First Edition: July 1, 2013
Today's headlines include a variety of weekend news reports, including coverage of the Obama administration's final contraceptive coverage rule as well as a range of other stories on health law implementation issues.
Kaiser Health News: Thousands Of Mississippi Consumers May Not Be Offered Insurance Subsidies
Kaiser Health News staff writers Julie Appleby and Jay Hancock, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, report: “Tens of thousands of uninsured residents in the poorest and most rural parts of Mississippi may be unable to get subsidies to buy health coverage when a new online marketplace opens this fall because private insurers are avoiding a wide swath of the state. No insurer is offering to sell plans through the federal health law’s marketplaces in 36 of the state’s 82 counties, including some of the poorest parts of the Delta region, said Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney” (Appleby and Hancock, 6/29). Read the story and check out the accompanying map.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Mississippi Dems: We Were ‘Bamboozled’ On Medicaid; HHS Releases Contraception Coverage Final Rule
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Jeffrey Hess, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports on Mississippi’s Medicaid hijinks: “With just two days to spare, and with plenty of political drama, Mississippi lawmakers approved a plan late Friday to renew Medicaid for another year. The joint federal-state program, which provides health insurance to some 700,000 poor Mississippians, was set to expire Sunday night” (Hess, 6/29).
Also on Capsules, Mary Agnes Carey reports on the Obama administration’s final rule on contraception coverage: “The Obama administration issued final rules Friday governing contraception coverage in the sweeping 2010 health care law that officials said more clearly respond to concerns from religious groups that object to this requirement. But it’s unclear if the new rules will shield the administration from charges that requiring employers who oppose contraception services to pay for them for workers is a violation of employers’ religious freedom” (Carey, 6/28). Check out what else is on the blog.
The Wall Street Journal: Health-Insurance Costs Set For A Jolt
Healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage under the federal health law later this year, while the premiums paid by sicker people are set to become more affordable, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of coverage to be sold on the law's new exchanges (Radnofsky, 6/30).
NPR: You Ask, We Answer: Demystifying The Affordable Care Act
The biggest changes in health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act are set to begin less than three months from now. October 1 is when people can start signing up for coverage in new state health exchanges. The policies would kick in on Jan. 1, 2014. It can all be a little confusing, we agree. So two weeks ago, we asked what you wanted to know about the health law. You weren't shy; our inbox was stuffed. Here are some answers. If you don't see your question, or one like it, don't despair. We'll be doing this again periodically throughout the summer and fall (Rovner, 7/1).
The New York Times: Contraceptives Stay Covered In Health Law
Despite strong resistance from religious organizations, the Obama administration said Friday that it was moving ahead with a rule requiring most employers to provide free insurance coverage of contraceptives for women, a decision that has touched off a legal and political battle likely to rage for another year. The final rule, issued under the new health care law, adopts a simplified version of an approach proposed by the government in February to balance the interests of women with the concerns of the Roman Catholic Church and other employers with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptives (Pear, 6/28).
Los Angeles Times: Obama Administration Issues Regulations On Contraceptive Coverage
The Obama administration made a final attempt Friday to quell the controversy over a requirement in the president’s healthcare law that insurance plans offer contraceptive coverage to women, issuing regulations that exempt churches and religiously affiliated organizations from paying for the benefits (Levey, 6/28).
The Washington Post: Health-Care Setbacks Could Hit Region’s Small Businesses
Some state and federal officials are falling behind setting up new health-insurance exchanges for small businesses, which could leave employers in the region waiting longer than expected for the competitive pricing they were promised under the health-care law. The Government Accountability Office has warned that federal and state officials still have a long way to go in “a relatively short amount of time” to set up the new online marketplaces, called exchanges, where small-business owners will be able to shop for health plans from various insurance providers (Harrison, 6/30).
Politico: Obamacare: Because Mom Said So
All those groups trying to get the “young, invincible” 20-somethings to sign up for Obamacare health insurance have identified a secret weapon. Mom. Advocacy groups from “Moms Rising” to AARP are working to reach the healthy, young adults who don’t think they need insurance — and their mothers who think they do. The groups plan to use everything from paid advertising — to guilt (Kenen, 6/29).
Politico: 5 Messaging Challenges For Obamacare
Obamacare won’t have a shot at success unless millions of people sign up for insurance — the healthy as well as the sick. For that to happen, the White House and its allies will need to make the case that coverage is worth it for the estimated 50 million people who haven’t been able to afford or access insurance. Supporters are planning to spend tens of millions of dollars to persuade people to get covered under new health insurance options and explain how to sign up. ... Here are five of the messaging challenges they face (Millman and Kenen, 6/30).
The Associated Press: Librarians To Help With Health Law
The nation's librarians will be recruited to help people get signed up for insurance under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Up to 17,000 U.S. libraries will be part of the effort to get information and crucial computer time to the millions of uninsured Americans who need to get coverage under the law (Johnson, 6/29).
The New York Times: Local Officials Asked To Help On Health Law
The White House is recruiting mayors, county commissioners and other local officials to promote and carry out President Obama’s health care law in states like Florida and Texas, where governors are hostile to it. The effort comes as the administration is intensifying its campaign to publicize new health insurance options and to persuade consumers, especially healthy young people, to sign up for coverage when open enrollment starts on Oct. 1 (Pear, 6/29).
