Deadline For Getting Coverage And Avoiding Fines -- Valentine's Day, Not March 31

The Associated Press reports on this development -- which it called a "new wrinkle" -- that will move up by about six weeks the date by which consumers will need to have health insurance or face penalties. Also in the news, lots of talk -- some of which came from President Barack Obama himself -- about how the health law helps or hurts workers and how it impacts health care costs.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: New Wrinkle: Deadline To Avoid Health Law Fines Will Fall Around Valentine's Day, Not March 31
You’ll have to get coverage by Valentine’s Day or thereabouts to avoid penalties for being uninsured, the Obama administration confirmed Wednesday. That’s about six weeks earlier than a March 31 deadline often cited previously. The explanation: health insurance coverage typically starts on the first day of a given month, and it takes up to 15 days to process applications (Alonso-Zaldivar, 10/9).

USA Today: Got A Health Concern? Insurance Advocates Can Help
Beginning last week, uninsured Americans could begin signing up for insurance at HealthCare.gov because of the Affordable Care Act. The law prohibits insurance companies from charging people more or denying them coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions, or setting lifetime spending limits. People who make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $94,200 for a family of four, may be eligible for insurance subsidies to help pay for their insurance, or obtain free coverage through Medicaid (Kennedy, 10/9).

CBS News: Obama Refutes Claims That Obamacare Is Hurting Workers
Amid ongoing problems with the Affordable Care Act's new online insurance marketplaces, President Obama on Wednesday defended the law's economic impact, refuting claims that it's hurting workers. In an interview with Richmond, Va., CBS affiliate WTVR, the president pushed back against the claim the health care law is increasing premiums and discouraging full-time job growth. The president noted that economic trends tell a different story. Premiums, he pointed out, are still rising but at a slower rate than at any time in the last 50 years. "A lot of this stuff has been happening for the last several years, that doesn't have to do with the Affordable Care Act," he said. "The problem that we've had for a long time is that employers have found health care costs really burdensome, they've been loading off costs onto workers for a very long time, the only thing the Affordable Care Act has done is to create a marketplace -- essentially a group plan -- a pool for people who don't have employer-based health care" (Condon, 10/9).

CBS News: Will Obamacare Bring Down Health Costs? Expert Weighs In
For the latest edition of Morning Rounds, CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook sat down with Sherry Glied, dean of the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, to find out just how much costs are expected to be curbed under the law. She points out provisions in the law that aim to cut costs. For example, it requires insurance companies to keep administrative costs below a certain threshold, or pay customers the difference. Many customers have already received rebate checks. Further down the road, the law hopes to tackle health care costs on a societal level (Jaslow, 10/9).

The Fiscal Times: Obamacare Premiums Are the Tip of Consumer Costs
Now that the plans are available, there’s a range of premiums—including some relatively low cost options—depending on the age and location of the purchaser, the size of his family, and whether he smokes. Most analyses find that young, healthy consumers will pay higher premiums than those they’re currently paying on the individual market (with richer benefits), while older consumers will find plans with lower premiums than they find now. Looking solely at the premiums, however, doesn’t give a true picture of a plan’s cost, since many of the low-premium plans come with extremely high deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs. “Some of the premiums are competitive and lower than we thought they’d be, but those offer relatively skinny benefit packages,” says Caroline Pearson, a vice president with Avalere Health (Braverman, 10/9).

Kaiser Health News: Five Lessons From Massachusetts About Obamacare Rollout
A lot of the Affordable Care Act supporters point to Massachusetts as proof that signing up the uninsured is a big, but doable task. Here, in 2013, that’s a reasonable conclusion. But back in 2007 and 2008 things were a lot messier, and some advocates for universal coverage were worried (Bebinger, 10/10).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.