health Spending

Health-care spending might not be growing so quickly after all. Earlier this year, the Bureau of Economic Analysis projected that health-care spending would massively increase in the first quarter of 2014. In the health wonk world, that inspired a lot of panic about the return of high health-care cost growth. Not only would that make health care more expensive for everyone, but it would further strain budgets at all levels of government. The good news is the latest federal data on health spending suggests that the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s initial estimates may have been wrong and could be revised downward. If that’s the case, health-care spending could still be growing at the same timid pace it has been for years.

For the federal government, the most promising news comes through Medicare. The latest data, as broken down by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, shows underlying Medicare growth, even after adjusting for temporary policies, is growing at just 2.5 percent. That’s more than a full percentage point below economic and beneficiary growth. Medicare, in other words, is growing slower as a percent of the economy and on a per-person basis. A percentage point might not seem like a huge deal. But if the trend holds, it could translate to billions of dollars in savings for the federal government.

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Dan Diamond: In Every State So Far, More Insurers Are Asking To Participate In Obamacare

But the second year of Obamacare is bringing out more insurance carriers in New Hampshire. Not just one or two more—but four more. “New Hampshire residents have asked for options,” state Insurance Commissioner Roger Sevigny said last month, announcing the five plans that will participate in this fall’s enrollment period. “Choice is good for consumers and good for competition.”Sevigny may be the only state commissioner who gets to tout a 400% increase in the number of participating plans, but he’s hardly alone in seeing a surge on his state’s exchange. In every state that’s shared details thusfar, it appears there will be more choices in Obamacare, year 2: Michigan’s exchange is going from 13 participating companies in 2013 to 18 this fall. At least one additional carrier has filed to sell plans through Kentucky’s exchange.

Several more insurers may join the plans participating in Virginia, Washington, and Indiana’s exchanges. United HealthCare may jump into Georgia’s market. And the surge in carriers means that there will be many more actual options at the point of purchase, too. Peter Frost at the Chicago Tribune notes the number of companies competing on the Illinois exchange next year will inch up from six to eight—but the number of available policies will almost triple, from 165 to 504. Officials at HHS and the White House are thrilled by the growing turnout. “We are pleased to see an increase of insurers applying for state marketplaces,” a senior administration official told the Daily Briefing. “Where insurers compete for business, consumers benefit.”

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02
Jun
14

Rise and Shine

On This Day: Sen. Barack Obama talks with the news media after visiting with workers at the Rite Aid Distribution Center June 2, 2008 in Waterford, Michigan

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Today (All Times Eastern)

12:45: Jay Carney briefs the press

2:0: President Obama speaks on a conference call with public health groups about reducing carbon pollution from power plants

7:30: Departs White House for Warsaw, Poland

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The Week Ahead – See Here

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NYT: The Vanishing Cry Of ‘Repeal It’

It was supposed to be so easy this election year for Republican congressional candidates. All they would have to do was shout “repeal Obamacare!” and make a crack about government doctors and broken websites, and they could coast into office on a wave of public fury. The failure of the Affordable Care Act was simply assumed. But it has not quite worked out that way. The government website was fixed, and 8.1 million people managed to sign up for insurance through the exchanges. An additional 4.8 million people received coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Three million people under the age of 26 were covered by their parents’ plans. Though the law itself has never been widely popular, most people say they like its component parts, and a large majority now says it wants the law improved rather than repealed.

That sentiment conflicts with the Republican playbook, which party leaders are suddenly trying to rewrite. The result has been an incoherent mishmash of positions, as candidates try to straddle a widening gap between blind hatred of health reform and the public’s growing recognition that much of it is working. Sometimes the dissonance reaches nearly comic levels. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, recently won his party’s primary for his Kentucky Senate seat in part by saying he wanted to repeal the health law “root and branch.” Last week, though, he was asked what repeal would mean for the 413,000 people who had signed up for insurance under Kynect, Kentucky’s state-run exchange. “I think that’s unconnected to my comments about the overall question,” he said. The good news is that some Democratic candidates, sensing the same change in the weather, are beginning to campaign on the law’s benefits. Improving access to health care was the right thing for the country, and supporting it may turn out to be good politics, too.

