KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: September 13, 2013

Today's headlines include stories highlighting how the health law factors into Capitol Hill's current political dynamics.

Kaiser Health News: Each Marketplace Plan Must Offer 10 'Essential Benefits' (Video)
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews helps you navigate the new insurance marketplaces that are scheduled to launch on Oct. 1, answering a question about the basic benefits package health plans must offer on the new health exchanges. Watch the video or watch other earlier videos that were part of this series

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Insurance Exchange Outreach In Connecticut Goes Far Afield; Campaign To Enroll LBGT Community In Health Coverage Launched At White House
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, WNPR's Jeff Cohen, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports on Connecticut’s health exchange outreach: "Across Connecticut, you can see billboards and television ads, hear radio spots and get pamphlets, all about how to get insurance under the new federal health law starting Oct. 1. But the state also is spending big bucks on less traditional ways to get the word out" (Cohen, 9/12).

Also on Capsules, Ankita Rao reports on the launch of a new effort to enroll the LGBT community in health coverage: "The Obama administration and community advocates touted the effort to reach out to those communities about new online health insurance marketplaces, where people can compare insurance plans and find out if they're eligible for government subsidies.  The marketplaces open for enrollment Oct. 1, and will sell policies that take effect beginning Jan. 1" (Rao, 9/13). Check out what else is on the blog

The Wall Street Journal: Poll Finds Republicans Gain Favor On Key Issues
On topics such as health care, Democrats have seen their long-standing advantage whittled to lows not seen in years. … The poll found Americans giving the party increasingly less credit as stewards in areas long seen as Democratic franchises. The party holds a 17-percentage-point advantage in looking after the middle class, the lowest in decades of Journal polling on the issue. The Democrats' eight-percentage-point advantage on dealing with health care also was a new low, and half the edge the party held on that issue in February (King, 9/13).

Politico: White House Determined Not To Give Ground On Obamacare
Don’t blink first. That’s the strategy President Barack Obama and Capitol Hill Democrats are pursuing as the nation faces a government shutdown, a historic default on its debt and the final phase of Obamacare (Allen, 9/12).

The New York Times: Boehner Seeking Democrats' Help On Fiscal Talks
But a bloc of 43 House Republicans undercut the speaker's deficit-reduction focus, introducing yearlong funding legislation that would increase Pentagon and veterans spending and delay President Obama’s health care law for a year — most likely adding to the budget deficit. That bloc is large enough to thwart any compromise that does not attract Democratic support (Weisman, 9/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Boehner Wants Joint Talks On Debt, Budget
Mr. Boehner said he made the same case in a private meeting with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Wednesday. But Mr. Lew said the White House wouldn't agree to such talks, following the 2011 political showdown that nearly led the government to begin missing payments. Mr. Boehner didn't specify the spending cuts, "changes and reforms" he would seek in exchange for raising the debt cap, but a clamor is growing among House conservatives to demand that no funding measure be approved unless it strips money from the federal health-care law. Conservative opposition to the health law is making it difficult for the House to pass a short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, that would keep the government operating after the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 (Hook and Boles, 9/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: GOP Leaders Confounded On Stopgap Spending Bill Over Conservative Assault On 'Obamacare'
GOP leaders eager to avoid blame for a possible government shutdown next month appear confounded by conservatives' passion for using fast-approaching deadlines to derail the implementation of President Barack Obama's health care law. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, conceded Thursday his plan was all but dead for quickly passing a temporary spending bill that also defunds Obamacare, make the Senate vote on each idea separately and then send only the portion for keeping the government open to the White House for the president's signature (9/12).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: Obamacare Created 22 New Health Insurance Plans. Can They Succeed?
The  Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans, or Co-Ops, are a small part of the health care law that could have big implications for its success. Nonprofits in 24 states have received over $2 billion in federal loans to essentially start new health insurance products from scratch. And the health care observers I talk to think that these plans have the potential to upend the health insurance market -- or end up as the next Solyndra. Right now, it’s too early to tell which direction they'll go (Kliff, 9/12).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House Passes Bill To Delay Health Care Subsidies, Imposing New System To Verify Eligibility
The House passed a bill Thursday to ban new subsidies to help people buy health insurance until the Obama administration enacts a new verification system to ensure benefits go only to those who are eligible. Democrats say the bill, which has no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate, would unnecessarily delay subsidies slated to start next year. The White House has threatened a veto (9/12).

