First Edition: September 16, 2014
Today's headlines include reports about the number of people who will lose their new Obamacare insurance because they failed to prove they were U.S. citizens or legal immigrants who were eligible for coverage.
Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Health Law Tempers New State Coverage Mandates
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews reports: “For decades, states have set rules for health coverage through mandates, laws that require insurers to cover specific types of medical care or services. The health law contains provisions aimed at curbing this piecemeal approach to coverage. States, however, continue to pass new mandates, but with a twist: Now they’re adding language to sidestep the health law, making it tougher than ever for consumers to know whether they’re covered or not” (Andrews, 9/16). Read the column.
The New York Times: U.S. To End Coverage Under Health Care Law For Tens Of Thousands
The Obama administration said on Monday that it planned to terminate health insurance for 115,000 people on Oct. 1 because they had failed to prove that they were United States citizens or legal immigrants eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. It also told 363,000 people that they could lose financial aid because their incomes could not be verified (Pear, 9/15).
Los Angeles Times: Many May Lose Obamacare Coverage Because Of Missing Paperwork
Some 115,000 people are poised to be cut from insurance rolls at the end of the month because they haven't verified their citizenship or immigration status. Another 363,000 people haven't sent in the necessary forms proving their income, a key requirement for calculating the size of government subsidies some consumers are eligible to receive under the law. Together, that represents about 10% of those who signed up for coverage on new federal marketplaces created by the law (Levey, 9/15).
The Wall Street Journal: Tens Of Thousands Likely To Lose Health Insurance At End Of September
The government is now set to inform insurers to terminate at the end of the month the coverage those people bought through HealthCare.gov. A provision in the Affordable Care Act bars people living in the U.S. without authorization from obtaining coverage through the site. Federal officials also said they would send notices to about 279,000 people whose income can't be verified, giving them until Sept. 30 to submit further documentation. Those people won't lose their coverage if they don't respond, but the tax credits that offset the cost of their premiums could be suspended (Radnofsky, 9/15).
The Washington Post: 115,000 Immigrants To Lose Health Coverage By Sept. 30 Because Of Lack Of Status Data
Those individuals can still send in the needed information to the federal exchange and if they are found eligible, they will be able to regain coverage, officials said. They will be considered under a special category reserved for people who have experienced a major life change, such as having a baby or getting divorced or losing a job with health insurance. Separately, about 363,000 consumers who have coverage could lose financial subsidies for their insurance premiums unless they clear up information about their incomes that differs from that on federal tax records. If those individuals don’t provide updated income information by Sept. 30, federal health officials will adjust their premiums to “reflect what we have in our records,” said Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which manages HealthCare.gov, the federal exchange (Sun, 9/15).
USA Today: Feds Give Immigrants More Time On Health Care
About 115,000 of 966,000 people who bought plans on HealthCare.gov and owed more information about their immigration status have unresolved issues, Andy Slavitt, principal deputy administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said. These people were given a deadline of Sept. 5 to submit information — they now have until Sept. 30 to provide proof of their citizenship, or they will lose coverage. After that date, those people can reapply if they can prove citizenship even though the open enrollment period is closed. The other 851,000 people either have had their cases resolved, or the cases are in the process of being resolved. Slavitt would not comment on how the resolved cases were decided. "The good news is they have been able to resolve one way or another most of the problem applications where federal databases could not verify income or legal status," says health care consultant Kip Piper, a former state and federal Medicare official (O’Donnell, 9/15).
The New York Times: Number of Americans Without Health Insurance Falls, Survey Shows
Federal researchers reported on Tuesday that the number of Americans without health insurance had declined substantially in the first quarter of this year, the first federal measure of the number of uninsured Americans since the Affordable Care Act extended coverage to millions of people in January. The number of uninsured Americans fell by about 8 percent to 41 million people in the first quarter of this year, compared with 2013, a drop that represented about 3.8 million people and that roughly matched what experts were expecting based on polling by private groups, like Gallup. The survey also measured physical health but found little evidence of change (Tavernise, 9/16).
The Wall Street Journal: Tally Of Uninsured Fell By 3.8 Million In Early 2014
Shortcomings in the data are likely to limit the conclusions that either supporters or critics of the law can draw from it. The survey, based on interview responses for 27,627 people, was carried out from the beginning of January through the end of March, which is when enrollment ended for most consumers. Responses from earlier in the period wouldn't reflect the late surge in enrollment under the law, potentially making the tally of people who gained coverage artificially low (Radnofsky, 9/15).
Politico: Fewer Uninsured, CDC Finds
But the survey does not capture the tidal wave of last minute sign-ups who flooded into the new health insurance exchanges in March. They had signed up — but their coverage didn’t begin until April at the earliest, so their new health insurance won’t show up until the second quarter survey (Norman, 9/16).
The Associated Press: New Questions Over Abortion Coverage In Health Law
A nonpartisan congressional agency is raising new questions about compliance with a key compromise on abortion that allowed the federal health care law to pass in 2010. The Government Accountability Office said in a report released late Monday that only 1 of 18 insurers it reviewed was separately itemizing a charge for coverage of elective abortions on enrollees’ bills (9/15).
