KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

FAQ: What Are The Penalties For Not Getting Insurance?

You could face a costly fine if you don't choose a policy in the enrollment period that closes March 31, and you likely won't have another opportunity to sign up again until the 2015 plans are unveiled. (Michelle Andrews, 3/3)

Texas GOP Leaders Say They Won't Expand Medicaid

Republican lawmakers asked the Obama administration for greater flexibility to administer the state-federal insurance program and reiterated their lack of interest in expanding eligibility under the federal health law. (Edgar Walters, Texas Tribune, 3/3)

Political Cartoon: ‘Putting The Hammer Down?’

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: ‘Putting The Hammer Down?’" by Monte Wolverton.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

DELICATE OPERATION

The court must dissect,
With the needed legalese,
What four short words mean.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Health Law Issues And Implementation

For Obamacare, Today Is A Big Day In Court

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case -- King v. Burwell -- that challenges the overhaul's health insurance subsidies, one of the fundamental components of the law. If the justices rule that these subsidies are not legal, the law's future could be in jeopardy.

The Washington Post: Obamacare Back Before Supreme Court Today
At issue is whether millions of Americans who receive tax subsidies to buy health insurance are doing so illegally. If the justices rule that the payments are not allowed, the entire health-care law could be in jeopardy. The latest showdown between the Obama administration and the conservative legal strategists who have targeted the law since its passage in 2010 focuses on a once obscure phrase in the legislation: “established by the State.” (Barnes, 3/4)

NPR: Round 2: Health Care Law Faces The Supreme Court Again
Round 2 in the legal battle over Obamacare hits the Supreme Court's intellectual boxing ring Wednesday. In one corner is the Obama administration, backed by the nation's hospitals, insurance companies, physician associations and other groups like Catholic Charities and the American Cancer Society. In the other corner are conservative groups, backed by politicians who fought in Congress to prevent the bill from being adopted. (Totenberg, 3/3)

Reuters: U.S. Supreme Court Set To Hear Second Major Obamacare Challenge
The U.S. Supreme Court will weigh a second major case targeting President Barack Obama's healthcare law on Wednesday when it considers a conservative challenge to tax subsidies critical to the measure's implementation. The case is set for a one-hour oral argument starting just after 10 a.m. ... with a ruling due by the end of June. (Hurley, 3/3)

USA Today: A Case About Four Words, With Mammoth Implications
President Obama's health care law squeaked through the Senate in 2009, the House in 2010 and the Supreme Court in 2012. Wednesday, the high court will consider whether it can survive its infancy. The case is far narrower than the one brought — and nearly won — by opponents three years ago. Opponents of the law claim it allows health insurance premiums to be subsidized only in states that set up exchanges, or online marketplaces. If the court agrees, those subsidies can't continue to flow to residents in at least 34 states that use a federally operated exchange. (Wolf, 3/3)

USA Today: By The Numbers: The Case Against Obamacare
The case, by the numbers: 4: Words in the law that are in dispute ("established by the state"); 34: States using the federal health insurance exchange, where tax credits could be eliminated; 9.3 million: People who would lose tax credits if the court sides with the law's opponents; 8.2 million: People at risk of becoming uninsured. (Wolf, 3/3)

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog: Health-Care Law Arguments: A Big Battle Over Four Words
The fundamental question facing the justices in the latest challenge to the 2010 Affordable Care Act has nothing to do with health care: how to interpret a tiny snippet – specifically, four words — embedded in the voluminous law. First, some background: Congress in the law authorized the government to provide tax credits for insurance purchases by middle- and low-income people. The credits are vital to the program. (Jones, 3/3)

CNN: Obamacare On The Line At SCOTUS
The arguments could provide hints about whether the justices believe the law does not authorize the government to provide federal subsidies for Obamacare beneficiaries in the 34 states that didn't establish their own exchange. If the Court ultimately rules against the Obama administration, more than 5 million individuals will no longer be eligible for the subsidies, shaking up the insurance market and potentially dealing the law a fatal blow. (de Vogue, 3/4)

The New York Times: In Health Law Case, Plaintiffs Dislike Rules On Purchases And Penalties
People sometimes wonder why David M. King would fight health insurance subsidies all the way to the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear his case on Wednesday. Even his sister is puzzled. Asked what motivated her brother, who is the lead plaintiff in the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, Deborah K. Siebols said: “I don’t have any idea. I am clueless. He’s my brother, but we are so opposite in our beliefs — have been all our lives. We don’t discuss politics.” (Pear, 3/3)

Looking Forward: Health Law Supporters See Dire Consequences If They Lose King V. Burwell

News outlets detail how the Supreme Court's ruling could impact the insurance marketplace, the health care delivery system and million's of Americans who gained health coverage as a result of the health law.

