KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

First Edition: March 18, 2014

Today's headlines include reports about the Obama administration announcement that more than 5 million people have enrolled in coverage under the health law -- an increase of about 800,000 in the last two weeks.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Warning: Opting Out Of Your Insurance Plan's Provider Network Is Risky
Kaiser Health News’ consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Many plans sold on the health insurance marketplaces offer a tradeoff: lower premiums in exchange for limited networks of providers. But consumers who opt for a narrow network plan with the idea that they’ll go out of network when necessary may be taking a big financial risk" (Andrews, 3/18). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Local Control Key To Colorado Exchange’s (Moderate) Success
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Eric Whitney reports: "Being an early adopter can be rewarding. Remember how amazing it was to have the first iPhone? But then, sometimes early adopters pay a price, like that early version of the Apple map tool that led to some wrong turns. Colorado is one of 14 states going through their own version of this with the health law" (Whitney, 3/18). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: 5 Million Have Enrolled For Coverage Under Health Law, White House Says
The White House said Monday that more than five million people had signed up for private health insurance under President Obama’s health care law, an increase of about 800,000 in the last two weeks (Pear, 3/18).

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Enrollment Tops 5 Million Amid Surge In Sign-Ups
More than 5 million people have now signed up for health insurance on marketplaces created by President Obama’s healthcare law, thanks to a surge in enrollment over the last two weeks, the Obama administration announced Monday. The quickening pace of sign-ups confirms that many Americans are using the new marketplaces as a March 31 deadline approaches for getting coverage this year (Levey, 3/17).

The Washington Post: Obamacare Enrollment Hits 5 Million
Officials had predicted that the pace of enrollments would pick up this month, because March 31 is the last day to sign up for a marketplace plan and avoid a fine. The health law requires most Americans to have health insurance or incur a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of their income this year, whichever is higher (Somashekhar, 3/17).

NPR: Obamacare Enrollment Surges Past 5 Million
The Obama administration said 5 million Americans have now signed up for health insurance through the exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act, the president signature legislation (Peralta, 3/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Sign-Ups Hit 5M Mark
That still leaves about 1 million to go over the next two weeks for the White House to meet its latest goal of 6 million enrolled by March 31. That would work out to more than 70,000 people a day. And some independent analysts say that’s a stretch (3/17).

The Wall Street Journal: New Health Exchanges Reach 5 Million Enrollees
Still unclear is a key piece of data: How many of the current enrollees were previously uninsured. A primary goal of the 2010 health law was to extend insurance coverage to an additional 30 million Americans (Corbett Dooren, 3/17).

Politico: Health Law Enrollment Hits 5 Million With Two Weeks To Go
Lukewarm progress in February — when fewer than a million people enrolled, and 6 million seemed like wishful thinking — suggested that the administration could fall short of expectations that had already been lowered following the debacle in the fall. Now the question is whether the momentum will be sustained amid a full-court press by the White House, advocates and, now, basketball stars (Cheney, 3/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Texas Makes Final Push For Insurance Enrollment
As a March 31 deadline draws near, this is a daily reality in Texas, where nearly 1 in 4 residents is uninsured, the highest rate in the nation. Texas stands out among the nation’s four most populous states for lagging behind on signups. California, New York and Florida have signed up far more people (3/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama’s Health-Care Pitch Takes Quirky Route
The White House is counting on cat videos, college basketball and a dancing first lady to help persuade young people to sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. President Barack Obama's appearance on the mock talk show "Between Two Ferns" last week drew wide notice and millions of views. The online parody, it turns out, was part of a broader effort that has resulted in Mr. Obama and the first lady chatting up quirky radio DJs and self-proclaimed "digital influencers" on YouTube (McCain Nelson, 3/17).

