First Edition: July 15, 2014
Today's headlines include news about how some states are planning to address their backlogs of new Medicaid enrollees.
Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Readers Ask About Contraceptive Coverage And Medicare Enrollment
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers readers’ questions (7/15). Read her responses.
The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: The Feds Have Had It With Medicaid Backlogs
If you're a fan of Obamacare's coverage expansion, the quick and significant boost in Medicaid enrollment the past few months has been one of the law's biggest successes so far. But the rapid jump in Medicaid enrollment has also provided one of the biggest logistical headaches so far, with hundreds of thousands of people, and possibly millions, still waiting for their applications to get processed and their coverage confirmed (Millman, 7/14).
The Associated Press: States Told To Find Way To Clear Medicaid Backlog
A half-dozen states with backlogs for Medicaid enrollees were facing a federal deadline Monday to create plans for getting those low-income residents enrolled in health coverage. The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services sent letters dated June 27 to Alaska, California, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee asking those states to address gaps in their eligibility and enrollment systems that have delayed access to coverage for poor and disabled people (7/14).
Politico: In North Carolina, An Obamacare Disconnect
North Carolinians came out in droves for Obamacare enrollment, signing up at a rate that beat nearly every other red state. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to come out for the law — or the Democratic senator who supported it — at the voting booth in November. More than any other state, North Carolina may represent the huge disconnect between Obamacare’s success in getting people health insurance and its failure to help the Democratic politicians who voted for the law (Haberkorn, 7/15).
The Washington Post: N.C. Gov. McCrory: ‘Door Open’ To Medicaid Expansion
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said Monday he would leave the door open to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act if federal officials allow his state to craft a plan that fits its own individual needs. In an interview on WFAE, Charlotte’s NPR affiliate, McCrory defended North Carolina’s refusal to expand existing Medicaid programs until fixes are made (Wilson, 7/14).
The Associated Press: Groups Spend Heavily Lobbying On Medicaid
The trade group representing Virginia hospitals and the conservative advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, spent heavily on lobbying during their fight over whether to expand Medicaid eligibility, newly filed reports show. The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, the leading pro-Medicaid expansion advocate during this year’s legislative session, said it incurred more than $400,000 in lobbying expenses from May 2013 to April 2014 (7/14).
The New York Times: Groups Under Health Act Are Said To Aid Millions
More than 4,400 consumer assistance programs created under the Affordable Care Act helped an estimated 10.6 million people explore their new health insurance options and apply for coverage during the initial six-month enrollment period, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey (Goodnough, 7/14).
The Washington Post: Why We Still Don’t Know How Many Small Business Signed Up Through Obamacare
In contrast to the widely publicized enrollment numbers on the health care law’s individual marketplace, there’s apparently no way to know how many business owners and employees have signed up through the law’s new small-business exchanges. By all indications, though, it’s not very many (Harrison, 7/14).
The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: Democrats On Hobby Lobby: ‘Misspeaks,’ ‘Opinion‘ And Overheated Rhetoric
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 ruling that, as a closely held company, Hobby Lobby was not required to pay for all of the birth-control procedures mandated by the Affordable Care Act, Democrats have rushed to condemn the court. But in some cases the rhetoric has gotten way ahead of the facts. Here’s a round-up of some of the more noteworthy claims. In some cases, lawmakers concede that they make a mistake; in others, they are argue that they are offering what amounts to opinion, even though the assertion was stated as fact (Kessler, 7/15).
Politico: Harry Reid: Judge Judy Would Toss Obama Suit
Would Judge Judy take up House Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the president? Harry Reid certainly doesn’t think so. In a nearly 15-minute speech on Tuesday afternoon attacking the House’s proposed legal action, the Senate majority leader concluded that the syndicated courtroom TV star — retired family court judge Judith Sheindlin — would swiftly toss out the House’s lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s executive actions on health care (Everett, 7/14).
Los Angeles Times: VA Overpaid $230 Million In Disability Claims, Official Tells Congress
The Department of Veterans Affairs' disability system has improperly paid former service members at least $230 million over the last few years, according to the VA's inspector general's office. The overpayments stem largely from the department's attempts to clear a massive backlog of claims for disability compensation (Zarembo, 7/14).
Los Angeles Times: Second Investigation Of CDC Anthrax Lapse Finds More Problems
Another federal investigation has found numerous safety problems at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s bioterrorism lab after a lapse last month that potentially exposed several dozen workers to anthrax, according to a House memo posted Monday. The problems included storing anthrax in unlocked refrigerators, transferring dangerous materials in Ziploc bags, and using expired disinfectants, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found (Raab, 7/14).
The Washington Post: Health Survey Gives Government Its First Large-Scale Data On Gay, Bisexual Population
Less than 3 percent of the U.S. population identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday in the first large-scale government survey measuring Americans’ sexual orientation. The National Health Interview Survey, which is the government’s premier tool for annually assessing Americans’ health and behaviors, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual (Somashekhar, 7/15).
The Associated Press: Jails Struggle To Deal With Flood Of Mentally Ill
The numbers, posted daily on the Cook County sheriff’s website, would be alarming at an urgent care clinic, let alone a jail: On a Wednesday, 36 percent of all new arrivals report having a mental illness. On a Friday, it’s 54 percent. But inside the razor wire framing the 96-acre compound, the faces and voices of the newly arrested confirm its accidental role as Chicago’s treatment center of last resort for people with serious mental illnesses (7/14).
The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Workers Eye One-Day Strike
About 70,000 New York City area nurses and other health-care workers are poised to authorize a one-day strike that would take place July 31. Negotiations over a new contract happen every three to four years, but now both union and hospital leaders are grappling with a new issue: an industrywide shift away from hospitals toward outpatient clinics (Krusisto, 7/14).
Propublica/NPR: Why Are Obstetricians Top Billers For Group Therapy In Illinois?
A few years ago, Illinois' Medicaid program for the poor noticed some odd trends in its billings for group psychotherapy sessions. Nursing home residents were being taken several times a week to off-site locations, and Medicaid was picking up the tab for both the services and the transportation (Ornstein, 7/14).
The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Small-Town Mayor Begins 273-Mile Walk To Washington
A small-town Republican mayor set out Monday on a 273-mile walk to Washington, D.C., to draw attention to the plight of rural hospitals. Mayor Adam O’Neal is fighting the recent closure of Pungo Vidant Hospital, the biggest employer in his coastal town of Belhaven, N.C. (pop. 1,700). The hospital’s situation was profiled in an article in The Wall Street Journal in May (Bauerlein, 7/14).
The New York Times: Abortion Clinic Protections Proposed In Massachusetts
Massachusetts lawmakers expressed support for a bill filed on Monday that they say would address safety concerns that arose when the United States Supreme Court last month struck down 35-foot buffer zones for demonstrators standing near entrances to abortion clinics. Supporters say the bill, filed by State Senator Harriette L. Chandler, would strengthen existing laws and add new protections from protesters for women entering and leaving abortion clinics, and would do so within the confines of the court’s ruling (Bigood, 7/14).
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.