CBS News: If The Supreme Court Undercuts Obamacare, Then What?
Obamacare supporters have not hesitated to predict the drastic consequences that could come from King v. Burwell, the case the Supreme Court considers Wednesday. The plaintiffs in the case argue that the Affordable Care Act only allows the federal government to provide subsidies in states that run their own health care marketplaces. If the Supreme Court agrees, it would cut off subsidies in the 34 states that rely on the federal government to run their Obamacare marketplaces, or "exchanges." That would leave millions of Americans, concentrated largely in GOP-led states like Texas and Florida, without the financial support that puts the "affordable" in the Affordable Care Act. (Condon, 3/4)

NPR: 4 Reasons Both Parties Should Be Sweating Bullets Over King V. Burwell
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Wednesday in another case that threatens the survival of Obamacare. This one doesn't challenge the constitutionality of the law itself, it merely challenges the legality of one of the most important parts of the system — subsidies so that everyone can afford health care. If the court strikes down the subsidies for people who live in states that chose not to set up their own exchanges, and who get their health coverage from the federal marketplace — healthcare.gov — it would begin to unravel the entire Obamacare project. (Liasson, 4/3)

Bloomberg: Obamacare Subsidies For Millions Hang On Court's View Of 'State'
A decision halting the credits might unravel the Affordable Care Act, making other core provisions ineffective and potentially causing the market for individual insurance policies to collapse in much of the country. Hospitals would potentially be left with billions of dollars in unpaid bills. “This would be the greatest instance of judicial overreach in the modern history of the court,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, told reporters on Tuesday. The court will rule by the end of June. (Stohr, 3/4)

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers’ Biggest Fear: A Health-Law Death Spiral
As the Supreme Court hears arguments on Wednesday in the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, health insurers are struggling to prepare for a decision that could unravel the marketplaces created by the law. The ruling could come in June—but insurers must make regulatory filings before then about their 2016 plans. Utah’s Arches Health Plan, for one, says it may propose an array of insurance product designs this spring. Then, depending on what the court decides, the insurer would be poised to drop some of them before they’re finalized with regulators and offered to consumers. The insurer may also come up with two different sets of rates for next year, one for each potential court outcome. (Wilde Mathews, 3/3)

Huffington Post: Courting Disaster: Obamacare Is Back At The Supreme Court, And These 6 Lives Hang In The Balance
King v. Burwell, a lawsuit that originated in conservative and libertarian think tanks, alleges that a stray phrase in the Affordable Care Act -- “an exchange established by the state” -- means the federal government isn’t allowed to provide subsidies to the residents of states that refused to establish health insurance exchanges under the law. Only 13 states and the District of Columbia have their own exchanges. If this bid to derail the Affordable Care Act succeeds, the subsidies would disappear -- maybe immediately, maybe a little later -- for Obamacare enrollees everywhere else. Behind the numbers, however, is a very human story. Without the subsidies, health insurance costs would spike beyond the means of low- and moderate-income recipients. As a result, close to 10 million people would lose their health coverage. Many others would face major increases in the premiums they pay for insurance. The Huffington Post interviewed six Americans at risk of the worst effects of a high court ruling against Obamacare. (Young and Stein, 3/3)

Poll: Majority Of Voters Wants Congress To Step In If High Court Nullifies Health Law Subsidies

According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, a majority of voters believe that a law should be passed on Capitol Hill to help low-income Americans who could lose their health coverage without this assistance. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers seem to agree that some action will be necessary -- but there's little consensus beyond this point.

