First Edition: December 16, 2013
Today's headlines include findings from an Associated Press poll probing Americans thoughts about the health law.
Kaiser Health News: In Hollywood, Health Coverage Presents Unique Challenges
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "The Hollywood film and television industry relies heavily on freelancers and independent contractors who are rarely offered health insurance from an employer. Throughout Southern California, producers, writers, actors, editors, camera operators and prop makers move from gig to gig and hold numerous jobs each year. Some get insurance through the industry’s unions – after paying hefty fees and dues and working enough hours on union jobs. Others pay for private policies – or simply go without" (Gorman, 12/15). Read the story.
The Associated Press: AP-GfK Poll: Health Law Seen As Eroding Coverage
Americans who already have health insurance are blaming President Barack Obama's health care overhaul for their rising premiums and deductibles, and overall 3 in 4 say the rollout of coverage for the uninsured has gone poorly. An Associated Press-GfK poll finds that health care remains politically charged going into next year's congressional elections. ... In the survey, nearly half of those with job-based or other private coverage say their policies will be changing next year — mostly for the worse. Nearly 4 in 5 (77 percent) blame the changes on the Affordable Care Act, even though the trend toward leaner coverage predates the law's passage. Sixty-nine percent say their premiums will be going up, while 59 percent say annual deductibles or copayments are increasing (Alonso-Zaldivar and Agiesta, 12/15).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Another Worry About New Health Law
Just when the government's insurance website is starting to run more smoothly, an Associated Press-GfK poll finds a potentially bigger problem for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Americans who already have coverage and aren’t looking for any more government help are blaming the law for their rising premiums and deductibles (12/16).
The Washington Post: White House Delayed Enacting Rules Ahead Of 2012 Election To Avoid Controversy
The White House systematically delayed enacting a series of rules on the environment, worker safety and health care to prevent them from becoming points of contention before the 2012 election, according to documents and interviews with current and former administration officials. ... The stalled regulations included crucial elements of the Affordable Care Act, what bodies of water deserved federal protection, pollution controls for industrial boilers and limits on dangerous silica exposure in the workplace (Eilperin, 12/14).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama's Health Care Promise Is 2013 Top Quote
President Barack Obama's acknowledgement that his promise that Americans could keep their health insurance plan turned out to be inaccurate topped this year's list of best quotes, according to a Yale University librarian. Other notable quotations on Fred Shapiro's eighth-annual list included Pope Francis’ urging that the Catholic Church reduce emphasizing hot-button issues like abortion, a Republican governor insisting on changes in his party and a Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban calling for a campaign against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism (12/15).
The Washington Post: Exclusive: Thousands Of Healthcare.Gov Sign-Ups Didn't Make It To Insurers
Enrollment records for close to 15,000 HealthCare.gov shoppers were not initially transmitted to the insurance plans they selected, according to a preliminary federal estimate released Saturday. While these cases pose a challenge for the Obama administration, officials say they believe the situation is improving. Since early December, fewer than 1 percent of HealthCare.gov enrollments did not make their way to health insurance plans (Kliff, 12/14).
The New York Times: Enrollment Errors Cut, Officials Say; Fixes Are Overstated, Insurers Report
The Obama administration said Saturday that it had reduced the error rate in enrollment data sent to insurance companies under the new health care law, even as insurers said that the government’s records were still riddled with mistakes. The quality of the data is important; it could affect the ability of people to get medical care and prescription drugs when they go to doctors’ offices and pharmacies starting next month (Pear, 12/14).
The Wall Street Journal: Errors Continue To Plague Government Health Site
Thousands of insurance applicants from HealthCare.gov—at least one in five at the height of the problems by one estimate—have received inaccurate assignments to Medicaid or to the marketplace for private plans, or have received incorrect denials, people familiar with the matter said. Eligibility determinations are an early step in the application process, before consumers choose plans. In some cases described by a state official with knowledge of the matter, legal immigrants who aren't yet eligible for Medicaid in Illinois—it takes five years of residence to join the state-run programs for low-income people—were nevertheless told they would be enrolled (Weaver, 12/13).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Politics Color Governors' Decisions On Medicaid
Partisan politics are coloring governors' decisions about whether to expand Medicaid in their states, affecting billions of dollars and thousands of low-income people. The question of whether they receive Medicaid coverage may have little to do with need, and much to do with the way their states vote in governors’ races, including primaries (12/14).
The Wall Street Journal: Health Insurers Crank Up Ad Spending
Welcome to the health-insurance ad wars. A malfunctioning HealthCare.gov website and confusion over canceled policies have kept millions of Americans from choosing new health plans so far this fall. But with website access improving and the initial deadline to sign up for coverage looming Dec. 23, insurers are starting to blanket the airwaves and social media with glitzy ads urging consumers to buy their plans (Martin, 12/15).
Los Angeles Times: California-Funded Effort Pitches Obamacare To College Students
Supporters and detractors of Obamacare are fixating on so-called "young invincibles" like the Cal State students, generally healthy adults in their 20s and 30s who don't rack up large healthcare bills. Only by collecting premiums from many more of those infrequent users of medical services can insurance plans expect to offset the higher costs of treating newly insured older and sicker patients. ... But with critics of the healthcare changes producing ads urging millennials not to sign up, it's unclear whether that prized group will respond to outreach efforts (Brown, 12/14).
