First Edition: June 27, 2014
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports on an HHS announcement detailing some of the marketplace enrollment plans for next fall.
Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: Can New Employees Be Forced To Wait 90 Days For Coverage?
Kaiser Health News' consumer columnist Michelle Andrews says a 90-day delay is allowed by the health law but employees have other options to get through that time (Andrews, 6/27). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Premiums For Many In The Individual Market May Change Next Year; Medicare Penalties For Hospital Infections Will Hit Alaska Hard; Colorado’s 2015 Premiums: Up, Down And Holding The Line
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Julie Appleby reports on a new study showing some marketplace consumers may see their premiums rise because of the way subsidies are calculated: "Health insurance premiums for people with subsidies could increase substantially in some markets – but consumers who shop around may not end up paying more, a new report out Thursday says. As insurers battle for a share of the individual market, some plans that were the low-priced leaders this year are not among the least expensive options next year, according to an analysis of rates filed in nine states by consulting firm Avalere Health" (Appleby, 6/26).
Also on the blog, Alaska Public Radio Network's Annie Feidt, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, examines new Medicare penalties that some Alaska hospitals could face: "The four largest hospitals in Alaska are facing Medicare payment penalties for the quality of their care. Providence, Alaska Regional, Alaska Native Medical Center and Fairbanks Memorial are all in the bottom 25 percent nationally for the number of infections and serious complications patients get in their hospitals, according to data analyzed by Kaiser Health News. The penalties are part of a focus on quality care that's included in the Affordable Care Act" (Feidt, 6/27).
In addition, Eric Whitney, reporting for Kaiser Health News in partnership with NPR, writes about the new insurance premiums being considered in Colorado: "Health insurance companies in Colorado are starting to talk about their proposed premiums for 2015. State regulators on Monday released the draft prices, which the state now has 60 days to approve or deny. Carriers generally aren't proposing big changes in premiums for 2015, nothing that's dramatically out of line with trends of the last several years" (Whitney, 6/27). Check out what else is on the blog.
The New York Times: Most Will Be Able To Automatically Renew Coverage Under Health Law
The Obama administration announced Thursday that most people would be able to renew subsidized health insurance coverage without filing an application and without going back to HealthCare.gov, the website that frustrated millions of consumers last fall. But some people will have to go into the marketplace again — if, for example, their income has changed or they want to shop for a better deal in 2015 (Pear, 6/26).
The Washington Post: HHS Sets Enrollment Rules For Year Two Of Obamacare
The Obama administration on Thursday plans to issue much-anticipated instructions for Americans to reenroll for next year in the new federal health insurance marketplace — a set of rules intended to make it easy for consumers but that nevertheless will require some people to reapply through HealthCare.gov to preserve their subsidies or coverage. ... A fraction of the people in the federal insurance exchange will need to reapply for one or more reasons: their incomes are rising or falling significantly, they did not give permission for their tax records to be checked automatically, or the health plans they joined this year disappear as of January (Goldstein, 6/26).
USA Today: Most Can Auto-Enroll For Insurance, But Should They?
About 95% of those who bought health insurance on the federal exchange will be able to re-enroll automatically for 2015, the Obama administration said Thursday, but a new study suggests the move is unwise unless consumers shop around (O'Donnell, 6/26).
The Wall Street Journal: Federal Health-Exchange Plans To Automatically Renew
The Obama administration plans to automatically renew for next year the health plans and premium subsidies that consumers obtained through the Affordable Care Act's federal insurance exchange. The move, which will apply to most of the five million people who selected insurance through HealthCare.gov for 2014, will make it easier for consumers to stay in their plans and retain tax credits lowering the cost of coverage. It also will relieve pressure on the federal exchange, which was crippled during parts of its first enrollment period (Radnofsky, 6/26).
The Washington Post: Is That Hospice Safe? Infrequent Inspections Mean It May Be Impossible To Know.
The typical hospice in the United States undergoes a full government inspection about once every six years, according to federal figures, making it one of the least-scrutinized areas of U.S. health care — even though about half of older Americans receive hospice care at the ends of their lives. By contrast, nursing homes are inspected about once a year, and home health agencies every three years. ... The nature of hospice care makes ensuring its quality difficult. Hospices typically send nurses and other personnel to a patient’s residence — whether at a private home, a nursing home or an assisted-living facility. The dispersal of patients makes oversight difficult to begin with, but the infrequency of inspections means shortcomings are even less likely to be detected (Whoriskey, 6/26).