The Wall Street Journal: Voters Want Congress To Take Action If Health-Law Tax Credits Are Voided
A majority of voters wants Congress to take action if the Supreme Court voids the health law’s tax credits in much of the country, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey finds. The court is set to hear arguments Wednesday over whether the Obama administration can issue federal tax credits to offset the cost of health premiums to millions of Americans who live in states that haven't set up their own insurance exchanges. The tax credits are closely tied to other provisions in the law, including requirements that most Americans buy coverage or pay a penalty, and insurers can’t reject people based on their medical history. (Radnofsky, 3/3)

Politico Pro: After SCOTUS: Bridges, Off-Ramps And No ACA Consensus
Top Republicans in the House and Senate agree that a Supreme Court ruling against the White House on Obamacare tax subsidies would leave millions of Americans with health insurance bills that they can’t afford — and they all want to do something about it. That’s where most of the consensus ends. (Haberkorn, 3/3)

And, in the background, health law backers and opponents alike have been working behind the scenes to shape the justices' opinions and to brace for the decision's impact -

Reuters: U.S. Lawmakers Gear Up For Supreme Court Obamacare Fray
War rooms of lawmakers and their aides in the U.S. Congress are working furiously to try to influence the Supreme Court's nine justices who will hear arguments on Wednesday on the future of President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law. These informal working groups, staffed by Republican and Democratic members of Congress, have gone into high gear in recent days. (Cowan, 3/4)

Reuters: Doctors, Patients Scramble Ahead Of High Court Obamacare Decision
But even physicians who think the court will uphold the subsidies are gearing up for the worst. Worried about newly-insured patients such as those who have just begun treatment for cancer or other serious illnesses, they are dusting off playbooks they retired when Obamacare slashed the number of uninsured people. Interviews with doctors reached through professional groups show that they are lining up free clinics to care for patients with chronic illnesses, asking pharmaceutical companies to provide discounted drugs, and moving up preventive-care appointments and complicated procedures. (Begley, 3/4)

High Court Face-Off: Today's Arguments A Rematch For Attorneys Arguing The Case

Michael Carvin will argue for plaintiffs seeking to undo a key aspect of the health law, and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. will again defend the federal government.

Politico: Stark Contrast: The 2 Attorneys Arguing The Obamacare Case
One attorney is known for his measured, authoritative approach, the other for a brash, confrontational style. And when the Affordable Care Act brings both of them back before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, these differences may be on display as much as their legal points. In what’s arguably the most important case of the court’s term, Michael Carvin will argue for plaintiffs seeking to upend a fundamental aspect of Obamacare, and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. will again defend the government. Both are hailed as brilliant litigators steeped in case law, and their first round in 2012 concluded with each man able to claim a victory of sorts. (Wheaton, 3/3)

The Washington Post: Two Sides Enter The Ring For Another Supreme Court Battle Over Health Care
Washington lawyer Michael A. Carvin will be back at the Supreme Court on Wednesday for the second great battle over the Affordable Care Act, once again facing off against a familiar adversary in Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. With hardly a trace of deadpan, Carvin said it would be wrong to characterize the case as a rare second chance to bring down President Obama’s health-care law. “Me, personally?” he said. “I’m a libertarian. I’d get rid of three-quarters of the U.S. Code if I could.” But he added, “The ACA is the law of the land. We want it to be implemented the way Congress intended for it to be.” (Barnes, 3/3)

The New York Times: Solicitor General Will Try, Again, To Keep Health Care Law Alive
Three years ago this month, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. stood before the Supreme Court to defend President Obama’s health care law against a constitutional challenge that threatened to destroy its central provision. His oral argument drew harsh reviews, but in the end he managed to persuade five justices to accept his backup argument, saving the law. Mr. Verrilli will return to the lectern on Wednesday morning to defend the law once again, and he has reason to be nervous. (Liptak, 3/4)

The Wall Street Journal: To Kill A Health-Care Law
Attorney Michael Carvin on Wednesday will for the second time argue against the health-care law at the Supreme Court, hoping to do what opponents couldn’t do in 2012: cripple President Barack Obama ’s signature domestic achievement. Challengers to the law fell one vote short three years ago when Chief Justice John Roberts stunned fellow conservatives with a vote to uphold most of the Affordable Care Act. This time, Mr. Carvin says things should go more smoothly. (Bravin, 4/3)

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Case Began When Conservative Lawyer Saw Possible Flaw In Law
The case that comes before the Supreme Court on Wednesday with the potential to unravel President Obama's landmark healthcare law began in a conference room at the American Enterprise Institute, a few blocks from the White House and the K Street corridor. It was December 2010, and voters had recently elected a new crop of Republicans, many of whom had ridden to victory on their objections to Obamacare. GOP attorneys general in several states, along with a major business group, had headed to court in Florida, arguing the entire law was unconstitutional. (Savage, 3/3)

Chief Justice Returns To Hot Seat In The Latest Health Law Challenge

Chief Justice John Roberts was pivotal in the Supreme Court's 2012 decision and observers will again be watching him for clues on the outcome of King v. Burwell.

