KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 2, 2013

Today's headlines include details about today's health law repeal vote in the House. It comes just as lawmakers prepare to leave for the August break.  

Kaiser Health News: Five Things To Know About Obamacare Premiums: A Guide For The Perplexed
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Premiums will skyrocket next year!  Premiums will be lower than expected!  Premiums will be about the same! Consumers are understandably confused after weeks of conflicting pronouncements about the expected cost of plans, for individuals and small groups, to be sold in new online insurance marketplaces under the federal health law beginning Oct. 1.  … How is a consumer to make sense of this?" (Appleby, 8/1). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Univision Obamacare Deal Could Put WellPoint, Blues Ahead Of Competitors
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold, working in partnership with the Miami Herald, reports: "Some 10 million Latinos stand to gain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and the Spanish-language media network Univision is positioning itself as a direct path to this potentially lucrative market. WellPoint and other Blues insurers in six states including Florida have signed deals with Univision for undisclosed sums to be the exclusive health insurance sponsor of the network's Peabody-award winning health initiative, 'Salud Es Vida,' which means Health Is Life" (Gold, 8/2). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Officials Face Obamacare 'Data Hub' Questions On Capitol Hill
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey speaks with Politico Pro's Jennifer Haberkorn about two House committee meetings on Capitol Hill Thursday where IRS and CMS officials faced questions about implementing a system to verify consumer income under the health law (8/1). Listen to the audio or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Health Costs Are Still Tame, Insurer Results Show
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jay Hancock writes: "Some give all the credit to Obamacare. Others cite the poor economy or employers forcing workers to bear more of the cost of their medical expenses. Whatever the reason, health-cost increases stayed tame through the first half of the year, insurers say. Thursday's report from Cigna was the last dispatch on second-quarter financial results from major medical carriers. Cigna's results were similar to those of its rivals: higher-than-expected profits thanks largely to moderate increases in medical prices and the number of medical procedures" (Hancock, 8/1). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: Budget Truce Seems Out Of Reach As Congressional Recess Looms
Just this week, President Obama tried to revive interest in a grand bargain that would pair more tax revenue, long sought by Democrats, with cuts to federal health and retirement benefits long sought by Republicans. During a speech in Tennessee, the president also called for an end to the sequester and sought fresh funding for infrastructure and jobs. But Republican leaders have so far rejected Obama's overtures, arguing that ending the sequester — part of a deal to raise the federal debt limit in 2011 — would erode their sole victory in the fight to shrink the size of government (Montgomery, 8/1).

The Wall Street Journal: Senate Republicans Eye 'Grand Bargain' On Budget
A group of Republican senators who have been meeting privately with top White House officials have concluded that they want to try again to reach a sweeping budget deal that would cut deficits and make changes to Medicare, according to participants in the meetings. The Senate contingent met for more than two hours at the White House on Thursday and got an unexpected visitor. President Barack Obama joined the meeting in White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough's office and stayed for about an hour (Nicholas, 8/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: House GOP To Vote On Repealing Health Care Law For 40th Time Before Leaving On Summer Break
Maybe the 40th vote to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law will be a charm for opponents of the overhaul. House Republicans are scheduled to vote Friday on a bill that would prevent the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or implementing any part of the law they call "Obamacare." It'll mark the 40th vote by the Republican-controlled House to repeal some or all of the law (8/2).

The New York Times: Republicans Refuel Effort To Cripple Health Care Law
With the House poised to vote Friday on yet another bill to cripple President Obama's health care law, the question arises: Why do Republicans persist in their so-far futile efforts? Democrats have many theories. Republicans, they suggest, care little about the uninsured. Many, they say, dislike Mr. Obama and want him to fail (Pear, 8/1).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Waxman: GOP Stalking Great White Whale On Obamacare
The finger-pointing and endless fighting between Democrats and Republicans over the health-care law has sunk into a familiar rut. But Rep. Henry Waxman,  a California Democrat and scourge of Republicans (and some members of his own party)  in the House has managed to create an interesting metaphor for the struggle. "The law has become the Republicans great white whale. They will stop at nothing to kill it," said Mr. Waxman in the latest of his many press releases complaining about Republicans trying to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act (Mundy, 8/1).

The Washington Post: Congressional Republicans Split Along Lines Of Seniority, Tactics
Congressional Republicans have splintered into generational factions over how to approach the implementation of President Obama's landmark health-care law. Younger GOP lawmakers are urging a shutdown of the federal government in the fall to demonstrate opposition to the law. Some more longtime lawmakers are trying the ease the tensions (Kane, 8/1).

