KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: May 24, 2013

Today's headlines include details on California's new health insurance exchange rates, whether consumers will experience "rate shock" and what these numbers say about the health law's implementation. 

Kaiser Health News: California Insurance Exchange Rates: Not Too High, Not Too Low
Kaiser Health News staff writer Sarah Varney reports: "In the first disclosure of individual health insurance premiums by the nation's largest state, California announced on Thursday a wide array of choices for the 5.3 million people expected to qualify to purchase coverage through its online marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act" (Varney, 5/24). Read the story.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Overhaul Faces Backlash From Once Supportive Labor Unions
When President Barack Obama pushed his health care overhaul plan through Congress, he counted labor unions among his strongest supporters. But some unions leaders have grown frustrated and angry about what they say are unexpected consequences of the new law — problems that they say could jeopardize the health benefits offered to millions of their members (5/24).

Los Angeles Times: New California Health Insurance Rates Unveiled
Amid anxiety over rising costs from the federal healthcare law, California received better-than-expected insurance rates for a new state-run marketplace, but many consumers still won't be spared from sharply higher premiums (Terhune, 5/23).

The New York Times: California Puts Tentative Price On Health Policies Under New Law
State officials said that rate increases for individuals who already had insurance would not be as high as some had feared. Blue Shield of California, for example, estimated its current customers would see rate increases of about 13 percent. Some estimates had suggested rate increases could be 30 percent. The increases are largely the result of higher prices and the need to cover people who now have no insurance and are likely to have expensive medical problems (Abelson, 5/23).

The Washington Post: California's Likely Health Insurance Rates Under New Law Are Lower Than Expected
California health officials on Thursday unveiled the likely rates that insurers will charge under President Obama’s health-care law — and they are lower than expected, rebutting warnings by critics that many people will experience "rate shock" once the law is fully implemented. On average, a person who chooses a mid-level plan can expect to pay around $321 a month, about $100 less than the amount projected by the Congressional Budget Office when the law was being debated in Washington (Somashekhar, 5/23).

The Wall Street Journal: California Outlines Health Premiums
Early results around the U.S. indicate prices for exchange plans will vary widely—both from state to state and among consumers—as will the effect of the law on premiums. In states such as Vermont and Rhode Island, with regulations somewhat similar to the federal law's rules, the legislation is having little effect on premiums. In other places, like Maryland and Kentucky, there have been signs of sometimes-large rate increases. In California, "we're getting the best-case scenarios" on rates, with some "far lower" than projected in an actuarial report commissioned by the agency, said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. He said costs would go up for some consumers, and down for others (Mathews and Radnofsky, 5/23).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Republican Arizona State Representative Says She got Threatening Message Over Medicaid Support
A Republican member of the Arizona House who supports GOP Gov. Jan Brewer's push to expand Medicaid received an obscene and threatening voicemail at her office, a sign that the rancorous debate over embracing a signature component of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul in the state is far from over (5/23).

The Washington Post's The Fact Checker: Bachmann's Absurd Claim Of A Vast IRS Health Database Of 'Sensitive, Intimate' Information
With the Internal Revenue Service in the news, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has taken the opportunity to marry that scandal with her ongoing battle against the president’s health-care law, a.k.a. "Obamacare." The picture she has sketched is pretty frightening — that the "most personal, sensitive, intimate, private health-care information is in the hands of the IRS" via a vast database. Indeed, even though our colleagues at PolitiFact and FactCheck.Org have beaten us to the punch on this language, the issues she has raised have generated enough buzz on the blogosphere that we believe we should weigh in as well. What is Bachmann talking about? (Kessler, 5/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Hobby Lobby Appeal Tests Limits Of Federal Birth-Control Coverage Mandate
In the most prominent challenge of its kind, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. asked a federal appeals court Thursday for an exemption from part of the federal health care law that requires it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill. The Oklahoma City-based arts-and-crafts chain argued that businesses — not just the currently exempted religious groups — should be allowed to seek exception from that section of the health law if it violates their religious beliefs (5/23).

Los Angeles Times: Immigrant Healthcare Bills Stump House Group
Differences over whether immigrants should be deported for failing to have health insurance or pay their healthcare bills have stalled a bipartisan group of House lawmakers, who blew past a self-imposed Thursday deadline as they pressed forward on a sweeping immigration overhaul (Mascaro, 5/23).

The Wall Street Journal: House Immigration Effort Hits Bump In The Road
Last week, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers thought they had a broad deal on how to overhaul the immigration system. This week, they don't. The eight House lawmakers were forced to backtrack from the "agreement in principle" reached last Thursday after House Democratic leaders objected to a provision dealing with health-care coverage for illegal immigrants living in the U.S., according to aides from both parties.  The group continued to meet this week, and its members remained hopeful they would be able to strike a deal that passes muster among all involved (Peterson, 5/23).

NPR: Abortion Opponents Try To Spin Murder Case Into Legislation
As predicted, abortion opponents on Capitol Hill are wasting no time in their efforts to turn publicity over the recent murder conviction of abortion provider Kermit Gosnell to their legislative advantage (Rovner, 5/23).

Politico: House Panel Considers Abortion Bill
A bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks nationwide received consideration from a House panel on Thursday — and the Kermit Gosnell case and recent court rulings provided a fresh backdrop. But the same familiar arguments in the fight over abortion dominated the discussion (Smith, 5/24).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Grand Jury To Look Into $200M Medicaid Contract Awarded By Jindal Administration
The Louisiana attorney general's office said a special grand jury was selected Thursday to look into possible criminal activity involving a $200 million Medicaid contract awarded by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration. Assistant Attorney General Butch Wilson told a judge that the grand jury was being empaneled in Baton Rouge as part of an ongoing investigation into the now-canceled contract for Client Network Services Inc., or CNSI (5/23).

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