KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: May 6, 2013

Today's headlines include reports that Florida answers "no" -- at least for now -- to the question of pursuing the health law's Medicaid expansion. 

Kaiser Health News: State Spending On Consumer Assistance Could Have 'Huge Impact' On Marketplace Enrollment
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with The Washington Post, reports: "Florida is on course to spend $6 million to reach out to nearly 4 million uninsured people and help them sign up for coverage in the federal health law's online marketplace this fall. Maryland will spend more than four times as much, or about $24.8 million, to help about 730,000 uninsured. The District of Columbia expects to spend about $9 million assisting 42,000 uninsured. The wide variation in spending to hire and train people to provide consumer assistance in the first year of the new marketplaces could have a major impact on how many people actually get coverage under Obamacare, experts say" (Galewitz, 5/5). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Florida Legislative Session Ends Without Deal On Medicaid Expansion
WFSU's Lynn Hatter, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The question of whether Florida would expand its Medicaid program to cover more low-income people has been answered, and it's a 'no' — at least for now. The state Legislature closed its regular session Friday without reaching an agreement to expand access to the program under the Affordable Care Act. To be revived in the near term, Gov. Rick Scott would have to call a special session of the Legislature. There has been no indication that he is willing to do that – or that he is close to a deal with state House Republicans that would warrant such a session" (Hatter, 5/3). Read the story.

The Wall Street Journal: Employers Push Back On Health Law's Insurance Trigger
Employers are putting increasing pressure on lawmakers to peel back a piece of the federal health-care law that requires firms provide insurance to employees working 30 hours a week or more. But such a change faces long odds on happening with only months before the requirement begins. Meanwhile, employers including cities, state agencies and charities have joined restaurants and retailers in paring workers' hours to avoid having to provide these workers insurance or pay a fee starting next year (Radnofsky, 5/3).

Politico: Holding Noses, Insurers Start Hawking Obamacare
The insurance industry may have a love-hate relationship with Obamacare — but a "train wreck" is definitely not good for the bottom line. So health insurers are planning campaigns for the summer and fall to persuade a skeptical public to sign up and get covered by the health reform law (Haberkorn, 5/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: States Fear Costs Could Shift As Feds Move To Cap Spending On Health Overhaul Program
Thousands of people with serious medical problems are in danger of losing coverage under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul because of cost overruns, state officials say. At risk is the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a transition program that's become a lifeline for the so-called uninsurables — people with serious medical conditions who can't get coverage elsewhere. The program helps bridge the gap for those patients until next year, when under the new law insurance companies will be required to accept people regardless of their medical problems (5/4).

The Washington Post: Florida Rejects Medicaid Expansion, Leaves 1 Million Uninsured
It seemed like a watershed moment for the Affordable Care Act when Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), a staunch Obamacare opponent, embraced the Medicaid expansion in February. ... Scott wouldn’t be the one to “deny Floridians” a part of the health care law—but the Florida legislature had other plans. Lawmakers adjourned Friday after passing a budget that does not include funding for a Medicaid expansion. Unless the Republican-controlled legislature comes back for a special session later this year—which some Democrats are calling for—Florida will not expand Medicaid in 2014 (Kliff, 5/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Florida Legislature Adjourns Without Passing Medicaid Expansion, Leaving 1.1 Million Uninsured
Florida Democratic leaders want Republican Gov. Rick Scott to veto the state budget or call a special session after the Legislature adjourned without passing an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program. House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston said some low-income Floridians are not benefiting from the budget (5/3).

Politico: Eric Cantor Pledges Another Obamacare Repeal Vote
The House will vote again in the "near future" on full repeal of Obamacare, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a memo to fellow Republicans Friday. He said a timeline has not yet been set (Haberkorn, 5/3).

The Los Angeles Times: Many Opt For High-Deductible Health Plans Despite Risks
High-deductible plans are typically recommended for younger policyholders who are in good health and have less need for doctor visits and prescription drugs, and for people with incomes high enough to cover the cost of routine medical care. But patients like Francis opt for it anyway, despite the risks. She pays just $123 a month, but if she gets sick she'll have to shell out $3,300 to meet her deductible before insurance helps her pay the bills. As a result, Francis says she does whatever she can to avoid the doctor (Zamosky, 5/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Feds: Health Providers With Hepatitis B Are No Threat To Patients, Covered By Disability Law
The U.S. Department of Justice recently declared in a legal settlement that hepatitis B patients are protected by federal disability law. And, separately, federal health officials have issued a revised set of guidelines that make it clear that health care workers and students who carry the hepatitis B virus — HBV for short — generally pose little or no risk to patients. Taken together, advocates say, the new health guidelines and the Justice Department settlement remove barriers to practice, handing HBV-positive health professionals and students a pair of powerful tools to combat discrimination (5/5).

Los Angeles Times: How A 'Million-Dollar Patient' Got Off A Medical Merry-Go-Round
Remo and countless other chronically ill patients like her pose one of the biggest obstacles to medical professionals, hospitals and political leaders trying to rein in costs as they overhaul the healthcare system. Starting next year, clinics in rural and urban areas will receive an influx of millions of newly insured patients — many with complex, chronic diseases — and face higher expectations to keep costs down. Many of those patients are so ill — or resistant to altering behaviors — that they repeatedly cycle through expensive emergency rooms and hospital beds (Gorman, 5/5).

The Wall Street Journal: Unmeltable, Uncrushable: The Holy Grail In Painkillers
The arms race to build a safer painkiller is under way. In the wake of a key decision by the Food and Drug Administration, more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies—from startups to Pfizer Inc. -- are vying to create painkilling drugs that are difficult to abuse (Martin and Rockoff, 5/5).

Politico: States Take Lead On Compounding Pharmacies
Several states are taking matters into their own hands to boost oversight of large-scale pharmacies like the one behind the deadly fungal meningitis outbreak last fall as the outlook for congressional action is somewhat murky. So far, 15 states have taken up bills to step up the regulation of facilities like the one linked to the outbreak. Five have passed them into law, nine are still weighing their options, and only Mississippi has rejected the effort, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (Norman, 5/6).

The Texas Tribune/The New York Times: Texas Legislators Set To Restore Women's-Health Budgets
The political fireworks and high-octane drama that accompanied lawmakers' 2011 fight over women's health care and abortion have been absent this legislative session. They have been replaced with some semblance of concession, as legislators on both sides of the aisle work quietly to restore financing for women's health services (Aaronson, 5/4).

Los Angeles Times: White Memorial Medical Center In L.A. Settles Kickback Allegations
White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles has agreed to pay $14.1 million to settle allegations that it paid illegal kickbacks to physicians to get their patient referrals. The settlement announced Friday by the U.S. Justice Department stemmed from a whistle-blower complaint filed under seal in 2008 by two Los Angeles doctors who objected to the hospital's practices (Terhune, 5/4).

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