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Obamacare’s good-news week

By Jay MacDonald ·
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Posted: 6 am ET

Are you experiencing ONWS (Obamacare news withdrawal syndrome) now that open enrollment on the state health exchanges has wrapped up?

Never fear: Four news items from widely differing sectors last week should keep President Barack Obama's landmark health insurance overhaul high on the pundit hot topics list during the hiatus.

Number of insured on the uptick

The latest Gallup poll finds that the number of adult Americans without health insurance fell to 1© Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com3.4 percent in April, nearly a 2 percentage point drop from the 15 percent uninsured rate in March.

The new rate is the lowest since Gallup began tracking the uninsured back in January 2008, when 14.6 percent were in that boat. Gallup's previous all-time-low uninsured rate was 13.9 percent in September 2008. Since then, it has risen as high as 18 percent last fall.

"This downward trend in the uninsured rate coincided with the health insurance marketplace exchanges opening in October 2013, and accelerated as the March 31 deadline to purchase health insurance coverage approached -- and passed -- for most uninsured Americans," Gallup says.

Friendly reception for health nominee

Office of Management and Budget chief Sylvia Mathews Burwell received a warm reception on Capitol Hill last week in the first of two hearings on her nomination to succeed Kathleen Sebelius as secretary of Health and Human Services.

Burwell was introduced by Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Richard Burr of North Carolina, both of whom promised to vote to confirm her at the upcoming hearing before the Senate Finance Committee.

McCain admitted that, as a friend, he advised Burwell to pass on the opportunity. "After all, who would recommend their friend take over as captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg?" he quipped.

But Burwell defended the Affordable Care Act, saying it is "making a difference in the lives of our families and our communities while strengthening the economy."

Insurers say most policyholders are paying

America's major health insurance companies told members of Congress last week that more than 80 percent of Americans who signed up for health insurance through the new exchanges have made good on their premium payments.

Aetna and Blue Cross-Blue Shield reported payment rates in the low- to mid-80 percent range, while Wellpoint said 90 percent of its new customers were paying their premiums.

Report: Obamacare model saves lives

Finally, a just-released Harvard University study finds that the death rate in Massachusetts dropped significantly after the state adopted the universal health care plan that served as the model for Obamacare.

According to the study of Massachusetts mortality from 2001 to 2010, the number of deaths per 100,000 people fell by about 3 percent in the four years after the law went into effect, with the decline steepest in counties with the highest populations of poor and uninsured people.

Here's a look back on Kathleen Sebelius' rocky reign at HHS.

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