The Wall Street Journal: Chief Justice John Roberts In Hot Seat In Health-Law Case
The most uncomfortable seat at Wednesday’s Supreme Court argument on health-law insurance subsidies might be the one held by Chief Justice John Roberts. Both sides will be trying to sway his vote on the assumption the court is otherwise split 4-4 along ideological lines, as it was three years ago when it heard an earlier challenge to the law. (Bravin, 3/3)

The Associated Press: High Court Takes Up Major Fight Over Health Law Subsidies
Opponents of the Affordable Care Act failed to kill the law in an epic, election-year Supreme Court case in 2012. Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s liberal justices and provided the crucial vote to uphold the law in the midst of Obama’s re-election campaign.Partisan and ideological divisions remain stark for a law that passed Congress in 2010 with no Republican votes. ... Of the judges who have ruled on lawsuits over the subsidies, Democratic appointees have sided with the administration and Republican appointees have been with the challengers. Roberts was the only justice to essentially cross party lines with his vote in 2012. His fellow conservatives on the court voted to strike down Obamacare in its entirety. (3/4)

Utah's GOP-Controlled House To Hear Medicaid Expansion Plan After All

Lawmakers reversed course to consider Gov. Gary Herbert's plan. Meanwhile, Texas state lawmakers reiterate that they will not expand the program and New Hampshire hospitals report fewer uninsured patients in their emergency rooms since that state expanded the insurance program for the poor.

The Associated Press: Utah House Agrees To Hear Governor's Medicaid Plan
Utah's Republican controlled-House of Representatives has reversed course and decided to consider Gov. Gary Herbert's Medicaid plan, despite comments from the Republican House speaker that the measure had no support and would not be heard. A panel that assigns bills to House committees sent Herbert's Medicaid proposal and a House alternative forward on Tuesday, setting up both proposals for a hearing this week. (Price, 3/3)

KUT: Without Medicaid Flexibility, Texas Republicans Say No To Program's Expansion
Leaders of the Texas Senate have sent a letter to President Barack Obama about Medicaid. It says that if Texas can’t make changes to how it runs Medicaid now, there’ll be no Medicaid expansion for Texas in the future. The Affordable Care Act gives states the option to expand Medicaid to cover more people, or in the case of Texas and some other states, not expand it. (Zaragovia, 3/3)

The Associated Press: N.H. Hospitals Report Fewer Uninsured Patients At ERs
Emergency rooms are seeing fewer uninsured patients since the state expanded its Medicaid program to cover more poor adults, according to the New Hampshire Hospital Association. The plan passed by the Legislature last year made adults making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit – about $15,856 a year – eligible for Medicaid, and more than 35,000 have signed up since enrollment began July 1. (3/4)

Other media look at a special enrollment period in Connecticut and GOP support of the law's employer wellness incentives -

Connecticut Mirror: Access Health Offers Special April Enrollment For Health Coverage
Access Health CT, the state's insurance exchange, said Tuesday it will hold a special enrollment period for those who did not have health insurance in 2014 and, as a result, paid a penalty on their federal income taxes. The special enrollment, which will run from April 1 through midnight April 30, will allow the uninsured who sign up to limit penalties on their 2015 taxes. (3/3)

The Hill: GOP Looks To Protect Employer Wellness Programs In Obamacare
Republicans are trying to fend off a legal attack against one of the few pieces of ObamaCare that has achieved bipartisan support in Congress. A half-dozen Republicans in the House and Senate introduced legislation Tuesday to protect an employee wellness program that discounts healthcare costs for workers who demonstrate healthy lifestyles. (Ferris, 3/3)

Coverage And Access

Report: More Doctors Needed To Treat Aging Baby Boomers

A report by the Association of American Medical Colleges says the United States faces a shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2025, lower than their previous estimate, to treat a sicker, older population. Elsewhere, a program to provide primary care for underserved areas is in danger of shutting down.

