KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 5, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about former President Bill Clinton -- dubbed the "explainer in chief" -- drumming up support for the health law and scolding Republicans for their efforts to repeal it. 

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: 'It's A Fire Sale On The SGR'
Kaiser Health News' Mary Agnes Carey and CQ Roll Call's Emily Ethridge discuss current dynamics surrounding the Medicare physician payment. With the Congressional Budget Office projecting a reduced cost for a long-term "doc fix," Congress may seize the opportunity to end the annual adjustments to Medicare reimbursement rates (9/4). Watch the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Navigators Say GOP Lawmakers' Information Requests Are 'Shocking'
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jenny Gold reports: "Organizations that received the latest round of health law navigator grants say last week’s letter from House Republicans could have a chilling effect on efforts to hire and train outreach workers to sign up Americans for health insurance by Oct. 1, the opening day for  new online insurance marketplaces" (Gold, 9/5). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: 'A Calling' To Care For The Poor At St. Louis' Grace Hill Community Centers
St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jim Doyle, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "Community health centers such as Grace Hill are a linchpin of President Barack Obama’s administration's efforts under the Affordable Care Act to eventually contain the nation’s health care costs by providing cost-effective, primary care to the poor. But key government funding for Grace Hill and other smaller nonprofit community health centers in St. Louis is in jeopardy, while the number of people in need of free and discounted care continues to rise" (Doyle, 9/5). Read the story.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Independent Studies Break Down Health Law's Premiums: Wide Range Of Options And Costs
Coverage under President Barack Obama's health care law won't be cheap, but cost-conscious consumers hunting for lower premiums will have plenty of options, according to two independent private studies. A study released Thursday by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation found that government tax credits would lower the sticker price on a benchmark "silver" policy to a little over $190 a month for single people making about $29,000, regardless of their age. … A separate study released Wednesday from Avalere Health, a private data analysis firm, took a wide-angle view, averaging the sticker prices of policies at different coverage levels (9/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Sticker Price For Obamacare: $300/Month Premiums For Young To Middle-Aged Adults
The No. 1 question about President Barack Obama's health care law is whether consumers will be able to afford the coverage. Now the answer is coming in. The biggest study yet of premiums posted by states finds that the sticker price for a 21-year-old buying a mid-range policy will average about $270 a month. That's before government tax credits that act like a discount for most people, bringing down the cost based on their income (9/4).

The New York Times: Clinton Urges Americans To Sign Up For Health Care Exchanges
He chose his home state as the venue, and did not refrain from ticking off several problems he saw with the law. But former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday made a meticulous, if wonkish, case for Americans of all political leanings to embrace the Obama health care law (Goodnough and Chozick, 9/4).

The Washington Post: Bill Clinton Drums Up Support For Obama's Health-Care Law
President Obama deployed his highest-profile spokesman yet on Wednesday to tout his far-reaching health-care law: the 42nd president of the United States. And Bill Clinton even stuck to the script. As Obama and his aides try to win support for a military strike against Syria, the White House remains focused on raising the public profile of the Affordable Care Act, which is weeks away from the most critical stage of its implementation (Eilperin, 9/4).

Los Angeles Times: Bill Clinton Offers Case For Obamacare: 'We've Got To Do This'
At a crucial juncture a few weeks before the Oct. 1 opening of the law's health insurance marketplaces across the country, Clinton scolded Republicans who have voted to repeal the law more than 40 times, arguing that they have not offered "real alternatives." "The benefits of reform can't be fully realized, and the problems certainly can't be solved unless both the supporters and the opponents of the original legislation work together to implement it and address the issues that arise whenever you change a system this complex," he said during Wednesday's address at the Clinton Presidential Library (Reston, 9/4).

NPR: Bill Clinton Steps Up To Dispel The Confusion Over Obamacare
With the launch of the major piece of the Affordable Care Act less than a month away, the Obama administration is escalating the public relations push with one of their most effective weapons – former President Bill Clinton, now known to many as explainer in chief. Speaking from his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., this morning, Clinton led what amounted to a graduate seminar on the Affordable Care Act, webcast live for those who cared to watch, on how the law is supposed to work and why it's needed (Rovner, 9/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Bill Clinton Touts Health Law In Speech
Mr. Clinton touted the law's benefits and set out arguments for its provisions, but also highlighted glitches and called on Republicans to help fix "relatively simple matters" in its implementation. … In a wide-ranging speech, the former president hit on a number of themes, including the increase in health spending in the U.S., competition in insurance markets, the burden of covering health costs for the uninsured, and whether the law has led to employers hiring part-time workers instead of full-time employees (Radnofsky, 9/4).

Politico: Bill Clinton Calls For GOP To Improve – Not Repeal – Obamacare
Still he spoke about the law’s future in ways that Obama could not. He called out specific problems with complex legislation and held up his native Arkansas as a model of bipartisan Obamacare compromise. Clinton called for bipartisanship going forward, about a month after Obama scolded Republicans for making repeal their “holy grail” and as Republicans prepare to return to Congress next week ready to resume their push for defunding (Millman, 9/4).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Bill Clinton Defends Health Care Law With Speech In Arkansas As Key Part Nears Implementation
Clinton’s speech comes with the Affordable Care Act in final countdown mode, just a few weeks before the scheduled Oct. 1 launch of online health insurance markets in the states. The markets — also called exchanges— are supposed to be a one-stop portal to the benefits of the law. Middle-class people with no access to health care on the job will be eligible for subsidized private coverage, while the poor and near-poor will be steered to Medicaid in states agreeing to expand the program. Markets will open in all the states, even those refusing to expand Medicaid (9/4).

USA Today: Bill Clinton Urges Unity For Obama's Health Care Law
It's not the first time Obama has turned to Clinton, with whom he once had a frosty relationship, to help him explain policies and garner public support. Clinton campaigned often for Obama in the 2012 election and delivered a forceful speech at the Democratic National Convention arguing why Obama was worthy of a second term. Obama joked afterward that he should appoint his predecessor the "Secretary of Explaining Stuff," and the moniker stuck (Camia, 9/4).

The Washington Post’s Wonk Blog: Deep-Red Indiana Might Just Expand Medicaid
Michigan is the latest state to back the health law’s Medicaid expansion, bringing the total of states opting-in to 25. Could neighboring Indiana be next? The state isn’t currently on board and, on Tuesday, finalized a deal with the federal government that will just barely increase cover in the Hoosier State. But coming out of those negotiations, state officials and experts think there could be space for Indiana and the federal government to carve out a full Medicaid expansion–one that stands to look significantly different than other state plans (Kliff, 9/4).

The New York Times: V.A. To Provide Spousal Benefits To Gays, Administration Says
The move will allow the same-sex spouses of service members to receive health care benefits, and widows and widowers from same-sex marriages to receive survivor benefits, among other matters (Savage, 9/4).

Politico: Same-Sex Spouses Allowed To Receive Veterans' Benefits
President Barack Obama has directed his administration to take steps allowing the same-sex spouses of military veterans to have access to federal benefits, Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday in a letter to Congress. The move is the administration’s latest effort to extend benefits to married same-sex couples in light of the Supreme Court’s June ruling striking down a key piece of the Defense of Marriage Act, and extends the court’s reasoning to Title 38 of the U.S. Code, which governs the granting of benefits by the Veterans Administration and the Defense Department (Epstein, 9/4).

Politico: Bishops: No Hill Funds For Abortion
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has asked the Obama administration to take precautions to make sure federal funds don’t go to abortion coverage for lawmakers and congressional staffers (Haberkorn, 9/4). 

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