The New York Times: Court Rejects Zone To Buffer Abortion Clinic
The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that barred protests, counseling and other speech near abortion clinics. "A painted line on the sidewalk is easy to enforce, but the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency," Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in a majority opinion that was joined by the court's four-member liberal wing. ... State officials said the law was a response to a history of harassment and violence at abortion clinics in Massachusetts, including a shooting rampage at two facilities in 1994 (Liptak and Schwartz, 6/26).
Politico: High Court Strikes Massachusetts Abortion 'Buffer Zone'
The court said the state law violated the First Amendment because its "buffer zone" limited speech too broadly, covering 35 feet from the doorway of facilities and including public areas like sidewalks. Although other buffer zones typically are smaller, specifying distances such as 8 feet or 15 feet from clinics, the advocates said the court's decision puts them in jeopardy. "If you were a betting man, you would bet that they’ll all go," said Roger Evans, senior counsel at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (Haberkorn and Villacorta, 6/26).
The Washington Post: Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s ruling was a narrow one, pointing out that other states and cities had found less-intrusive ways to both protect women entering clinics and accommodate the First Amendment rights of those opposed to abortion (Barnes, 6/26).
The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court Invalidates State Law On Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones
The Supreme Court on Thursday invalidated a Massachusetts law that required 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics, ruling the statute went too far in burdening the free-speech rights of antiabortion activists. The court's decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, could void similar measures in other cities and change how antiabortion activists approach women entering clinics. It is the latest victory for opponents of abortion, who have made significant gains in state legislatures in recent years restricting clinic operations (Kendall, Armour and Radnofsky, 6/26).
The Wall Street Journal: New York High Court Blocks Soda Law
New York's highest court blocked New York City's health board from banning the sale of large sugary drinks in restaurants and other venues. The 4-2 ruling Thursday leaves the controversial proposal in the hands of Mayor Bill de Blasio, who pledged last year to advance the ban at the City Council if the courts rejected it (Saul, 6/27).
The New York Times: New York's Ban On Big Sodas Is Rejected By Final Court
The Bloomberg big-soda ban is officially dead. The state’s highest court on Thursday refused to reinstate New York City’s controversial limits on sales of jumbo sugary drinks, exhausting the city’s final appeal and dashing the hopes of health advocates who have urged state and local governments to curb the consumption of drinks and foods linked to obesity (Grynbaum, 6/26).
The Washington Post: Court Strikes Down New York's Ban On Big Sodas
Michael R. Bloomberg's plan to limit the size of sodas in New York City, one of the most aggressive and controversial public health initiatives in recent memory, effectively died on Thursday. It was not yet 2 years old (Dennis, 6/26).
Politico: Tom Coburn: 'Wasn't Surprised' About VA Mess
The Department of Veterans Affairs may not be the most tainted federal agency Sen. Tom Coburn has ever investigated, but he says it's not far from the top. The embattled agency is reeling from reports that uncovered extensive wait lists for medical treatment, drug and sexual abuse and at times an outright disregard for veterans’ health at facilities across the country. "I wasn’t surprised. I was trained in a VA hospital, I wasn't surprised at all," Coburn told POLITICO during an interview in his office in the Russell building. "The culture in the VA should be people working for veterans not for the VA, [but] the culture right now is that I work for a system … and the requirements are so low" (French and Everett, 6/26).
The New York Times: Politicians' Prescriptions For Marijuana Defy Doctors And Data
New York moved last week to join 22 states in legalizing medical marijuana for patients with a diverse array of debilitating ailments, encompassing epilepsy and cancer, Crohn's disease and Parkinson's. Yet there is no rigorous scientific evidence that marijuana effectively treats the symptoms of many of the illnesses for which states have authorized its use. Instead, experts say, lawmakers and the authors of public referendums have acted largely on the basis of animal studies and heart-wrenching anecdotes. The results have sometimes confounded doctors and researchers (Saint Louis, 6/26).
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.