KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: April 30, 2013

Today's headlines include reports that the Obama administration has simplified the application for health insurance benefits under the health law. 

Kaiser Health News: Health Care's 'Dirty Little Secret': No One May Be Coordinating Care
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, in collaboration with The Washington Post, Roni Caryn Rabin writes: "Coordinated care is touted as the key to better and more cost-effective care, and is being encouraged with financial rewards and penalties under the 2010 federal health care overhaul, as well as by private insurers. But experts say the communication failures that landed Gabay in a rehab center, rather than in surgery, remain disturbingly common" (Rabin, 4/30). Read the story or the related sidebar: Tip Sheet On Staying Safe In The Hospital (Rabin, 4/30).

Kaiser Health News: California Moves To Protect Smokers From Higher Obamacare Insurance Costs
Southern California Public Radio's Stephanie O'Neill, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "The federal health law allows states to charge smokers up to 50 percent more for a health plan – but legislation is moving forward in the California legislature that will make sure that doesn't happen. And unlike other efforts around the country to alter the law, this is one coming from a Democrat" (O’Neill, 4/30). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: For Some People Covered Through Work, An Exchange Might Be A Good Option For The Family
In her latest Kaiser Health News consumer column, Michelle Andrews answers questions from readers, such as "How does the Affordable Care Act affect children in low-income families and people who want to buy coverage on the new state insurance exchanges?" (Andrews, 4/30). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: What's Next In The Senate: In The Coming Weeks And After 2014 (Video)
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about what's next for the stalled confirmation of Marilyn Tavenner, and who will fill the void in health policy when three senior Senate Democrats retire in 2014 (4/29). Watch the video or read the transcript.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Colorado Medicaid Expansion Moves Forward With One Republican Vote
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Colorado Public Radio's Eric Whitney, working in partnership with KHN and NPR, reports: "Both chambers of Colorado's legislature passed bills late last week to expand Medicaid as called for in the Affordable Care Act. The next step is the state Senate is expected to approve amendments to the House version of the bill on Tuesday and send it to the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who has said he will sign it" (Whitney, 4/29). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Responding To Critics, Obama Administration Unveils Simplified Health Insurance Application
The first draft was as mind-numbing and complex as tax forms. Now the Obama administration is unveiling a simplified application for health insurance benefits under the federal health care overhaul. Details to be released Tuesday include a three-page short form that single people can fill out, administration officials said. Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner, also overseeing the rollout of the health care law, called it "significantly shorter than industry standards" (4/30).

USA Today: New Health Insurance Form Now Down To Three Pages
A second form for families has been reduced by two-thirds, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. … An online version of the form will further shorten the application based on a person's answers, according to an HHS news release (Kennedy, 4/29).

The New York Times: Next Big Challenge for Health Law: Carrying It Out
Among the complex imperatives: pushing reluctant states to set up insurance marketplaces and expand Medicaid programs, keeping an eye on insurance companies as they issue new rate schedules, measuring the law's effects on small-business hiring, and coaxing healthy young people to buy coverage so the system works economically for everyone else. Gail Wilensky, who ran Medicare and Medicaid under President George Bush and supports the new law, said that 2014, when the law will make it mandatory to have insurance, "is going to be quite a bumpy year" (Harwood, 4/29).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: Medicare Releases 1,424-Page Rule That's Actually Really Interesting!
Overall, hospitals seemed pretty happy with the top line number: a 0.8 percent increase in their payments next year. That works out to about $27 million more going to the Medicare program in 2014 than will in 2013. That’s significant when you consider that Medicare costs grew at half that rate — by 0.4 percent — in 2012. … At the same time, Medicare is making it harder to earn those dollars by increasing the payments to the very best hospitals — and trimming what it will pay poor performers. Starting in 2014, 2 percent of hospitals’ reimbursements will depend on how well they  prevent readmissions. That’s twice as much as what’s at stake this year and, combined with a few other quality programs in the health law, some think it could be enough to turn hospitals' heads (Kliff, 4/29).

Los Angeles Times: Union For Patient-Care Workers At UC Hospitals To Take Strike Vote
The union representing nearly 13,000 University of California patient-care workers plans to take a strike vote beginning Tuesday. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME 3299, will hold the strike vote through Thursday and announce results next week. The vote comes after nearly a year of negotiations between the workers and UC over staffing, pay and pension reforms. The contract expired in September (Gorman, 4/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Powerful Union, Upstart Battle Over Shrinking Pie
The Service Employees International Union is locked in battle here with an unusual opponent: another union. SEIU has enjoyed years of rapid growth even as organized labor has withered in the U.S. Now, it is competing with the National Union of Healthcare Workers to represent 45,000 nursing aides, pharmacy technicians and janitors at health-care giant Kaiser Permanente. The fight is playing out in cafeterias and break rooms, where NUHW supporters and organizers in bright red T-shirts have clashed in recent weeks with purple-clad SEIU backers. The National Labor Relations Board will begin counting ballots of Kaiser Permanente workers on Wednesday. The board threw out the results of a previous election in 2010, which the SEIU won, after finding that the SEIU had threatened members who backed the NUHW (Maher, 4/29).

The Washington Post: Thrive Likely To Get D.C. Health Contract
An upstart firm that has undergone tough scrutiny from lawmakers and health-care providers appears set to receive a major chunk of the District's $2.4 billion-a-year Medicaid business (DeBonis, 4/29).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Former Owner Of Texas Student Health Insurance Company Set For Arraignment In Va.
The former owner of a Texas company that provided health insurance to Virginia Tech students is due in federal court for arraignment on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and fraud. A 57-count federal indictment accuses 73-year-old John Paul Gutschlag Sr. and GM-Southwest Inc. of overstating claims by more than $9 million to boost profits (4/30).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Nev. Governor: People Who Violated Psych Hospital Policies Fired Amid Alleged Patient Dumping
Two staff members who violated discharge policies at a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital were fired Monday and three others are being disciplined following an investigation into busing patients to other states, the governor's office and agency officials said Monday (4/29).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Bankruptcy Hearing Under Way On Coal Company's Bid To Cut Pension, Health Benefits For Workers
A long-awaited bankruptcy hearing began Monday in which a St. Louis-based coal company insists it must significantly cut thousands of retirees' health care and pension benefits or risk liquidation — a claim that its miners union strongly rejects (4/29).

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