KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 9, 2013

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including Kathleen Sebelius' outreach to Texans and a look at Americans' comprehension of health insurance.

Kaiser Health News: Red State Idaho Embraces Obamacare Insurance Exchange -- Reluctantly
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "[Bill] McCarrel opposes Obamacare—even though he’s uninsured and can’t find affordable coverage as a result of his artificial hip and knees. But the former junior high principal is looking forward to shopping on the Obamacare online insurance exchange starting in October to see if he can get a plan he could afford. McCarrel, 55, is thankful the Idaho legislature – prodded by Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter and powerful employer groups -- decided to have the state operate the exchange rather than leave it to the federal government" (Galewitz, 8/9). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Sebelius: We're Open To 'Uniquely Texan' Approach
The Texas Tribune's Becca Aaronson, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "The federal government is open to expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act in a way that is more tailored to Texas' preferences, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday while visiting Austin City Hall. 'We are eager to have discussions with Texas about a program that could look uniquely Texan," Sebelius said. "But as far as I know, those conversations, at least with the state officials, are not taking place right now' " (Aaronson, 8/8). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Fuzzy Math Behind Florida’s Health Insurance Projections, Group Says
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, The Miami Herald's Daniel Chang, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News reports: "After the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation released a chart and related information last week projecting that individual monthly health insurance premiums would rise 30 to 40 percent next year thanks to Obamacare, some critics cried 'fuzzy math!' This week, the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, a left-leaning nonprofit research and education group, issued a brief criticizing the OIR’s methodology for calculating rate increases, and panning the agency’s conclusions as providing “no credible comparison of the impact of PPACA on rates whatsoever' " (Chang, 8/8). See what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: The White House Keeps Changing Obamacare. Is That Legal?
The Obama administration has made numerous adjustments and tweaks to the Affordable Care Act as the law has come into effect. Two recent decisions – one to delay enforcement of the employer mandate until 2015, and another to allow Congress to continue paying for health benefits – have raised questions about how far that discretion should go, whether the White House has overstepped its executive authority (Sarah Kliff, 8/8).

The Washington Post: Appeal Of The Repeal
House Republicans have certainly tried to repeal or dismantle Obamacare — they’ve passed 40 bills to do that. The idea doesn’t seem to be gaining traction. One problem is that repeals can take a long time. ... Though it may take years, Bill Galston, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution, says repealing laws isn’t always a fool’s errand. He pointed to the relatively quick repeal of the law Congress adopted in 1988 providing catastrophic health-care coverage for seniors, which led to a catastrophic moment for Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, then chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. What led to such a fast about-face was that the law was targeted, and it ticked off the very people it was supposed to help (Kamen, 8/8).

Los Angeles Times: Covered California Backs Dental Plans For 2014, Eyes Future Changes
Amid criticism from the state insurance commissioner and some children's advocates, California's health insurance exchange is moving ahead with a controversial approach to children's dental coverage for next year while vowing to pursue changes for 2015. At issue has been whether pediatric dental care should be part of the basic health insurance package sold through the exchange or be sold separately. The exchange, called Covered California, will be offering it on a stand-alone basis to parents next year (Terhune, 8/8).

Dallas News: Dallas Officials Unite To Plan For New Health Coverage Marketplace
With an unveiling a little more than 50 days away, many of the key details about the new health insurance marketplace remain under wraps. Still, stakeholders met at Parkland Memorial Hospital on Thursday to discuss how Dallas County officials can work together to educate the uninsured about the health plans offered under Obamacare. The marketplace is scheduled to open on Oct. 1 (Hanlon, 8/8).

Ashville (N.C.) Citizen-Times: McHenry Gets Earful On Health Care
All U.S Rep. Patrick McHenry had to do during his first-ever Asheville-area town hall meeting was offer an invitation to stand up and be heard. Thirty people swiftly moved into lines on either side of a packed ArtSpace Charter School auditorium to ask questions of their new congressman — some of them pointed and many of them about Obamacare. ... many of them, including Skip Edwards, questioned the Republican’s position on the Affordable Care Act (Dixson, 8/8).
The Washington Post: Do You Understand Health Insurance? Most People Don’t
A little while back, a health-care economist at Carnegie Mellon University rounded up 202 people who had employer-sponsored health insurance. And, he gave them this quiz: Define four basic health insurance terms. ... And when Loewenstein gave his study participants a hypothetical insurance plan, and asked them to figure out what a four-day hospital visit would cost, 11 percent were able to figure out the price. Just 14 percent were within $1,000 of the right answer. Only 14 percent answered four multiple choice questions about the four most basic insurance features. ... Most Americans don’t have a comprehensive understanding of the types of cost-sharing that are at the heart of most major health insurance plans. And these are people who have health coverage right now, and consider themselves a primary or secondary health-care decision maker in their family (Kliff, 8/8).

USA Today: Experts Debate Coverage Of Scans For Alzheimer's
The federal government will decide in early fall whether to pay for brain scans in people with suspected Alzheimer's disease. The PET scans, which cost about $3,000-$5,000 apiece, have proved useful for research, and neurologists are eager to have access to them, but a recent government review raised questions about their effectiveness at detecting dementia (Karen Weintraub, 8/8).

Center for Public Integrity: Obamacare's Hidden Battle: Insurance Agents Push State Regulation Of Guides To New Marketplaces
Early in the summer of 2009, when lawmakers were starting work on what would become the largest health care overhaul in decades, the industry associations that represent insurance agents and brokers caught wind of an obscure provision. The plan called for state and federal governments to hire so-called “navigators” — members of social service organizations, advocacy groups, even chambers of commerce — to help people use the new online marketplaces created by the law to chose among insurance plans and enroll in coverage. The navigator program garnered little attention in the midst of the larger legislative battle. But agents and brokers, worried that navigators would cut into their business, immediately took aim, labeling the initiative “reckless” and “ill-advised” (Kusnetz, 8/9). 

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.