First Edition: July 26, 2013
Today's headlines include reports about an effort by some GOP lawmakers to force a showdown over health law funding.
Kaiser Health News: Health Law Boosts Status Of Alternative Medicine -- At Least On Paper
Kaiser Health News staff writer Ankita Rao reports: "Complementary and alternative medicine -- a term that encompasses meditation, acupuncture, chiropractic care and homeopathic treatment, among other things -- has become increasingly popular. About four in 10 adults (and one in nine children) in the U.S. are using some form of alternative medicine, according to the National Institutes of Health. And with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the field could make even more headway in the mainstream health care system. That is, unless the fine print -- in state legislation and insurance plans -- falls short because of unclear language and insufficient oversight" (Rao, 7/26). Read the story.
Politico: GOP Feuds Over Obamacare Tactics
A brewing Republican versus Republican fight over whether to use a government funding measure to choke off Obamacare is splitting the party ahead of this fall’s budget battles. A growing number of Republicans are rejecting calls from leading conservatives, including Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, to defund the president’s health care law in the resolution to keep the government running past Sept. 30. The rift exposes an emerging divide over how the GOP can best achieve its No. 1 goal — to repeal Obamacare — while highlighting the spreading fears that Republicans would lose a public relations war if the dispute leads to a government shutdown in the fall (Raju and Sherman, 7/25).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Funding, More Spending Cuts Are Obstacles to Averting Government Shutdown In Fall
There hasn’t been a government shutdown in nearly two decades, but top lawmakers on Capitol Hill are finding trickier-than-usual obstacles in their path as they try to come up with must-do legislation to keep federal agencies running after Sept. 30. Conservatives making a last stand against President Barack Obama’s new health care law and Senate Democrats’ resistance to a $20 billion spending cut wanted by many, if not most, Republicans are two of the major problems confronting House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other GOP leaders (7/26).
Reuters/The Washington Post: Republicans Prepare For 'Obamacare' Showdown, With Eye To 2014 Elections
With the Obama administration poised for a huge public education campaign on healthcare reform, Republicans and their allies are mobilizing a counter-offensive including town hall meetings, protests and media promotions to dissuade uninsured Americans from obtaining health coverage (7/25).
Politico: Republicans Pen Obamacare Letter To John Boehner
More than 60 Republicans have signed a letter urging Speaker John Boehner to defund Obamacare when Congress funds the government in September. The letter, being circulated by the office of freshman Rep. Mark Meadows, doesn't explicitly say that supporters will vote against a government funding bill if it does not strip funding for Obamacare. But it says that signers of the letter are "urging [Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.)] to defund the implementation and enforcement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill" (Sherman and Bresnahan, 7/26).
Politico: Marco Rubio Doubles Down On Obamacare Defunding Rhetoric
Rubio and other Senate Republicans have already signed a letter promising not to support a continuing resolution or appropriations bill that funds further implementation or enforcement of the law. Depending on how many lawmakers follow their lead, the Affordable Care Act could turn into a central sticking point over raising the debt ceiling, which the government is expected to hit sometime between Oct. 1 and the end of the year (Cunningham, 7/25).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Getting Health Coverage Through Obama law Not As Easy As Shopping On Travelocity Or Amazon
You may have heard that shopping for health insurance under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul will be like using Travelocity or Amazon. But many people will end up with something more mundane than online shopping, like a call to the help desk (7/26).
The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: CVS Plans To Help Customers Sign Up for Obamacare
CVS Caremark Corp. will roll out an outreach campaign this fall to help uninsured Americans find out about their insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. Federal and state governments are planning to launch online insurance exchanges or marketplaces starting Oct. 1 that will allow people to shop for private health insurance or Medicaid if they qualify. Coverage would start Jan. 1 (Dooren, 7/25).
Los Angeles Times: White Castle VP Talks Part-Time Workers In Response To Healthcare Law
As President Obama's healthcare law rolls out in the coming years, business owners are figuring out how they will comply with coverage mandates. One popular restaurant chain, White Castle, may in the future hire only part-time workers once the law is fully implemented, according to Vice President Jamie Richardson. Richardson told NPR in an interview that the company is trying to figure out how to keep costs down (Lopez, 7/25).
