KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

‘Face Of Campaign’ Initially Unable To Get Coverage

It took a reporter's intervention to obtain coverage for a Chicago resident who had touted the law's benefits at a news conference last year but who had been mired in computer and other problems. Other reports look at how free preventive services may reduce health disparities and whether insurers can charge higher premiums to those who smoke e-cigarettes.

The Associated Press: 'Face Of The Campaign' Mired In Health Law Snags
Celeste Castillo, a Guatemalan immigrant, was invited to a news conference with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius early last year to help promote enrollment in the country’s new health insurance marketplaces. Fourteen months later, the 57-year-old nanny was still uninsured until The Associated Press contacted the Quinn administration last week. She had first become tangled in computer problems, then was denied by the state’s expanded Medicaid program -- underscoring how complicated the process has been for many Americans, even one held up as an example of who the law was designed to help (5/7).

Stateline: A Chance To Prevent Illness
The 13 million Americans who are newly enrolled in health insurance are now eligible for preventive health services, such as screenings and vaccinations, intended to forestall serious and costly illnesses. The cost: free. The Affordable Care Act requires cost-free prevention services for most health plans, including private insurance plans, meaning no co-payments, deductibles or co-insurance payments. Many health policy experts believe this step alone will greatly reduce health disparities for minorities, the poor and the poorly educated (Ollove, 5/8).

ABC News: Health Insurance Surcharge Has Vapers Fuming
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can charge smokers and other tobacco users up to 50 percent more than non-smokers for a health insurance policy. But where do e-smokers fit in? E-cigarettes are battery-operated nicotine inhalers that consist of a rechargeable lithium battery, a cartridge called a cartomizer and an LED that lights up during each puff. Although they contain no tobacco, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration plans on regulating them like cigarettes and cigars. This, it turns out, is complicating things for insurance companies (Neporent, 5/8).

Fox News: NFIB: Health Insurance Tax To Cost Up To 286K Jobs
An Obamacare-related tax will slash between 152,000 and 286,000 jobs by 2023, according to new research from the National Federation of Independent Business. The Health Insurance Tax is a 2 percent to 3 percent tax on employer-sponsored health policies purchased on the fully insured market. According to the NFIB, 88 percent of small businesses purchase their policies on this market, while most large corporations and labor unions do not (Karol, 5/7).

The Associated Press: Illinois Allows Further Extension Of Health Plans
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's administration is allowing an additional year's extension for existing health insurance plans that fall short of coverage requirements in the nation's health care law. The Illinois Department of Insurance announced the change last week, following a similar announcement March 5 from President Barack Obama's administration (5/7).

Meanwhile, a top IRS official says the agency is drawing funds from other programs to enforce the health law --

CQ Healthbeat:  IRS Chief Says Health Law Duties Sap Funds From Other Priorities
The Internal Revenue Service is drawing funds from other agency programs in order to enforce health law requirements because Congress hasn’t accommodated the agency’s budget requests, Commissioner John Koskinen said Wednesday. Taxpayer services and enforcement are taking a hit as a direct result of the shortfall, Koskinen said. He also told a congressional panel that the agency is making a top priority of intercepting fraudulent tax returns and cracking down on individuals who steal personal information, including physicians’ Social Security numbers, to file them (Reichard, 5/7).

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