KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 26, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about the latest developments in the health care marketplace. 

Kaiser Health News: Latino Enrollment Key To Success Of Health Law Marketplaces
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold, working in collaboration with NPR, reports: "Just as Latinos were crucial to President Barack Obama's re-election success in 2012, they are now key to the success of his health law. And the administration is doing everything it can to make sure that Latinos, like the Velandias, enroll. The administration announced this week that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will be making the rounds on Spanish-language media outlets to discuss the health law and the newly revamped, the Spanish version of" (Gold, 6/25). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: With A Little Planning, Women Can Get Emergency Contraceptives For Free
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews reports: "Women of all ages will soon be able to pick up emergency contraceptive pills at pharmacies and other stores without a prescription or proof of age. What many may not realize, however, is that they can get the pricey pills free under the Affordable Care Act. Doing so, however, may take time and forethought" (Andrews, 6/25). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Hospital Officials Complain About Medicare Efforts On Observation Care; Grassley: Who Approved These Hospital CEO Bonuses?
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports on Mediare payment issues explored during a Senate Finance Committee hearing: "Recovery Audit Contractors – or RACs – uncover and collect improper payments  made to hospitals, physicians, clinics and other providers. In 2011 the audits resulted in the return of nearly a half a billion dollars to the Medicare Trust Fund. 'We need to build on this success, but we can't overburden legitimate providers who play by the rules,' Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Tuesday. 'We need balance'" (Carey, 6/26).

Also on the blog, Jay Hancock reports on the response by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, to KHN's coverage of hospital CEO bonuses: "Sen. Charles Grassley, a longtime member of the Senate Finance Committee and frequent critic of nonprofit hospitals, wants to know whose idea it was to pay hospital CEOs annual bonuses surpassing a million dollars in some cases" (Hancock, 6/25). Check out what else is on the blog.

Politico: Medicare Part D Offers Lessons For Obamacare
Three months before Obamacare goes prime time, health care vets are looking for lessons from another once politically volatile expansion of coverage: the Medicare prescription drug program. Just as Obama administration officials have warned about "glitches" and "hiccups" in the rollout of the health care law, similar bumps emerged around the 2006 launch of the now-popular Part D program, those in charge of its implementation say (Millman, 6/26).

The Wall Street Journal: WellPoint Helps Cut Employers' Health Cost
As companies seek ways to curb health-care spending, insurer WellPoint Inc. is rolling out a program that lets employers pay only a set amount for a medical service, asking workers who select costlier care to pay the difference. The idea has been tested for years by a limited number of large employers. But the new option from the second-biggest U.S. insurer, which will be available for coverage that kicks off next January, will be offered broadly to any client with at least 100 employees (Mathews, 6/25).

The New York Times: Poll Finds Rural Voters Are Divided On Federal Role
With the economy rebounding slowly in some areas, 59 percent said the federal government had at least some responsibility to help the "working poor advance economically." At least 8 in 10 supported job training, Medicaid for health care, and tax refunds for low-income Americans (Yaccino, 6/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Glenview Seeks Board Overhaul At Health Management
Glenview's growing activist role at Health Management—in which the investor has amassed a 14.6% stake, making it the largest shareholder—has fueled Wall Street expectations that Health Management could be sold. Health Management shares were down slightly to $15.31 in midday trading Tuesday, but they have soared nearly 39% since the company adopted a shareholder-rights plan in response to Glenview's share accumulation. New York-based Glenview has said it has no intentions to acquire Health Management, and in a long letter to shareholders Tuesday, said that it didn't know whether it is best to sell the company or "change management and build long-term independent value." But the investor did call a potential acquisition by a larger chain "compelling," and said a new board is needed to review such options (Kamp, 6/25).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Texas Abortion Vote In Doubt
Texas' lieutenant governor said that Republicans missed their deadline to pass new abortion restrictions after protesters screamed down lawmakers as the final 15 minutes passed before the special legislative session's deadline. Senators from both parties emerged from a private meeting with Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and said they were about to officially acknowledge that fact (6/26).

The New York Times: Texas Abortion Bill Fails After Tense Standoff
Hours after claiming that they successfully passed some of the toughest abortion restrictions in the country, Republican lawmakers reversed course and said a disputed late-night vote on the bill did not follow legislative procedures, rendering the vote moot and giving Democrats a bitterly fought if short-lived victory (Fernandez and Eckholm, 6/26).

Los Angeles Times: Texas Abortion Bill Fight Ends In Chaos After Marathon Filibuster
When Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis arrived at the Capitol in Austin on Tuesday morning wearing pink sneakers, everyone knew that a daylong, marathon filibuster was about to begin. So was a controversy. Davis, 50, a Democrat from Fort Worth, had been specially chosen by her caucus to mount a last-ditch attempt to block sweeping legislation to ban abortions at 20 weeks and force the state's abortion clinics to upgrade or close. Whether she succeeded was unclear (Hennessy-Fiske, 6/26).

NPR: Texas Lawmaker's 11-Hour Filibuster Ended On A Technicality
By midnight Texas time, it was all over but the parliamentary inquiries. After a nearly 11-hour filibuster attempt by state Sen. Wendy Davis to block sweeping restrictions on abortion, the Republican-dominated Texas Senate successfully shut down the filibuster on points of order. (See update at the bottom of this post.) "This is probably the worst night that I've experienced since I've been in the Senate, maybe since I've been in public life," said state Sen. Kirk Watson, a Democrat from Austin (Hu, 6/26).

USA Today: Texas Abortion Bill Misses Deadline
The bill, known as SB 5, would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy and force many clinics that perform the procedure to upgrade their facilities and be classified as ambulatory surgical centers. Also, doctors would be required to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. If signed into law, the measures would close almost every abortion clinic in Texas, a state 773 miles wide and 790 miles long with 26 million people. A woman living along the Mexico border or in West Texas would have to drive hundreds of miles to obtain an abortion. The law's provision that abortions be performed at surgical centers means only five of Texas' 42 abortion clinics are currently designated to remain in operation (Hjelmgaard, 6/26).

The New York Times: Lawsuit Challenges North Dakota's Abortion Limits
A women’s rights group filed a lawsuit in federal court on Tuesday to block the country’s most stringent abortion law, a North Dakota ban on abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy (Eckholm 6/25). 

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