KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: July 3, 2013

Today's headlines detail the Obama administration announcement that it would delay the health law rule requiring businesses provide insurance to workers.

Kaiser Health News: Employers To Get An Extra Year To Implement Health Law Requirement On Coverage
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "The Obama administration Tuesday announced a one-year delay in the Affordable Care Act's requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees offer coverage to their workers or pay a penalty. Administration officials said the delay was in response to employers' concerns about the law's reporting requirements" (Carey, 7/2). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Business Groups, Consumer Advocates, Politicians, Policy Makers React To Mandate Decision
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "Opponents of the federal health law, especially business groups and conservatives, were quick to praise the decision by the Obama administration to delay enforcing the employer mandate provision by one year, until 2015. Some supporters of the law said the decision would not create major problems. Here is a roundup of some of the statements and edited quotes from interviews within the first few hours of the announcement" (Galewitz, 7/2). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Delay In Major Health Law Provision Raises Doubts At Critical Stage Of Rollout
Kaiser Health News staff writers Jay Hancock and Julie Appleby report: "The Obama administration's decision Tuesday to delay a major component of the Affordable Care Act -- the requirement for employers with at least 50 workers to offer health coverage -- postpones another feature of the law and hands ammunition to critics who contend it is unworkable. But it could have a relatively small effect on the number of Americans who gain medical insurance next year. The law's other two major provisions, expanding Medicaid and requiring individuals to obtain coverage or pay a penalty, were projected to add far more people to the ranks of the insured than the employer mandate, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Those measures are still in effect, although many states have opted not to expand Medicaid next year" (Hancock and Appleby, 7/2). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Lawmakers To NY Docs: Screen All Baby Boomers For Deadly Liver Disease
WNYC’s Fred Mogul, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Hepatitis C is a life-threatening infection that attacks the liver, but the symptoms often don’t show up for years. So Dr. Alex Federman, an internist at a primary clinic at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, makes sure he urges testing for many patients" (Mogul, 7/3). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: AMA To Do 'Whatever We Can' To Help Carry Out Health Law; Federal Rule Extends Subsidies For College Students
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports on the American Medical Association’s new president and her take on the health law: "In an interview taped for C-SPAN's Newsmakers, Ardis Dee Hoven, who became the AMA’s 168th president last month,  said the White House has not approached her or the AMA directly about a formal role,  but “we have been in communication with many, many individuals in the administration about our role as physicians in this and what we can help them do, and what we can do to help our patients get the kind of information they need. “We will continue to work with the administration and do whatever we can in our power to make this happen,” said Hoven, an infectious diseases specialist from Lexington, Ky." (Carey, 7/2).

Also on the blog, Michelle Andrews reports on college students and health care: "While expansion of coverage under the health law has helped about 3 million young people get insurance through their parents’ plans, many remain uninsured or have coverage through student health plans. But that's not an option for some students, who might look to student health plans or the online health insurance marketplaces for coverage next year" (Andrews, 7/2).  Check out what else is on the blog

The New York Times: Crucial Rule Is Delayed A Year for Obama's Health Law
In a significant setback for President Obama’s signature domestic initiative, the administration on Tuesday abruptly announced a one-year delay, until 2015, in his health care law’s mandate that larger employers provide coverage for their workers or pay penalties. The decision postpones the effective date beyond next year’s midterm elections (Calmes and Pear, 7/2).

The Washington Post: White House Delays Health-Care Rule That Businesses Provide Insurance To Workers
The White House on Tuesday delayed for one year a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that businesses provide health insurance to employees, a fresh setback for President Obama’s landmark health-care overhaul as it enters a critical phase. The provision, commonly known as the employer mandate, calls for businesses with 50 or more workers to provide affordable quality insurance to workers or pay a $2,000 fine per employee. Business groups had objected to the provision, which now will take effect in January 2015 (Goldfarb and Somashekhar, 7/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Health Law Penalties Delayed
Some companies had bet the law was going to be overturned by the Supreme Court last year, or by a new presidential administration after the 2012 election. After it withstood those legal and political challenges, some firms said there was too little time remaining before the provision was due to kick in. "They realized they were not ready, and we were not ready," said Neil Trautwein, vice president at the National Retail Federation, an employer trade group. "At the very least, this will give retailers and chain restaurants a chance to breathe." The decision follows media reports that companies had already cut back on some workers' hours to avoid exposure to penalties under the new health-care law. Those who work fewer than 30 hours a week aren't counted as full-time employees, according to the law (Radnofsky, 7/2).

Los Angeles Times: Obama To Delay Healthcare Law’s Employer Mandate
The one-year delay, announced by the Treasury Department late Tuesday in response to complaints from businesses, marks a major retreat in implementing the 2010 Affordable Care Act. It also underscores the immense pressure the administration is under as it tries to roll out the extremely complex law. By next year, most Americans were supposed to be guaranteed access to health coverage even if they have preexisting conditions (Levey, 7/2).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Administration Delays Central Element Of Health Care Law Until After 2014 Elections
Tuesday’s move — which caught administration allies and adversaries by surprise — sacrificed timely implementation of Obama’s signature legislation but might help Democrats politically by blunting an election-year line of attack Republicans were planning to use. The employer requirements are among the most complex parts of the health care law, designed to expand coverage for uninsured Americans (7/2).

Politico: Key Obamacare Rule For Business Delayed For Year
The delay, revealed just as the administration was stepping up efforts to educate the public about enrollment this fall, is at least partial proof of what Republicans have been predicting for months: that the health law is way too complex to be ready to go live in 2014. And that’s a message that may well resonate all through next year - including the 2014 midterm elections (Norman and Haberkorn, 7/3).

