KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 6, 2012

Today's headlines include a progress a report about health insurance exchanges as well as news from the campaign trail.  

Kaiser Health News: Missouri Ballot Referendum Makes Health Law A Hot Issue
Reporting for Kaiser Health News in collaboration with The Washington Post, Guy Gugliotta writes: "The continuing war over President Barack Obama's health care law is particularly fierce this election season in Missouri, where politicians of both parties are playing a game of can-you-top this with a ballot referendum whose chief result promises to be voter confusion" (Gugliotta, 8/5). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: New Ads Promote Health Law's Preventive Benefits
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Christian Torres writes: "They aren't campaign ads, but two new television commercials from the Obama administration that promote the president's health law may also be boosting its image. The ads, which began airing this summer, tout the law's preventive services benefits, including coverage of vaccinations, mammograms and other screenings. For many people, these services will now be available through their health insurance without a co-pay or out-of-pocket costs" (Torres, 8/3). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: U.S. Officials Brace For Huge Task Of Operating Health Exchanges
Obama administration officials are getting ready to set up and operate new health insurance markets in about half the states, where local officials appear unwilling or unable to do so. The markets, known as exchanges, are a centerpiece of President Obama's health care law, and running them will be a herculean task that federal officials never expected to perform (Pear, 8/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Aging Baby Boomers Create High Demand For Home Health Aides Even As Pay Remains Low
Demand for home health care workers is soaring as baby boomers — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 — get older and states try to save money by moving people out of more costly nursing homes. But filling more than 1 million new home care positions over the next decade will be a challenge (8/5).

The Hill: Catholic Church Implores Congress To Overturn Obama Birth-Control Mandate
The U.S. Catholic church is imploring Congress to pass legislation overturning the Obama administration's birth-control mandate. The policy, which took effect on Wednesday, requires most employers to cover contraception in their healthcare plans without a co-pay. The mandate has been challenged extensively in court. Twenty-five lawsuits have been filed against it so far, mostly by groups who object to birth control or consider some forms of it to be abortion. But that litigation "may take years," Cardinal Daniel DiNardo warned in a letter to members of Congress. He said lawmakers should act against the mandate "before it completes its business this year" (8/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Embraces Health Care Law After Supreme Court Ruling While Romney Inches Away From Issue
President Barack Obama, emboldened by the Supreme Court's affirmation of his health care overhaul, is now embracing the law while campaigning for re-election, just as Republican rival Mitt Romney steps back from it. Obama sees a second chance to sell voters on the issue despite deep skepticism about it from many people. Romney is avoiding answering hard questions about how he would tackle health care, and thus missing the chance to energize voters who oppose the law (8/6).

Politico: New Obama Ad Hits Romney On Planned Parenthood
President Obama's reelection campaign is up with a new ad that attacks Mitt Romney on the issue of contraception and the GOP nominee's repeated vows to defund the women's health group Planned Parenthood. ... Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul responds to the ad, saying, "One day after the unemployment rate increased and we reached 42 consecutive months with a jobless rate greater than eight percent, it is not surprising that the Obama campaign would release a false ad in an attempt to distract from the effects of the President's failed policies (Tau, 8/4).

The New York Times: Outside Cash In Missouri Race Could Be A National Model
In their advertisements, Ms. McCaskill's face is sometimes bloated, sometimes goofy, sometimes exhausted. She is usually joined at the hip with President Obama. And she is always almost single-handedly to blame for Missouri's economic travails, the nation's skyrocketing debt, the Democrats' health care law and a scandalous level of duplicity (Weisman, 8/5).

Los Angeles Times: Wisconsin Republican Replaces Pragmatism With Conservatism
There was a time when Tommy G. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor and health secretary in the George W. Bush  administration, cultivated a reputation as a Republican pragmatist known for cutting deals with Democrats to get things done. That was so pre-tea party. … Opposition to the healthcare overhaul has become a litmus test for Republicans, and all four candidates have vowed to demand the law's repeal. For Thompson, however, the issue involves an awkward pivot not unlike the one employed in the presidential campaign by Romney, who created a similar insurance mandate in Massachusetts (Secter, 8/3).

The New York Times: Democrats Embrace Once Pejorative 'Obamacare' Tag
As thousands of people gathered on a sweltering night outside a local high school draped with flags and bunting, the speaker talked about the president’s controversial health program. "That's why he passed Obamacare!" she declared. There it was, the derogatory term critics invented for President Obama's health law, more properly known as the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Republicans long ago successfully pasted the president's name on the program to deride it as a big-government boondoggle. But now an unlikely group has adopted the moniker: Democrats (Baker, 8/3).

Los Angeles Times: Health Net Slashes Profit Forecast Again As Medical Costs Rise
Woodland Hills insurer Health Net Inc. slashed its full-year profit outlook for the second time this year as some of the company's customers incurred higher-than-expected medical costs. ... The company's second-quarter results underscored the challenges some insurers are experiencing as healthcare costs climb higher and many employers and government health programs press for lower premiums. Health Net said its medical costs among employer accounts grew 8.2% during the quarter that ended June 30 while premiums rose only 4.6%. The company also said commercial enrollment declined 7.4% as price competition from rival insurers intensified (Terhune, 8/4).

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