KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: July 18, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about the House vote to delay the health law's mandates as well as advance coverage of President Barack Obama's Thursday speech in which he touts the overhaul's benefits.

Kaiser Health News: White House Says Health Law Will Restrain Insurance Prices In 2014
Kaiser Health News staff writers Phil Galewitz and Julie Appleby report: "Ratcheting up the campaign to sell the health law, President Barack Obama was expected to deliver a speech Thursday touting how millions of individuals are already benefiting from its insurance rebates, while others who buy coverage in new online marketplaces in California, New York and Oregon will pay lower-than-projected premiums" (Galewitz and Appleby, 7/18). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals May Soon Be Reaching For The Stars
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau, working in collaboration with The Boston Globe, reports: "Star wars may be coming to a hospital near you. Medicare is considering assigning stars or some other easily understood symbol to hospitals so patients can more easily compare the quality of care at various institutions. The ratings would appear on Medicare’s Hospital Compare website and be based on many of the 100 quality measures the agency already publishes" (Rau, 7/18). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: House GOP Skeptical Exchange Information Will Be Secure; Tavenner Wasn't Consulted On Delaying Health Law's Employer Mandate
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Ankita Rao reports on discussions about the security of data used in the health insurance exchanges: "Henry Chao, a lead technology information officer from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said officials have completed about 80 percent of the safeguards to protect privacy when the agency rolls out what it calls 'The Hub'" (Rao, 7/17).

Also, Rao reports on Marilyn Tavenner's comments regarding the Obama administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate: "Marilyn Tavenner said at a House subcommittee meeting Wednesday that she was not consulted on the Obama administration's decision to postpone a key part of the health law requiring employers offer health insurance plans to their workers" (Rao, 7/17). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: House Votes To Delay Two Requirements Of The Health Care Overhaul
Defying a veto threat from President Obama, the House on Wednesday passed bills delaying two crucial parts of his health care overhaul that require most Americans to have insurance and many employers to offer it (Pear, 7/17).

The Washington Post: House Votes On Two Bills To Delay Parts Of Obamacare
The Republican-controlled House yet again passed legislation Wednesday that aims to change the Affordable Care Act. This time Republicans called for one-year delays on two key provisions, one requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance and the other requiring businesses with more than 50 full-time employees to provide coverage. The Obama administration has already delayed the requirement for businesses. President Obama plans to veto the House's legislation, and Senate leaders have no plans to take similar action (Johnson, 7/17).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: House Votes To Delay Health-Law Mandates
House lawmakers on Wednesday voted to approve two separate bills amending portions of the Affordable Care Act, the latest moves by the GOP to try to throw up hurdles to the Obama health law. The first bill would codify the year-long delay to the obligation on companies to provide health care coverage to their workers from next year. The second would delay a similar obligation on individuals to purchase health-care insurance (Boles, 7/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Republican-Led House Votes To Delay Core Requirements Of Obama’s Health Care Law
The dual political-show votes marked the 38th time the GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or scale back the unpopular law since Republicans took control of the House in January 2011. The House legislation stands no chance in the Democratic-run Senate (7/17).

Politico: House Votes Put Harsh Spotlight On Obamacare Delays
House Republicans have passed anti-Obamacare legislation dozens of times and for dozens of reasons. On Wednesday, it was to make Democrats and the Obama administration squirm. In the first votes since the administration postponed the health law’s employer coverage requirements for a year, the House passed a bill authorizing the delay — and then followed it up immediately with a vote to give the same delay to the individual mandate (Cunningham and Cheney, 7/18).

The Washington Post: Going On The Offensive, Obama To Tout Affordable Care Act Thursday
President Obama will tout a key financial benefit of the Affordable Care Act in a White House speech Thursday, highlighting a provision that requires health insurers to devote at least 80 percent of their spending on medical care and health care quality improvement or give rebates to consumers (Eilperin, 7/18).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: President Plans Speech Thursday To Tout 'Obamacare'
President Barack Obama on Thursday will tout the benefits of the Affordable Care Act to a skeptical public during a speech at the White House as part of an effort to build support for the health law in the face of continued Republican efforts to block it. Mr. Obama's chief spokesman, Jay Carney, said the speech will focus on how the health law, commonly called "Obamacare," is helping keeping health-insurance rates low and resulting in rebates to some Americans. The speech is set to start at 11:25 a.m. (Favole, 7/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama To Talk Up $500 Million In Rebates Under Health Care Law After House Votes For Delays
Eager to counter Republicans intent on repealing his health care law, President Barack Obama will argue that it's working and hold up as proof half a billion dollars in rebates insurance companies are sending to some 8.5 million consumers as a result. At the White House on Thursday, Obama will argue that his Affordable Care Act is holding insurance companies accountable and putting money back into the pockets of consumers. The rebates average about $100, spokesman Jay Carney said (7/17).

