KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Alaska Bypasses Federal Money For Health Exchange

Most states, even those opposing the health law in court, appear to be working toward implementation, but Alaska has taken a different path. Meanwhile, members of Congress are looking at ways to expand some of the benefits from the law.

USA Today:  Health Care Law Proceeds Even In States Fighting It
House GOP efforts to block the federal health care law from taking effect haven't deterred states from moving ahead to implement key provisions - with the help of millions of tax dollars from Washington (Kennedy, 2/18).

Reuters: Alaska Won't Seek U.S. Health Exchange Grants
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said on Thursday his state will not apply for federal grants to establish medical insurance exchanges under the newly enacted U.S. healthcare law because a Florida judge has ruled the legislation unconstitutional. ... The sweeping healthcare bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last year calls for insurance exchanges, aimed at lowering premiums through greater competition among insurers, to be established by 2014 (Rosen, 2/17).

Bloomberg: Alaska Cites Court Ruling In Refusing Federal Health-Care Money
The Republican's decision means the state will skip today's deadline to apply for a grant that federal officials say is needed to develop exchanges where residents would be able to buy medical insurance under the new health-care law. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed by Obama in March requires citizens over 18 to obtain health coverage beginning in 2014. U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida, ruled that requiring such coverage exceeded Congress's power and invalidated the law last month. The decision came in a challenge brought by 26 states, including Alaska (Marois, 2/18).

Associated Press: Alaska Governor Refusing To Enact Health Care Law
It's not immediately clear what practical impact the unusual move would have on Alaskans, an estimated 14 percent of which are uninsured year-round. A major expansion of the federal law is still pending, and a legal expert and health care consumer advocate say any refusal by the states to participate in the law is an invitation to the federal government to step in and implement it for them (2/17).

CQ HealthBeat: Members Of Congress Vow Bipartisan Push To Extend FSAs To Military
Flexible spending accounts are not available to one large group of employees in U.S. society - members of the military. California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, who's been trying for years to change that situation, said Thursday that the Pentagon has resisted implementing the accounts despite direction from Congress. ... The accounts, commonly known as FSAs, allow civilian workers to choose how much pretax money they want to set aside at the beginning of the calendar year for health care or child care expenses or both. The employer deducts the money from the employee's paycheck and the worker gets reimbursed for eligible expenses. At the end of each year any money left in the accounts revert back to the employer (Norman, 2/17). 

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