KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: August 5, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about state efforts to implement the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: Armed With Bigger Fines, Medicare To Punish 2,225 Hospitals For Excess Readmissions
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Medicare will levy $227 million in fines against hospitals in every state but one for the second round of the government’s campaign to reduce the number of patients readmitted within a month, according to federal records released Friday" (Rau, 8/2). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: State Premium Watch: Pricing In The New Insurance Marketplaces
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz reports: "One of the biggest questions about Obamacare is whether its new consumer protections might lead to higher costs for some people buying coverage on their own -- or through small groups -- when they purchase it via the online insurance marketplaces that open for enrollment Oct. 1" (Galewitz, 8/4). Read the premium watch.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Physician Payments Sunshine Act Goes Into Effect Without Initial Concerns
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Kelsey Miller reports on the Sunshine Act: "The Physician Payments Sunshine Act, an Affordable Care Act provision requiring doctors and medical companies to disclose their financial relationships, went into effect Aug. 1. Physicians say they are now working to find a balance between necessary transparency and what some perceive to be burdensome filing" (Miller, 8/5). Check out what else is on the blog.

Kaiser Health News also tracked weekend news headlines, including reports about House Republicans' 40th effort to undo the health law and the Sunday talk show debate about linking a government shutdown to the threat of defunding the health law.

The New York Times: Health Care Law Raises Pressure On Public Unions
Cities and towns across the country are pushing municipal unions to accept cheaper health benefits in anticipation of a component of the Affordable Care Act that will tax expensive plans starting in 2018. The so-called Cadillac tax was inserted into the Affordable Care Act at the advice of economists who argued that expensive health insurance with the employee bearing little cost made people insensitive to the cost of care. In public employment, though, where benefits are arrived at through bargaining with powerful unions, switching to cheaper plans will not be easy (Taylor, 8/4).

The New York Times: G.O.P. Governors Warn Party Members In Congress Not To Shut Government
Worried about the potential impact on the fragile economies in their states, Republican governors this weekend warned their counterparts in Congress not to shut down the federal government as part of an effort to block financing for President Obama’s health care law (Martin, 8/4).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Leaders Signal Health-Care Card Not In Play In Budget Battle
Two top House Republicans suggested Sunday that they don't plan to use the threat of a partial government shutdown this fall to demand a repeal of President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul. Many rank-and-file Republicans have pledged to block any bill funding the government for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 if it includes funds to implement the health-care law. GOP leaders, however, have appeared wary of using the health-care legislation as a negotiating tool as Washington nears another fiscal crisis (Peterson, 8/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Democratic Governors Fret About Health Care Law, But Say Readiness Favors Them in 2014
Democratic governors say they are nervous about getting the new federal health care law implemented but add they will be better positioned in next year's elections than many of their Republican counterparts who have resisted the far-reaching and politically polarizing measure. Several of the 12 Democratic governors shared that sense of nervousness-veiled-by-optimism at the National Governors Association meeting Saturday in Milwaukee (8/3).

The Washington Post: Contractors Hoping To win Work Marketing Health Care Options
With the technical part of building state and federal health insurance exchanges mostly complete, contractors are now hoping to find work communicating with potential customers. Companies from Adobe to Maximus are looking to work that will involve first-hand interaction with citizens, meaning they must prepare to combat misinformation and boil down complex decisions (Censer, 8/2).

CNN: Obamacare Battle Heads To States
Does this sound familiar? The summer before campaigning begins in earnest for midterm congressional elections, activists hit the road to wage war on President Barack Obama's health care ideas. If August 2013 is starting to shape up like August 2009 – that steamy month of angry town halls fueled by the then-burgeoning tea party movement – it's because the Affordable Care Act remains in the crosshairs for conservatives, whose commitment to repealing the law endures  (Liptak, 8/2).

The New York Times: Colorado Presses For Uninsured To Enroll
Television commercials have already run suggesting that buying health coverage through the state's new insurance market, Connect for Health Colorado, will feel like winning the World Series. ... This is Colorado, five months before the central provisions of President Obama’s health care law take effect: a hive of preparation, with a homegrown insurance market working closely with state agencies and lawmakers to help ensure the law’s success (Goodnough, 8/2).