CQ Healthbeat: U.S. Doctor Shortage Projection Lower Than Earlier Estimates
The demand for doctors in 2025 will exceed the number of practicing physicians by 46,100 to 90,400, the trade association for medical colleges predicted Tuesday, downgrading its earlier estimates of a medical labor squeeze. In 2010, the Association of American Medical Colleges projected a shortfall of 130,600 physicians. The estimates are often used by lobbyists and lawmakers to justify increased federal spending for the training of physicians through Medicare and Medicaid. (Adams, 3/3)

Modern Healthcare: Federal Primary Care Program For Undeserved Areas Is At Risk Despite Successes
A government program that is providing care for some 500,000 patients and has successfully increased the number of primary-care physicians in underserved areas is in danger of folding. The federal Teaching Health Center program was created with a $230 million appropriation in Section 5508 of the Affordable Care Act and, as of 2014, it was helping to train 550 residents at 60 centers in 27 states and the District of Columbia in underserved rural areas and urban neighborhoods. (Robeznieks, 3/3)

Public Health And Education

Study: Unplanned Pregnancies Cost Taxpayers $21 Billion Per Year

That's $366 for every woman of childbearing age in the U.S., a new Guttmacher Institute analysis contends. Also, teen pregnancy rates for Latina and black girls have dropped, but they are still higher than for whites.

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Unplanned Pregnancies Cost Taxpayers $21 Billion Each Year
Unintended pregnancies cost American taxpayers $21 billion each year, according to a new analysis released by the Guttmacher Institute. That averages out to a cost of about $366 per every woman of childbearing age in the U.S. Overall, more than half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended, and roughly 1-in-20 American women of reproductive age have an unplanned pregnancy each year. (Ingraham, 3/3)

Stateline: Racial And Ethnic Disparities Persist In Teen Pregnancy Rates
It’s a problem once thought to be intractable, and yet pregnancy and birth rates for black and Latina teens have dropped precipitously in the past two decades—at a much faster clip than that of white teens. Despite this, black and Latina girls are more than twice as likely as white girls to become pregnant before they leave adolescence. (Wlitz, 3/3)

In other news related to women's health -

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Why A Big Insurer Is Sharply Limiting One Of Women’s Most Common Health Procedures
UnitedHealth, the country’s largest insurer, will soon require doctors to get permission before performing most types of inpatient hysterectomies, a procedure in which the uterus is removed, often to prevent or treat cancer. The move follows lengthy debate over a surgical device believed by many medical researchers to spread cancer in patients -- and highlights how insurers can also play watchdog. (Panquette, 3/3)

FDA Orders Drug Makers To Add Heart, Stroke Warnings To Testosterone Drugs

The move is in response to controversial marketing of the drugs in recent years to help fight the effects of aging in men.

The Wall Street Journal's Pharmalot: FDA Warns Testosterone Drugs Can Increase Heart Risks
Following months of deliberation, the FDA is now requiring drug makers to add information on product labeling about the possible increased risk of heart attacks and strokes associated with low testosterone treatments. And the agency is also cautioning these medications have not been shown to help men with low testosterone levels reverse the aging process. The move comes after sustained controversy over the cardiovascular safety and allegations of inappropriate marketing of these widely prescribed drugs, which have attracted sustained regulatory scrutiny as a result. Testosterone treatments have, at times, been widely promoted to help reverse aging, but safety concerns prompted heated debate amid dueling medical studies. (Silverman, 3/3)

NPR: FDA Mandates Tougher Warnings On Testosterone
The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it is requiring drugmakers to warn patients that testosterone products may increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes. Testosterone replacements are approved to treat men with low testosterone related to medical problems, such as genetic deficiencies, chemotherapy or damaged testicles. But the level of the hormone can fall as men grow older. And testosterone is increasingly being prescribed to men to stave off aging, something the agency never approved. Doctors and specialized clinics have jumped on the bandwagon, offering testosterone replacements to treat what some refer to as "Low T." (Stein, 3/3)

State Watch

State Highlights: Wyo. House Cuts Funding To Help Hospitals With Uninsured; Walker To Sign 20-Week Abortion Ban

A selection of health policy stories from Wyoming, Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Missouri and Iowa.