Politico: House Passes Obamacare Verification Bill
The House notched its 41st Obamacare vote on Thursday, this one aimed at the insurance subsidies to be handed out on the exchanges opening in less than three weeks. The bill, which passed 235-191, would mandate a verification program to make sure Americans don't collect more insurance subsidies than they're qualified for. HHS is already putting such a program in place, but Republicans insisted their measure is necessary in light of extra leeway the Obama administration granted states over the summer (Cunningham, 9/12).

Politico: Obamacare, Keystone Collide In Senate Energy Fight
The Senate’s first big energy debate since 2007 quickly devolved into an accidental collision between Obamacare and the Keystone XL pipeline. On one side is Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who has halted action on a bipartisan energy-efficiency bill while demanding a vote on an unrelated Obamacare measure. On the other is Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), who wants to use the energy bill as a vehicle for a pro-Keystone amendment that he’s crafted to make as much bipartisan noise as possible (Goode and Restuccia, 9/12).

Politico: Sources: Tom Corbett Preparing To Embrace Pennsylvania Medicaid Expansion
Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is planning a Monday press conference to throw his support behind a version of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, industry and legislative sources tell POLITICO. Corbett’s eyeing versions of expansion that rely on private-sector health plans rather than adding to the public Medicaid rolls, similar to approaches being considered in Iowa and Arkansas, according to the sources. The approach would bring in billions of Obamacare dollars marked for states that back expansion and use them to buy private insurance for the state’s poorest residents (Cheney and Millman, 9/12).

Politico: Arizona Activists Fail To Get Medicaid Expansion On Ballot – But Turn To Courts
The tea party just got iced in Arizona. Conservative activists narrowly failed to gather enough signatures for a 2014 ballot initiative to derail Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in the Grand Canyon State by the Wednesday night deadline (Cheney, 9/12).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Unfinished Business: Unions Press For Obamacare Changes
The AFL-CIO wound up passing a watered-down version of a resolution affirming what individual labor groups have been complaining about for nearly a year:  Higher costs related to the Affordable Care Act could force millions of their members to lose coverage under union-sponsored health-care plans. The resolution underscored the extent to which organized labor is trying to reach a peaceful resolution with the Obama administration, which wants to smooth out the wrinkles without a messy fight (Trottman, 9/12).

Politico: AFL-CIO Demands Changes To Obamacare
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the resolution raises the issue of whether “low- and moderate-income union members and their collectively bargained health care plans will be able to benefit from the same premium support that big insurance companies will receive and if they will have to pay fees to subsidize big insurance companies,” a statement on the AFL-CIO site reads. “There also are concerns that smaller employers will be able to get away with taking health care away from workers while paying no penalty” (Norman, 9/12).

Politico: 5 Questions About The Unions’ Beef With Obamacare
Key parts of organized labor have a case of buyer’s remorse over Obamacare and they’re letting everyone know about it. The AFL-CIO at its convention this week passed a resolution calling President Barack Obama's health law "highly disruptive" to some union insurance plans, "substantially changing the coverage available for millions of covered employees and their families." The labor federation did back the sweeping goals of Obamacare — covering people and restraining costs —but that wasn’t the part of the message that resonated politically (Norman, 6/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Budget Deficit On Track For Smallest Shortfall Since 2008
August was the eleventh month of the 2013 fiscal year, and the September data will likely show that 2013 was the first year since 2008 that the government had an annual deficit of less than $1 trillion. The Treasury Department said the August spending level was elevated because Social Security, Medicare, and other benefit payments scheduled to go out Sept. 1 were pushed to Aug. 30 because payments can't go out on the weekend (Paletta, 9/12).

Politico: Eli Lilly Sues Canada On Drug Patents
U.S. pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly has filed a $500 million international lawsuit against the Canadian government, saying it unfairly shortened the life of patents for its best-selling drugs. The case, filed Thursday under the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement, threatens to shed a negative light on a dispute resolution mechanism also being proposed by the U.S. as part of the Pacific trade deal (Behsudi, 9/12).  

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.