KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: September 11, 2013

Today's headlines include reports that some House GOP lawmakers are taking a hard line against funding for the health law in the ongoing debate about raising the nation's debt limit.  

Kaiser Health News: One Woman Living Beneath A Georgetown Bridge Finds Her Way Home
Kaiser Health News staff writer Ankita Rao reports: "Proponents of the Housing First approach, which has been replicated in 40 cities nationwide, say that investing in high risk patients like Alicia can also save taxpayers millions. Funded by government grants and charitable donations, the programs can curb the high health care costs that the more than 630,000 homeless people in the U.S. incur through repeat ER visits, hospital stays  and preventable, recurring illnesses. Without health care and shelter, a homeless person in the U.S. is twice as likely to land in the ER as someone with a stable living situation, and to stay there longer, according to a study by the Denver Health Medical Center" (Rao, 9/10). Read the story and sidebar, and watch the related video.

Kaiser Health News: Applying For Marketplace Coverage Will Also Determine Eligibility For Subsidies (Video Series)
Insuring Your Health columnist Michelle Andrews helps you navigate the new insurance marketplaces that are scheduled to launch on Oct. 1. In today's video, she answers a question about eligibility for subsidies (9/11). Watch today's video or other ones from the series.

Kaiser Health News: Rural Hospitals In Texas Wary Of Proposed Medicare Cuts
Texas Tribune reporters Becca Aaronson and Edgar Walters, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "Small-town hospitals are worried that a federal recommendation to cut costs by re-evaluating which rural hospitals receive higher Medicare reimbursements could threaten their financial security — and even prompt them to shut their doors" (Aaronson and Walters, 9/11). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Draft Report: Missourians Favor Medicaid Expansion
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Virginia Young, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "They traveled to six, far-flung Missouri cities. They held marathon public hearings. They got detailed state briefings. So what did the 52-member House Citizens and Legislators Working Group on Medicaid Eligibility and Reform conclude? That people want both Medicaid expansion and reform. A seven-page draft report circulated by state Rep. Noel Torpey, R-Independence, the group’s chairman, ends with that statement. There is no elaboration. The rest of the report generally highlights testimony received, without naming witnesses" (Young, 9/11). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: House Republicans Battle Over Leaders' New Budget Bill
House Republican leaders unveiled a plan Tuesday to keep the government open past Sept. 30, but were scrambling to build support within their own ranks after conservatives savaged the proposal for failing to defund President Obama’s health initiative. The plan, as presented to the party’s rank and file in a closed-door meeting Tuesday morning, calls for the government to be funded at current levels through Dec. 15, continuing the sharp budget cuts known as the sequester (Montgomery, 9/10).

The Wall Street Journal: House Conservatives Cool On GOP Spending Plan
A push by conservative House Republicans to cut funding for President Barack Obama's signature health-care law is complicating efforts to keeping the government running when the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1. House GOP leaders on Tuesday proposed a plan to fund the government through mid-December while forcing the Senate to vote on cutting funds for the 2010 Affordable Care Act. But conservatives unhappy with the health-care law have reacted with skepticism, saying that while it may compel the Senate, controlled by Democrats, to vote on health-care cuts, it won't lead to the dismantling of the program (Boles, 9/10).

The New York Times: G.O.P. Eyes Hard Line Against Health Care Law
The House Republican leadership signaled Tuesday that Republicans would support an essential increase in the nation’s debt limit in mid-October only if President Obama and Democrats agree to delay putting his health insurance program into full effect — a demand that sets the stage for another economically risky confrontation (Calmes, 9/10).

Politico: Conservatives Upset By Defunding Ploy
House Republican leaders are performing some legislative gymnastics to placate conservatives demanding Obamacare defunding — but they’re getting pushback from conservative rank and file and advocacy groups against the short-term spending plan they hope to vote on later this week. Conservatives had already planned a back-to-Washington rally for Tuesday to build support for defunding Obamacare. Members of Congress didn’t directly criticize the leadership plan from the podium, but afterward some called it a gimmick that leaves Obamacare unscathed just weeks before enrollment in the new health marketplaces begins (Cunningham, 9/11).

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Will Hit Debt Limit Between Oct. 18 and Nov. 1, Analysis Says
For example, if the Treasury hit its borrowing authority on Oct. 18, payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers due that day would be delayed one business day, to Oct. 21. But Social Security checks, veterans benefits and active-duty military pay due to be issued on Nov. 1 would not go out until Nov. 13.  The government technically hit the debt limit in May. But the Treasury has been using what it calls "extraordinary measures" since then to juggle the nation's finances and continue paying its bills. Those measures included suspending investments in some federal pension funds and in a currency exchange rate fund (Puzzanghera, 9/10).

