KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 27, 2013

Today's headlines include reports regarding the gathering storm as the White House and GOP lawmakers continue to hold firm in their positions regarding the looming debt limit. President Barack Obama says he won't negotiate while some Republicans are pushing for to defund, or at least delay, the health law's implementation.  

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Readers Ask: Will Premium Subsidies Come In A Lump Sum And What Happens When You Don't Pay Your Premium?
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers readers' questions about how online insurance marketplaces will work (8/27). Read the answers.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Colo. Insurance Commissioner Braces For Bumps In Road; Wash. Launches Ad Blitz Promoting Health Exchange; Video: How Will Obamacare Affect Employee Health Coverage?
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Colorado Public Radio’s Eric Whitney, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, provides a report on how things are progressing for Colorado's health exchange: "Colorado, which is preparing for the Oct. 1 launch of its new online insurance marketplace, expects bumps in the road as residents start enrolling in new health coverage options created by the Affordable Care Act. 'We're going to have 500,000 new customers,' said Marguerite Salazar, the state’s new insurance commissioner, during an Aug. 19 interview – her second day on the job. 'Just think of how many possibilities there are for things to go wrong there.' She has great faith in the staff she's now leading at Colorado's Division of Insurance, she said, but is realistic about the big changes that are coming" (Whitney, 8/27).

In addition, reporting for the Seattle Times in partnership with Kaiser Health News, Amy Snow Landa writes about new health exchange ads in Washington state: "With five weeks left until Washington state launches its online health-insurance exchange, many residents may have heard little about the program designed to offer coverage to the uninsured. That's begun to change. The state began rolling out the first phase of its ad campaign last week to let the public know about the exchange, a central part of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare" (Landa, 8/26).

Also on Capsules, watch video of KHN's Jay Hancock on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Monday morning as he takes viewers’ questions about how the health law will affect employee health coverage offered by employers (8/26). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: U.S. Faces Mid-October Deadline To Raise Debt Limit
Republicans are demanding significant new spending cuts in exchange for increasing the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit, with some GOP lawmakers insisting on a delay or the scrapping of President Obama’s signature health-care law. Obama, meanwhile, says he will not negotiate on the debt limit, the government’s legal cap on borrowing. With the two sides far apart, there is no clear path to resolving the differences. Not raising the limit would ultimately lead to a default, undermining the nation’s credit (Goldfarb, 8/26).

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Treasury To Hit Debt Limit In Mid-October
The White House has spent several months working with a small group of Republican senators to discuss a budget agreement that some Democrats had hoped would clear the way for an increase in the debt ceiling. Those talks have not progressed beyond an early stage, people familiar with the process have said. House GOP leaders haven't disclosed their strategy for dealing with the debt-ceiling deadline, focusing instead on what to do to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of next month. They have held talks with rank-and-file members over a proposal to fund the government at existing levels for the next two or three months, a proposal that many Democrats have indicated they could reluctantly accept. A vocal minority of Republicans, however, have said they would vote for a budget bill only if the White House's health-care law is defunded, a demand Democrats wouldn't accept—setting up a clash that could make it more difficult to reach a bipartisan agreement (Paletta, 8/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Treasury Secretary Says U.S. Will Hit Debt Limit In Mid-Oct, Urges Congress To Raise It
Lew said it’s impossible for Treasury to predict exactly when borrowing limit will be reached. But he warns that if action isn’t taken soon, the government could be left with $50 billion in cash by mid-October. He says that wouldn’t be enough to cover Social Security payments, military personnel salaries, Medicare and other programs for an "extended period" (8/26).

Politico: Debt Limit To Be Hit By Mid-October
The deadline, sooner than what some forecasters had estimated, comes amid concern that Congress has no plan for handling the needed increase to the government’s borrowing authority. The Obama administration has said it will not negotiate over raising the debt limit, while Republicans have a long list of demands, including revising President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law (Faler, 8/26).

