KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: September 3, 2013

Today's headlines include reports about interest in and action surrounding state health exchange call centers. 

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Complex Personal Issues May Cloud Decisions About Buying Insurance
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "If the volume of email from readers of this column is any indication, people are beginning to focus on how the health care overhaul will affect them. With the opening of the online health insurance marketplaces less than a month away, consumers with job-based coverage want to know if they can buy a plan there (answer: yes, but they may not qualify for subsidies); those with individual coverage want to know how the plans will compare with what they currently have (answer: generally better coverage and potentially higher premiums, offset by subsidies); and those who have been unable to afford a plan or turned down because they have medical problems want to know if the marketplaces will provide better options than they currently have" (Andrews, 9/3). Read the column.

Kaiser Health News: FAQ: How Will The Individual Mandate Work?
Kaiser Health News staff writer Alvin Tran reports: "The federal health law's individual mandate, one of the key building blocks of the insurance overhaul, remains controversial as the October start date approaches for enrolling in new online marketplaces. Individuals who don't get insurance through work will shop for insurance on these websites for policies that will take effect in January. … Despite all that attention to the mandate, 26 percent of Americans aren't aware of the requirement or didn't think the law included it, according to a March 2013 Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Here are some basic questions and answers about mandate" (Tran, 9/3). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: GOP Lawmakers Demand Information From Groups Getting Navigator Grants
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey reports: "In a move that the administration described as a 'blatant and shameful attempt to intimidate,' 15 Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are asking recipients of the $67 million in health law navigator grants to brief the panel on how they intend to spend the money" (Carey, 8/30). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Washington Ranks 2nd In Nation In Uninsured Growth
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, The Seattle Times' Carol M. Ostrom, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News, reports: "With about 16 percent of its residents uninsured, Washington state falls solidly in middle of the pack, with Texas having the highest percentage of residents without health insurance: more than 25 percent. Massachusetts, where a state health-insurance mandate has been in place for years, has the smallest percentage of uninsured residents at just under 5 percent" (Ostrom, 9/3). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Washington Post: These Two Maps Are Incredibly Important To Obamacare
If you want to understand where Obamacare stands to have the most significant impact, check out these new maps from the Census. They show uninsured levels for every county in the United States, broken down by income level: ... these maps explain why you see a group like Enroll America focusing its work on 10 states, rather than sweeping out across the country (Kliff, 9/1).

USA Today: State Health Care Call Centers Ramp Up For Oct. 1
Vermont has 45,000 uninsured residents that it's trying to attract to its new health insurance exchange. Connecticut has 344,000. Washington state is targeting 1 million people without insurance. The three states, each with its own-sized challenge, will open call centers Tuesday to help as many of these people as they can navigate a new federally mandated way to buy insurance starting Oct. 1 (O’Donnell, 9/2).

USA Today: Health Care Providers, Insurers Pitch State Exchanges
A coalition of health care providers, insurers, bill collectors and community groups have stepped in to promote exchanges where people can buy health insurance even in the states that have declined to create or promote their exchanges (Kennedy, 9/2).

The New York Times: With Change Coming, Aetna Targets Employers
As the country marches toward a new health insurance system, insurance companies have spent millions on consumer advertising to position themselves as health care companies (Vega, 9/2).

Los Angeles Times: California Gives Consumers Detailed Rates Under Healthcare Overhaul
Californians can now see specific rates from competing health plans on a new state-run insurance market set to open Oct. 1. Covered California, the new state marketplace, launched an online feature Thursday enabling consumers to get detailed price comparisons for their area for the first time (Terhune, 8/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Obamacare, But By Any Other Name
At the Minnesota State Fair, state employees are promoting a health-insurance marketplace called MNsure by handing out fans imprinted with pictures of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. ... Minnesota, along with thirteen other states and Washington, D.C. that are fully running their own health-insurance marketplaces, is marketing this way because it believes it will draw customers, even if it doesn't change popular impressions of Obamacare, the health overhaul designed to provide coverage to those who don't have it from their employer or elsewhere (Corbett Dooren, 8/30).

The Washington Post: Large Employers Project An Increase In Health Care Benefit Costs In 2014
Large employers expect their cost of health care benefits to rise 7 percent in 2014, according to annual survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit whose members include 66 Fortune 100 companies (Halzack, 9/1).

Los Angeles Times: State Bill To Boost Use Of Nurse Practitioners Goes Nowhere
An effort to ease a shortage of primary-care doctors in some California communities by letting nurse practitioners operate more independently has flat-lined in the Legislature after a fierce lobbying battle. A bill by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) would have allowed nurse practitioners, who have more training than registered nurses, to practice without the direct supervision of a physician (Mason, 9/1).

NPR: The Case For Clearing More Arteries During Heart Attacks
A British study presented Sunday in Amsterdam finds that doctors can reduce future heart attacks and cardiac deaths by opening up multiple clogged coronary arteries while they're fixing the artery that's causing a heart attack in progress. The stakes are big. Every year, at least a quarter-million Americans have a deadly kind of heart attack, called STEMI, that is the focus of the new study (Knox, 9/1).

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