KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 28, 2013

Today's headlines include reports that the high court sent a tentative signal Thursday that it was moving toward hearing a case on the regulation of abortion-inducing drugs. 

Kaiser Health News: Big Changes Ahead For Those Who Buy Their Own Insurance
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby, working in collaboration with USA Today and U.S. News and World Report, writes: "Most of the debate about how the health law will change the individual market has centered on whether consumers will experience “rate shock” from higher premiums when key changes go into effect next year. But there's a flip side: new rules that broaden benefits, prohibit discrimination against those with health issues and cap consumers' out-of-pocket costs, which can cut far deeper than premiums" (Appleby, 6/28). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: No Mandate For Those Left Out Of Medicaid Expansion; What Affirmative Action Decision Might Mean To Med Schools
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Alvin Tran reports on what becomes of the individual mandate for people left out of the Medicaid expansion: "Low-income Americans who live in states that have decided not to expand Medicaid eligibility will not face penalties if they fail to buy insurance next year. That's according to a final rule on exemptions to the health law's individual mandate – the law's controversial requirement  that most Americans have health coverage or pay a penalty in 2014. That rule was published Wednesday" (Tran, 6/27).

Also on the blog, Ankita Rao reports on how the recent high court ruling on affirmative action might impact medical school admissions: "In the competitive world of medical school admissions, the intention of creating a diverse student body can  include attention to racial background. But that doesn’t sit well with everyone – and the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case that the U.S. Supreme Court offered an opinion on Monday is proof" (Rao, 6/28). Check out what else is new on Capsules.

The New York Times: Supreme Court Takes Step Toward Hearing Abortion Case
The Supreme Court took a tentative step on Thursday toward hearing a case on the regulation of abortion-inducing drugs, asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to clarify the meaning of a law that state judges had struck down as an unwarranted curb on medical practice and the right to abortion (Eckholm, 6/27).

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Tells Oklahoma To Review Abortion Pill Law
The Supreme Court told the high court of Oklahoma on Thursday to clarify a new state law restricting the use of the RU-486 abortion pill, setting the stage for a possible future ruling on how far states can go in regulating the practice of abortion. Legislators in several states, including Oklahoma, have passed laws to strictly regulate the practice of abortion. Among them are measures that require all women seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound test. Oklahoma also adopted a law restricting the use of RU-486 (Savage, 6/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Abortion-Drug Case on High Court's Docket For Now
The high court hasn't previously considered what kind of rules on drug-induced abortions might pass constitutional scrutiny. In the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling and subsequent decisions modifying it, the Supreme Court has said women have a right to an abortion, while upholding certain state restrictions, such as waiting-period requirements (Radnofsky and Kendall, 6/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Appeals Court: Hobby Lobby Can Fight Federal Health Care Law On Religious Grounds
An appeals court said Thursday that Hobby Lobby and a sister company that sells Christian books and supplies can fight the nation’s new health care law on religious grounds, ruling the portion of the law that requires them to offer certain kinds of birth control to their employees is particularly onerous, and suggesting the companies shouldn’t have to pay millions of dollars in fines while their claims are considered (6/27).

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog: For-Profit Corporations Have Religious Rights Too, Says Court
A divided federal appeals court said Thursday that companies, whether for profit or not, have religious rights. The ruling came in a challenge by arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Christian bookstore chain Mardel Inc. to a part of President Barack Obama‘s 2010 healthcare overhaul — namely, a requirement that employee health insurance plans include free contraceptive coverage (Palazzolo, 6/27).

Los Angeles Times: Poll: Hobby Lobby Vs. Contraception Mandate – Who's Right?
The Supreme Court settled one of the biggest legal fights over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) by ruling last year that its requirement that virtually every adult American obtain insurance was constitutional. But several other fights are ongoing, including an equally bitter one over the law's requirement that employers include free contraception in their insurance plans. A Denver appeals court handed the law's opponents a victory Thursday on the latter issue, but it may just set the stage for a return to the Supreme Court (McGough and Healey, 6/27).