Politico: Ted Cruz To Join Anti-Obamacare Town Hall
Sen. Ted Cruz will join Heritage Action for a town hall event in Dallas as part of the group's series pushing efforts to defund the Affordable Care Act, continuing his crusade to stifle the law, the group announced. Cruz will speak at the Dallas event hosted by the Heritage Foundation’s lobbying arm, joining former Sen. Jim DeMint and his father, Rafael Cruz (Anand, 8/1).

Los Angeles Times: Liberal Groups To Counter Anti-Obama Healthcare Efforts In August
With tea party Republicans threatening to shut down the government in an effort to roll back President Obama's healthcare law, several progressive groups are teaming up in a new effort to convince skeptical voters of the benefits of the new law. During the August recess, Americans United for Change and Protect Your Care plan to counter efforts by Republicans to disparage the law. The groups will stage protests at GOP events, organize their own town halls to publicize its perks, and provide "air cover" to the law's defenders (Reston, 8/1).

The Washington Post: Groups Go Door-To-Door To Encourage Enrollment In Obamacare
For the law to succeed, groups such as Enroll America, whose officials include several veterans of Obama campaigns, will need to cajole millions of Americans, including many healthy ones, to enter the insurance market. It could be a tough sell. Confusion about the law is rampant. The online insurance sites, which open for enrollment Oct. 1, could be tricky. Some people who rarely need medical care might view even low-cost health plans as too pricey (Somashekhar, 8/1).

The Washington Post's Post Politics: OFA Launches 'Truth Team' To Defend Obamacare, Other White House Policies
Organizing for Action is launching a "Truth Team" Thursday that will enlist its supporters in efforts to counter criticism of the Affordable Act Act and other White House policies, according to the group's officials. The non-profit associated with President Obama has established a separate Facebook and Twitter account, that will provide its self-described "truth tellers" with statistics and background they can use to tout Obamacare's benefits. While the campaign is launching during the August recess, the aides said, it would continue beyond that (Eilperin, 8/1).

Politico: Kathleen Sebelius Hits The Road To Promote Obamacare
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's beyond-the-Beltway travels this summer include stops meant to activate and invigorate networks ready and waiting to promote Obamacare. She's enlisting community leaders, bloggers and health care providers for on-the-ground outreach this summer and fall. Enrollment runs from October through March, and there’s plenty of distrust and confusion across the country (Delreal, 8/2).

The New York Times: Deal Keeps U.S. Health Care Contribution For Congress
The Obama administration told Congress on Thursday that it would allow the federal government to continue paying a large share of the cost of health insurance for members of Congress and their aides, averting a problem for many who work on Capitol Hill. However, under the arrangement, lawmakers and many of their aides will have to get coverage through new health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges, being set up in every state (Pear, 8/2).

Politico: Capitol’s Obamacare Crisis Resolved
Lawmakers and staff can breathe easy — their health care tab is not going to soar next year. The Office of Personnel Management, under heavy pressure from Capitol Hill, will issue a ruling that says the government can continue to make a contribution to the health care premiums of members of Congress and their aides, according to several Hill sources (Bresnahan and Sherman, 8/2).

Los Angeles Times: Health Insurance Rates For California’s Small Businesses Unveiled
California's small businesses next year will have a range of competitively priced options offered by a new state government health insurance exchange. The agency, Covered California, unveiled its portfolio of policy options for smaller businesses Thursday. They include both health maintenance organizations and preferred provider networks and will be available in all parts of the state as of Jan. 1 (Lifsher, 8/1).

Politico: Ohio Becomes Latest Battleground In Obamacare Premium Wars
The fight over Obamacare premiums has a new home base: Ohio. Customers in the key swing state can expect to pay 41 percent more on average for individual health insurance coverage next year because of Obamacare, according to projections released by the state’s Republican insurance commissioner Thursday (Millman, 8/2).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Va. Approves 11 Health Plans For New Insurance Exchange, 4 Others Under Review
Eleven health plans have been approved by Virginia officials to compete on a new federally run insurance exchange. But Virginia’s approval of the plans is simply a recommendation. The federal government will decide which plans will compete on the exchange and the rates that they can charge, Jacqueline K. Cunningham, insurance commissioner with the State Corporation Commission, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch (8/1).

The New York Times: Brooklyn Hospital Closings A Blow To Psychiatric Care
Now the imminent closing of Interfaith Medical Center, a hospital in Bedford-Stuyvesant that is among the largest providers of acute psychiatric care in Brooklyn, is threatening the borough with a severe shortage of inpatient mental health care, other hospital officials said. With Coney Island Hospital still out of commission after Hurricane Sandy, the loss of the 120 psychiatric beds at Interfaith, which also handles about 67,000 outpatient psychiatric visits a year, is going to create a crisis, hospital officials said (Bernstein, 8/1).  

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