KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 6, 2013

Today's headlines include a report on the White House's proposal about how to gather information that would allow the government to enforce the employer mandate, which requires companies with 50 or more workers to provide affordable health insurance to their full-time employees.

Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: When I Retire Can My Husband Get Coverage On The Marketplace?
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews tells this reader that the spouse likely can, but the bigger question is whether he will qualify for subsidies to help defray costs (9/6). Read her complete answer.

Kaiser Health News: How Will Immigrants Fare Under Obamacare? It's Complicated
The Seattle Times’ Lornet Turnbull, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "Together with neighboring Palau and the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia has a special compact with the U.S. under which its people, heavily recruited by the U.S. military, can live and work here indefinitely — but as noncitizens, they are denied certain federal benefits. Afkas, 48, first came to the U.S. a year ago, suffering from diabetes and heart problems, and was immediately diagnosed with kidney failure that requires three-times-a-week dialysis. Last month, he was notified that he lacked sufficient job credits to continue receiving the Medicare coverage he’s depended on to cover some of his medical bills. Now …  Afkas is taking stock of his health-care options as the clock counts down to the Oct. 1 opening day for enrolling in health coverage under the federal government’s Affordable Care Act (ACA). … For him, it doesn't look so good" (Turnbull, 9/6). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Washington State Call Center Logs 900 Calls On 1st Day; Physician Recruitment Trends: Demand Continues For Primary Care Docs
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, The Seattle Times’ Amy Snow Landa, working in partnership with KHN, reports on the first day of Washington state’s health exchange call center: "The phones are already busy at the Washington State Exchange call center where customer service representatives are fielding hundreds of questions about the state’s new health insurance exchange, slated to open for enrollment Oct. 1. The call center, located in Spokane, opened on Tuesday and took 900 calls that day" (Landa, 9/6).

Also on Capsules, Ankita Rao reports on trends in physician recruitment: "Doctors are reacting to changes in the health care system — and their job placements are proof. Merritt Hawkins, a national health care consulting and recruitment firm, shed some light on the situation through the company's annual look at physician recruitment trends. The 2013 review was based on a survey of 3,097 permanent doctor and advanced practitioner job assignments conducted by Merritt Hawkins and two other staffing companies" (Rao, 9/5). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: White House Proposes New Rules For Postponed Health Law Mandate That Many Firms Offer Coverage
The Obama administration on Thursday released new proposals for carrying out a major requirement of the federal health care law that was postponed earlier this summer. At issue is how to gather information that would allow the government to enforce a requirement that companies with 50 or more workers provide affordable health insurance to their full-time employees. Companies that don’t comply would risk fines (9/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Delaware Officials Still Don’t Know Premium Costs For New Health Insurance Exchange
Officials overseeing Delaware's implementation of the federal health care reform law still don't know what residents will pay for health care coverage under a new state health insurance exchange. Officials expect to begin enrolling some 35,000 people in the health insurance exchange starting Oct. 1, for coverage effective Jan. 1, 2014 (9/5).

USA Today: Medicaid Expansion Gap Could Leave Poor Shortchanged
The decision of some states not to expand Medicaid means that the nation's poorest — those the Affordable Care Act would have helped the most — may not receive any help at all (Kennedy, 9/5).

The Louisville Courier-Journal/USA Today: Ky. Probes Humana Letter On Insurance Renewal
The letter Ray Brundige received from Humana spelled out two options — keep his health insurance policy for one more year for a $279 monthly premium or choose a new one that complies with the Affordable Care Act and pay a whopping $619 a month. But the letter also said he had to make a choice by Sept. 20, before the Oct. 1 start of Kentucky's health benefit exchange, a program designed to let him and other Kentuckians shop for less-expensive insurance that complies with the health care law, often called Obamacare, and possibly qualify for government subsidies to help pay for it (Unger, 9/5).

Politico: Obama Administration Plans $12M Ad Buy To Promote Health Law
The Obama administration is readying a multimillion-dollar onslaught of ads in a dozen red states to encourage Americans to sign up for Obamacare insurance exchanges, media-tracking sources tell POLITICO. The Center for Medicare Services at the Dept. of Health and Human Services has reserved at least $12 million in airtime starting Sept. 30 in Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana and Michigan (Burns and Cheney, 9/5).

NPR: After A Decade, Congress Moves To Fix Doctors' Medicare Pay
But something unusual happened just before Congress left for its summer break. The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 51-0 for a bill that would overhaul the way Medicare pays doctors. The bill would, among other things, repeal something called the sustainable growth rate formula, or SGR, and eventually replace it with a system that would pay doctors based on how healthy they keep their patients (Rovner, 9/6).

The Texas Tribune/New York Times: A Growing County Fights For Every Resident To Be Counted
Armed with maps, photos and data, Hidalgo County officials say they are fighting to undo the consequences of what they see as a drastic undercount of the county in the 2010 census. In this rapidly growing, overwhelmingly Hispanic county in the Rio Grande Valley, where more than a third of residents have incomes below the federal poverty level, such population figures are crucial. They can translate into millions of dollars, as federal and state programs like Medicaid use population data to allocate money (MacLaggan, 9/5).

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