The Associated Press: Wyoming House Cuts Bill To Pay Hospitals
The Wyoming House voted Tuesday to cut most of the funding from a bill that Senate lawmakers had passed to help hospitals in the state cover the cost of treating uninsured patients. The House on Tuesday voted to cut the funding in the bill from $5 million to $1 million. (Neary, 3/3)

The Associated Press: Wisconsin State Health Secretary Defends SeniorCare Cuts
Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Kitty Rhoades says no one will get kicked off the state’s popular prescription drug program SeniorCare under Gov. Scott Walker’s budget. Walker’s proposal requires that SeniorCare enrollees first sign up for the Medicare Part D prescription drug program and use state benefits under SeniorCare as a supplement. (3/3)

The Washington Post: Legislative Session A Mixed Bag For McAuliffe
But the session was a mixed bag for McAuliffe, who saw many of the liberal causes he championed, as well as his renewed push for expansion of Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, go nowhere in the Republican-controlled legislature. ... But this year, social issue bills, including those that would have prohibited abortion after 20 weeks or expanded gay rights, died quietly. Two antiabortion measures made it to a vote of the full House, but only because they were attached to the budget. They later died in behind-closed-doors budget negotiations. ... But the budget plan does provide the millions the governor had sought to expand mental-health services and school breakfast programs. (Portnoy and Vozzella, 3/3)

Stateline: Older Americans Act Limps Along At 50, Stressing Local And State Agencies
This year marks a half-century since Congress created the Older Americans Act, the major vehicle for delivering social and nutrition services to people over 60. But there’s little to celebrate on the golden anniversary of the law that helps people age at home. Federal funding hasn’t kept up with the skyrocketing number of America’s seniors, now the largest elderly population in history. That’s left states and communities struggling to provide the in-home support, meals, case management and other nonmedical services that help seniors avoid more costly nursing home care and enrolling in taxpayer-funded Medicaid. (Beamish, 3/4)

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Wolf To Restore Public Health Nurses' Posts Cut Under Corbett
The Wolf administration is restoring more than two dozen public health nursing positions eliminated under the Corbett administration. The move comes almost four months after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered the Corbett administration to reverse course on its plan to eliminate 26 nurse consultant positions - half of the statewide total - and close 26 state health centers, mostly in rural parts of the state. (3/3)

Bloomberg: N.Y. Seeks Medicaid Contract Extension With Computer Sciences
New York state is seeking to extend a contract with Computer Sciences Corp. to run its Medicaid computer system because a deal for Xerox Corp. to take over the program is stalled. The length of the extension is still being negotiated, though it will reflect the time needed for Xerox’s five-year, $500 million contract to be finished, Jeffrey Hammond, a state Health Department spokesman, said by e-mail. More than nine months after it was awarded, the Xerox accord is awaiting approval from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. (Kopott, 3/3)

ProPublica: N.Y. Bill Would Make It A Felony To Film Patients Without Prior Consent
Newly proposed legislation would make it a felony in New York to film patients receiving medical treatment without prior consent. State Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, a Queens Democrat, filed the bill last month in response to a ProPublica article, published in January with the New York Times. The story detailed how the TV show “NY Med” aired the final moments of Mark Chanko’s life while he was being treated at NewYork-Presybterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Neither Chanko nor his family had given the show permission to film him. Although Chanko’s face was blurred on the broadcast and his voice altered, his widow immediately recognized him when the episode aired in August 2012. (Ornstein, 3/3)

St. Louis Public Radio: Planned Urgent Care In North St. Louis 'Isn't Going To Make Much Of A Dent'
When Missouri regulators approved his proposal Monday, St. Louis developer Paul McKee got one step closer to realizing his $6.8-million dollar project to build an urgent care center in north St. Louis. It's a start but won't fully address the area's needs, health experts say. The three-bed clinic is to be built at the former Pruitt-Igoe site at 1120 North Jefferson Ave., covering 12 percent of the 33-acre site. A spokesman for McKee told St. Louis Public radio that the developer intends to purchase the $1 million tract of land from the city’s land bank within the next year. (Bouscaren, 3/3)

The Des Moines Register: Medical Marijuana Backers Express Hope For Law Expansion
After weeks of talking about it, Democratic lawmakers have formally started the debate over whether Iowa should expand its limited medical marijuana law. Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, introduced a bill Monday that would let patients use the drug for a range of chronic health conditions besides epilepsy, which is the only disease for which marijuana possession is legal under the state's current law. The bill also would allow tightly-regulated production and distribution of marijuana products for medical purposes. (Leys, 3/3)

Editorials And Opinions

Viewpoints: High Stakes At The High Court; Gov. Scott Insists Obama Needs Plan For States

A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.

