KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: July 2, 2013

Today's headlines include various reports about changes afoot in the insurance marketplace.

Kaiser Health News: Turning To The Web To Help Pay Medical Bills
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Caroline Mayer reports: "Even with Stage IV lung cancer, there are moments when 32-year-old Chip Kennett feels blessed. Over the course of two weeks in April, those moments were many, as 325 friends and family members contributed $56,800 over the Internet to help defray his out-of-pocket medical costs" (Mayer, 7/2). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Income -- Not Assets -- Will Determine Subsidies In Online Insurance Marketplaces
Kaiser Health News' insurance columnist Michelle Andrews answers readers' questions about qualifying for help paying premiums under the health law and how student health plans will be treated (7/1). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Pennsylvania Among 17 States Turning Over High-Risk Insurance Pool Responsibility To Feds
WHYY's Elana Gordon, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Pennsylvania and 16 other states are handing over their special insurance programs for people with pre-existing health conditions to the federal government Monday. Consumers enrolled in the so-called high-risk pool, PA Fair Care, have received letters telling them the transfer is automatic but that they may see 'changes to benefits, treatment plans, deductibles and access to provider networks'" (Gordon, 7/1). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Iowa, South Dakota Blues Skip Obamacare Exchange Next Year; Study: Emergency Rooms Take Toll On Older Patients
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jay Hancock reports on news about the Blues in Iowa and South Dakota: "But on Monday Iowa and South Dakota became the second and third states in which there may be no Blues option when exchange consumers start shopping on Oct. 1. Citing concerns about its ability to deliver quality service as the marketplace ramps up, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield said it won't offer subsidized plans through those exchanges until 2015" (Hancock, 7/1).

Also on the blog, Kelsey Miller reports on a study about older patients in the emergency room: "The majority of older patients who go to emergency departments in several nations around the world are likely to start out with complex conditions that deteriorate after their visits, according to a study published in the June 25 issue of Annals of Emergency Medicine" (Miller, 7/1). Check out what else is on the blog.

Los Angeles Times: NLF Punts On Obamacare As Officials Draw Up Enrollment Game Plan
The National Football League is taking a pass on promoting Obamacare. Federal and state officials across the country are looking to spread the word about enrollment starting in October for new health insurance exchanges under President Obama's Affordable Care Act (Terhune, 7/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: States' Rejection Of Expanded Medicaid Could Leave 2 Of 3 Eligible Low-Income People In A Fix
Nearly 2 in 3 uninsured low-income people who would qualify for subsidized coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law may be out of luck next year because their states have not expanded Medicaid. An Associated Press analysis of figures from the Urban Institute finds a big coverage gap developing, with 9.7 million out of 15 million potentially eligible adults living in states that are refusing the expansion or are still undecided with time running short (7/1).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Q&A: Buying Your Own Health Insurance
People have lots of questions today about what will happen to the amount they pay for insurance this fall, when the federal health-care law's insurance marketplaces open, selling individual policies subject to the new requirements of the law. And we have answers (Radnofsky, 7/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Company Adding 120 Call-Center Jobs In Iowa To Help Residents With New Federal Health Care Law
A company that won the federal contract to help customers navigate the Affordable Care Act will add at least 120 jobs at an eastern Iowa call center as part of a nationwide expansion to support the law's implementation, its vice president said Monday. General Dynamics IT, a contractor based in Fairfax, Va., said the new jobs at its Coralville office were part of thousands being added in Mississippi, Utah, Kentucky and elsewhere to staff an around-the-clock call center to provide information about the new federal health care law (7/1).

Los Angeles Times: UnitedHealth To Exit Individual Insurance Market In California
The nation's largest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group Inc., is leaving California's individual health insurance market, the second major company to exit in advance of major changes under the Affordable Care Act. UnitedHealth said it had notified state regulators that it would leave the state's individual market at year-end and force about 8,000 customers to find new coverage. Last month, Aetna Inc., the nation's third-largest health insurer, made a similar move affecting about 50,000 existing policyholders (Terhune, 7/2).

USA Today: Accounting Woes Hurt Medicare's Tries To Get Lost Money
The Medicare system may never collect more than $543 million in overpayments made in 2010, a federal inspector general's report released Tuesday shows, because Medicare entered only a summary of each bill in its new system. The new accounting system for the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) and systems used by Medicare contractors did not extract data automatically, the report said, so information about providers and contractors was lost. Medicare officials, the report said, determined it would require thousands of hours to re-enter data on health care providers into the new system (Kennedy, 7/2).

The Wall Street Journal: Long-Term-Care Insurance Leaves Customers Groping
Rob and Katherine Deane thought they were being responsible by buying insurance policies to provide for care in their later years. Instead, the Michigan couple are encountering a growing gap in health-care coverage that the government overhaul will do nothing to fix (Greene and Scism, 7/1).

The New York Times: Few Signs Of A Taste For Diet Pills
Americans spend tens of billions of dollars each year to lose weight — gym memberships, Weight Watchers and other programs, operations, nutritional supplements and whatever the latest diet fad might be. But the first new prescription weight-loss drug to reach the market in 13 years is having a hard time winning even a tiny slice of that huge market, despite an apparent need (Pollack, 7/1).

Politico: Texas Abortion Drama Set To Resume
When it comes to abortion politics, it could be a long, hot summer. In Texas, things heated up on Monday with a pro-abortion rights rally on the steps of the state Capitol and are expected to reach scorching temperatures on Tuesday, when members of the public will have the opportunity to sound off for hours before a Texas legislative committee over a bill that would effectively close nearly every abortion clinic in the state as a result of stricter regulations and ban the procedure after 20 weeks (Glueck, 7/1).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Texas' Abortion Fight Begins Anew As Lawmakers Convene 2nd Special Session, Recess For Week
State troopers lined the halls of the Texas Capitol, and 5,000 protesters rallied outside against proposed abortion legislation, as lawmakers convened Monday for a second special session that Republican leaders pledged wouldn't descend into chaos like the first. The Texas House and Senate each met for less than an hour before recessing for the week. That was just long enough to schedule new committee hearings for the proposed restrictions that would make Texas one of the toughest places in the nation for women to get abortions (7/1).

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