KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: July 29, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about the White House's strategy for building support for the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: Obamacare Canvassers Hit Cities In Florida, Other States, To Reach Uninsured
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Tammy Spencer did a double take when she read the address on her paper and looked at the house in front of her. Spencer, a volunteer with the nonprofit Enroll America, was spending a hot and humid Saturday morning knocking on doors in this mostly posh South Florida city looking for people without health coverage. She wanted to let them know about new online insurance marketplaces that open for enrollment Oct 1" (Galewitz, 7/29). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Maryland Regulators Slash Rates For Obamacare Insurance Policies
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jay Hancock reports: "Citing what they called flawed data and unreasonable assumptions, Maryland insurance regulators on Friday sharply reduced prices for health plans that will be sold to individuals and families through the state's insurance marketplace starting Oct. 1" (7/26). Read the story.

Watch Kaiser Health News' reporters Mary Agnes Carey, Jay Hancock and Sarah Varney talk about a variety of issues related to the health law's implementation. They'll be appearing this morning on C-SPAN's Washington Journal starting at 7:30 a.m (ET). 

The New York Times: Obama Intends To Let Health Care Law Prove Critics Wrong By Succeeding 
President Obama waved aside persistent Republican criticism of his signature health care law last week, saying in a New York Times interview that the overhaul would become vastly more popular once "all the nightmare scenarios" from his adversaries proved wrong. The president accused Republicans of "all kinds of distortions" about the legislation. He said bluntly that his administration had a simple plan to build support for the law, which continues to be viewed with suspicion by large numbers of Americans. "We're going to implement it," he said (Shear and Calmes, 7/27).

Politico: Obama Aides, Supporters Huddle To Agree On Obamacare Message
While President Obama was on the road talking about the economy this week, top aides and supporters were huddling for a major strategy session to coordinate a new, more aggressive message on Obamacare. Meeting Wednesday at Democratic National Committee headquarters over an Obamacare message testing poll taken by the Service Employees International Union, they hashed out a simple strategy, but one they agreed needs to quickly become unanimous among them and other Obama supporters. Republicans are winning the rhetorical and political argument because they're the only ones keeping focus on the parts of the law they feel are vulnerable (Novere, 7/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Young Republican Leaders Say GOP Outreach To Young, Minority Voters Must Be More Than Rhetoric
Republicans hoping to reach beyond the party's white, aging core must do more than retool campaign strategy and tactics, say young GOP leaders pressing elected officials to offer concrete policies to counter Democratic initiatives. "It's very easy to just say no, and there are times where it's appropriate to say no," said Jason Weingartner of New York, the newly elected chairman of the Young Republican National Federation. "But there are times where you need to lead and present ideas on the issues of the day" (7/29).

The Washington Post: Obamacare Spurs Creation Of Thousands Of New Jobs To Explain Law
Amid a torrent of speculation about the impact of Obamacare on the economy, one thing seems clear: The law is spurring a raft of new jobs in call centers, IT companies and community organizations designed to help Americans understand the complex health law and navigate the new insurance marketplaces (Kim, 7/26).

The New York Times: Detroit Looks To Health Law To Ease Costs
As Detroit enters the federal bankruptcy process, the city is proposing a controversial plan for paring some of the $5.7 billion it owes in retiree health costs: pushing many of those too young to qualify for Medicare out of city-run coverage and into the new insurance markets that will soon be operating under the Obama health care law (Davey and Goodnough, 7/28).

Politico: States Seek To Nullify Obama Efforts
Infuriated by what they see as the long arm of Washington reaching into their business, states are increasingly telling the feds: Keep out! Bills that would negate a variety of federal laws have popped up this year in the vast majority of states — with the amount of anti-federal legislation sharply on the rise during the Obama administration, according to experts (Kopan, 7/28).

USA Today: State Health Exchange Rates Vary, But Lower Than Expected
As state health exchanges continue to announce lower-than-expected rates for health insurance, experts say both state and regional issues play a part in how much a consumer will pay for insurance beginning in January (Kennedy, 7/28).

The Washington Post: Maryland Issues Insurance Rates That Are Among Lowest In U.S.
The Maryland Insurance Administration approved premiums at levels as much as 33 percent below what had been requested by insurance carriers. For a 21-year-old non-smoker, for example, options start as low as $93 a month. Insurance Commissioner Therese Goldsmith reduced the premium rates proposed by every insurance carrier in the individual market, including some by more than 50 percent, according to an analysis by Maryland officials who will be operating the marketplace (Sun, 7/26).

Politico: Mississippi Insurance Commissioner's ACA Plan
After suffering through a high-profile intraparty squabble with the governor and averting a near disaster for the state’s insurance marketplace, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney is giving another go at running an Obamacare exchange. This time, the Republican commissioner is looking to run just the state's exchange for small businesses while letting the feds oversee the new insurance marketplace for individuals — an option the Department of Health and Human Services only recently made available to states reluctant to do the entire lift (Millman, 7/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Grand Bargain Eludes Budget Negotiations
Top White House officials are stepping up meetings with Senate Republicans in hopes of averting a deadline-driven clash over federal spending this fall, according to people familiar with the sessions. But the two sides remain far apart on basic questions of whether to raise tax revenue and how to rein in the cost of Medicare (Nicholas and Peterson, 7/28).

