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.

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Shots - Health News
1:16 am
Thu December 5, 2013

HealthCare.gov Now Allows Window Shopping, And A Do-Over

iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri December 6, 2013 4:31 am

One thing that's clear about the relaunch of the troubled HealthCare.gov website is that it can accommodate more people.

Federal officials said more than 1 million users logged in on Monday, and nearly that many on Tuesday.

Read more
Shots - Health News
11:34 am
Tue December 3, 2013

Nonprofits Challenge Missouri Licensing Law For Insurance Guides

Nonprofits that are supposed to be helping people figure out their health insurance options are challenging an allegedly restrictive state law.
iStockphoto

In the first lawsuit of its kind, several nonprofit groups that received federal grants to help people sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act are suing the state of Missouri.

The Missouri law requires health insurance helpers called navigators to be licensed by the state, which involves passing an exam and paying a fee.

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NPR Story
2:42 pm
Mon December 2, 2013

ACLU Sues, Claiming Catholic Hospitals Put Women At Risk

Archbishop Joseph William Tobin of Indianapolis prays at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' annual fall meeting in Baltimore on Nov. 12.
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Mon December 2, 2013 5:50 pm

The American Civil Liberties Union has decided to go directly to the source of its unhappiness with the way women are treated in Catholic hospitals. It's suing the nation's Catholic bishops.

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Shots - Health News
2:30 pm
Wed November 27, 2013

Small-Business Access To Online Health Exchanges Delayed Again

Small employers can still enroll in Affordable Care Act coverage through insurers or brokers, but not through the online exchanges.
iStockphoto

The Obama administration is delaying yet again online signup for small businesses through the Affordable Care Act. The program was intended to make it easier for small employers to provide health insurance to their workers on a more equal footing with big business.

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Shots - Health News
12:52 am
Tue November 26, 2013

Emergency Contraceptive Pill Might Be Ineffective For Obese

Levonorgestrel, one of the main ingredients in emergency contraceptive pills, including Plan B, was found in a recent study to be less effective in overweight and obese women.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 11:28 am

The Food and Drug Administration says it is reviewing whether the maker of the most widely used emergency contraceptive pill needs to change its label in light of new evidence that it doesn't work to prevent pregnancy in overweight or obese women.

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Health Care
3:07 am
Mon November 25, 2013

Health Exchanges Brace For A December Deluge

Originally published on Mon November 25, 2013 11:11 am

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.

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Shots - Health News
4:57 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Medicaid Enrollment Is Brisk Despite HealthCare.gov Troubles

Low-income adults formerly had few options for free health care. Leah Sessor had her blood pressure taken on April 14, 2012, during a free clinic at a racetrack in Bristol, Tenn.
Mario Tama Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 20, 2013 9:16 pm

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.

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NPR Story
2:46 pm
Fri November 15, 2013

Can You Keep Your Old Health Plan? It May Depend On Where You Live

President Obama met at the White House with CEOs from across the health insurance industry on Friday. Insurers, he says, will be allowed to renew for one more year health policies that don't meet the new national standards set by the Affordable Care Act.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 6:36 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
3:30 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Insurers Aren't Keen On Obama's Pledge To Extend Coverage

In a White House news conference Thursday, President Obama said he had thought that "98 percent" of policyholders would see no change in their current policies, or get a better deal.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 4:53 am

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.

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Health Care
3:45 am
Thu November 14, 2013

Health Care Registration Numbers Are Revealed

Originally published on Thu November 14, 2013 4:53 am

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.

Shots - Health News
1:18 am
Mon November 11, 2013

Self-Employed And With Lots Of Questions About Health Care

Illustration by Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 12:36 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
3:30 pm
Fri November 8, 2013

White House Releases Long-Awaited Rules On Mental Health

The mental health parity law passed in 2008, but it didn't cover people in smaller health plans.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Sat November 9, 2013 12:35 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
3:19 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Feds To Ease Restrictions On Flexible Spending Accounts

Where did the money for those glasses come from?
iStockphoto.com

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:16 am
Fri November 1, 2013

Which Plans Cover Abortion? No Answers On HealthCare.gov

In a hearing Wednesday, Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois questions Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about which insurance plans offer abortion services.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 3:21 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
2:01 am
Thu October 31, 2013

