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
12:56 pm
Thu July 23, 2015

Administration Prods States To Scrutinize Insurers' Rate Hikes

akindo iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri July 24, 2015 6:29 am

There's a battle brewing behind the scenes to keep health plans affordable for consumers. The Obama administration weighed in this week, sending letters to insurance regulators in every state and Washington, D.C., that ask them to take a closer look at rate requests before granting them.

Under the Affordable Care Act, state agencies largely retain the right to regulate premiums. So far only a handful have finalized premiums for the coming year, for which enrollment begins in November.

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Shots - Health News
8:52 am
Wed July 8, 2015

Women Are Saving Money Thanks To Expanded Birth Control Coverage

Birth control used to be a big part of young women's out-of-pocket health costs.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu July 9, 2015 5:13 am

Women are saving a lot of money as a result of a health law requirement that insurance cover most forms of prescription contraceptives with no additional out-of-pocket costs, a study finds. But the amount of those savings and the speed with which the savings accrued surprised researchers.

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Shots - Health News
8:00 am
Fri June 12, 2015

The Uninsured Rate Is Low, But Proving It's The Lowest Ever Is Tricky

"Nearly 1 in 3 uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever," President Obama told a cheering crowd at the Catholic Health Association's annual conference Tuesday.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters/Landov

Almost no one disputes that the implementation of the federal health law has helped Americans who were previously uninsured gain coverage. But exactly how much has the uninsured rate dropped?

A whole lot, says President Obama.

"Nearly 1 in 3 uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever," he told a cheering crowd at the Catholic Health Association's annual conference Tuesday. "Ever," he added for emphasis.

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Shots - Health News
8:55 am
Mon June 8, 2015

5 Questions Answered On The Legal Challenge To Obamacare Subsidies

People protesting against the Affordable Care Act rallied outside the Supreme Court in March, before arguments in the second major challenge to the law.
Jim Lo Scalzo EPA/Landov

Originally published on Mon June 8, 2015 1:09 pm

By the end of June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on King v. Burwell, a case challenging the validity of the federal tax subsidies that help millions of Americans buy health insurance if they don't get coverage through an employer. If the court rules against the Obama administration, those subsidies could be cut off for people in about three dozen states using HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange website.

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the case.

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Shots - Health News
2:45 pm
Wed May 27, 2015

A Top Medical School Revamps Requirements To Lure English Majors

Dr. David Muller, dean of medical education at Mount Sinai, believes that including in each medical school class some students who have a strong background in the humanities makes traditional science students better doctors, too.
Cindy Carpien for NPR

Originally published on Thu May 28, 2015 10:04 am

You can't tell by looking which students at Mount Sinai's school of medicine in New York City were traditional pre-meds as undergraduates and which weren't. And that's exactly the point.

Most of the class majored in biology or chemistry, crammed for the medical college admission test and got flawless grades and scores.

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Shots - Health News
9:08 am
Thu April 30, 2015

Health Plans Often Fail To Provide Free Coverage For Women's Health

After the conversation about contraception, will there be a copay?
Garo/Phanie Science Source

Originally published on Thu April 30, 2015 6:31 pm

Many women were thrilled when the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, because it required insurance companies to cover a broad array of women's health services without any out-of-pocket costs.

Five years later, however, the requirement isn't being enforced, according to two new studies. Health insurance plans around the country are failing to provide many of those legally mandated services including birth control and cancer screenings.

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Shots - Health News
1:56 pm
Thu April 9, 2015

Medical Schools Reboot For 21st Century

Dr. Raj Mangrulkar and medical student Jesse Burk-Rafel at the University of Michigan Medical School. Good communication skills, teamwork and adaptability will help doctors thrive through swift changes in medical science, Mangrulkar says.
Leisa Thompson Courtesy of University of Michigan Medical School

Originally published on Fri April 17, 2015 6:27 pm

Medicine has changed a lot in the past 100 years. But medical training hasn't — until now. Spurred by the need to train a different type of doctor, some top medical schools around the U.S. are tearing up the textbooks and starting from scratch.

Most medical schools still operate under a model pioneered in the early 1900s by an educator named Abraham Flexner.

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Shots - Health News
9:01 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Even In Nursing, Men Earn More Than Women

If he's a nurse anesthetist, he could be making $17,290 a year more than his female counterparts.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 2:52 pm

Women outnumber men in the nursing profession by more than 10 to 1. But men still earn more, a new study finds.

Even after controlling for age, race, marital status and children in the home, males in nursing outearned females by nearly $7,700 per year in outpatient settings and nearly $3,900 in hospitals.

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Shots - Health News
12:33 pm
Mon March 16, 2015

Obamacare Cut The Ranks Of The Uninsured By A Third

Originally published on Mon April 13, 2015 7:20 am

A total of 16.4 million non-elderly adults have gained health insurance coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law five years ago this month. It's a reduction in the ranks of the uninsured the the Department of Health and Human Services called historic.

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Shots - Health News
12:45 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Few Clues On Health Law's Future Emerge In Supreme Court Arguments

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act protest outside the Supreme Court Wednesday before oral arguments in the second major challenge to be heard by the justices.
Jim Lo Scalzo EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 1:30 pm

For the second time in three years, the Affordable Care Act went before the Supreme Court Wednesday. And before a packed courtroom, a divided group of justices mostly picked up right where they left off the last time.

