KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Narrow Networks ‘Here To Stay;’ Gun Owners Challenge Doctor Privileges In Fla.

The New York Times' The Upshot: A Health Trade-Off That's Here To Stay: Lower Cost, Limited Choice
The federal government will begin tightening its rules to make sure that narrow networks don’t get too narrow. There is some precedent for the reaction: In the 1990s, cheaper narrow-network H.M.O. plans proliferated in the employer market, but they disappeared after mass public outcry. But even if the skinniest plans are widened by regulation, narrow plans are probably here to stay this time. The whole idea of the marketplaces was to give insurers an opportunity to compete for customers on price. And as long as price continues to drive shopping decisions and the old tactics are out, insurers have every motivation to keep these plans on the market (Margot Sanger-Katz, 7/29). 

The New York Times' Taking Note: Mississippi's Only Abortion Clinic: Still Standing
An underhanded effort to close Mississippi's sole abortion clinic and deny women access to safe and legal abortion care in their home state has suffered a major setback (Dorothy J. Samuels, 7/29). 

Los Angeles Times: Court Blocks Mississippi From Closing States Last Abortion Clinic
The law required that all physicians associated with an abortion clinic have admitting privileges at a local hospital. The state's last clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, had filed a suit challenging the law, in part because none of the seven hospitals in the Jackson area were willing to grant the physicians admitting privileges (Alana Semuels, 7/29). 

Los Angeles Times: Call Yourself 'Pro-Choice' Or Not, Your Abortion Rights Are Under Attack
With every aspect of the abortion issue controversial these days, why wouldn't the labels be as well? Apparently some abortion rights advocates are retiring the term "pro-choice" to describe what they do. "I just think the 'pro-choice' language doesn't really resonate, particularly with a lot of young women voters," Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a New York Times article Tuesday (Carla Hall, 7/29).

The New York Times' The Upshot: Do You Own a Gun? In Florida, Doctors Can't Ask You That
When pediatricians ask you about using car seats, they're trying to prevent injuries. When they ask you about how your baby sleeps, they're trying to prevent injuries. When they ask you about using bike helmets, they're trying to prevent injuries. And when they ask you about guns, they're trying to prevent injuries, too (Aaron E. Carroll, 7/29). 

The Washington Post: VA Bill Shows That Congress Can Work When It Faces A Powerful Constituency
House and Senate conferees have agreed on a $17 billion bill to address the scandal over poor health-care service at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The legislation is now on a fast track to pass Congress before its August recess, showing that Republican and Democratic lawmakers can still agree on their concern for those who served their country in uniform — and their fear of facing those same veterans in town halls and, eventually, at the polls (7/29). 

Los Angeles Times: Insurance Report Shows Premiums Increased, But Ignores Policy Changes
State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones fired the first shot Tuesday in his campaign for more authority over health insurance premiums, releasing a report that showed a giant increase in premiums from 2013 to 2014 for those not covered by employer-sponsored plans. The only problem is that, unlike the usual analysis from Jones' office, it didn't look at how much insurers raised the prices of individual policies. It looked at how much more the most popular policies available in 2014 cost than the most popular ones in 2013, without trying to control for the differences (Jon Healey, 7/29). 

USA Today: Opposing Obamacare Rulings Not Red And Blue
When the District of Columbia Circuit ruled last week that the Obama administration was violating the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in authorizing billions in tax credits, it took little time for leading Democrats to respond. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promptly labeled the ruling in Halbig v. Burwell "absurd," simply the work of "activist Republican judges." Less than two hours later, Democratically appointed judges across the river in Virginia reached the opposite result in King v. Burwell. The response from the right was equally predictable: The judges were Democratic drones carrying the water for the White House (Jonathan Turley, 7/29).

The Washington Post's The Plum Line: Senate Documents And Interviews Undercut 'Bombshell' Lawsuit Against Obamacare
The most serious current legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act turns on the argument that the law did not actually make subsidies available to those obtaining coverage on the federal exchange. This argument is based on the language in the ACA that says subsidies go to those using the "exchange established by the state," which, it is said, cannot apply to the exchange established by the federal government. ... But documents from the Senate committees that worked on versions of the bill in 2009 — combined with a close look at the history of the phrase itself, and interviews with staffers directly involved in the drafting of the statutes — strongly undercut the argument (Greg Sargent, 7/29). 

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: What If Obamacare Isn't The Reason Medicare Spending Slowed?
The trustees' report wasn't all doom and gloom. While Social Security is going broke faster than anticipated, Medicare's financial forecast has slightly improved. The reason? Expenditures on hospitalization have gone down. Some trustees say that Obamacare is one reason Medicare spending has slowed, but I have a different theory. In 2003, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law a Medicare modernization bill that included a benefit that aimed to keep older patients out of the hospital by providing them with prescription drugs (John Feehery, 7/29). 

Forbes: Will Governor Pence Walk Away From His Medicaid Expansion? 5 Things To Watch
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) recently submitted his ObamaCare expansion plan to federal bureaucrats for approval. He promises to walk away if the Obama administration tries to water his plan down, but he also promised that he would oppose ObamaCare before he decided to expand Medicaid. Pence’s ObamaCare expansion plan is bad policy. ... So the real question will be: if the Obama administration does try to water down Pence’s already-weak proposal, will he keep his word? Will he simply walk away? Or will he cave to the pressure and expand ObamaCare, anyway, like Gov. Branstad of Iowa? (Josh Archambault and Jonathan Ingram, 7/30). 

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: A Widening Gap: Medicaid Backlog A Bad Omen For HIP 2.0
In a wider sense, the Medicaid-application crunch must be a wake-up call for state health care officials. Gov. Mike Pence has asked the federal government to approve a huge expansion of the Healthy Indiana Plan that would cover Hoosiers in the so-called health care gap: roughly 350,000 people whose income is above Medicaid cutoffs but who are too poor to qualify for Obamacare tax credits. But if it's approved, implementing HIP 2.0 would mean processing about eight times as many people as the current program is serving (7/29).

Arizona Republic: Ralph Heap Rants About Medicaid, Then Collects From It
Ralph Heap is challenging that bastion of East Valley liberalism, state Sen. Bob Worsley -- one of 14 Republicans who voted to expand Medicaid in order to uphold the will of Arizona voters and save the state a few billion dollars. ... If elected, Heap vows to "block ObamaCare in every possible way at the state level." He might want to start with himself. Heap is an orthopedic surgeon, a doctor who has collected more than $130,000 in Medicaid funds since 2010, according to Jennifer Carusetta, spokeswoman for Arizona's Medicaid program, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (Laurie Roberts, 7/30).

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