KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: June 10, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about President Barack Obama's efforts last week to urge uninsured people to sign up for the coverage that will soon become unavailable as a result of the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: A Doctor Goes Viral -- On Purpose
Kaiser Health News staff writer Ankita Rao, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "Using satire, rap and sometimes, a Michael Jackson glove, hospitalist Dr. Zubin Damania takes his alter ego, ZDoggMD, to YouTube to sing about everything from insurance paperwork to prostate cancer. The result is hundreds of thousands of online views, and comedy that parodies pop culture (he does an excellent Yoda impersonation) and pushes some boundaries" (Rao, 7/9). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Obama: Health Law 'Working The Way It's Supposed To' (Video)
In California Friday, President Barack Obama praised the health law benefits already in place and talked about the state's health insurance marketplace. He also placed a special emphasis on touting the law to the state's Latino population (6/7). Watch the video or read the transcript of his remarks.

The Wall Street Journal: Prepare For Big Piece Of Health Law
It's time to get ready to buy insurance. The biggest part of the health-care law—online exchanges that offer insurance to individuals—kicks in next year. And beginning this October, states will start selling those health-care plans, which adhere to a new set of standards, though online marketplaces. But there already are many ways that you can start investigating options ahead of the rollout. This summer is prime time to educate yourself about your options, say health-insurance experts (Johnson, 6/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Pitches Health Law
With the launch of the 2010 health-care law's main provisions approaching, Mr. Obama used a trip to California to make his pitch and urge the uninsured to sign up for coverage. The state, which has nearly six million uninsured people and is the largest insurance marketplace in the U.S., is considered critical to the success of the law (Nelson and Mathews, 6/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Pleads For Californian, Latinos, Young People to Get Coverage Under New Health Care Law
President Barack Obama on Friday encouraged the uninsured or those paying high prices for health insurance to sign up for coverage under his health care law and urged opponents to stop wasting time continuing to fighting its implementation. Obama used a trip to California to highlight how the state is implementing the Affordable Care Act and rebut continuing criticism over his signature legislative achievement. He touted an effort in the state to recruit Hispanics in particular to the health care exchanges that are being created to help millions of now-uninsured consumers afford coverage (6/7).

The Washington Post: D.C. Offers A Peek At The Health Insurance Prices Proposed For New Exchange
In the first glimpse of what District residents and small business owners can expect to pay for health-care coverage under Obamacare, officials on Friday released a snapshot of the proposed plans from four major insurance companies (Vargas, 6/7).

Los Angeles Times: Bill Clinton Challenges California To Lead On Healthcare Overhaul
Former President Clinton challenged California to make the federal healthcare overhaul work to silence naysayers and win over states that are still on the fence. Clinton, addressing an audience of doctors and healthcare executives in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, said he remains optimistic about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act despite unease among the American public and persistent Republican opposition (Terhune, 6/7).

Los Angeles Times: Town Hall Explains Healthcare Reform To Los Angeles Residents
Hundreds of L.A. County residents attended a town hall meeting at Cal State L.A. on Friday afternoon to learn about the state’s new insurance exchange, which will begin enrolling people this fall. Peter Lee, executive director of the health exchange called Covered California, explained what health plans were participating, what benefits were covered and how the enrollment would occur before taking dozens of questions from audience members (Gorman, 6/7).

Los Angeles Times: Treatments Of Physical And Mental Health Are Coming Together
Many days, the sheer weight of Iszurette Hunter's clinical depression becomes more than she can lift. She clings to her bed in her South Los Angeles home. Important obligations slide away, including keeping appointments with doctors who are trying to control her asthma and high blood pressure (Gorman, 6/9).

The New York Times: Letter From Washington: Research Forgotten By Budget Cuts
Many Republicans, and Democrats, never thought the automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration would take effect. After all, they might produce dangerous, if unintended, consequences like potentially bankrupting the U.S. health care system, along with millions of families. … Because the cuts only affect the margins of a wide array of defense and domestic discretionary programs, there mostly hasn’t been an immediate pinch; the public backlash has been minimal. But the long-term consequences, in more than a few cases, are ominous. There is no better case study than Alzheimer’s disease. With the enforced cuts at the National Institutes of Health, research to find a cure or better treatment is slowing (Hunt, 6/9).

The Washington Post: Urgency On Debt Fades With Big Issues Unsolved
But nearly half the improvement forecast for the coming decade is due to factors unrelated to the budget battles, including lower-than-expected health-care costs and a recovering economy, according to a Washington Post analysis of congressional budget data. The brighter budgetary outlook is recasting the political debate. A growing chorus of Democrats is urging policymakers to declare victory and move on, leaving deficit hawks to plead for them to focus on an unfinished job (Montgomery, 6/7).

The Washington Post: Hundreds In Government Had Advance Word Of Medicare Action At Heart Of Trading-Spike Probe
Hundreds of federal employees were given advance word of a Medicare decision worth billions of dollars to private insurers in the weeks before the official announcement, a period when trading in the shares of those firms spiked. The surge of trading in Humana’s and other private health insurers’ stock before the April 1 announcement already has prompted the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate whether Wall Street investors had advance access to inside information about the then-confidential Medicare funding plan (Hamburger and ElBoghdady, 6/9).

Politico: With Dying Kids In Spotlight, Transplant Panel Considers Lung Donor Policy
The organization that sets national organ transplant policy holds an emergency meeting Monday to review a rule that has drawn a federal court, the transplantation community, desperate parents and the Obama administration into a high-stakes fight over how to allocate scarce lungs. Both courts and congressmen are second-guessing a longstanding policy that effectively prevents children under 12 from receiving lungs from adult donors. The Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network has to decide whether to abandon the rule or fight for it in court (Norman, 6/7).

NPR: African Americans Remain Hardest Hit By Medical Bills
For many years, high medical bills have been a leading cause of financial distress and bankruptcy in America. That pressure may be easing ever so slightly, according to a survey released earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But one in five Americans still face hardships due to medical costs — and African Americans continue to be the hardest hit (Neighmond, 7/10).

The Washington Post: Health Data Event Draws Companies Promising Cost Savings
As technology companies apply data analytics to virtually everything from Web traffic to movie recommendations, many are seeing health care as the next frontier. Companies from established contractors to start-ups are pitching data analysis as a critical way to improve the way doctors, patients, insurers and government bodies manage health care. The rush of fresh ideas encompasses a range of solutions, but the marketing is often the same: They all purport to address the rising cost of health care (Censer, 6/9).

Los Angeles Times: Negotiations Could Yield Healthcare Deal In Capitol
County officials and Gov. Jerry Brown's administration are inching toward a compromise on healthcare funding. The potential deal is the result of intense negotiations, including face-to-face meetings, phone calls and late-night text messages (Megerian and York, 6/7).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: In Iowa, Payments For Medicaid-Funded Abortions May First Need OK From Anti-Abortion Governor
Iowa’s Medicaid program covers a small number of abortions each year due to rape, incest, fetal deformity or to protect a mother’s life. Currently handled by the state Department of Human Services, the Medicaid reimbursements cost the state less than $20,000 last fiscal year. The change in who approves the payment is a result of Iowa’s unusual political landscape (6/7). 

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