The Washington Post: Health Insurance Enrollment By Hispanics Is Lagging In California
California has surged ahead in implementing the federal health-care law, but it is lagging in one way that could have major implications for the program’s success: Latinos appear to make up only a small fraction of those who have signed up. The numbers have prompted concern because so many of the state’s uninsured are Hispanic, and it could be a sign that enrollment efforts targeted toward Latinos are behind nationwide as well (Somashekhar, 12/14).
Los Angeles Times: California Health Insurance Exchange Struggling To Enroll Latinos
For all its success enrolling tens of thousands in health insurance, California is struggling to translate Obamacare into Spanish. The state's enrollment so far among Latinos is anemic — even though they represent more than half of California's 7 million uninsured residents. Only 5% of enrollees, or fewer than 4,500 people, in the first two months of enrollment are primarily Spanish speakers, new data show (Terhune and Brown, 12/13).
Politico: Nix, Not Fix: GOP Pushed On Health Law
Republican primary candidates are caught in an Obamacare fix. Even the slightest hint that a GOP contender might support anything besides all-out repeal of the health care law is drawing attacks from the right. So, increasingly, in races across the country, proposals to fix the existing law or retain any of it are being ruled out by Republicans eager to further burnish their conservative credentials (Hohmann and Cheney, 12/15).
The New York Times: G.O.P. Firebrands Tone Down Their Message And Run Again
“My name is Congressman Bob Dold!” said the fleece-clad man making his way through a popular restaurant here. … Mr. Dold is seeking a political resurrection in next November’s election, after just one term on Capitol Hill. After riding the Tea Party wave to Washington in 2010, he was swept out of office by the Obama tsunami in Illinois in 2012. Now he is among at least nine Republicans, a mix of former incumbents and previous challengers, who are running again — but with a difference. This time they have shelved their incendiary remarks about President Obama and the national debt in favor of a narrower focus on the Affordable Care Act, which they hope will attract moderate voters from both parties, even in heavily Democratic districts, who are disenchanted with its rollout (Steinhauer, 12/15).
Politico: Republicans Offer Holiday Hope, But Only Without Obamacare
Toomey shared several "common-sense, bipartisan solutions" that he said don't require "Obamacare's wholesale government takeover." He proposed giving individuals the same tax credits that employers receive for offering their employees health insurance, pooling small businesses to lower costs and making it easier for insurance to be carried across state lines (Villacorts, 12/14).
Politico: Gingrich: Budget Deal Keeps Focus On Obamacare
The bipartisan budget agreement is "brilliant politics" that will allow Republicans to keep the heat on Obamacare and avoid the terrible optics of more government shutdowns, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday. Gingrich said Republicans can now unwrap the "gigantic Christmas gift" of Obamacare's bungled implementation -- something the party failed to do in October when a focus on defunding Obamacare led to the first government shutdown in 17 years and a corresponding GOP nosedive in the polls (Everett, 12/15).
Politico: Darrell Issa Says HHS Is Pressuring Contractors Over Subpoenas
In an escalating war over the House’s investigation into Obamacare’s website failures, Rep. Darrell Issa accused the Department of Health and Human Services of illegally pressuring contractors not to comply with congressional subpoenas, even as those companies turned over the documents in question on Friday (Allen and Millman, 12/14).
The Washington Post: O'Malley: Nine 'Major' Problems With Online Health-Insurance Exchange Have Been Fixed
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said Saturday that his administration has met a mid-December deadline he set to fix the biggest technological problems hindering enrollment through the state’s online health insurance exchange. O’Malley (D) said that a list of nine “major fixes” that he demanded last month were made as of Friday morning. Among the big problems was the Web site’s tendency to freeze at a highly inopportune moment — just as users seeking to obtain insurance plans clicked the “Enroll” button (Wagner, 12/14).
The New York Times: New Rule Could Aid Veterans’ Access to Health Care for Some Traumatic Injuries
The Department of Veterans Affairs has approved new regulations to make it easier for veterans to receive health care and compensation for certain illnesses, including Parkinsonism, dementia, and depression, which have been linked to traumatic brain injury (Southall, 12/16).
The Wall Street Journal: New Medicines Emerge, But Few Blockbusters
Drug makers are finding it hard to convince doctors, patients and insurers that the new advances are worth their typically premium prices. Skepticism is particularly steep for drugs aimed at conditions that already have effective treatments. Of 271 drugs launched since 2006, only 13 have notched yearly U.S. sales of more than $1 billion, down from 33 of 257 drugs introduced during the previous five years, according to ZS Associates. The sales and marketing management consultant to drug makers analyzed about 500 drug launches (Rockoff and Winslow, 12/15).
NPR: Before The Prescription, Ask About Your Doctor's Finances
The organizations receive financial support from drug companies, and many of the experts who worked on the guidelines have industry ties. The groups' response to ethical concerns raised about the advice is, in large measure, that a final decision about what you should do to manage your health is between you and your doctor. Unfortunately, doctors have biases, too. A 2007 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the vast majority of doctors have some kind of relationship with a pharmaceutical or medical-device company. Most of the time, the ties involved free food or drug samples. Dozens of studies have demonstrated that even innocuous-seeming inducements like these can influence doctors' prescription practices (Wen, 12/14).
The Washington Post: Virginia's McDonnell To Propose Funding Hike For Education, Mental Health, Water Quality
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell will propose a two-year state budget Monday that calls for boosting K-12 education funding by nearly $600 million and pouring millions more into higher education, mental health services, water-quality improvements and homelessness-prevention programs. McDonnell (R) said his plan will be free of budget gimmicks and fat with cash reserves intended to help defense-heavy Virginia weather any jolts that could come from across the Potomac River (Vozzella, 12/15).
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