The New York Times: Missouri Citizens Face Obstacles To Coverage
Looking for the new health insurance marketplace, set to open in this state in two months, is like searching for a unicorn. The marketplace, or exchange, being established by the federal government under President Obama’s health care law has no visible presence here, no local office, no official voice in the state and no board of local advisers. ... While states like Colorado, Connecticut and California race to offer subsidized insurance to their citizens, Missouri stands out among the states that have put up significant obstacles (Pear, 8/2).

Los Angeles Times: California’s Latinos Critical For Success Of Obamacare
California has launched a major campaign to educate Latinos about Obamacare before enrollment begins Oct. 1. More than half of Latinos have little or no understanding of the Affordable Care Act, according to a recent survey by Latino Decisions, an opinion polling organization. The percentage is higher among those who speak mostly Spanish, the survey found (Gorman, 8/1).

Politico: Poor Attendance At Obamacare Event In Virginia
A race to define Obamacare to the masses began today between the stacks at the Centreville Library. Over pizza in Decatur, Texas. And with a glass of wine in Naples, Fla. Dozens of communities around the country hosted pro-Obamacare events, convened by the president’s foot soldiers at Organizing for Action. The series is the first salvo in what is fixing to be a month of high-stakes health care spin. When Congress returns from its summer recess in early September, there will be less than a month until Obamacare's most sweeping coverage programs start signing up customers in new health insurance exchanges (Cheney, 8/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Insider-Trading Probe Caught In A Washington Knot
Federal investigators interviewed a Senate staff member for four hours Thursday, part of a wide-ranging insider-trading probe into how a major change in U.S. health-care policy leaked to Wall Street traders before it was announced. But Thursday's interview with Rodney Whitlock, a health-care aide to Sen. Charles Grassley (R., Iowa), took place only after delays over the terms of the questioning, according to people familiar with the matter. In addition, Mr. Whitlock didn't answer several questions from investigators that touched on a parallel investigation by Mr. Grassley's staff, according to a written statement from Mr. Grassley's office (Grimaldi, Mullins and Barrett, 8/4).

The New York Times: For Medical Tourists, Simple Math
Michael Shopenn’s artificial hip was made by a company based in this remote town, a global center of joint manufacturing. But he had to fly to Europe to have it installed. ... As the United States struggles to rein in its growing $2.7 trillion health care bill, the cost of medical devices like joint implants, pacemakers and artificial urinary valves offers a cautionary tale. Like many medical products or procedures, they cost far more in the United States than in many other developed countries (Rosenthal, 8/3).

The Washington Post: Federal Judge Blocks Wisconsin Abortion Law Through Fall Trial
A federal judge extended a preliminary injunction Friday blocking a Wisconsin law that would require abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinics and a mandatory ultrasound before a woman receives an abortion. U.S. District Judge William Conley issued a temporary restraining order on July 8; this injunction extends through the trial about the law's constitutionality, which is scheduled to start Nov. 25 (Eilperin, 8/3).

Los Angeles Times: Federal Judge Keeps Blocking Part Of Wisconsin Abortion Law
The order, issued Friday by U.S. District Judge William Conley, stems from a lawsuit that Planned Parenthood and Affiliated Medical Services filed last month. The groups claim the law would shut two of the state’s four abortion clinics because providers at those facilities, in Appleton and Milwaukee, lack admitting privileges (Mueller, 8/3).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Nearly Dismantled By Turmoil, Criminal Probe, Texas' $3B Cancer-Fighting Eyes Comeback
Gone are the large conferences, big pharma funding, Nobel laureates and lavishly paid state officials who vowed scientific breakthroughs from Texas' unprecedented $3 billion crusade against cancer. What's left of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas isn’t flashy, but that's precisely the goal for an agency regaining its footing after a year of turmoil and an ongoing a criminal investigation (8/4). 

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