KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: August 19, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about how public perceptions and political opposition continue to swirl around the health law's implementation.

Kaiser Health News: Amid Health Law Expansion, Some States Trim The Medicaid Rolls
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "While millions of adults nationwide will gain Medicaid coverage next year under the federal health law, more than 150,000 people could lose their coverage in the state-federal health insurance program for the poor as four states reduce eligibility" (Galewitz, 8/18). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Taking A New Tack To Persuade 'Young Invincibles' To Buy Health Insurance
Minnesota Public Radio's Elizabeth Stawicki, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Robert Bauer is young, lean and healthy - just the kind of person the government wants to buy into its new online health insurance marketplaces. Bauer doesn't see the need. The 24 year old, a 2011 graduate of the University of Minnesota, works in organic farm fields three days a week, and prides himself on eating well. He's uninsured - health coverage just hasn't been part of his lifestyle. … While Bauer generally doesn't fear a health crisis, the people building insurance exchanges worry about Bauer and the millions of other healthy Americans whom they fear may simply opt out" (Stawicki, 8/19). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Colorado Exchange Releases Health Insurance Rates
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Colorado Public Radio’s Eric Whitney, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "Colorado released its Obamacare insurance rates on Friday, joining 13 states and the District of Columbia in making rates public. The state earlier made the call to be a clearinghouse exchange, rather than an active purchaser, and so, it has approved all 242 health plans submitted for sale on its marketplace" (Whitney, 8/19). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend health policy headlines, including coverage of the President’s weekend address and the GOP response (8/17).

Politico: Obamacare's Hurdles Higher Than Medicare's
President Barack Obama says he’s not worried that all the Obamacare fights will kill the law — because people fought the creation of Medicare and Social Security too, and now they’re more popular than ever. ... But this time there's a difference. Political opposition to Obamacare is still as strong as ever, more than three years after it was signed into law. That means the administration’s task in launching the health care law — the biggest new social program since the creation of Medicare in 1965 — is harder than anything its predecessors had to face (Nather, 8/18).

Los Angeles Times: As Healthcare Overhaul Nears, Many Consumers Still In The Dark
While government officials tout the broad benefits of the Affordable Care Act to drum up enrollment, many consumers are eager to know how the overhaul will affect them personally, from pocketbook concerns to worries about whether their local doctor and hospital will be included. And, so far, there have been considerably more questions than answers, as officials and insurers scramble to get ready and clarify many of the details that people care about the most (Terhune, 8/17).

NPR: You Ask, We Answer: More Of Your Questions About The Affordable Care Act
The Oct. 1 launch of the new health insurance exchanges is now less than two months away, and people are starting to pay attention to the changes these new marketplaces may bring to the nation's health care system. We know it's confusing, so we're spending part of the summer and fall answering at least some of your questions about the law (Rovner, 8/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Get Ready For Enrollment In Health Exchanges
In about six weeks, Americans will have a new kind of open enrollment to consider. Starting Oct. 1, people without health insurance can sign up for standardized coverage through new health-insurance marketplaces run either by their state, the federal government or a combination of the two—the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Gerencher, 8/17).

The Tennessean/USA Today: Paying For Obamacare: Some Feel Singled Out
Medical device manufacturers are among the federal health law losers, those that will have to pay up to cover the cost of implementing it. Others include high-wage earners, tanning salons and, in some cases, working parents and folks with big medical bills. The law generates revenue through a hodgepodge of new taxes, financial penalties and IRS rule changes (Wilemon, 8/18).

Politico: Obama: GOP Trying To 'Gum Up' ACA
President Barack Obama criticized Republicans for trying to "gum up the works" in the health care reform law and for refusing to help constituents sign up for coverage. "A lot of Republicans seem to believe that if they can gum up the works and make this law fail, they’ll somehow be sticking it to me. But they'd just be sticking it to you," Obama said in his weekly address (8/17).

The New York Times: Doctors Who Profit From Radiation Prescribe It More Often, Study Finds
Doctors who have a financial interest in radiation treatment centers are much more likely to prescribe such treatments for patients with prostate cancer, Congressional investigators say in a new report (Pear, 8/18).

The Washington Post: Arlington's Surescripts Looks To Share Health Information Over 'The Last Mile'
Over the past few years, the health-care industry has been moving toward a digital age, starting with a transition from paper charts to electronic health records. That first step is well underway, but analysts say the next phase, actually sharing those digital files between doctors or between insurers and hospitals, is just getting started as technology firms step in to complete what some call "the last mile of connectivity" for health-care providers (Harrison, 8/16).

The Wall Street Journal: Planned Parenthood Settles In Fraud Case
Planned Parenthood agreed to pay $4.3 million to settle a federal civil suit claiming that it fraudulently billed Medicaid for women's health services provided by some of its Texas clinics from 2003 to 2009. The non-profit organization, which estimates that it provides medical information and services, including abortions, to three million people in the U.S. each year, denied any wrongdoing as part of the settlement announced Friday by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas (Koppel, 8/16).

The Washington Post: Pr. George's Mental Health Court Aims To Treat, Rather Than Jail, Defendants
More than half of all inmates in U.S. jails and prisons — more than 1.2 million people — reported symptoms of mental illness, according to a 2006 federal study, the most recent national study available. That number had quadrupled since a similar federal study in 1998, and some state and local studies suggest that the number has continued to rise in more recent years. State and local court systems are adjusting to this reality, with about 300 jurisdictions setting up specialized dockets for judges who use the power of the legal system to impose mental health treatment on some of society's most troubled residents. They are people charged with assault, theft, arson, trespassing, harassment, stalking and other crimes short of homicide (McCrummen, 8/17).

Los Angeles Times: California Discourages Needy From Signing Up For Food Stamps
Liberal California discourages eligible people from signing up for food stamps at rates conservative activists elsewhere envy. Only about half of the Californians who qualify for help get it. That stands in contrast to other states, including some deeply Republican ones, that enroll 80% to 90% of those with incomes low enough to qualify. That public policy paradox — one of the country's most liberal states is the stingiest on one of the nation's biggest benefit programs — has several causes, some intentional, some not. It also has two clear consequences: Millions of Californians don't get help, and the state leaves hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money on the table (Halper, 8/17).

Los Angeles Times: Patient-Interpreter Bill Aims To Overcome Language Barriers
According to a 2012 study prepared for the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, pediatric patients with limited-English-proficient families who speak Spanish "have a much greater risk for serious medical events during hospitalizations than patients whose families are English-proficient" (Kumeh, 8/18).

The New York Times: Firefighters' Survivor Benefits Value Some Lives Over Others
As a wilderness firefighter, Caleb Renno hiked over mountains until his heels bled, living out of tents and eating packaged food for weeks at a time in rugged corners of the burning West. He did not love the work, but like many young adults in southern Oregon, he knew he could always find steady pay fighting fires (Healy, 8/18).  

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