Los Angeles Times: Long-Term Deficit Is Chief Fiscal Problem Facing U.S., Survey Says
Many economists believe deficits in the 2020s and 2030s are a more pressing issue than current deficits or those that will be racked up in the next decade, according to a survey by the National Assn. for Business Economics. Economists were mixed on how to fix the long-term problem, which will be exacerbated by aging baby boomers who will increasingly rely on Social Security payments and Medicare (Li, 8/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Survey Of Business Economists Calls Deficits In 2020s And 2030s The Biggest US Fiscal Problem
The NABE said 39 percent of those surveyed felt the best way to address the deficit-to-gross domestic product ratio in the next few decades is a mix of spending restraint and increased revenue. It said 32 percent believe the best single tool would be greater spending restraint, and 20 percent said enacting policies designed to encourage economic growth would be the best tactic. Ballooning costs for Social Security and Medicare as the U.S. population ages are expected to result in growing long-term budget deficits (8/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Conservatives Group To Run Radio Ad Challenging Senate GOP Leader McConnell On Health Care Law
A conservative group is launching a radio ad challenging Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell to oppose any money for President Barack Obama’s health care law even if it means triggering a government shutdown. The Senate Conservatives Fund is spending nearly $50,000 on the 60-second commercial that will begin airing on Tuesday in Kentucky, where McConnell is locked in a tough race for a sixth term. The GOP leader faces both a primary rival, businessman Matt Bevin, and a Democratic foe, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (8/26).

Politico: Paul, Cruz Plan Anti-Obamacare Rally
Obamacare opponents are planning a defunding rally for the first day lawmakers return from August recess and just three weeks before millions can start enrolling in coverage. Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah), who have been leading calls in the Senate to defund the law in any spending bills, will headline the Sept. 10 Exempt America from Obamacare event, organized by Tea Party Patriots and ForAmerica, along with other conservative groups (Millman, 8/26).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Obama Asks African-American Churches For Help With Health Law
When President Barack Obama met with African-American religious leaders at the White House Monday in advance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, he had a request: He asked for their help in the final push to implement the federal health care law. The president hosted representatives of major African-American denominations in the Roosevelt Room, where they discussed “how civil rights and equality are closely tied to voting rights and closing the gap on education, unemployment, and access to health care,” White House said in a written statement (Radnofsky, 8/26).

The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog: The White House Says Obamacare Begins On Oct. 1. Not Really.
As I spent time reporting my most recent article – checking in with state marketplaces — it became increasingly clear that their big day isn’t necessarily Oct. 1. Instead, it’s Jan. 1,  the day that the individual mandate takes effect and any plans purchased on the marketplace actually kick in. The space between October and December is viewed, by many standing up the health care law, as soft launch: the time to make their new Web sites live, sort out the kinks and get the site in prime condition for the beginning of 2014 (Kliff, 8/26).

The Washington Post: Bill Would End Federal Funding For Lawmakers' Health Coverage
A House Republican on Monday proposed a bill that would end federal funding for the health-care premiums of members of Congress and leave lawmakers to fend for themselves after they enter new insurance exchanges forming under Obamacare. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.) said she will introduce the legislation after Congress returns from a five-week break in September. ”As long as Obamacare remains law, members of Congress should not receive exchange subsidies that are not provided to other Americans,” she said in a statement (Hicks, 8/27).

The Washington Post’s Gov Beat: Michigan Senate To Vote On Medicaid Expansion
The Michigan Senate is weighing whether to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income families, a closely-watched vote that has divided conservative Republicans and centrist Gov. Rick Snyder (R) for months (Wilson, 8/27).

The Wall Street Journal: Nursing Homes' Drug Use Falls
A two-year effort by the federal government and the nursing-home industry has reduced the use of powerful antipsychotic drugs among elderly nursing-home residents, but the decline fell short of the program's goal, according to U.S. officials (Lagnado, 8/26).

The Washington Post's Gov Beat: Defending Abortion Limits Can Cost States Millions
Passing a controversial bill is just the first step. Then come the legal costs. Just last week, Idaho was ordered to cover the $376,000 in legal fees a woman there spent on suing the state after she was charged for an illegal abortion, according to the Associated Press. Combined with its past defense of abortion limits, the state has shelled out more than $1 million since 2000 (Chokshi, 8/26).

Los Angeles Times: Man Sentenced In Skid Row Health Fraud Scheme, Fined $9.8 Million
A Los Angeles man who recruited homeless medical patients on skid row as part of a scheme to defraud federal programs of millions of dollars was sentenced Monday to 18 months in federal prison. Estill Mitts, 68, of Los Angeles was sentenced by U.S. District Judge George H. King five years after Mitts pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme. Prosecutors said he recruited homeless people in downtown Los Angeles and sent them to hospitals, which drained their Medi-Cal and Medicare benefits before sending them back to the streets. Mitts must also pay $9.8 million in restitution in connection with the massive fraud scheme exposed when some of the hospitals got caught dumping patients (Winton, 8/26).

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