KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: January 4, 2013

Today's headlines include reports that the Department of Health and Human Services gave seven more states the thumbs up to run their own health exchanges. 

Kaiser Health News: Behind The Fiscal Cliff Deal, A Prolonged Hospital Finance Fight
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "After Congress' fiscal cliff deal this week dug into hospitals' pockets to avert a drop in Medicare payments to physicians, industry associations screamed. The president of the American Hospital Association said the reductions — nearly $15 billion over a decade — 'will make it harder for patients to access the care they need.' The president of the Federation of American Hospitals also said patients would suffer because lawmakers had decided to 'rob hospital Peter to pay for fiscal cliff Paul'" (Rau, 1/3). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Colorado Will Expand Medicaid, Governor Announces; Exchange Surprise: GOP-Led Utah Gets Thumbs Up From HHS
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in parnership with KHN and NPR, reports on Colorado's plans to expand Medicaid: "Gov. John Hickenlooper said Colorado will expand its Medicaid program as much as the federal health care law calls for, and he said the state won’t have to spend any extra money to make it happen. The federal health overhaul law requires states to significantly expand the health care program for the poor, but when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act last June, it said states couldn’t be forced to take the new Medicaid money, essentially making that expansion optional" (Whitney, 1/3).

He also reports on the Obama administration's approval of Utah's health exchange: "The Obama administration's announcement Thursday that it has given Utah a conditional okay to run its own state health insurance marketplace came as a surprise to many exchange watchers. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, had resisted making major changes to the state's existing market, which was built before passage of the health care law and is geared to small business" (Galewitz, 1/3). Check out what else is on the blog.

NPR: Bargain Over Fiscal Cliff Brings Changes To Health Care
The bill that prevented the nation from plunging over the fiscal cliff did more than just stop income tax increases and delay across-the-board spending cuts. It also included several provisions that tweaked Medicare and brought bigger changes to other health care programs (Rovner, 1/4).

Politico: Health Care Guide To Debt Limit Battle
Congress's most recent spending battle left the health industry with some nicks and scratches, but it's leery of having to hand over even bigger savings in the next battle looming two months from now. From hospitals to doctors to insurers to drug makers, industry players are expecting they'll come up in the mix as lawmakers search for ways to pay for another deal to avert sequestration and increase the debt limit (Haberkorn and Cunningham, 1/3).

Politico: Jack Kingston Has Bipartisan Goals For ACA Funding
Rep. Jack Kingston wants to repeal Obamacare, and his ascension to the top of an Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over health funding puts him in a powerful position to leave an imprint. But the affable Georgia Republican — set to chair the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services in the new Congress — wants it known he’s not a saber-rattling, repeal-at-any-cost zealot (Cheney, 1/4).

Los Angeles Times: More States Cleared To Run Own Health Insurance Exchanges
The Obama administration Thursday cleared what could be the final group of states to open their own health insurance exchanges this fall, advancing a key goal of the 2010 healthcare law to provide Americans with new options to shop for coverage (Levey, 1/3).

The Washington Post: Plans For Health Insurance Exchanges Approved By White House For Seven More States
The Obama administration on Thursday approved plans by seven states to create health insurance exchanges, the new marketplaces at the heart of the Affordable Care Act. With this final round of approvals, the White House has signed off on blueprints by 17 states and the District to operate their own exchanges in 2014, as long as they continue to meet certain benchmarks over the course of the next year (Kliff, 1/3).

The Wall Street Journal: Seven States Clear Health-Exchange Hurdle
The Obama administration on Thursday gave conditional approval to plans by seven states that want to run their own health-insurance exchanges under the health-overhaul law. Among them was Utah, which already runs its own insurance exchange but would have to make significant changes to comply fully with the law, raising questions over whether the state will end up operating its exchange in October when open enrollment begins (Radnofsky, 1/3).

USA Today: Feds Approve Eight State Health Insurance Exchanges
The newly approved states that will run their own exchanges are California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Vermont and Utah. Arkansas will partner with the federal government for its exchange. Although states with Republican governors have fought the law, such as Texas, four of them -- Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah -- have created the exchanges (Kennedy, 1/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Obama Admin. Gives Initial Go-Ahead For State Insurance Markets; 4 GOP-Led States On List
With open enrollment for millions of uninsured Americans just nine months away — Oct. 1, 2013 — the four GOP-led states became part of a group totaling 17 states plus Washington, D.C., that have gotten an initial go-ahead to build and run insurance exchanges. Seven were approved Thursday (1/3).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: House Call: Democratic Caucus Adds Two Doctors
House Democrats doubled the number of doctors in their caucus with the swearing-in of California freshmen Raul Ruiz and Ami Bera, both of whom have signaled their eagerness to weigh in on health-care issues (Radnofsky, 1/3). 

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