The Wall Street Journal: Lew Urges Congress To Raise Debt Limit
Senior Republican lawmaker Peter King of New York addressed the debt ceiling fight in the context of a policy split in the GOP, saying, "We should not be closing the government down under any circumstances." He said that although Republicans should try to de-fund the healthcare act called Obamacare, they should not "threaten" to "bring down the government" over it (Mundy, 7/28).

Politico: No Shutdown Over Obamacare, Lee Says
Sen. Mike Lee says the government will inevitably get funded regardless of his efforts to limit funding for Obamacare. Pressed repeatedly on "Fox News Sunday" by host Chris Wallace on whether he's prepared to shut down the government over defunding the new health care law, Lee said that's an unlikely conclusion. ... "We all know the government is going to get funded. The only question is whether the government gets funded with Obamacare or without," Lee said on Sunday (Everett, 7/28).

USA Today: GOP Seizes On IRS Scandal To Press Agenda
The House of Representatives will vote on 10 bills this week all inspired by a single scandal: The Internal Revenue Service treatment of political groups seeking tax-exempt status. ... But the bills aren't exclusive to the IRS, and some are part of a long-standing GOP agenda to roll back the size of government. At the top of the list is a bill to partially repeal the 2009 health care law. The vote on the Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act is the 40th attempt by House Republicans to repeal, change or defund the health care law. Another bill would require congressional approval of all new government regulations -- a proposal critics say would handcuff the government's ability to enforce health and safety laws (Korte, 7/28).

Politico: 3 Wrap Up Senate Careers, Guarding ACA Legacy
Three Democratic senators have spent years of their Capitol Hill careers trying to pass a health care law that would cover millions of uninsured Americans. But by the time that crowning achievement, now known as Obamacare, gets through its first year, all three will have left office. Sens. Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Max Baucus of Montana — Senate committee chairmen who helped write the law and push it through the Senate — are all retiring at the end of 2014. All are devoting at least a portion of their remaining time in office trying to protect the president’s legacy legislation from political opponents — and make the law work (Haberkorn, 7/28).

The Wall Street Journal: More Doctors Steer Clear Of Medicare
Fewer American doctors are treating patients enrolled in the Medicare health program for seniors, reflecting frustration with its payment rates and pushback against mounting rules, according to health experts. The number of doctors who opted out of Medicare last year, while a small proportion of the nation's health professionals, nearly tripled from three years earlier, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that administers the program. Other doctors are limiting the number of Medicare patients they treat even if they don't formally opt out of the system (Beck, 7/28).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Feds Ban Some Types Of Medicare Providers From Enrolling In Miami, Chicago, Houston
For the first time in history, federal health officials said Friday they will ban certain types of Medicare and Medicaid providers in three high-fraud cities from enrolling in the taxpayer-funded programs for the poor as part of an effort to prevent scams (7/26).

The New York Times: G.O.P. Senators See An Upside In A Problematic Issue: Abortion
It reads like a who's who of the next generation of Republican Party leaders: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rob Portman. But what is bringing all these marquee political names together is not the Iowa State Fair or a Tea Party rally on the National Mall. Rather, they are all talking discreetly about how to advance a bill in the Senate to ban abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization (Peters, 7/27) .

Politico: Abortion Key For Virginia Voters, NARAL Poll Shows
Highlighting Ken Cuccinelli's strident opposition to abortion will help drive female voters who might otherwise stay home to the polls in the off-year Virginia governor’s race, according to a Democratic poll conducted last month for the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America. A statewide survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, shared first with POLITICO, focused on which messages might get women who voted in the 2008 or 2012 presidential elections, but not for governor in 2009, to show up (Hohmann, 7/29).

The Washington Post: Contraceptive Mandate Divides Appeals Courts
A federal appeals court ruling on Friday increased the chances that the Supreme Court in its coming term will need to settle whether secular, for-profit corporations must provide contraceptive coverage to employees despite the owners’ religious objections. A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit ruled that a Pennsylvania cabinet-making company owned by a Mennonite family must comply with the contraceptive mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act (Barnes, 7/26).

The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog: Appeals Court: For-Profit Companies Don’t Have Religious Rights
Companies can be prosecuted like in-the-flesh people and they have First Amendment rights to free speech. But the next "corporate personhood" question the Supreme Court will likely confront is whether for-profit companies also enjoy religious rights. Federal courts are fractured on the issue (Palazzolo, 7/26).

Los Angeles Times: Burbank Police Department Honored For Mental Health Program
The Burbank Police Department's mental health evaluation team is one of six local law enforcement agencies to be honored for its efforts by the state attorney general. When established roughly a year ago, the Burbank evaluation team was tasked with responding to an uptick in mental health calls citywide, which had jumped from 293 calls in 2008 to 567 last year, officials said (Tchekmedyian, 7/28).

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