KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Many Alaskans Find Health Law Is Like Trying To Fit A Square Peg Into A Round Hole

Due to its sheer size, sparse population and harsh environment, Alaska faces unique circumstances that aren't really accommodated by the health law. In other news on the Affordable Care Act, new data details the rise in people covered, a CEO of a major hospital system in Chicago talks about the changes he has seen, NPR looks at pre-existing conditions and more stories.

The Associated Press: In Alaska, Anxiety Grows As Debate Over Health Care Rages
Going without health insurance is a risk. Going without it in Alaska can be a gamble of a much higher order, for this is a place unlike anywhere else in the U.S., a land of pitiless cold, vast expanses and dangerous, back-breaking work such as pulling fishing nets from the water or hauling animal carcasses out of the woods. And yet many people on the Last Frontier do not carry insurance. For them, the Affordable Care Act just isn't working. (Bohrer and D'Oro, 4/15)

WBUR: Maps Show A Dramatic Rise In Health Insurance Coverage Under ACA 
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau present the most detailed picture yet of the dramatic rise in the number of people covered by health insurance since the Affordable Care Act went into effect. County-level data going back to 2010, when the law was signed, show a patchwork of people living without health insurance that ticked down slowly for the first three years under the ACA. But once the online insurance exchanges opened at the end of 2013 and Medicaid expanded, the population living without coverage dropped noticeably. (Hurt, Elosua and Hersher, 4/14)

The Associated Press: Insider Q&A: Public Health System CEO Sweats Out ACA Debate
Cook County Health & Hospitals System, which handles more than 1 million patient visits in the Chicago area every year, has seen a significant financial boost from the Affordable Care Act. The federal law — whose future is up in the air — expanded the Medicaid program for the poor, giving most of the system's patients coverage for the first time in its 180-year history. (Murphy, 4/16)

NPR: 'Pre-Existing Conditions' Reveal A Health Care Conundrum
For most of his life, Carl Goulden had near perfect health. He and his wife, Wanda, say that changed 10 years ago. Carl remembers feeling, "a lot of pain in the back, tired, fatigue, yellow eyes — a lot of jaundice." Wanda, chimes in: "Yellow eyes, gray-like skin." His liver wasn't working, she explains. "It wasn't filtering." Carl was diagnosed with hepatitis B. Now 65 and on Medicare, he had a flower shop in Littlestown, Pa., back then, so had been buying health insurance for his family on the market for small businesses and the self-employed. (Gordon, 4/15)

Kaiser Health News: Tax Day Is Zero Hour For Health Insurance, Too
Your federal income taxes are due April 18 and, likely for several million people, so is a fine for failing to get health insurance. Despite a lengthy debate, Congress has not yet acted on a bill to repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act. That means the law and almost all of its regulations remain in force, for now. (Rovner, 4/17)

Detroit Free Press: 5.4% Of Tax Returns Fined For No Health Insurance
What do Bliss Township, Carp Lake Township, Detroit, Dodgeville and Wawatam Township have in common?  ZIP codes in these communities had the highest percentage of tax returns that paid the individual-mandate penalty for not having health insurance during the 2014 tax year.  A total of 209,320, or 4.5%, of individual tax returns filed in Michigan during the 2015 calendar year included a payment for not having health care coverage. Nationwide, 5.4% of returns paid the fine. Texas had the highest rate of returns with the fine — 8.9%, or more than 1 million returns, according to the latest Internal Revenue Service data. (Tanner, 4/14)

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