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Dec 20, 2013

Last-minute Obamacare exemption for those with canceled plans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration made a major last-minute policy shift on Thursday, saying the change would help Americans meet a looming deadline to replace insurance plans canceled because of new standards under Obamacare reforms.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that this group of people – estimated by the administration to be fewer than 500,000 in number – will be allowed to claim a “hardship exemption” from the requirement in the 2010 Affordable Care Act to buy insurance.

Dec 18, 2013

Obamacare tech hurdle looms right before enrollment deadline

By Roberta Rampton and Sharon Begley

(Reuters) – Some technical experts are perplexed at the U.S. government’s plan to switch web hosts for its new health insurance portal, HealthCare.gov, in the midst of an expected last-minute rush to beat a March 31 enrollment deadline for 2014 coverage.

Switching hosts is not in and of itself a huge risk if it is done carefully and with lots of preparation, according to technical experts interviewed by Reuters. It is the timing of the highly complex maneuver that is risky. If there are problems, the website could become sluggish or even unusable for anyone trying to enroll.

Dec 18, 2013

Obama to release review panel’s report on surveillance practices

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama prepared to release an independent panel’s review of U.S. intelligence practices on Wednesday in a prelude to announcing a broad set of new policy procedures aimed at reining in the National Security Agency.

Spurred into action by revelations of U.S. surveillance by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, Obama will announce next month some constraints on the intelligence community to ensure American officials are focusing on foreign threats and not simply gathering information because they have the capability to do so.

Dec 18, 2013

Obama to meet with data surveillance review group Wednesday

WASHINGTON, Dec 18 (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama
will meet on Wednesday with a panel he appointed to review
privacy issues related to government surveillance programs, days
after the group submitted a report and recommendations on their
findings, the White House said.

Obama has faced criticism from allies at home and abroad who
have called for him to rein in spying activities since June,
when former spy contractor Edward Snowden exposed classified
details about the scope of U.S. National Security Agency
surveillance of emails and phone calls.

Dec 17, 2013

Tech executives press Obama to reform surveillance practices

WASHINGTON, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Technology company executives
pressed President Barack Obama on Tuesday to rein in the U.S.
government’s electronic spying after a court dealt a blow to
the administration’s surveillance practices.

Top executives from Apple, Google, Yahoo!
, Netflix, Comcast, AT&T,
Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook and other
companies met privately for more than two hours with Obama and
top White House aides.

Dec 17, 2013

Obama’s top economic aide postpones move as website fix continues

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s top economic aide Gene Sperling is postponing his departure from the White House for a month while his replacement, Jeffrey Zients, gears up for the new job after overseeing intensive efforts to fix the website used to shop for Obamacare health insurance, the White House said on Tuesday.

Obama had announced in September that his longtime adviser Sperling would step down as head of the National Economic Council on January 1, and named Zients, a trusted budget aide, as his replacement.

Dec 10, 2013

Biden announces mental health push on eve of Newtown anniversary

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a new push to increase access to mental health services with $100 million in new government funding nearly a year after a school shooting rampage in Newtown, Connecticut.

Biden, who spearheaded a failed Obama administration campaign for stronger gun control measures following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, met with families of the victims and mental health advocates.

Dec 4, 2013

Short-term fix eyed for another problem with U.S. healthcare website

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama’s administration has found a short-term fix to pay insurance companies for plans selected on HealthCare.gov, the not-yet-complete government website used to shop for insurance required under Obama’s healthcare program.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has not yet finished building the part of the website that would transfer billions of dollars in subsidies for plan premiums and cost-sharing payments to insurance companies.

Dec 3, 2013

Insurers warn of problems with Obamacare enrollment surge

WASHINGTON, Dec 3 (Reuters) – U.S. insurers fear that a
surge in enrollments on the revamped government-run healthcare
website could create more problems for insurance companies
already struggling with error-filled applications for coverage
three weeks before a sign-up deadline.

In what could become the next major headache for President
Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy, a group representing
leading U.S. insurers said on Tuesday that technology fixes that
will enable millions of people to sign on to HealthCare.gov have
not fully addressed faulty data that the site has been sending
these companies about their new enrollees.

Dec 3, 2013

Second Obama environmental adviser to step down

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will see a second top environmental adviser step down when Nancy Sutley, the chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, departs in February, the White House confirmed on Tuesday.

Since the start of Obama’s first term, Sutley led the council, which coordinates environmental efforts between federal agencies and helps develop policy.

    • About Roberta

      "Based on Capitol Hill, I help cover U.S. energy and environmental policy. I have reported on commodities since 1995, and have been with Reuters since 2002, moving to Washington from Canada in 2008."
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