NPR: U.S. Pushes Businesses' Health Insurance Deadline To 2015
U.S. businesses that had been looking at possible penalties if they don't provide health insurance to their employees by January are getting an extra year before they must comply with the new law, the White House says. The requirement, part of the health care overhaul known as "Obamacare," affects all companies that have at least 50 employees (Chappell, 7/2).

USA Today: Obama Administration To Delay Part Of Affordable Care Act
The announcement by the Internal Revenue Service comes after numerous complaints from businesses that the requirements were too complicated and difficult to implement in time. … Other key parts of the law, including the health exchanges where individuals can buy insurance, are on schedule. The exchanges will open on Oct. 1, wrote Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Obama, in a White House blog released Tuesday (Kennedy, 7/2).

Politico: 6 Questions About The Obamacare Mandate
The bombshell announcement came from the Treasury Department on Tuesday night, catching even the administration’s close allies by surprise: A key part of Obamacare will be postponed for one year. The employer mandate — or as the administration calls it, the shared responsibility rules — was put on hold. Businesses won’t have any new requirements to cover workers, or penalties if they don’t, until 2015.  The news came just as the White House was building momentum for its public education campaign and trying to send out signals that everything was on track for enrollment to begin in October. Tuesday’s announcement throws such assurances off course (Haberkorn, Millman and Norman, 7/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Employers Welcome Delay In Health-Care Overhaul Penalties
Employers and their advisers cheered a one-year delay in employer penalties under the health-care overhaul law, but said they remain wary of unsettled details and the law's long-term impact (Thurm and Berzon, 7/2).

Politico: Businesses Cheer Employer Mandate Delay
Under a decision released by the Treasury Department on Tuesday, large employers won’t be penalized until 2015 — and not next year — for failing to offer coverage to full-time workers. The delay will have less of an effect on small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, who face new reporting requirements under the law but don’t have to offer coverage (Cunningham, 7/2).

USA Today: Businesses React To Health Care Act Delay
Reaction marked a divide between representatives of big business, who mostly provide insurance already and were focused on complying with complex new reporting rules, and representatives of small business who said they need much bigger changes (Mullaney, 7/2).

Politico: GOP Gloats Over Obamacare Delay
Obamacare opponents on Tuesday had a “We told you so” moment. … The administration defended the delay as an effort to provide flexibility to the business community, but it’s bringing negative attention to the law just as the White House and its health care allies launch a major campaign to sell Obamacare to the public. Enrollment in the exchanges starts in October (Millman, 7/2).

The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog: The Politics Of Delaying Obamacare
By delaying a requirement that all large employers provide health insurance, the Obama administration heads off the unseemly spectacle of companies vowing to cut jobs or workers’ hours to avoid the costly mandate. But the late Tuesday action is not a free pass: It contributes to critics’ claims that the White House does not have the ability to launch its biggest legislative accomplishment on schedule (Kliff, 7/2).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: GOP, Democrats Clash On Meaning Of Health-Law Delay
Republicans pounced on the Obama administration’s announcement late Tuesday that it would delay enforcement of the federal health law’s mandate on employers to offer workers coverage or pay a penalty, prompting some Democratic supporters of the law to praise the administration and others to pause for thought. GOP lawmakers were quick to say the shift was a sign the law wasn’t ready for prime-time — and that its most unpopular provision, the requirement that individuals carry coverage or pay a fee, should go too (Peterson and Radnofsky, 7/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Ohio Tea Party Turning IRS To Advantage In Medicaid Expansion Battle
Tea party activists in Ohio want to turn an enemy — the Internal Revenue Service — into an ally as they fight continued efforts to expand Medicaid. In a confidential email sent to fellow Ohio tea party leaders and obtained by The Associated Press, Tom Zawistowski laid out a strategy for invoking a little-known IRS provision that allows citizens to challenge executive salaries and the nonprofit statuses of charitable hospitals (7/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Justice Department, 55 Hospitals Reach $34 Million Settlement Over Medicare Fraud Claims
Fifty-five hospitals in 21 states have agreed to pay $34 million to the U.S. government to settle allegations that they used more expensive inpatient procedures rather than outpatient spinal surgeries to get bigger payments from Medicare, the U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday (7/2).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: UnitedHealthcare Notifies California Regulators That It Will Stop Selling Individual Policies
A second health insurer notified state regulators Tuesday that it will stop selling individual policies in California.UnitedHealthcare announced it will no longer offer individual insurance plans after the end of the year. It will focus instead on its core business of group plans for large and small employers (7/2).

Los Angeles Times: Doctors Prescribe Narcotics Too Often For Pain, CDC Chief Says
The nation's top public health official on Tuesday sharply criticized the widespread treatment of aches and pains with narcotics, saying that doctors are prescribing such drugs too soon, too often and for too long — putting patients at risk of addiction and overdose. Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that doctors are relying on these powerful drugs to treat chronic pain when physical therapy, exercise and other remedies would be safer and in many cases more effective (Girion and Glover, 7/2).

Politico: Texas Abortion Bill: Committee Approves
It was the first action on the bill since the Legislature returned to the Texas capitol for a special session starting on Monday. The full chamber will now take up the bill next week (Glueck, 7/3).

Politico: GOP Sits Out Texas Abortion Fight
The RNC hasn’t latched onto the fight. Few national Republicans have weighed in. And a key party official in Texas acknowledged there’s no behind-the-scenes help coming, though he says he doesn’t need it. Republicans will talk about the abortion bill when they’re asked about it, but they aren’t swooping into the fight with the same enthusiasm as liberals (Nather, 7/2).  

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