Julie Rovner

Julie Rovner is a health policy correspondent for NPR specializing in the politics of health care.

Reporting on all aspects of health policy and politics, Rovner covers the White House, Capitol Hill, the Department of Health and Human Services in addition to issues around the country. She served as NPR's lead correspondent covering the passage and implementation of the 2010 health overhaul bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

A noted expert on health policy issues, Rovner is the author of a critically-praised reference book Health Care Politics and Policy A-Z. Rovner is also co-author of the book Managed Care Strategies 1997, and has contributed to several other books, including two chapters in Intensive Care: How Congress Shapes Health Policy, edited by political scientists Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann.

In 2005, Rovner was awarded the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for distinguished reporting of Congress for her coverage of the passage of the Medicare prescription drug law and its aftermath.

Rovner has appeared on television on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CNN, C-Span, MSNBC, and NOW with Bill Moyers. Her articles have appeared in dozens of national newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post, USA Today, Modern Maturity, and The Saturday Evening Post.

Prior to NPR, Rovner covered health and human services for the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, specializing in health care financing, abortion, welfare, and disability issues. Later she covered health reform for the Medical News Network, an interactive daily television news service for physicians, and provided analysis and commentary on the health reform debates in Congress for NPR. She has been a regular contributor to the British medical journal The Lancet. Her columns on patients' rights for the magazine Business and Health won her a share of the 1999 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award.

An honors graduate, Rovner has a degree in political science from University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

The race is on to get the federal insurance website HealthCare.gov working smoothly by the end of November.

And it's not just because that's what federal officials have promised. December could see a surge in demand for health insurance.

"There is an avalanche coming," says Bryce Williams, managing director for exchange solutions at the benefits consulting firm Towers Watson.

Another day brings another delay for the federal health law known as the Affordable Care Act.

On Friday, the Obama administration announced that, starting next year, it is pushing back the start of the sign-up period for those buying individual and small business insurance until mid-November, rather than mid-October. That will give insurance companies some extra time to set their premiums, given this year's difficulties.

And, as some analysts point out, the delay may also ease some political concerns for Democrats.

Buried in the paltry enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act that were released last week was something that came as a surprise to many — the success states are having signing people up for the Medicaid program, which provides health care to low-income people.

President Obama's proposal to try to let more people keep their canceled health insurance policies sounded so simple when he announced it Thursday.

"Insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be canceled into 2014. And Americans whose plans have been canceled can choose to re-enroll in the same kind of plan," he said in unveiling the proposal at the White House.

Remember when President Obama said, "If you like your health plan you can keep it?" Now it's more like, "If you like your health plan you can keep it — for another year, and only if your insurance company says it's OK."

It's not clear whether the administration's proposal to let insurers extend the policies they've been canceling for the past couple of months will solve the president's political problem. But it's sure not going over very well with the insurance industry.

The Obama administration says just about 100,000 people managed to choose health plans through the federal and state health exchanges during their first month of the program. Critics say that shows the law is failing. But most analysts say the first month's numbers wouldn't have meant very much, even if the federal website had been working properly.

The Obama administration released its much anticipated enrollment numbers for the first month of the troubled HealthCare.gov website Wednesday. And as predicted, the numbers were disappointing.

Just over 100,000 people managed to navigate the process and choose a health plan between Oct. 1 and Nov. 2 — 106,185 people, to be precise.

But barely a quarter of those, 26,794, enrolled through the federal website that's signing up people in 36 of the states. The rest enrolled through state marketplaces.

In Washington this week, calls to fix the problem of people getting insurance cancellation notices are getting louder and coming from all sides. But turning back the clock on health insurance cancellations turns out to be a lot harder than it sounds.

The Obama administration later this week will issue much anticipated enrollment numbers for the first month of the Affordable Care Act.

The health care exchanges may be open, but there's no question they're still kind of a mess.

"The rollout has been excruciatingly awful for way too many people," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius conceded to the Senate Finance Committee last week.

But mess or not, the law is going forward, people are trying to use it, and they have questions. Here are some of yours, and our answers.

The Obama administration delivered on a long-delayed health care promise when it issued rules to ensure equal health insurance treatment for people who have problems with mental health or need treatment for substance abuse.

The rules, issued Friday, require that most health insurance plans offer the same amount of coverage for mental health and substance abuse claims as they do for medical and surgical coverage.

The Treasury Department is scrapping the rule that requires people to use or lose the money they set aside each year in accounts to cover health care expenses that are otherwise unreimbursed.