The Washington Post: Congress Contemplating Small Tweaks To Help Small Businesses Weather Health Care Reform
An effort to repeal a tax on insurance companies in the new healthcare reform law is gaining momentum in Congress, fueled by concerns that the fee would hit small businesses particularly hard. The legislation would eliminate a fee on health insurance companies scheduled to take effect when the law goes into full effect next year (Harrison, 6/27).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: GOP Senators To Sebelius: Stop Helping Nonprofit
A group of 28 Republican senators told HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Thursday to stop helping a nonprofit campaign that is gearing up to enroll Americans for health coverage this fall. The lawmakers said Ms. Sebelius hasn’t provided specific answers about steps she has taken on the nonprofit’s behalf. Republicans say Ms. Sebelius acted unethically by asking health-care companies to help Enroll America sign up consumers for health insurance under the 2010 health care law, the administration’s signature achievement (Radnofsky, 6/27).

The Washington Post: 4 Pinocchios For The Latest ‘Mediscare’ Ad
The ad, like similar attacks last year, tries to give itself credibility by citing The Wall Street Journal, which has a conservative-leaning editorial page. But it is quoting from a 2011 news article about a House Republican plan for Medicare — and badly truncates the quote (Kessler, 6/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Authorities Shut Down 1,600 Fake Pharmacy Websites
Federal regulators and law-enforcement agencies shut more than 1,600 illegal pharmacy websites this week, including fake Walgreens and CVS websites. The Food and Drug Administration also issued warning letters to operators of hundreds of websites that sell counterfeit prescription drugs and potentially dangerous supplements that contain active ingredients used in erectile-dysfunction drugs (Dooren, 6/27).

NPR: Maine Once Again Allows Mail-Order Canadian Drugs To Cut Costs
For the first time in several years, a state has acted to allow its citizens to purchase prescription drugs by mail from other countries. The idea is to take advantage of those nations' lower prices, which can be half the cost of those at American pharmacies (Rovner, 6/27).

Politico: Abortion Tables May Turn In Texas On Monday
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a message for those hailing new liberal icon Wendy Davis for bringing down a restrictive state abortion measure: Enjoy it while it lasts. Come Monday, the Texas Legislature will reconvene in special session, and enacting far-reaching abortion limits is a top Perry priority (Glueck, 6/27).

Los Angeles Times: New Budget Expands Healthcare In California
In addition to more funding for schools, public universities and social services, the budget package that Gov. Jerry Brown signed Thursday includes legislation expanding the state's healthcare program for the poor, part of California’s effort to implement President Obama's national overhaul. The new spending plan is set to take effect Monday. The public healthcare program, known as Medi-Cal, is expected to grow by 1 million enrollees and could soon cover about one in four Californians. Millions more people will be able to buy insurance through a state-run market (Megerian, 6/27).

Los Angeles Times: Bill To Fine Big Firms With Workers On Medi-Cal Comes Up Short
A California proposal to fine large companies that have workers on Medi-Cal came up short in an initial vote in the Assembly amid strong business opposition. The proposed fines could reach about $5,000 per full-time employee who receives Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program for the poor (Terhune, 6/27).

The Washington Post: Deal Pending On Chartered Health Plan’s Unpaid Bills
Health care providers who have seen their bottom lines damaged by the collapse of D.C. Chartered Health Plan could be made whole by summer’s end under a plan detailed Thursday by city officials (DeBonis, 6/27).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: DC Reaches Deal To Pay Back Health Providers After Collapse Of Medicaid Firm
The District of Columbia has reached a tentative deal to pay back health care providers who’ve been stuck with unpaid bills since the collapse of the company that managed the city’s Medicaid claims. Mayor Vincent Gray announced Thursday that hospitals and community-based health providers will be reimbursed for $47 million in unpaid claims by the end of August (6/27).

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