KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Exchange Plans Attract Sicker Consumers

An analysis of early medical claims shows that Americans enrolled in the health law's exchange plans have higher rates of serious health problems, according to The Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that some small employers buying coverage for their workers are struggling with costs and logistics.

The Wall Street Journal: Sick Drawn To New Coverage In Health-Law Plans
People enrolled in new plans under the health law are showing higher rates of serious health conditions than other insurance customers, according to an early analysis of medical claims, putting pressure on insurers around the country as they prepare to propose rates for next year (Wilde Mathews and Weaver, 6/24).

The Washington Post: As Health-Care Law’s Employer Mandate Nears, Firms Cut Worker Hours, Struggle With Logistics
Kevin Settles prides himself on being an early adopter. The owner of the mini-chain Bardenay in Boise, Idaho ... offered health insurance to dozens of his employees to comply with the Affordable Care Act ... But unlike Settles’s other experiments, this one hasn’t been great for his business. He put raises and expansion plans on hold as he figured out the cost and logistics of making the changes. To his surprise, his employees have not leaped at the chance to get health insurance. And he is still trying to figure some things out -- for example, how to safeguard employee information that must now be reported to the Internal Revenue Service, such as the Social Security numbers of children who are covered under their parents’ health plans (Somashekhar, 6/23).

In other health law developments, the stakes in a high court ruling expected shortly on its contraceptive coverage mandate are explored --

The Wall Street Journal: Ruling Could Settle Health Care Act's Contraception Dilemma
The Supreme Court in coming days is expected to decide on a challenge to an Affordable Care Act requirement in a ruling that could shape how much leeway the owners of for-profit enterprises have in exercising their religious beliefs. The high court by Monday will decide whether Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. -- owned by evangelical Christian and Mennonite families, respectively -- must abide by the health law's requirement to cover all contraceptives approved by the Food and Drug Administration in workers' health plans without charging copayments. The firms say the requirement violates their religious rights because it includes the so-called morning-after pill and certain intrauterine devices, which the owners liken to abortion (Radnofsky, 6/24).

And an anti-smoking campaign notes that most plans must cover smoking-cessation services without fees under the law --

Los Angeles Times: Preemie Baby And Toothless Adults Urge Smokers To Quit In New CDC Ads
You probably know that smoking causes lung cancer, emphysema and heart disease. But former smokers want you to know that cigarettes can give you a stroke, make your teeth fall out and cause your baby to be born dangerously early. These are some of the stories featured in the latest batch of “Tips From Former Smokers” ads from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. … Other ads highlight stories of former smokers who developed lung cancer and throat cancer. The ads will direct smokers to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to find local resources to help them quit. The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance plans to cover smoking-cessation services, usually without any extra fees (Kaplan, 6/24).

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