Once again, people inside the courtroom and out were left to wonder where Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered swing votes in the case, stand. A decision is expected by the end of June.

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Shots - Health News
7:09 am
Fri February 27, 2015

5 Things To Know About The Latest Supreme Court Challenge To Health Law

The Affordable Care Act will take center stage at the Supreme Court on March 4.
Drew Angerer Getty Images

The Affordable Care Act is once again before the Supreme Court.

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Shots - Health News
6:22 am
Tue February 10, 2015

Is Now The Time To Fix Rather Than Scrap Obamacare?

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, leaves the chamber Feb. 3 after another House vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 8:32 am

Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, "repeal and replace" has been the rallying cry for Republicans who opposed it. But now that most of the law's provisions have taken effect, some health experts are pitching ways to tweak it, rather than eliminate it.

An ideologically diverse panel at the National Health Policy Conference on Monday presented different ideas to make the law work better. But the panelists agreed on one thing: The Affordable Care Act is too complicated.

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Shots - Health News
1:25 am
Wed December 24, 2014

Obama Administration Downplays Court Challenge To Health Law

Elisa Carrero assists Julian Gauiria, of Paterson, N.J., with enrollment in the health insurance exchange in November. Signups continue to be brisk, health officials say.
Tyson Trish North Jersey/Landov

Originally published on Wed December 24, 2014 8:24 am

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.

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Shots - Health News
11:43 am
Tue December 9, 2014

Wellness At Work Often Comes With Strings Attached

Originally published on Sun December 14, 2014 8:05 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:29 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Health Law's Big Tent Still Leaves Some People Out

Andres Cuartas got help from an agent last March when he signed up for health insurance at a Miami mall. In the last year, the percentage of women who are uninsured has dropped more than the percentage of uninsured men.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 5:57 am

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?

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Shots - Health News
10:36 am
Wed November 26, 2014

If Supreme Court Strikes Federal Exchange Subsidies, Health Law Could Unravel

Supreme Court police stand guard during a storm in March.
Michael Reynolds EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 12:28 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
6:49 am
Thu May 22, 2014

GOP Strategy To Run Against Health Law Hits Snags

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal delivers remarks during the the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in March 2013.
Alex Wong Getty Images

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.

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Shots - Health News
10:18 am
Thu May 8, 2014

HealthCare.Gov Looks Like A Bargain Compared With State Exchanges

Peter Lee (left), executive director of Covered California, greets employees at a call center in Fresno, Calif., in February.
Scott Smith AP

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:40 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Is Obamacare A Success? We Might Not Know For A While

Hundreds in California rushed to get health insurance just before the deadline.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 16, 2014 2:33 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:33 am
Wed April 9, 2014

Lessons Learned For 2015 From This Year's Obamacare Sign-Ups

Maritza Martinez worked with an insurance agent at a kiosk in a Miami mall to find the right health insurance plan for 2014.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 9, 2014 9:32 am

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."

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Shots - Health News
12:47 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Glitches Return To HealthCare.Gov As Enrollment Clock Expires

HealthCare.gov has more last-minute shoppers than it can handle.
HealthCare.gov

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 1:29 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:27 am
Fri March 28, 2014

Obamacare's National Enrollment Looks OK, But States Matter More

Maygan Rollins, a field organizer with Enroll America, talked health insurance options with Jerry Correa during a recent campaign in Miami.
Lynne Sladky AP

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 10:23 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
2:21 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

That Health Insurance Deadline Now Comes With Wiggle Room

Christine Moyer checks out options at a health insurance enrollment fair on March 18 in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 6:24 pm

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?

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Shots - Health News
4:03 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Most People Don't Know The Health Insurance Deadline Looms

Yudelmy Cataneda, Javier Suarez and Claudia Suarez talk with insurance agent Yosmay Valdivian at a session to sign up for health insurance in a Miami mall March 20.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 11:51 am

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:24 am
Mon March 24, 2014

Final Call For Questions On Health Insurance As Deadline Looms

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 12:48 pm

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?"

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Shots - Health News
4:27 pm
Fri March 21, 2014

Insurance Chief Suggests Adding A New, Lower Level Of Health Plan

America's Health Insurance Plans President and CEO Karen Ignagni says she would loosen regulations on which insurance plans comply with the Affordable Care Act by adding a "lower tier" option that could entice healthier people.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 5:26 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
4:03 am
Sat March 15, 2014

House Passes Payment Fix For Medicare Docs, But At What Cost?

Medicare's payments to doctors will likely be slashed April 1, unless the U.S. Senate can quickly get a derailed compromise back on track.
iStockphoto

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.

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Shots - Health News
1:41 am
Wed March 12, 2014

You Might Pay A Lot More Than $95 For Skipping Health Insurance

The tax penalty is designed to encourage people to sign up for health insurance.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed March 12, 2014 2:08 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
3:22 pm
Tue March 11, 2014

Young People Lag Behind In Health Insurance Enrollment

The proportion of sign-ups for health insurance by age group on the federal and state exchanges.
HHS

Originally published on Tue March 11, 2014 4:58 pm

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.

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Shots - Health News
3:21 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

As Health Law Takes Hold, Rate Of Uninsured Falls

A survey taken in early 2014 finds that the uninsured rate has declined. But differences by age remain.
Gallup

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 3:34 pm

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.

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