KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medicaid ‘Death Debt’ Causes Some To Step Away From Coverage

A little-known aspect of Medicaid allows states, in certain cases, to recoup medical costs by claiming deceased people's homes, which is causing some people to avoid coverage, even those who are newly eligible under the health law's expanded eligibility.  

The Washington Post: Little-Known Aspect Of Medicaid Now Causing People To Avoid Coverage
Add this to the scary but improbable things people are hearing could happen because of the new federal health-care law: After you die, the state could come after your house. The concern arises from a long-standing but little-known aspect of Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health coverage to millions of low-income Americans. In certain cases, a state can recoup its medical costs by putting a claim on a deceased person’s assets. This is not an issue for people buying private coverage on online marketplaces. And experts say it is unlikely that the millions of people in more than two dozen states becoming eligible for Medicaid under the program’s expansion will be affected by this rule. But the fear that the government could one day seize their homes is deterring some people from signing up (Somashekhar, 1/23).

Fox News: ObamaCare Death Debt? States Can Seize Assets To Recoup Medicaid Costs
Tom Gialanella, 56, was shocked to find out he qualified for Medicaid under ObamaCare. The Bothell, Wash., resident had been able to retire early years ago, owns his home outright in a pricey Seattle suburb and is living off his investments. He wanted no part of the government's so-called free health care. "It's supposed to be a safety net program. It's not supposed to be for someone who has assets who can pay the bill," he said.  And after reading the fine print, Gialanella had another reason to flee Medicaid -- the potential death debt (Springer, 1/23).

Other implementation policy headlines include a Reuters report that some niche government plans will not face a 2014 penalty for not meeting the health law's essential benefits requirements, a Marketplace story detailing how rural health care options are limited and Politico Pro's report on the paths businesses see under Obamacare -  

Reuters: No Obamacare Penalty For Few In Some Niche Government Plans
The Obama administration on Thursday said people enrolled in some small, government-sponsored healthcare plans will not face a penalty under Obamacare in 2014, even though their coverage does not meet the healthcare reform law's minimum requirements. In proposed rules released by the Internal Revenue Service, the administration said narrowly defined government coverage including programs limited to family planning or tuberculosis-related services through Medicaid do not meet minimum essential coverage standards (1/23).

Marketplace: Rural Americans Have Fewer - And Costlier - Healthcare Options
When you think of the healthcare marketplace, you think of options and choices. But since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, one thing's been clear: Options are not a given. Alabama is among a dozen or so states where every county has just one--or maybe two-- insurers. Experts are noticing a pattern: Folks in rural towns seem to have the fewest choices, and the costliest plans (Douban, 1/23).

Politico Pro: Like Target, Businesses Plotting Obamacare Paths
Target became the latest big company to follow the old drill: drop health coverage for some workers, blame Obamacare and watch Republicans pounce. Home Depot and Trader Joe’s made similar changes to their health plans last year, and UPS limited coverage for spouses. Each time, it drew ugly headlines for the health care law. While each situation was a little different, the initial conclusion that Obamacare was leaving consumers worse off starts to gets squishy when the details are unpacked. But an impression was created (Nather and Cunningham, 1/23).

Also in the news -  

Fox News:  Fox News Poll: ObamaCare Support Hits Record Low
A record high number of voters now oppose the 2010 Affordable Care Act and a record low number supports it, according to the latest Fox News poll. In addition, a majority thinks the new law will increase their health care costs, while few think it will improve their quality of care. The new poll finds 59 percent of voters oppose the health care law, up from 55 percent who opposed it six months ago (June 2013).  The increase in opposition comes from both independents and Democrats (Blanton, 1/23).

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