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Dan Murphy (CS Monitor): Five Taliban Released For Sgt. Bergdahl? This Is How Wars End.

A prisoner swap with sworn enemies is never pleasant. But sometimes, it’s necessary. The prisoner swap that saw Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who had been held by the Taliban for five years, released in exchange for five Taliban leaders who had been held for over a decade at Guantanamo, has touched off a predictable array of complaints. Congress wasn’t consulted, President Obama had negotiated with terrorists, that US soldiers will be at greater risk in future because of the precedent.

Among the most strident of the critics has been Senator Ted Cruz, who said in response to the deal: “What does this tell terrorists, that if you capture a US soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists we’ve gone after?… The reason why the US has had the policy for decades of not negotiating with terrorists is because once you start doing it, every other terrorist has an incentive to capture more soldiers.” But dealing with people you find odious – your enemies – is how most wars end. And with the US set for full withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2016, the prospect of a crushing defeat for the Taliban is pretty much nil. Getting POWs back, whatever the circumstances of their capture, a crucial goal.

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Matt Furber: Planned Celebration For Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl Just Got A Whole Lot Bigger

“It’s really, really amazing and incredible, fantastic news,” said Molly Goodyear, who was getting lunches at Atkinson’s Market for children playing soccer with Sawtooth United under-13 girls’ team on Saturday when she got a text with the news. “You can’t go anywhere in Hailey without thinking about it,” she said. “There was a sticker for Bowe at the deli counter. I remember thinking about how long it has been. Even in 2011, it seemed so long. It’s going to be a long, hard reintegration for him, I think. But this is such a great community for him to return to. People will do so much for him.”

“I encourage you to keep praying for Bowe and their family,” Mark Clementz, pastor of the Wood River Assembly of God, told congregants on Sunday morning. “Not too many of us have been kind of held captive for five years, we probably don’t know what that’s like, do we? I believe it’s going to take him some time and effort to assimilate back into, ‘O.K., what do I do now?’ So let’s keep praying for their family and keep lifting them up in prayer.”

Speculation about how and why Sergeant Bergdahl became a captive is largely absent for now. “Until Bowe is home and able to tell his own story, nobody knows what happened that day,” Debbie ONeill said. “However he got from A to B isn’t what’s important. He’s an American that needs to come home. I could not be happier that Jani is going to be able to hold her son in her arms again.”

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Washington Post: EPA To Propose Cutting Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Coal Plants 30% By 2030

The Environmental Protection Agency will propose a regulation Monday that would cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by up to 30 percent by 2030 compared with 2005 levels, according to individuals who have been briefed on the plan. Under the draft rule, the EPA would analyze four options that states and utilities would have to meet the new standard, with different approaches to energy efficiency, shifting from coal to natural gas, investing in renewable energy and making power plant upgrades, according to those who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it has not been formally announced. Other compliance methods could include offering discounts to encourage consumers to shift electricity use to off-peak hours.

The rule represents one of the most significant steps the federal government has ever taken to curb the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are linked to climate change, and the draft is sure to spark a major political and legal battle. Conscious of that, President Obama called a group of Senate and House Democrats on Sunday afternoon to thank them for their support in advance of the proposed rule. The proposal, which would cut 500 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, ranks as one of Obama’s most far-reaching climate policies. His previous measures to limit carbon emissions in cars and light trucks produced between fleet years 2012 and 2025 will cut 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of those vehicles.

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NYT: Administration Defends Swap With Taliban To Free U.S. Soldier

Susan E. Rice, the president’s national security adviser, spoke a day after years of fitful negotiations had finally yielded the release in Afghanistan of the prisoner, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The deal, brokered with Qatari help, also freed five high-level Taliban members from the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The release of the Taliban officials was sharply assailed by Republicans, including Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the intelligence committee, as a dangerous transgression of longstanding policy against negotiating with terror groups. The release of the Taliban officials was sharply assailed by Republicans, including Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the intelligence committee, as a dangerous transgression of longstanding policy against negotiating with terror groups.