Marketplace: Tracing The Obamacare Subsidy
On Wednesday, the Affordable Care Act faces its next test in front of the Supreme Court. This time, the justices will consider who is eligible to receive subsidies to help cover the cost of health insurance. That may sound technical, maybe even minor, but it’s high stakes — because the subsidies are at the heart of the law. (Dan Gorenstein, 3/3)

Bloomberg: Obamacare Will Not Kill The Supreme Court
Unsurprisingly, liberals are also mounting an all-out push to convince the Supreme Court that the very legitimacy of the institution is at stake. This is first-class flummery: What they really mean is that they will be very angry at the Supreme Court if the case goes against them. This is completely true. It is not completely true that the Supreme Court will somehow destroy itself, or its place in American society, if it offers a ruling that American liberals don't like. I realize that it may feel this way if you are an American liberal. But if the institution survived Roe v. Wade's "emanations and penumbras," and the sudden discovery after a couple of centuries that capital punishment violated the Constitution, it can certainly survive a narrow statutory case that overturns a still-unpopular program. (Megan McArdle, 3/4)

Politico: Obama Can’t Be Silent On Health Care’s Future
Prresident Obama came to Florida last week to give a big speech, but he didn’t say a word about how 1.6 million Floridians on the federal exchange under Obamacare would continue to access healthcare if the White House loses their argument in the King v. Burwell Supreme Court case over healthcare exchanges this month. Florida is one of 34 states without a state exchange. That means that 14 insurance companies in Florida receive about $5 billion annually from the federal government to offer Obamacare-compliant policies to about 90 percent of our 1.6 million Floridians on the federal exchange. We could assume from their silence that the White House wants 34 states to set up state exchanges if they lose at the Supreme Court; but state exchanges are collapsing under their own weight throughout the country. (Gov. Rick Scott, 3/4)

Bloomberg: Paul Ryan Thinks We're Fools
Just how stupid does Paul Ryan think we are? The Wisconsin Republican and two other House committee chairmen claim in an op-ed today that they are just about ready to propose an Obamacare “off-ramp" if the Supreme Court decides in King v. Burwell to destroy the federal health-insurance markets in more than half the states. No fooling around. “House Republicans have formed a working group to propose a way out for the affected states if the court rules against the administration.” A working group! No, I’m not impressed. (Jonathan Bernstein, 3/3)

USA Today: Jobs Depend On Obamacare Defeat
As if Obamacare weren't problematic enough, two federal courts have found that the IRS unlawfully expanded the health care law's individual and employer mandates, by imposing them on tens of millions of Americans whom Congress exempted. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear King v. Burwell, a case challenging that illegal and ongoing attempt to expand Obamacare outside the legislative process. (Michael F. Cannon, 3/3)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: CBO, Transparency And Obamacare’s Impact On The Deficit
Before a House rules change in January, CBO generally had not applied “dynamic scoring” to major legislation, or considered likely macro-economic effects when analyzing a bill’s potential impact on the deficit. On Friday, in response to follow-up questions from a January congressional hearing, CBO said that had it conducted such an analysis of Obamacare, it would have found that the bill reduced the federal deficit by less than its original projections. (Chris Jacobs, 3/3)

Los Angeles Times: How Do You Treat Pain When Most Of The World's Population Can't Get Opioids?
In the United States, where doctors write more than 250 million prescriptions for painkillers a year, the frequency of abuse and overdose represents a public health crisis. More than 15,000 Americans died from an overdose of prescription opioids in 2013. In other parts of the world, however, the crisis is that strong painkillers such as morphine aren't available at all. More than 70% of the world's population live in countries with no access to opioids. That has been the case in India, where I am a palliative care physician. Though the situation is slowly improving as result of reforms made in 2014, most people in India can't get an opioid painkiller even when they're dying of cancer. Like torture victims, these people say that their suffering is simply unbearable and that they would do anything to make it stop. (M.R. Rajagopal, 3/3)

The New York Times' Opinionator: Their Dying Wishes
I met Mr. C. because he was dying and his wife needed someone to sit with him Saturday nights while she attended Mass. I was a relatively new hospice volunteer, not long out of training, and Mr. C. was my first assignment with a patient at home, rather than in a hospital or health care facility. He had been given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease 25 years before I first entered their small apartment in the Baruch housing projects, which stand where the Williamsburg Bridge meets Manhattan. (Ann Neumann, 3/4)