The Washington Post: Health-Care 'Data Hub' Is Ready, White House Officials Say
Obama administration officials, facing criticism that they are behind schedule in implementing the president’s health-care law, said Tuesday that they have finished a major piece of the technology that will help millions of Americans sign up for insurance this fall. Federal health officials said they have completed the “data hub,” a complex system that will verify people’s Social Security numbers, immigration status and other information when they log on to government Web sites to buy health plans and apply for government subsidies (Somashekhar, 9/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Govt. Contractors On New Health Insurance Markets Tell Congress Things Look Good For Launch
Major contractors hooking up the internal plumbing of President Barack Obama’s health care law projected confidence Tuesday that they will be ready to go by an Oct. 1 deadline, even though the system is still being tested. With just three weeks to go before new state health insurance markets launch, efforts are ongoing to reliably link up government agencies, the markets themselves and private health plans (9/10).

The Wall Street Journal: California Says Health Exchange Will Be Ready
The assurance is a change from three weeks ago, when Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said the exchange might "phase in support" for online enrollment. Since then, Mr. Howard said, exchange officials have completed tests of the online system, including creating accounts, selecting plans and assessing eligibility for subsidies. "The core functionality has passed its test," he said (Thurm, 9/10).

NPR: Health Insurance Ads Range From Weighty To Whimsical
Some states are cracking wise in ads about the exchanges, where people will be able to shop for insurance starting in October. Others are rolling out catchy jingles. Some are all business. But in each case, the states are looking to persuade uninsured Americans, especially young ones, to go ahead and buy health insurance. Starting next year, just about everyone in the U.S. will be required to have health insurance (O’Neill, 9/10).

Politico: SEIU Joins Sebelius Efforts In Cross-Country Obamacare Push
Obamacare got a renewed show of support Tuesday from the SEIU after some other key unions have complained that the law they advocated for could undermine their members’ health insurance. Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry announced that it will partner with advocacy groups, including Enroll America and Families USA, to help the Department of Health and Human Services promote Obamacare in 30 cities in coming weeks (Norman,  9/11).

The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: The GOP Attack On A Dubious Obama Health Care Pledge
What happens if a politician makes a pledge and is called out by fact checkers for being silly and misleading? And what if the pledge also concerns a plan that turns out to be different than what he proposed during the campaign? Is the pledge still valid for ridicule by the other side? That’s the interesting question raised by Sen. Barrasso’s carefully-worded remarks during the GOP’s weekly radio address. Let’s take a look. … Obama referred to this $2,500 promise at least 19 times during the 2008 campaign, according to an interesting video (Kessler, 9/11).

The Washington Post: Using Obamacare As Bait, Scam Artists Target Consumers And Business Owners
A number of health insurance scams have emerged in recent months as crooks try to cash in on confusion over the health care reform law, and some officials say they are bracing for more in the months ahead. Most of the schemes target uninsured individuals and employers, many of whom will soon be required to purchase a minimum level of health coverage or pay a tax penalty. In some cases, scammers have set up bogus Web sites intended to look like the law’s new health insurance exchanges, where individuals and small business owners will be allowed to shop for coverage starting on Oct. 1 (Harrison, 9/10).

NPR: FDA Ratchets Down On Prescribing Of OxyContin And Other Opioids
The Food and Drug Administration today took another step toward restricting use of OxyContin and other powerful and often-abused prescription pain medications. The move comes amid an emotional debate over so-called long-acting opioid analgesics. Federal health officials and others are concerned about the rising number of Americans who are getting addicted to the drugs and overdosing on them. Pain specialists and their patients, however, fear that restrictions risk making it too hard for patients who need the drugs to get them (Stein, 9/10).

Los Angeles Times: S.F. Sues To Recoup Costs For Patients ‘Dumped’ By Nevada Hospital
The San Francisco city attorney on Tuesday filed a class action lawsuit against the state of Nevada on behalf of all California local governments where patients have allegedly been bused from a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital in recent years (Romney, 9/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Judge Lifts Stay In Fired Medicaid Contractor Lawsuit Against State, Jindal Administration
A Maryland company can move forward with its wrongful termination lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration for canceling the firm’s $200 million Medicaid contract with the state, a judge ruled Tuesday (9/10).

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