KGOU

Julie Rovner

This time last year, federal officials were scrambling to get as many people enrolled in health insurance through HealthCare.gov as they could before the start of the program on Jan. 1.

Now, with the technical problems mostly fixed, they're facing a different problem: the possibility that the Supreme Court might rule that the subsidies that help people afford coverage are illegal in the 37 states where the federal government is running the program.

If you get health insurance at work, chances are you have some sort of wellness plan, too. But so far there's no real evidence as to whether these plans actually improve the health of employees.

One thing we do know is that wellness is particularly popular with employers right now, as they seek ways to slow the rise of health spending. These initiatives can range from urging workers to use the stairs to requiring comprehensive health screenings.

A Shots post earlier this week by NPR's John Ydstie detailed the "family glitch" in the Affordable Care Act. That's where people who can't afford their insurance at work aren't eligible for help in the new insurance exchanges. Many of these Americans, most of whom make middling incomes, will remain uninsured.

That story got us wondering: Who else is getting left out by health law? And who is getting coverage?

Exactly what would happen to the Affordable Care Act if the Supreme Court invalidates tax credits in three dozen states where the federal government runs the program?

Legal scholars say a decision like that would deal a potentially lethal blow to the law because it would undermine the government-run insurance marketplaces that are its backbone, as well as the mandate requiring most Americans to carry coverage.

Last year, the Republican playbook for keeping control of the House of Representatives in 2014 and winning the Senate consisted of a fairly simple strategy: Run against Obamacare.

But now that the 2014 races are starting to take shape, that strategy isn't looking quite so simple. Democrats are fighting back. They're focusing on Republican opposition to the health law's expansion of Medicaid as a part of their own campaigns.

Sometimes there really are economies of scale. And the nation's health insurance exchanges may be a case in point.

As rocky as the rollout of HealthCare.gov was, the federal exchange was relatively efficient in signing up enrollees. Each one cost an average of $647 in federal tax dollars, an analysis finds. It cost an average of $1,503 – well over twice as much – to sign up each person in the 15 exchanges run by individual states and Washington, D.C.

After months of focusing on how many people have or haven't signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, we now have a rough total (7.5 million), and everyone's keen to get to the bigger questions: How well is the law working? How many of those who signed up have paid their premiums and are actually getting coverage? How many were uninsured before they signed up? And just how big has the drop been in the number of uninsured people?

Unfortunately, the answers to some of these questions simply aren't knowable — or, at least, not knowable yet.

President Obama was thrilled last week when he was able to announce that more than 7 million people have signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

"This law is doing what it's supposed to do," the president said in the Rose Garden. "It's working."

The last day of sign-ups for health insurance on the HealthCare.gov website is turning out to have a lot in common with the first: lots of computer problems.

But there are some big differences, too. Back in October the not-ready-for-prime-time website was only able to enroll six people on its first day.

With this year's deadline to register for individual health insurance just a weekend away, much attention is being lavished on two numbers — the 6 million Americans who have signed up so far, and the percentage of those folks who are (or aren't) young.

But experts say the national numbers actually don't mean very much.

We're just five days away from the March 31 deadline to sign up for individual health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. For weeks, administration officials, including the president, have insisted that there would be no extensions to the scheduled end of the six-month open enrollment period.

But now there's some wiggle room. Let's review, shall we?

Start with the key question: Is Monday still the deadline?

Next week is the last chance for most people without insurance to sign up for individual health coverage for the remainder of 2014.

Yet according to the latest monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 60 percent of those without coverage still don't know that.

There's just one week left for most people to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. And as people race to meet the deadline, they still have questions about the law, and the sign-up process.

"Is there a deadline to enroll in a health plan?" asks Josephine Ilog of Manteca, Calif. "And what happens if a person misses that deadline?"

Rather than letting people keep their old health plans that don't comply with the new requirements of the Affordable Care Act, the head of the group that represents the nation's health insurance companies is floating an alternative: weakening the requirements.

Bipartisan support dissolved this week for compromise legislation that would have fixed a longstanding problem with the way Medicare pays physicians. Though the bill passed the House of Representatives Friday, it now contains a provision almost certain to invite veto unless a Senate version can quickly nudge the ultimate bill back toward compromise.

2014 is the first year most Americans will have to either have health insurance or face a tax penalty.

But most people who are aware of the penalty think it's pretty small, at least for this first year. And that could turn into an expensive mistake.

With 20 days left for people to sign up for private health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the number of people who have completed that task rose to 4.2 million through the end of February, the Obama administration reports.

Since the Affordable Care Act kicked in fully, the percentage of Americans without health coverage has fallen to its lowest point in five years.

In the last quarter of 2013, just before the federal health law took full effect, 17.1 percent of Americans reported they lacked health insurance, according to a Gallup survey.

When the survey was taken (between Jan. 2 and Feb. 28), the rate had dropped to 1.2 percentage points to 15.9 percent.

The Food and Drug Administration has decided to allow generic versions of the most popular form of emergency contraceptive pills to be sold over the counter, without age restrictions, after all.

With a bit more than a month left for people to sign up for health insurance plans set up under the Affordable Care Act, the federal website known as HealthCare.gov finally seems to be working smoothly — in 36 states.

But what's happening in the 14 states that are running their own exchanges?

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