Congressmen Berate Sebelius For Cancellations, Website Woes

"I apologize," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday at a congressional hearing on problems with HealthCare.gov.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Fri November 1, 2013 3:21 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
3:31 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Insurance Cancellations Elbow Out Website Woes At Health Hearing

Marilyn Tavenner was the first Obama administration official to testify before Congress about the troubled launch of HealthCare.gov.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 29, 2013 5:57 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
3:56 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

More Technical Issues For Obamacare, But Good News For Medicare

Gone is the smiling young woman who used to grace HealthCare.gov. Now it's time to get down to work.
www.HealthCare.gov

Originally published on Tue October 29, 2013 3:02 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
2:05 pm
Wed October 23, 2013

Why Postponing Insurance Mandate Is No Easy Fix For Obamacare

Patrick Lamanske, of Champaign, Ill., works with Amanda Ziemnisky (right), of the Champaign Urbana Public Health District, to try to sign up his wife, Ping, for health coverage through the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 1.
David Mercer AP

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 5:57 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:13 am
Wed October 23, 2013

States' Refusal To Expand Medicaid May Leave Millions Uninsured

Protesters fill the Miami office of state Rep. Manny Diaz Jr. on Sept. 20 to protest his stance against expansion of health coverage in Florida.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 10:12 am

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:14 am
Tue October 22, 2013

How Politics Set The Stage For The Obamacare Website Meltdown

It all seemed so easy then. Back in June, the Supreme Court declared the Affordable Care Act constitutional. Waiting for that decision may have cost the administration precious time.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 23, 2013 10:23 am

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:59 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

How The GOP's Shutdown Over Obamacare Fell Short

Susan and Jack Cooper of Richardson, Texas, demonstrate against the government shutdown in Dallas this month.
Tony Gutierrez AP

Originally published on Thu October 17, 2013 3:44 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:22 am
Mon October 14, 2013

So What's The Real Deadline For Obamacare Sign-Up?

Daniel Horowitz for NPR

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 11:06 am

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.

Read more
Shots - Health News
3:21 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

First Step In Health Exchange Enrollment: Train The Helpers

Assisters get up to speed on how best to explain the new health coverage choices during training on Sept. 25 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Morgan Walker NPR

Originally published on Wed October 2, 2013 12:06 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:37 am
Mon September 30, 2013

Insurance Exchange 101: Here's What You Need To Know

The audience concentrates on a presentation by Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger's office about the federal health care overhaul at the University of Kansas satellite campus in Overland Park, Kan., earlier this month.
John Hanna AP

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 7:36 am

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.

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Shots - Health News
10:15 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Administration Touts Lower-Than-Expected Obamacare Premiums

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state agency running the state's new health exchange, announced the plans and prices that will be offered by private insurers on May 23.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 9:42 am

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.

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Shots - Health News
2:58 pm
Tue September 24, 2013

Would A Federal Shutdown Delay Health Care Exchanges?

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz leaves the weekly Senate Republican Policy Committee luncheon Tuesday, shortly before beginning a filibuster against Obamacare.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 30, 2013 6:27 am

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?

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Shots - Health News
1:20 am
Thu September 19, 2013

Employers Trim Health Costs By Cutting Coverage For Spouses

Workers prepare orders to be loaded for shipment at a UPS Healthcare Supply Chain and Distribution Center in Atlanta on March 12. The company recently announced that it would no longer offer coverage for spouses who had their own job-based insurance.
Robin Nelson Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 8:05 am

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:21 am
Mon September 16, 2013

Getting Personal With Your Health Insurance Exchange Questions

The final countdown: It's time to figure out how insurance through the health exchanges will work for you.
Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 9:15 am

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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Shots - Health News
12:54 am
Fri September 6, 2013

After A Decade, Congress Moves To Fix Doctors' Medicare Pay

I think I see the problem.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon September 9, 2013 5:59 am

Hear the words health care and Congress, and you think fight, right?

And you'd be forgiven, particularly because the House has now voted some 40 times in the past two years to repeal or otherwise undo portions of the Affordable Care Act.

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Shots - Health News
3:27 pm
Wed September 4, 2013

Bill Clinton Steps Up To Dispel The Confusion Over Obamacare

He's back! Unabashed wonk and former president Bill Clinton detangles the health care law.
Danny Johnston Associated Press

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 3:22 pm

With the launch of the major piece of the Affordable Care Act less than a month away, the Obama administration is escalating the public relations push with one of their most effective weapons – former President Bill Clinton, now known to many as explainer in chief.

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