USA Today: Obama To Tout Americans Already Benefiting Of Health Law
With his administration facing deadlines to establish health care exchanges in all 50 states by Oct. 1 and GOP lawmakers continuing to call for a repeal of the law, the president is looking to trumpet the law by highlighting one of the most tangible ways Americans are benefiting from it even as his administration struggles to fully implement it (Madhani, 7/18).

Politico: Obama To Tout Tangible Health Law Benefits
After two weeks of sustained GOP assaults on his health care law, President Barack Obama tries to turn the page Thursday with a speech promoting Obamacare provisions the White House says are already saving people money (Millman, 7/18).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: Obama's Last Campaign: Inside The White House Plan To Sell Obamacare
Deep inside the White House, in a bare room that the chief of staff uses for meetings, David Simas is still thinking about turnout. Turnout has been Simas's job for years now. As director of public-opinion research and polling for President Obama's reelection campaign, Simas was at the center of the effort to find and persuade young and minority voters to go to the polls like they did in 2008 (Klein and Kliff, 7/17).

The Washington Post: Despite Temporary Reprieve, Business Owners Increasingly Anxious As Health-Care Law Looms
Despite a temporary reprieve from some of the new rules under the health care law, business owners are growing increasing anxious about its looming implementation at the end of the year, according to a pair of recent surveys. Only three out of every 10 small employers say they are prepared to comply with new regulations under the law, while seven in 10 say those regulations have made it more difficult to grow, according to a new survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Harrison, 7/17).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Enough Time To Test Health-Insurance Exchange?
An official from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration told Congress Wednesday he’s concerned there isn’t enough time to fully test a federal-health insurance marketplace that is being built to allow people to sign up for health insurance on Oct. 1 (Dooren, 7/17).

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth Earnings: Company Raises Outlook As Profit Rises 7.4%
UnitedHealth is the biggest managed-care company by revenue and the industry's first to report quarterly results, making its view of health-cost trends and patient traffic an important barometer. U.S. health insurers were able to retain a greater portion of premiums during the economic downturn because many consumers avoided hospitals and doctors' offices to save money. But UnitedHealth has warned this year's revenue could be pressured by the government's crackdown on spending and efforts to lower funding for its Medicare plans (Warner, 7/18).

The Wall Street Journal: New York Health Plan Rates Approved
Starting next year, individual insurance plans for New York consumers will carry premiums at least 50% lower than those currently available, according to rates approved by state insurance regulators in anticipation of changes to the federal health-care law, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday (Orden, 7/17).

Politico: Obamacare Backers Cheer N.Y.'s Falling Rates
New York is the newest flash point in the Obamacare messaging war. Buoyed by news that premiums are poised to fall 50 percent or more for individuals next year, health law supporters trumpeted the state’s announcement — first reported by The New York Times — as proof that the health law is goosing competition and driving down costs for consumers (Millman and Cheney, 7/18).

The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: Does Ken Cuccinelli's Book Question Whether Social Security And Medicare Should Exist?
The ad directs readers to pages 62 and 63 of the book. This chapter mostly deals with Cuccinelli’s outrage at the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which he views as an example of lawmakers in both parties creating new programs that he claims make people dependent on government largess (Kessler, 7/18).

The Washington Post: Wait Continues For Health-Care Providers Owed By Chartered Health Plan
Despite high hopes that a quick resolution to the mess left by dissolution of D.C. Chartered Health Plan could be in the offing, it appears that city health-care providers will have to wait more than a month to start receiving the nearly $50 million they are owed from the now defunct managed-care firm (DeBonis, 7/17).

Los Angeles Times: O.C. Biotech Firm Is Sued By Major Rival Over Breast Cancer Test
A small biotech firm in Orange County is going up against a major company over the rights to a popular genetic test that can detect breast cancer. Myriad Genetics of Salt Lake City last week filed a lawsuit against Ambry Genetics of Aliso Viejo and a Houston company after both rushed to offer the test immediately following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that human genes cannot be patented (7/17).

NPR: Tuberculosis Outbreak Shakes Wisconsin City
It's a reminder that TB — a disease most Americans may view as a relic of the 19th century — is still an insidious threat that can pop up anywhere. In its advanced stages, tuberculosis can destroy lungs, damage other organs and cause death (Knox, 7/18).

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