USA Today: Obama Team Unveils ‘Sweet 16’ Health Care Bracket
Seeking to reach young people who will be watching a lot of tournament basketball in the next three weeks, the Obama administration Monday unveiled its own "Sweet 16" reasons to sign up for health care (Jackson, 3/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Massachusetts To Cut Ties With CGI Group Over Troubled Online Health Exchange
Massachusetts officials said Monday they have begun work to sever the state's relationship with CGI Group Inc., the company behind the state's troubled online health-insurance exchange. Massachusetts' 2006 comprehensive health-coverage law inspired the federal law that followed a few years later. But overhauling the state's online system to comply with the federal law's different rules has proved daunting for Massachusetts, where tens of thousands of people have had trouble signing up for care because of problems with the site (Kamp, 3/17).

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: Obamacare Was Supposed to Make Insurance Markets More Competitive. Has it?
Before the Affordable Care Act, about 30 states had a single insurer that accounted for more than half of their participants in the individual market, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The law’s effect in each state’s insurance market will vary based on history, regulation and demographics (Millman, 3/17).

The New York Times: New Health Law Is Sending Many Back To School
Key provisions of the law, including the requirement that most people obtain health insurance and the creation of online insurance marketplaces where individuals can buy insurance, are leading to new policies and practices down the line. Confusion has inevitably ensued. But that could mean career opportunities for professionals with the best and most current understanding of the law and the way it is being put into practice (Korkki, 3/17).

The New York Times: G.O.P. House Members Plan Tour To Test Alternatives On Health Care
Senior House Republicans — struggling to find consensus for health care legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act — are planning to test ideas in April at town-hall-style meetings that could provide a path toward a long-promised alternative to President Obama’s signature legislative achievement (Weisman, 3/17).

Los Angeles Times: Ex-Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards Launches comeback Bid For Congress
Now, in his latest exhibition of life as political performance art, Edwin Edwards — former Louisiana governor, convicted racketeer, celebrated womanizer and, at age 86, new father — announced Monday he would be a candidate for Congress. … He said improving accessibility to healthcare would be a centerpiece of his congressional campaign. He criticized the state’s Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, for refusing to accept expanded Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act, more widely known as Obamacare (Barabak, 3/17).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Edwin Edwards Running For Congress In Louisiana
Edwards made the announcement at a meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge. He entered a crowded meeting room with his third wife, Trina, more than 50 years his junior. He pushed a baby carriage with their infant son, Eli Wallace Edwards, born last August. … A lifelong Democrat, he sounded as though he was shaping a platform aimed at swaying voters in a conservative district that leans Republican. … He was critical of Democratic President Barack Obama’s health care law, saying it was “fraught with pitfalls” and failed to allow people to keep insurance policies they like. Still, he embraced parts of the law, including prohibitions against denying insurance to people because of pre-existing conditions. And he said he would work to reverse Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to accept expanded Medicaid coverage under that law (3/17).

The Wall Street Journal: A Registry Of Upper-Spine Surgical Outcomes To Guide Patient Decisions
A research team led by a prominent neurosurgeon is creating a registry of outcomes for upper spine surgery, which future patients and doctors would be able to use to determine which surgical treatment is most beneficial, safest and cost-effective. The work is part of a study aimed at helping doctors and patients make better decisions about treating spinal cord compression, the most common spinal cord problem in Americans over 55 (Landro, 3/17).

Los Angeles Times: Attorneys General Urge Retailers To Follow CVS And End Tobacco Sales
Twenty-eight attorneys general from 24 states, three U.S. territories and Washington, D.C. are pressuring five retailers, including Walgreen Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., to follow the move by CVS Caremark Corp. and end sales of tobacco (Lopez, 3/17).

The Wall Street Journal: Attorneys General Urge Major Retailers To Stop Selling Tobacco Products
Two dozen state attorneys general are urging five major retailers with pharmacies to drop tobacco, calling on them to follow the lead of CVS Caremark Corp., which said last month it would stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products by October. "Pharmacies and drugstores, which increasingly market themselves as a source for community health care, send a mixed message by continuing to sell deadly tobacco products," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday (Esterl, 3/17).

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