But Ms. Rice said: “Sergeant Bergdahl wasn’t simply a hostage; he was an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield. We have a sacred obligation that we have upheld since the founding of our republic to do our utmost to bring back our men and women who are taken in battle, and we did that in this instance.” She was speaking on the ABC program “This Week.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said while visiting troops in Afghanistan on Sunday said that he would not have agreed to the detainees’ release unless suitable security arrangements were in place. Asked whether the sergeant, who by some reports was captured after leaving his base without authorization, might be subject to military discipline, Mr. Hagel replied, “This is a guy who probably went through hell for the last five years, and let’s focus on getting him well,” according to NBC News.

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Evan McMorris-Santoro: Obama Administration Opens The Door To Medicare-Funded Sex Reassignment Surgery

The Obama administration struck a major blow for transgender rights by quietly ending a decades-long blanket ban that prevented Medicare from covering sex reassignment surgery. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Departmental Appeals Board, an internal review structure within the byzantine federal agency, issued a ruling that ended a ban on Medicare even considering covering sex reassignment surgery and related care because a fear of “serious complications” resulting from the “experimental” surgery. That language was issued in 1981, and most medical professional organizations now consider sex reassignment surgery a safe and accepted procedure. The DAB ruling noted the change in how sex reassignment surgery is understood 33 years after the Medicare ban was issued.

“Even assuming the [National Coverage Determination]’s exclusion of coverage at the time the NCO was adopted was reasonable, that coverage exclusion is no longer reasonable,” reads the ruling. “This record includes expert medical testimony and studies published in the years after publication of the NCO.” “Denying Medicare coverage of all transsexual surgery as a treatment for transsexualism is not valid under the “reasonableness standard” the Board applies,” the HHS board ruling continues. Experts say the change to Medicare could have far-reaching implications for American medicine, helping to drive more private insurers to offer coverage for sex reassignment surgery and related care.

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AP: Hagel: Captive’s Life Was In Danger

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the military operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban in exchange for the release of five Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees was not relayed to Congress because officials believed the soldier’s life was in danger. In his first extensive public comments about Saturday’s operation, Hagel said intelligence the U.S. had gathered suggested that Bergdahl’s “safety and health were both in jeopardy, and in particular his health was deteriorating.” Taliban members handed Bergdahl over to special operations forces in eastern Afghanistan, and later in the day the detainees were flown from the Guantanamo detention center to Qatar. The Pentagon did not give Congress the required 30-day notice for the release of detainees.

Hagel said it was the administration’s judgment the military had to move quickly to get Bergdahl out, “essentially to save his life.” He said it was the unanimous consensus of the National Security Council, and the president has the authority to order such a release under Article 2 of the Constitution. Only a handful of people knew about the operation and Hagel said “we couldn’t afford any leaks anywhere, for obvious reasons.” “No shots were fired. There was no violence,” said Hagel. “It went as well as we not only expected and planned, but I think as well as it could have …The timing was right. The pieces came together.”

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Ian Millhiser: Pentagon Will Allow Some Undocumented Immigrants To Join The Armed Forces

The Pentagon approved a policy that will allow a small group of undocumented immigrants to join the military, potentially creating a path to citizenship for them. The new policy will affect immigrants currently enabled to remain in the country by the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a program that benefits certain law-abiding young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States before the age of sixteen. The new military policy, however, only extends to immigrants with certain specialized skills.

As a general rule, federal law provides that “no person shall be naturalized unless he has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence,” a rule that excludes DACA beneficiaries. A program known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), however, permits non-citizen members of the armed forces to “naturalize without first obtaining a Green Card.” On Saturday, the White House asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to hold off on the policy until August in order to give Congress more time to work on permanent immigration legislation.

