KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

HHS Turns Down Miss. Insurance Commissioner’s Bid For Exchange

Commissioner Mike Chaney wanted to set up a state-based marketplace for insurance to open next year as part of the health overhaul, but federal officials said the Mississippi governor's opposition made it impossible for the exchange to function as required by law.

The Wall Street Journal: Mississippi Health-Exchange Application Rejected
Republican insurance officials in Mississippi who had hoped to run their own insurance exchange as part of the federal health-care law have had their application turned down by the Obama administration, which said the opposition of the state's GOP governor made it impossible for them to proceed (Radnofsky, 2/7).

The Associated Press: Feds Reject Mississippi Proposal To Create State-Run Health Insurance Exchange
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says federal officials have rejected the state's proposed health insurance exchange. Chaney made the announcement Thursday. An exchange is an online marketplace where people can buy health insurance (2/7).

Kaiser Health News: HHS Denies Mississippi's Bid To Run Its Own Exchange
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, who has been the driving force behind creating a state based exchange, got his answer from the feds Thursday: Sure can't. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rejected Mississippi's plan Thursday afternoon, making Mississippi the only state to have its exchange blueprint nixed by the federal government. Instead, Mississippi will have a federal exchange like the more than two dozen other states that have balked at implementing the health law (Hess, 2/8).

In other states, the issue of the health law's Medicaid expansion is a hot topic.

Los Angeles Times: Medicaid Expansion Divides GOP Governors
Some of the nation's most prominent Republican governors have moved to embrace a key feature of President Obama's healthcare law, providing a significant boost to the administration and highlighting a fissure inside the GOP on an emerging campaign issue. At stake is the goal of expanding health insurance under the Medicaid program, one of two main ways the law is to provide coverage to those who lack it. Starting in 2014, the law broadens Medicaid to cover people who earn up to about $15,500 a year, but under last year's Supreme Court decision upholding the law's constitutionality, states have the option of rejecting the expansion and the federal money that comes with it (West, 2/7).

The Associated Press: Snyder Wants To Raise Gas Tax, Expand Medicaid
(Michigan Gov. Rick) Snyder also formally recommended making 320,000 more residents eligible for Medicaid in 2014, a move he said would initially save $200 million a year because people who receive care from state-funded programs would instead be covered with federal money. That was met with skepticism by Republican legislators who worry the federal government will renege on a promise to cover much the cost after 2017. ... To head off those kinds of concerns, Snyder called for setting aside $100 million a year of savings from Medicaid expansion so Michigan can pay a portion of the cost once the U.S. government stops covering 100 percent (Eggert, 2/7).

The Associated Press: Senate GOP Delays Bill To Ban Medicaid Growth
Republican lawmakers are putting the brakes on a bill seeking to bar Tennessee from expanding Medicaid under the federal health care law. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville announced the move at a legislative preview session Thursday hosted by The Associated Press and the Tennessee Press Association. He said he persuaded fellow Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown to park his bill to block the expansion (Schelzig, 2/7).

The Hill: NJ Dems Push Christie To Expand Medicaid
Democratic lawmakers from New Jersey urged Gov. Chris Christie (R) Thursday to expand the state's Medicaid program under President Obama's healthcare law. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez joined six House members in a letter highlighting the estimated $11 billion in federal funds that would come from growing the low-income health insurance program (Viebeck, 2/7).

Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): New Medicaid Estimate: A Billion Dollar Bargain?
Expanding Medicaid would cost Colorado about $1 billion over 10 years and add an estimated 240,000 to the state’s Medicaid rolls, including as many as 73,000 people who could switch from private to public health insurance, according to a new cost-benefit analysis from the Colorado Health Institute (CHI). The Colorado Trust commissioned the study. Dr. Ned Calonge, president and CEO of The Trust, urged lawmakers to consider the profound impact that Medicaid expansion could have on the health of Coloradans as they ponder financial costs and benefits (Kerwin McCrimmon, 2/7).

The Washington Post: Va. General Assembly Approves Proposed Changes To Budget
The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates approved proposed changes to the current two-year budget, with Senate Democrats unanimously voting in favor of its version after changes were made that would set up a framework for the state to implement Medicaid expansion (Haines, 2/7).

MPR News: Report: Health Care Overhaul Would Reduce Hospitals' Costs
The federal health care overhaul will reduce the amount of money Minnesota hospitals pay each year to care for patients who can't afford their services, according to a new report from the Minnesota Department of Health. In 2011, uncompensated care cost hospitals $308 million, and without the federal Affordable Care Act it would grow to about $319 million by 2016, said the report issued Wednesday by the health department's Health Economics Program. Under the Affordable Care Act, which would include a health insurance exchange and an expanded basic health plan for lower income individuals, the state's hospitals would save between $134 million and $168 million on uncompensated care, the report said. However, if the state decides not to expand Medicaid in order to cover people with incomes 138 percent above federal poverty guidelines, hospitals would save less on uncompensated care, the report said (Dunbar, 2/7).

The Associated Press: Officials Find Way To Preserve MinnesotaCare
State and federal officials have come up with a way to preserve Minnesota's subsidized health care plan for the working poor when the federal health overhaul takes effect, Minnesota's human services commissioner said Wednesday. Around 130,000 Minnesotans are currently enrolled in MinnesotaCare, which helps cover premiums for people who make too much to enroll in Medicaid but not enough to afford regular insurance (Karnowski, 2/7).

Philadelphia Inquirer: Uninsured S.E. Pennsylvanians Have Nearly Doubled Since 2000 – Survey
Nearly 29,000 people ages 18 to 64 lost health insurance coverage in Southeastern Pennsylvania over the last two years, according to a survey released Thursday. President Obama's health-care overhaul, approved in 2010, was meant to greatly reduce the numbers of uninsured people beginning next year, in large part by expanding Medicaid. But Gov. Corbett, who has cut state-subsidized insurance in several ways, said Tuesday that he would not accept the expansion for now, raising concerns that the trend will worsen. The ranks of the uninsured have been rising for more than a decade. The number in Southeastern Pennsylvania has nearly doubled from 2000 to 2012, reaching 305,000 nonelderly adults, the survey estimated (Sapatkin, 2/8).

Meanwhile, in Washington, senators seek to influence the implementation of the law.

Reuters: Senators Push To Repeal U.S. Medical Device Tax: Success Unlikely
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced legislation on Thursday to repeal a tax on medical devices that is part of President Barack Obama's healthcare law, although the proposal likely faces an uphill climb in Congress. The tax applies to a range of medical products -- everything from bedpans and surgical tools to the expensive heart devices produced in the home states of the senators backing the repeal (Dixon, 2/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Senators Say No Subsidies For Unions
A group of 31 Republican senators asked the White House not to allow subsidies under the health-overhaul law for health-insurance plans jointly run by employers and unions. In a letter to President Barack Obama sent Thursday, the group, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said any expansion of insurance subsidies to union workers' plans would violate the 2010 law. The letter was in response to a page one story in The Wall Street Journal last week that said top labor leaders planned to press the Obama administration to get access to the law's insurance exchanges and subsidies (Adamy, 2/7).

In addition --

The Hill: Insurer: No Talk Of Seeking 'Obamacare' Delay
The nation's largest health insurer told reporters Thursday that it hasn't seriously discussed a delay in the implementation of President Obama's signature healthcare law — a move many Republicans support. Officials from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) said an across-the-board delay hasn't seriously come up in their internal preparations for the law's full implementation (Baker, 2/7).

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