KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: January 22, 2014

Today's headlines include a report that Target announced its plans to stop offering health coverage to part-time workers.  

Kaiser Health News: 8 Things To Know About Obamacare In 2014
Kaiser Health News staff writer Ankita Rao offers this tip ship to give answers to readers who are having a hard time making sense of what the health law means for them this year? (Rao, 1/22). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Solo Coverage for $430 a Month? It’s a Deal!
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Randy Dotinga writes: “After 13 years of being an insurer’s worst nightmare, I just heard some wonderful words: The insurance company will see you now. They even gave me coverage. Darned good coverage, in fact, for $430 a month for my single, middle-aged and pre-existing-conditioned self” (Dotinga, 1/22). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Target Cuts Health Coverage For Part-Time Workers
Target Corp. on Tuesday said it would stop offering health coverage for part-time employees, citing insurance options available through public exchanges. Target will stop covering part-time employees on April 1, the company said in a corporate blog post quoting human resources chief Jodee Kozlak. Less than 10% of Target's roughly 360,000 employees take part in the plan being discontinued. Those employees will be given $500 due to the coverage being ended (Ziobro and Radnofsky, 1/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Insurance Through Work? Health Law Affects You Too
The health care overhaul’s reach stretches far beyond the millions of uninsured Americans it is expected to help. It also could touch everything from the drug choices to doctor bills of people who have insurance through work. The law isn’t expected to prompt sudden, radical changes for workers. So you probably won’t lose your job due to the overhaul, despite claims by the law’s opponents. But benefits experts say there are several other ways the law can leave fingerprints on the benefits of the roughly 149 million people who are covered through their jobs (1/21).

Los Angeles Times: Covered California Faulted For Low Latino Enrollment
California keeps signing up people for Obamacare policies at a rapid clip, but the state's struggle to reach uninsured Latinos is drawing more criticism. The Covered California exchange said Tuesday that more than 625,000 people have enrolled statewide in health plans through Jan. 15 as part of the Affordable Care Act. Even though enrollment opened in October, more than 500,000 of those enrollees signed up in just the last six weeks (Terhune, 1/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Md. Senate Oks Bill On Health Exchange Problems
The Maryland Senate voted Tuesday for an emergency measure to provide health insurance for people who tried to enroll online in the state’s health exchange but couldn’t because of computer problems. The bill, which still needs House approval, would enable people to enroll in an already existing state insurance pool called the Maryland Health Insurance Program. The program is a separate safety net plan that has served as a high-risk pool for state residents without insurance. Because the bill is an emergency measure, it would take effect as soon as it is signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose administration proposed the bill (1/21).

The Washington Post: Rep. Delaney Voices Frustration Over Maryland Health Exchange
Six weeks ago, Rep. John K. Delaney began to push this idea: What if Maryland just abandoned its troubled online health insurance marketplace and used the federal version instead? Or maybe used some combination of the two? Delaney (D-Md.) waited for state officials to fully evaluate the option. Then, on Jan. 6, he sent a letter to the state’s secretary of health and asked for a brief analysis of the “pros and cons” of switching. He didn’t receive a formal response. On Tuesday, Delaney sent another letter (Johnson, 1/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: New 39.6 Percent Tax Bracket For Wealthiest People
A new top tax rate, higher Medicare taxes and the phaseout of deductions and exemptions could mean higher tax bills for wealthier Americans this year. Legally wed same-sex couples, meanwhile, may find the true meaning of the marriage penalty. All taxpayers will have a harder time taking medical deductions (1/22).

The New York Times: Justices Appear Divided On A Sweeping Challenge To Public Workers’ Unions
A broad challenge to public sector unions was met with a mixed response on Tuesday at the Supreme Court. The case, brought by Illinois workers who provide home health care to Medicaid recipients, could have been argued on narrow grounds. But the workers’ lawyer decided to go big (Liptak, 1/21).

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court Considers Striking Down Mandatory Public Union
Illinois uses Medicaid funds to provide in-home care for adults with disabilities. In 2003, Gov. Rod Blagojevich cleared the way for more than 20,000 of these in-home workers to be characterized as state workers who were then free to join a union. A majority of them voted to join the Service Employees International Union, which led to higher wages and better benefits (Savage, 1/21).

Los Angeles Times: Scalia May Be Swing Vote In Union-Fees Case
The issue arose in an Illinois case involving home-care providers. National Right to Work sued Illinois after decisions in 2003 and 2009 to classify 20,000 in-home care workers as state employees. The workers, who assist adults with disabilities, are often family members of the disabled or are self-employed, but they are paid by the state with Medicaid funds. After being declared state employees, the workers voted to join the Service Employees International Union, which succeeded in winning higher wages and better benefits (Savage, 1/21).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: Medicaid Waiver Called Essential For NY Hospitals
New York's health commissioner says the state has been waiting 18 months since requesting a $10 billion federal Medicaid waiver he calls essential for eight struggling hospitals in Brooklyn and others around the state. Dr. Nirav Shah says Tuesday nearly half New York's 227 hospitals are financially distressed. Waivers exempt states from federal program requirements, for example letting them move beneficiaries away from fee-for-service treatment into managed care (1/21).

Los Angeles Times: Legislator Introduces Bill To Guarantee Paid Sick Days
A bill unveiled Tuesday would guarantee at least three paid sick days a year for California workers. "It’s time to have this discussion, to seriously engage on the rights of everybody to take a day off when they’re sick or be able to take their child to the doctor," said the measure's author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) in an interview Tuesday (Mason, 1/21).

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