Instead, the department plans to allow people to carry over up to $500 of unused money to the following year, at their employer's discretion. That could start as early as the end of this year.

As if the rollout of the federal health law didn't have enough problems, abortion is back in the spotlight.

How the various health plans in the exchanges would or would not pay for abortion was one of the very last issues settled before the bill was passed in 2010. Now abortion's invisibility on the federal HealthCare.gov website has some people pretty upset.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius headed to Capitol Hill Wednesday for a date with lawmakers frustrated by the rocky rollout of the HealthCare.gov website.

What she got at the House Energy and Commerce Committee was four hours of venting from Democrats and Republicands alike.

Like Medicare and Medicaid chief Marilyn Tavenner a day earlier, Sebelius opened her testimony with an apology.

The latest complaints about the health law center around the question of whether you can keep your current health plan if you like it. There actually are rules associated with the law that try to protect that right. Here's a primer on those rules.

When the head of the agency responsible for the troubled Healthcare.gov went before Congress for the first time since its foibles became apparent Oct. 1, she probably didn't expect that many questions would be on something else altogether.

Monday was yet another troubled day for the Affordable Care Act.

Sunday night, the outside vendor that operates two key parts of the website that lets people browse and sign up for health insurance experienced a failure.

The failure took place at a vendor called Verizon Terremark and presumably affected other clients as well as HealthCare.gov, the federal website that people use to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The Obama administration has entered full damage-control mode over the balky website intended to enroll people in new health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

President Obama on Tuesday appointed one of his top management gurus, Jeffrey Zeints, to head the team working to fix what ails HealthCare.gov, the troubled website that's supposed to allow residents of 36 states to enroll in coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Since the Affordable Care Act's health care exchanges launched to a long series of error messages Oct. 1, most of the "what went wrong" fingers have been pointing at software developers.

But some say there's more to it than that — that politics has played a role as well.

With the government shutdown over, attention is turning back to the rollout of the federal health law, which has federal and state officials working to fix software glitches on the health exchanges.

Remember how that fight over the budget was all about Obamacare?

Seems like ancient history now, but House Republicans ostensibly shut down the government 17 days ago, demanding first a defunding, and, when that failed, a year's delay in the health law.

The health exchanges are now open, though some have a lot of glitches. You still have lots of questions about how the Affordable Care Act affects you and your family.

And we have answers. In our ongoing series, we're addressing questions you've asked about the sign-up process.

With people having so much trouble logging onto the websites to get coverage, some are wondering how soon they have to sign up for coverage to avoid the potential penalties.

Even as the Affordable Care Act's new health exchanges open for business, polls show the public is still pretty confused about how they're supposed to work.

The latest monthly tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, in fact, found that two-thirds of those without insurance said they don't have enough information about the law to know how it will affect them.

The Affordable Care Act has been through two years of legislative wrangling, a presidential election and a Supreme Court test that took it to the brink.

Now, after yet another round of debate and argument, major pieces of the federal health law are expected to kick in Tuesday.

If all goes as planned, people who don't have insurance or who buy it on their own will be able to shop online or at various locations in their communities for coverage that will take effect Jan. 1.

Premiums in the health insurance exchanges set to open next week will be lower than anticipated, the Obama administration announced Wednesday.

According to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services, "premiums nationwide will ... be around 16 percent lower than originally expected," and 95 percent of uninsured people live in a state with average premiums that are lower than expected.

Well, it's almost Oct. 1, the day of a threatened government shutdown and the day state health insurance exchanges are scheduled to begin operations.

Those are the online marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act where people can compare health plans and sign up for coverage.

Would closing down the government delay the opening of the health exchanges?

When UPS told workers that it would no longer offer health coverage for spouses who had their own job-based insurance, it caused a big stir. But the shipping giant has plenty of company.

So many employers are trying to cut back on health coverage for spouses that it has become a trend. The practice began well before the Affordable Care Act passed, and the connection to the law, in some cases, isn't that direct.

In one last snapshot before the Affordable Care Act's health exchanges open for business, the Census Bureau reported today on the state of health insurance in 2012. And the numbers were surprisingly not that bad.

With the launch of new health insurance exchanges just about two weeks away, many of the questions in this month's mailbag focused less on the big picture and more on exactly how the law will operate for individuals.

We can't answer every question we get. But here is a sampling of questions that were really popular, or that would apply to a lot of people.

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