KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: July 23, 2013

Today's headlines include reports that the White House is enlisting celebrities to aid efforts to enroll young people in the health insurance plans that will kick in this fall as a result of the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Patient Advocates Seek A Gentle Transition From High Risk Pools To New Exchange Plans
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: “State high-risk insurance pools around the country provide coverage to approximately 220,000 people are often turned down for traditional policies because they have medical problems. State high-risk insurance pools around the country provide coverage to 220,000 people who have medical problems and are often turned down for traditional policies” (Andrews, 7/23). Read the story.

Politico: ACA’s Confusing Birth Control Rules
Listen to the political rhetoric around the contraception mandate, and you might think that employers must provide women with free birth control of every kind. It’s not quite that simple. Employer plans don’t have to cover every type of birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration — they have to cover some. They can often charge a co-pay for some brands or products as long as they offer others for free. And a woman may not know precisely which category her specific prescription falls into until the pharmacy rings it up (Cunningham, 7/23).

Los Angeles Times: White House Enlisting Entertainers To Help Implement Healthcare Law
Stepping up efforts to enroll young Americans in health insurance this fall, the Obama administration is enlisting the help of actors and entertainment industry officials to educate twenty something consumers about the need to get covered. Senior administration officials met Monday morning with a group of entertainers to talk about media campaigns to reach young Americans about the Affordable Care Act, according to a White House official (Levey, 7/22).

The Washington Post: Health-Care Enrollment Effort Gets Some Star Power
Comedian Amy Poehler, actor Kal Penn and singer Jennifer Hudson attended a closed-door White House meeting Monday, hosted by senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and other top White House officials, according to a White House official (Kliff, 7/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama, Democratic Leaders To Urge Supporters To Speak Up As Lawmakers Prep For August Recess
Lawmakers in barely a week will fan out across the country, returning to their home districts for the annual summer break. At town hall meetings and picnics and public events, they’ll hear firsthand from constituents — most of whom, polls show, have had it with Washington and incessant partisan fighting. With a tough path ahead for Obama’s major goals — including an immigration overhaul, the economy and the rollout of his health care law — his supporters want to ensure that lawmakers of both parties return to Washington with a mandate to work with Obama. So, OFA, with a presidential assist, is seeking to get activists energized and ready to speak up (7/22).

USA Today: Obama Urges Volunteers To Help Him Pass Agenda
Speaking Monday night to Organizing For Action, a group of volunteers created from the remnants of his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Obama said he needs them to stay active and pressure Congress into helping him deliver on his agenda. Among the items he cited: Getting an immigration bill through the Republican-run House, putting the new health care plan in place later this year, and pursuing climate change legislation. Obama told OFA members they have already been working as hard now as they did during his successful presidential campaigns (Jackson, 7/22).

Politico: OFA Embraces Tea Party Blueprint For August Push
OFA’s preparing a range of under-the-national-radar tactics in conjunction with heading for town halls. Rallies, flyering and district office demonstrations will be aimed at drawing the same sort of local attention that tea party groups managed four years ago, hoping to spook members of Congress worried about the 2014 midterms. … They’ll begin August 4, marking the president’s birthday with a day of events organized to promote the benefits of Obamacare. That kickoff will be followed by weeks of events across the country, each centered around designated “national days of action” pushing for federal and state moves on climate change, gay marriage, gun control, immigration reform — and, in targeted states like Texas, reproductive and women’s rights (Dovere, 7/23).

The Washington Post’s Post Politics: OFA’s Effectiveness Contingent On ‘Action August’
As Organizing For Action (OFA) meets in Washington, D.C. Monday night, the non-profit tied to President Obama is gearing up for a major advocacy push in August aimed at marshaling support for both the president’s health-care law and immigration reform initiative (Tam and Eilperin, 7/22).

The Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics: Who Gets Health Benefits?
Bigger businesses are better bets for offering employee benefits than smaller ones. The latest report from the Labor Department on benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans and paid vacations or sick leave found that 88% of employees at private-sector establishments with a workforce of 500 or more were likely to have access to health-care benefits. That percentage declined along with the size of the workforce. At enterprises with between 50 and 99 employees, 69% of workers had access to such benefits. The same trend largely held true for state and local government employers. The Labor Department’s annual report on employee benefits, issued last week, gives a snapshot of how many workers are offered—and participate in—employer-sponsored programs for insurance and retirement (Cronin, 7/22).

Los Angeles Times: Federal Judge Temporarily Blocks North Dakota Abortion Law
Under the law, which had been scheduled to go into effect Aug. 1, a woman could be prevented from seeking an abortion as early as six weeks into her pregnancy if a fetal heartbeat is detected. North Dakota passed the law at the end of March, part of a package of curbs in four laws that passed the Republican-controlled Legislature and were signed by GOP Gov. Jack Dalrymple (Muskal, 7/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Justice Dept. Sues Florida, Says State Keeps Disabled Children In Nursing Homes Unnecessarily
The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Florida on Monday, accusing the state of unnecessarily institutionalizing about 200 disabled children in nursing homes and cutting services that would allow them to receive care at home (7/22).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Va. Guardianship Case Tests Rights Of Adults With Disabilities To Choose Where, How They Live
A guardianship case for a Virginia woman with Down syndrome is testing the rights of adults with disabilities to choose how they live. The Washington Post reports that 29-year-old Margaret Jean “Jenny” Hatch has been fighting for nearly a year for the right to move in with friends who employed her at their thrift shop. Her parents want her to remain in a group home (7/22).

Los Angeles Times: Deputy Director Of State Mental Hospitals Takes Unexplained Leave
Seven days after being confirmed by the state Senate, the official responsible for day-to-day operations at California's mental hospitals and prison-based psychiatric programs has abruptly taken an extended — and unexplained — administrative leave with pay. Kathy Gaither, confirmed as deputy director of the fledgling Department of State Hospitals on July 8, will be out of the office for an "extended period of time" because of "unforeseen circumstances," according to a brief email sent to staffers July 15 by the department's acting director, Cliff Allenby (Romney, 7/22).

Check out all of Kaiser Health News' e-mail options including First Edition and Breaking News alerts on our Subscriptions page.

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.