The Washington Post: NFL Says No To Promoting Obamacare
The National Football League is used to big, bruising battles. But on Friday, it announced that it was likely staying out of one of the roughest fights in Washington: the war over Obamacare (Somashekhar and Bernstein, 6/28).
The Wall Street Journal: NFL Balks At Supporting Health Law After GOP Senators Send Warning
The Obama administration's effort to draft athletes and sports leagues to promote health insurance to the uninsured is off to a rocky start. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters at the beginning of last week that the National Football League was "enthusiastically engaged" in talks to help promote health insurance. By the week's end, the NFL had contradicted that statement, saying it "currently (has) no plans to engage in this area" after receiving a public warning from Republican Senate leaders, who also fired off letters to five other professional sports leagues suggesting they avoid promoting the Affordable Care Act. The letters were cosigned by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Texas Sen. John Cornyn (Schatz, 6/30).
The New York Times: N.F.L. Won’t Promote Enrollment in Health Insurance Under New Law
The National Football League is not participating in an effort with the Obama administration to help promote enrollment in health insurance plans under the new health care law, a spokesman said. The statement came after two Republican Senate leaders wrote to the heads of six major professional sports organizations, including the N.F.L., expressing concern that they would help encourage people to sign up in the new health insurance programs set to begin next month (Preston, 6/29).
Politico: Mitch McConnell Asks Pro Sports To Stay Away From Obamacare Promotion
Two top Senate Republicans have sternly warned the leaders of the NFL and other sports leagues against wading into the politically volatile waters of Obamacare. “Given the divisiveness and persistent unpopularity of the health care [law], it is difficult to understand why an organization like yours would risk damaging its inclusive and apolitical brand by lending its name to its promotion,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Whip John Cornyn wrote in letters to the commissioners of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, PGA and the chairman and chief executive officer of NASCAR. A spokesman for the NFL responded Friday evening to say the league has no plans at this time to work with HHS on health law (Haberkorn, 6/28).
Politico: CBO: GOP Abortion Bill Would Raise Deficit
Nearly every single House Republican voted last week to increase government spending and push the nation further into debt — all to limit abortion access for some women. The official budget scorekeeper of Congress says the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks, would increase Medicaid costs by as much as $400 million (Sherman, 6/28).
PBS Newshour: Health Reform Brings Heavy Fines for Hospitals With High Readmissions
The federal government began fining hospitals based on how many Medicare patients were readmitted within 30 days of discharge in October. They track three specific conditions -- heart failure, congestive heart failure and pneumonia. … we spoke to Kaiser Health News reporter Jordan Rau recently. He's been following the policy since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2009 (Clune, 6/27).
The Wall Street Journal: At Nation's Oldest Institution for the Disabled, 13 Lives in Limbo
Michael Martin is 51 years old, but because of brain damage he lives his days like a very young and anxious child, prone to violent outbursts. He is learning to fold towels. Yet his abilities tower over a longtime neighbor, Teresa Kacinski, who can't walk, talk, see, feed herself or change positions. With help, she can strike a key on a toy piano. They are among the 13 remaining residents of the Fernald Developmental Center, the oldest state-run institution in the U.S. for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities (Ansberry, 6/28).
The Associated Press/USA Today: Texas Lawmakers Are Back, And So Is Abortion Fight
Round two of Texas' fierce ideological battle over abortion limits was set to begin Monday, less than a week after a Democratic filibuster and hundreds of raucous protesters threw the end of the first special session into chaos. The Legislature's Republican majority has vowed to pass wide-ranging abortion restrictions quickly and easily this time, even as opponents mobilize for more protests (7/1).
Politico: Wendy Davis: Perry, Dewhurst Advancing Abortion Bill ‘To Step Up The Political Laddar’
Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis blasted Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Sunday for using the 20-week abortion ban legislation in Texas to advance their own political ambitions. “I think really what’s happening here, Bob, is politicians are using this issue to boost their own political aspirations, their own political ambitions,” she told host Bob Schieffer Sunday on CBS's “Face the Nation” (Schultheis, 6/30).
Los Angeles Times: Protesters Hit Home Of Hoag Doctor Who Opposed Abortion Ban
About 50 to 100 antiabortion protesters wrote messages in chalk and shouted slurs outside the home of a Newport Beach obstetrician who was one of the doctors to oppose Hoag Hospital’s decision to eliminate elective abortions. The protest late Thursday outside the Dover Shores home of Dr. Richard Agnew, a Hoag Hospital-affiliated physician, was led by a group of protesters who mostly appeared to be in their early teens and wrote messages in chalk that included "neighborhood serial killer" and "This house was built from blood" (Williams and Cowen, 6/28).
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. The bill, AB 880, garnered 46 votes in the 80-member chamber Thursday, short of the 54 votes, or two-thirds majority, needed. The measure could come up for reconsideration as early as next week (Terhune, 6/27).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Federal Judge In Kansas Refuses To Block Parts Of State’s Sweeping New Anti-Abortion Law
The chief federal judge in Kansas refused Sunday to temporarily block parts of a new state abortion law, including a requirement that providers’ websites link to a state site with information they dispute. But U.S. District Judge Kathryn Vratil’s ruling Sunday in a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood came after a state judge ruled Friday in a separate challenge that Kansas couldn’t enforce the website requirement for now (6/30).
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