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Abigail Bessler: Indianapolis Will Give All Students Free Breakfast And Lunch

Starting this fall, all students in Indianapolis public schools will get a free breakfast, lunch, and snack every school day under a federal program set up four years ago. “Hunger and having a healthy lunch and breakfast should not be a barrier to teaching and learning,” Indianapolis Public Schools superintendent Lewis Ferebee told the Indianapolis Star earlier this week. “We want to make sure our students are healthy and well fed so they can learn.” The federal program, which was set up by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, funds free meals for students in “Community Eligible” districts where 40 percent of kids at one or more schools already qualify for free lunches. In Indianapolis, 77 percent of students qualified for free meals and just 18 percent, 5,500 students out of over 30,000, were required to pay.

U.S. President Barack Obama and First lady Michelle Obama arrive for the signing of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 in Washington

Indianapolis wasn’t the first to decide to join the program. Schools in Dallas, Boston, and Chicago already participate, and New York City may join. The free meal program cuts down child hunger in low-income areas. By eliminating the application process for free or reduced lunches, the free lunch program also lifts the hurdle of paperwork for low-income families, especially for parents whose native language is not English. And despite some concerns about the cost of making school lunches free for all students, making meals free can actually cut down on other costs. The bureaucracy associated with determining whether a child qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches can be complex and therefore expensive.

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Zachary Goldfarb: Magic Johnson To Help Lead Effort For Black And Hispanic Young Men

President Obama …. has tasked former basketball star and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson with co-leading a private effort focused on supporting boys and young men of color. Johnson will join Joe Echevarria, chief executive of Deloitte, in captaining the effort, known as “My Brother’s Keeper.” A 90-day evaluation of the effort has generated a series of recommendations, including improving mentor programs, eliminating harsh disciplinary actions in preschool,

and making sure more boys of color can read at grade level by third grade. It also calls for increasing high school graduation rates, summer employment and apprenticeship programs for men to gain entry-level jobs. Finally, the group is working toward reducing racial and ethnic bias in the racial and criminal justice systems. Obama has already received commitments of $200 million to help fund the project from a range of philanthropies.

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Kenneth T. Walsh: Obama Still A Fundraising Champion

he still has the ability to raise millions of dollars for Democratic candidates in this fall’s midterm elections. He has held 23 fundraisers for his party’s four major campaign committees so far this year, and is expected to increase the number to 30 by the end of June. Obama also has authorized his former campaign team from 2012 to share lists and contact information about Obama supporters with Democratic congressional and gubernatorial committees.

This could be worth additional millions on the fundraising circuit and boost efforts to get out the vote. Public disclosure of the amounts raised aren’t due until later in the year, but the sums certainly run into the tens of millions of dollars. Last Thursday, Obama headlined two fundraisers in Chicago. At the home of Michael and Tanya Polsky, guests paid $1,000 to $35,000 to meet Obama and hear him speak, according to The Washington Post.

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On This Day

President Obama closes his eyes before he tapes his weekly Radio Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)

President Obama talks with (from left) Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Senior Advisor David Axelrod, and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough in the Outer Oval Office June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and former First Lady Nancy Reagan walk side-by-side through Center Hall in the White House, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama listens to a question from a reporter as he walks out of the White House toward Marine One in Washington on June 2, 2009. President Obama was traveling to Saudi Arabia.

President Obama waves as he boards Air Force One at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C. for the flight to King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 2, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)

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President Obama meets with the Democratic House Caucus in the East Room of the White House, June 2, 2011. Flanking the President are Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, Minority Whip (Photo by Pete Souza)

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks as she unveils a new food icon during an event June 2, 2011 at the Agriculture Department in Washington, DC

President Obama greets a group of Wounded Warriors in the Cross Hall of the White House, June 2, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)

Joe Paulsen, White House Advance Office site lead, holds the curtain for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama as they are introduced during the Pritzker Architecture Prize award ceremony at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., June 2, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the Pritzker Architecture Prize Event in Washington, DC, June 2, 2011

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