KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: June 21, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about the rebates some insurers will provide to consumers as a result of a health law provision. 

Kaiser Health News: Firm Relies On Medicare Experience As It Prepares To Open Federal Health Exchange Calls Centers
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Susan Jaffe writes: "Within days, the company that handles an average of more than 60,000 calls daily about Medicare will be deluged by new inquiries about health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The six Medicare call centers run by Vangent, a company based in Arlington, Va., will answer questions about the health care law from the 34 states that opted out of running their own online health insurance marketplaces or decided to operate them jointly with the federal government" (Jaffe, 6/21). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Rate Shock? Let's Talk About It Later, Says Colorado Insurance Commish
Now on the Kaiser Health News' blog, Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "Colorado is among the states getting their first glimpse of how much health insurance will cost under Obamacare in 2014. Colorado’s insurance commissioner Jim Riesberg  says he’s pleased with what he’s seen so far, but, 'talking about rates at this point in time could lead to a lot problems in the future'" (Whitney 6/21). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Insurers Issue Rebates Under New Health Law
Insurers will rebate $500 million to consumers who purchased health insurance under a provision in the new health-care law that requires companies to spend a certain portion on premiums on consumers or refund the money. About 8.5 million Americans will receive the rebates with an average rebate of about $100 per family, the Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday. That is about $50 less per family than last year, when the new provision took effect (Schatz, 6/20).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Administration Says Consumers Now Save Up Front As Insurers Get Efficient to Avoid Funds
Those health insurance rebates that some consumers got last year will total much less for 2013, but the Obama administration says that's a good thing. The Health and Human Services Department announced Thursday that employers and individual policyholders will receive $500 million in rebates this summer. It's half the $1.1 billion returned last year (6/20).

Politico: Insurers Will Pay Consumers $500M Over Obamacare Rules
A state-by-state breakdown of where rebates are headed suggests recipients in Washington state will see the biggest checks, with 3,000 consumers due to receive rebates of more than $500 each. Rhode Islanders will see the least per person, with an average of $43 in rebates slated for 1,265 plan holders (Cheney, 6/21).

NPR: With Health Exchanges Poised To Open, PR Push Draws Scrutiny
This weekend marks 100 days until people can begin signing up for new health insurance coverage under the federal health care law. It also marks another milestone: the launch of an enormous public relations effort to find people eligible for new coverage and urge them to sign up when the time comes. But like everything else about the health law, even this seemingly innocuous effort has been touched by controversy (Rovner, 6/21).

The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire: Paper Compares Obama Law With Medicare Part D, Mass.
In the debate around the readiness of the federal government to roll out the big provisions of the health-care law on time this fall, there are a couple of particularly popular comparisons: the launch of the Medicare part D prescription drug benefit in 2006, and the implementation of the Massachusetts of the state health-care overhaul for a launch in 2007 (Radnofsky, 6/20).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: As Congress Tackles Immigration Reform, Obama's Health Care Overhaul Looms Over The Debate
President Barack Obama has championed two sweeping policy changes that could transform how people live in the United States: affordable health care for all and a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants illegally in the country. But many immigrants will have to wait more than a decade to qualify for health care benefits under the proposed immigration overhaul being debated by Congress, ensuring a huge swath of people will remain uninsured as the centerpiece of Obama’s health care law launches next year (6/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Senate Democrats Press Ahead On Spending Bills Restoring Sequestration-Mandated Budget Cuts
At issue is the congressional appropriations process in which 12 individual bills set the day-to-day operating budgets of 15 Cabinet departments and other federal agencies. The bills make up a little more than one-third of the budget, with expensive benefit programs like Medicare and Social Security making up most of the rest. The 12 bills represent Congress' most basic job but the appropriations process has broken down over the years and is showing signs of grinding to a complete halt this year. Congress is likely to resort yet again to a stopgap spending measure in September that keeps the government running but President Barack Obama has issued a blanket veto threat against the House GOP’s spending measures, which reflect not just the sequestration-mandated cuts but transfers $28 billion from domestic programs in order to patch up the Pentagon’s budget (6/20).

Los Angeles Times: With FDA Approval, Fight Ends Over Morning-After Pill
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved the emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step for use without a prescription or age restrictions, effectively ending more than a decade of legal and regulatory wrangling over the controversial morning-after pill. In a statement, the FDA said its action complied with an order by U.S. District Judge Edward Korman of New York, who had openly criticized the George W. Bush and Obama administrations for imposing restrictions on the sale of the pill for political reasons (Morin, 6/20).

Politico: FDA Approves Morning-After Pill for Over-The-Counter Sale
The Obama administration had been fighting in court to preserve restricted access for younger teens, but recently dropped the case after legal setbacks. The FDA then told the court it would quickly approve an application for over-the-counter sale by Teva, the manufacturer of Plan B One-Step (Norman, 6/20).

Politico: Mississippi Governor May Lose Medicaid Authority
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant lacks the legal authority to single-handedly run Medicaid in his state should lawmakers fail to renew it amid partisan squabbling over Medicaid expansion, the state's attorney general has determined. The nonbinding opinion by Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood ratchets up the pressure on the Republican governor and state lawmakers to reach a deal to reauthorize the Medicaid program, which is due to expire on June 30 without legislative action (Cheney, 6/21).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: States Increasingly Saying 'No Way' to Federal Laws Ranging From Guns To Drugs And Health Care
An Associated Press analysis found that about four-fifths of the states now have enacted local laws that directly reject or ignore federal laws on marijuana use, gun control, health insurance requirements and identification standards for driver’s licenses. The recent trend began in Democratic leaning California with a 1996 medical marijuana law and has proliferated lately in Republican strongholds like Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback this spring became the first to sign a measure threatening felony charges against federal agents who enforce certain firearms laws in his state (6/21).

The New York Times: Weiner Wants City To Test Single-Payer Health Care
Vowing to "make New York City the single-payer laboratory in the country" if he is elected mayor, Anthony D. Weiner on Thursday presented an ambitious plan to create a Medicare-like system for the coverage of municipal workers, retirees and uninsured immigrant residents left out of the Affordable Care Act (Bernstein, 6/20).

Los Angeles Times: Insurance Giant WellPoint Agrees To Pay $6 Million In L.A. Case
Insurance giant WellPoint Inc. has agreed to pay $6 million to resolve allegations that the company improperly dropped policyholders after they got sick and needed treatment. The settlement announced Thursday by Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich caps a long-running investigation into so-called rescissions by several insurers in the state (Terhune, 6/20).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: LA Settles Health Insurance Lawsuit With Anthem Blue Cross Parent Company For $6 Million
The city attorney announced a $6 million settlement Thursday to resolve a lawsuit that alleged health insurer Anthem Blue Cross illegally dropped more than 6,000 policyholders from coverage. The settlement is far less than the $1 billion in fines and restitution former Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo threatened when the lawsuit was filed in 2008 (6/20).

Los Angeles Times: Hoag Hospital’s Abortion Ban Linked To New Catholic Partner
When Hoag Hospital announced this spring that it would no longer provide elective abortions, officials at the esteemed Orange County medical center said the decision was made because of low demand. But records and interviews show the decision was closely tied to the Newport Beach hospital's new partnership with a Catholic healthcare provider (Cowan and Gorman, 6/20).  

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