Politico: GAO: Obamacare Abortion Rules Widely Ignored
There are widespread instances of Obamacare insurance plans violating the rigid rules surrounding whether customers can use federal health care subsidies on insurance policies that cover abortion procedures, according to a Government Accountability Office investigation. The report, commissioned by House Republican leadership and obtained by POLITICO on Monday night, found that 15 insurers in a sample of 18 are selling Obamacare plans that do not segregate funds to cover abortion (except in cases of rape, incest or the mother’s life) from their Obamacare subsidies (Haberkorn and Everett, 9/15).
Los Angeles Times: California Health Insurance Exchange Unveils Ad Campaign And Outreach
Preparing for the second year of Obamacare enrollment, California unveiled new television ads and handed out $14.6 million to community groups for consumer outreach. The state-run insurance exchange, Covered California, said the new grant funds are in addition to $33.4 million that has already been given to clinics, unions, schools and nonprofit groups helping with enrollment (Terhune, 9/15).
The Wall Street Journal: Humana Unveils $2 Billion Buyback Program
The new plan is slated to run through the end of 2016. About $782 million was remaining under the company's prior authorization after making $118 million in buybacks so far during the third quarter. The move comes after the board initiated a $1 billion buyback plan about five months ago, when it had $569 million left on its previous repurchase program. Humana is considered a key health insurer to watch, as its results are closely tied to Medicare Advantage plans. While membership has grown in the plans--the private-sector version of government insurance for elderly and disabled people--the government has scaled back funding for them, prompting margin concerns for Humana (Calia, 9/16).
The Wall Street Journal: Doctors: Skeptical About Health Law, Optimistic About Future Of Medicine
Doctors are overextended, skeptical of changes wrought by the federal health law, but more optimistic about the future of medicine than they were two years ago, according to a new survey of 20,000 U.S. physicians. Despite many specific complaints, 71% of those polled said they would choose to become doctors again if they were making the choice today, up from 66% two years ago. And 50% would recommend it to their children, compared with 42% in 2012 and 40% in 2008 (Beck, 9/16).
The Wall Street Journal: AMA Urges Overhaul Of Electronic Medical Records
It's no secret that many physicians hate the electronic-medical-records systems they use, saying they are cumbersome, poorly designed and detract from patient care. Amplifying those concerns, the American Medical Association on Tuesday is calling for a major overhaul of EMR systems to make usability and high-quality patient care a higher priority (Beck, 9/16).
The Associated Press: Fla.’s ‘Gray Belt’ A Glimpse At Nation’s Future
In Citrus County, about 70 miles north of Tampa, health care dominates the labor force. Residents prefer to get their news from a newspaper. Strip malls have an unusually high number of hearing aid businesses. The library offers Medicaid planning seminars. Voters turn out in large numbers, albeit often by absentee ballot. Having such a high concentration of elderly citizens has its trade-offs. You get an engaged citizenry with high voter turnout and volunteerism, but also an economy based on low-skill jobs such as health-care aides, retail clerks and food service workers (9/15).
Politico: House GOP: VA Interfered With IG’s Report
Congressional Republicans are accusing the Department of Veterans Affairs of influencing an independent review of whether delayed health care resulted in the deaths of nearly three dozen patients. The VA’s inspector general released a report last month that said investigators could not “conclusively” link the deaths of 40 veterans to long wait times plaguing the agency. That shocked many Republican lawmakers, who say there’s no question that the two issues are connected (French, 9/15).
The New York Times: New York Files An Antitrust Suit Against The Maker Of An Alzheimer’s Drug
New York State’s attorney general filed an antitrust lawsuit on Monday seeking to stop a pharmaceutical company from forcing patients with Alzheimer’s disease to switch to a new version of a widely used drug. The lawsuit contends that the switch is designed to blunt competition from low-priced generic versions of the medication (Pollack, 9/15).
The Associated Press: NY Bid To Halt Alzheimer’s Drug Swap
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (SHNEYE’-dur-muhn) alleges both anti-trust and state law violations in the federal suit filed Monday in Manhattan against Dublin-based Actavis PLC and New York subsidiary Forest Laboratories (9/15).
Los Angeles Times: California Broadens Autism Therapy Coverage For Children On Medi-Cal
California children enrolled in public healthcare will regain access to an expensive form of autism therapy after the state Monday became the first in the country to comply with new federal guidelines. The therapy, called applied behavior analysis, was at the center of controversy last year when state officials phased out the Healthy Families program, which covered the treatment, and shifted poor children into Medi-Cal, which did not (Megerian, 9/15).
The New York Times: Arizona Republican Official Resigns After Remarks About Medicaid Recipients
The former Arizona lawmaker who sponsored the state’s stringent anti-immigration law resigned as a top state Republican official late Sunday amid criticism for remarks he made supporting mandatory birth control or sterilization for Medicaid recipients (Medina, 9/15).
Politico: Russell Pearce Resigns After Birth Control Remarks
Former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce resigned from his post as vice chairman of the state’s Republican Party following recent controversial remarks about Medicaid, suggesting women be required to use birth control. However he pointed blame at media. “Recently on my radio show there was a discussion about the abuses to our welfare system. I shared comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author. This was a mistake. This mistake has been taken by the media and the left and used to hurt our Republican candidates,” Pearce said in a statement in which he announced his resignation, published by the Arizona GOP on Sunday (McCalmont, 9/15).
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.