Politico: CVS Caremark Will Help Promote Obamacare
CVS Caremark is joining the effort to encourage Americans to sign up for Obamacare insurance programs, company executives announced Thursday. CVS officials told POLITICO that they're planning to use pharmacies at their 7,400 North American stores as a gateway for the uninsured to learn about new coverage options — especially subsidized insurance coverage available to low-income people on state-based insurance exchanges (Cheney, 7/26).
Politico: Michael Burgess Warns Of Obamacare Enrollment Fallout
Overeager Obamacare boosters could put the law’s first customers in a tight spot, a House Republican warned Thursday. The health law provides tax subsidies for people to purchase health insurance based on their projected income for the year. But if they earn more than projected, the law also requires them to return a portion of their subsidy. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) says that if Obamacare enrollment advocates push too hard to hit their targets, they could persuade a lot of people to claim subsidies only to have to pay them back at the end of the year (Cheney, 7/25).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Secretary Sebelius Urges Female Bloggers To Educate Public About Health Law Benefits
President Barack Obama’s administration is courting female bloggers to play a role in a massive campaign aimed at informing the public about the benefits of the new health care law. Over breakfast at a blogging conference Thursday in Chicago, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius asked a banquet hall full of bloggers — most of them women — to help spread the word about new health insurance opportunities that begin this fall under the Affordable Care Act (7/25).
The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: HHS Drafts Teddy Roosevelt To Promote Obamacare
The Obama administration hasn’t found much support among the GOP for promoting health insurance this fall, but they have won over at least one Republican: Teddy Roosevelt. The long-suffering presidential mascot for the Washington Nationals baseball team starred in a video promo last night with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to promote Obamacare. The video aired before the Nationals game last night with the Pittsburgh Pirates (Schatz, 7/24).
The Wall Street Journal: Surgeons Eyed Over Deals With Medical-Device Makers
Federal prosecutors' scrutiny of Dr. Sabit is part of a broader civil investigation into a network of physician-owned spinal-implant distributorships operated by two former medical-device company employees, the people with knowledge of the matter say. This network, which was run out of Utah and comprised at least 11 physician-owned distributorships in six states, generated tens of millions of dollars in profits for its investors over six years (Carreyou, 7/25).
The Center for Public Integrity/Washington Post: Budget Cuts force Scale Back Of Health-Care Fraud Investigations
Facing major budget and staff cuts, federal officials are scaling back several high-profile health-care fraud and abuse investigations, including an audit of the state insurance exchanges that are set to open later this year as a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (Schulte, 7/25).
Los Angeles Times: Watchdog Group, Father Begin Medical Malpractice Initiative Campaign
Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog and the father of two children killed by a drug-abusing driver have taken the first step toward waging an initiative campaign to raise limits on medical malpractice "pain and suffering" jury awards. The proposed law, which was submitted for title and summary to the attorney general's office Thursday, needs petitions with valid signatures from 504,760 registered voters. Supporters hope to qualify for the November 2014 general election ballot (Lifsher, 7/25).
Los Angeles Times: Doctors, Hospitals Join To Fight Changes To Malpractice Awards
The fight to raise the cap on awards in medical malpractice cases was officially joined on Thursday with groups backed by litigators filing a ballot initiative that could be before voters next year, and a coalition of doctors and hospitals responding with a new political committee to defeat the proposal (York, 7/25).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: NY Fights Reopening Of Hospital Damaged By Sandy, Says Facility Has Long Been Bleeding Money
Officials at the last hospital still closed after Superstorm Sandy are engaged in a nasty public feud with the state Health Department, which says the facility has been bleeding money for years and should merge with its closest competitor if it wants to continue providing health services (7/25).
The Associated Press/New York Times: North Carolina: Abortion Curbs Await Governor's Decision
The state’s Republican-led legislature has approved new abortion rules that backers say will make the procedure safer but that critics say aim to restrict the ability of women to have abortions by forcing clinics to close. The State Senate gave final approval on Thursday to a measure empowering the state Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules to regulate abortion clinics based on the same standards as those set for outpatient surgery centers (7/25).
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