CBO's Updated Health Law Cost Estimates Could Be Released This Week

Meanwhile, news outlets report on varying aspects of the implementation of state-based health exchanges -- including the assistance provided to state officials by Michael O. Leavitt, an adviser to GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and head of a health care consulting company.

National Journal:  CBO Health Estimate Expected This Week
For the independent economists who score legislation for members of Congress, the hard work on President Obama's landmark 2010 health care law began soon after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on the law's constitutionality. They've spent the past month rejiggering their estimates to arrive at a best guess for how much the law will cost now—a figure that Democrats and Republicans are eager to get (McCarthy, 7/23).

The New York Times: Romney Aide Helps States Comply With Health Care Law
If Republicans in Congress agree on anything, it is their desire to eradicate President Obama's health care law. But one of the top advisers to Mitt Romney, the party's likely presidential nominee, has spent the last two years advising states and private insurers on how to comply with the law. The adviser, Michael O. Leavitt, gets high marks from state officials and policy experts, who describe him as a pragmatist with a voracious appetite for information. But his work has caused consternation among some conservatives, who want states to resist the health care law (Pear, 7/21). 

CQ Healthbeat:  On Exchanges, Republicans Torn Over Moving Ahead
States must notify the Department of Health and Human Services by Nov. 16 of whether they plan to create their own exchanges, but even so some Republican governors are waiting until the Nov. 6 election to make a decision — a risky strategy if they want to keep the federal government from running the show (Reichard, 7/20).

The Washington Post: Va. Attorney General Argues For Do-Nothing Policy Against Federal Health-Care Law
Ken Cuccinelli II, the first state attorney general in the nation to sue over the federal health-care law, has hit upon a new anti-"Obamacare" strategy that is much easier than going to court: Do nothing. Virginia and other states can shield businesses from hefty fines for failing to provide adequate health insurance for employees, he contends, simply by refusing to set up their own state-based insurance exchanges (Vozzella, 7/21).

The Associated Press/CBS News: Official: Progress Made On Neb. Health Exchange
State insurance officials assured lawmakers Thursday that Nebraska has made headway in its efforts to comply with the federal health care law, but one senator questioned whether Gov. Dave Heineman can fulfill the law's requirements without calling a special session. Bruce Ramge, director of the Department of Insurance, told a legislative panel that Nebraska is "on par" with other states in its plans to create a state-based marketplace where users can comparison shop for health insurance (7/20).

Politico Pro: Authors: Exchanges Can Provide Subsidies
The "Obamacare" critics who are proposing a legal challenge to the exchange subsidies say it wasn't just a drafting error in the law, but a deliberate decision by Congress that appears to allow subsidies in state exchanges but not federal ones. But people involved in drafting the Affordable Care Act don't remember it that way — especially Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, one of the main authors of the law (Millman and Dobias, 7/20).

In other news related to the health law's implementation -

The Hill: Challenges To Obama Administration's Birth-Control Mandate Piling Up In Court
Challenges to President Obama’s birth-control mandate are piling up in court. Twenty-four lawsuits have been filed against the federal birth-control mandate so far, mostly from religious groups that view the policy as a dangerous erosion of religious freedom. Foes of the mandate got a boost after Illinois-based Wheaton College — a prominent Protestant school — filed its own suit on Wednesday, joining mostly Catholic-affiliated institutions in arguing the mandate tramples on religious liberty (Viebeck, 7/22).

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