KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

First Edition: March 19, 2014

Today's headlines include various stories about health law politics in the run up to the midterm elections.  

Kaiser Health News: 10 States Are Critical To Administration's Efforts To Enroll 6 Million In New Health Plans
Kaiser Health News staff writer Phil Galewitz, working in collaboration with USA Today, reports: "Ten states — seven of them controlled by Republicans —hold the key to whether the Obama administration succeeds at signing up 6 million people by the deadline of March 31. Those large states account for nearly 30 million uninsured — almost two-thirds of the nation’s 47 million uninsured" (Galewitz, 3/19). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Some Young People Won't Get Tax Help For Obamacare Insurance
WHYY’s Elana Gordon, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Subsidies in the health law were designed to lower insurance costs for people who make around $11,000 to $46,000 a year. But for young people earning toward the higher end of that range, it's more complicated than that. A new study shows that in major cities, some young people are falling into a gap where they make about $46,000 or under, but don't actually qualify for government help to pay their insurance premiums" (Gordon, 3/18). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Mass. To Drop Contractor Behind Flawed Health Insurance Website; What You Need To Know As Health Care Deadline Looms
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, WBUR’s Martha Bebinger reports on the latest regarding Massachusetts’ flawed online insurance marketplace: "Massachusetts is negotiating an end to its contract with CGI, the Canadian vendor that built the state’s flawed health insurance website while scrambling to fix it" (Bebinger, 3/18). 

Also on the blog, listen to KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey on NPR’s Tell Me More program Tuesday talking about the upcoming deadline for many Americans to buy health insurance or face a fine (3/18). Check out what else is on the blog.

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Countdown: What You Need To Know About The March 31 Deadline
The buzzer is about to sound on Obamacare enrollment. Less than two weeks are left to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the federal law that went into effect this year. It requires that most Americans have health insurance and provides government assistance to make coverage cheaper (Karlamangla and Terhune, 3/18).

The Wall Street Journal: Tax Experts: Brace For Insurance Tumult
Headaches over the health-care overhaul are likely to grow in the coming year as tens of millions of Americans face the task of establishing that they have insurance coverage to avoid paying penalties, tax experts say. … Perhaps the biggest problem is a lack of public understanding of the complex and frequently-changing program, tax experts say. They expect that to be compounded by a misunderstanding of the penalties, as many don't realize they could pay more than the minimum $95 for not having insurance (McKinnon, 3/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Law Concerns For Cancer Centers
Cancer patients relieved that they can get insurance coverage because of the new health care law may be disappointed to learn that some the nation’s best cancer hospitals are off-limits. An Associated Press survey found examples coast to coast. Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is excluded by five out of eight insurers in Washington state’s insurance exchange. MD Anderson Cancer Center says it’s in less than half of the plans in the Houston area. Memorial Sloan-Kettering is included by two of nine insurers in New York City and has out-of-network agreements with two more (3/19).

Politico: Healthcare.gov Hits A Blip
HealthCare.gov went down for at least 30 minutes Tuesday, an outage blamed on “human error.” Although resolved quickly, the occurrence was an immediate reminder of how much is riding on the federal enrollment website’s smooth functioning in the final two weeks of the 2014 enrollment season. On Monday, administration officials described a sharp increase in sign-ups during the first half of March that brought the total to 5 million people nationwide (Cheney, 3/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Md. Health Exchange Board Adopts Enrollment Plan
Maryland’s health exchange board has adopted a plan to help people who have tried to enroll before the deadline at the end of the month but were unable to complete an application. The board approved the plan Tuesday (3/18).

The Washington Post: Number Of Staffers With Health Coverage Emerges As Issue In Race For Governor In Md.
In Maryland’s Democratic primary for governor, you’re more likely to be getting help with health insurance coverage if you work for the campaigns of Anthony Brown or Heather Mizeur than Doug Gansler. Brown, the state’s lieutenant governor, and Mizeur, a delegate from Montgomery County, both offer employer-sponsored plans to staff members on their gubernatorial campaigns. Seventeen of Brown’s 25 employees are covered, as are five of Mizeur’s 12 paid staffers, according to campaign spokesmen (Wagner, 3/18).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Health Exchange Reports, 666,000 Enrolled
The state's new health exchange reports more than 995,000 New Yorkers have completed applications for insurance while more than 666,000 of them have now enrolled for specific coverage (3/19).

FactCheck.Org/USA Today: Fact Check: Obama Mixing And Matching Insurance Stats
President Obama jumbled his facts when asked about "skyrocketing" premiums for people who get insurance through work. He was correct to say that, generally, the Affordable Care Act isn't to blame for "skyrocketing" employer-sponsored premiums, but he made two dubious claims to back up his argument (Farley and Robertson, 3/18).

Politico: GOP Health Plan Could Be Road To Nowhere
Here’s the dirty secret about the House Republicans’ efforts to replace Obamacare: They haven’t even decided if they will hold a vote. Not to mention, the House GOP would still have to repeal Obamacare in order to implement whatever alternative health care plan they release, which isn’t going to happen as long as President Barack Obama is sitting in the Oval Office (Bresnahan and Sherman, 3/18).

The Washington Post: Republican Chairman Priebus Says Midterms Will Be ‘Tsunami’ Wave Election 
The Republican Party's chairman on Tuesday predicted a "tsunami" wave that would return the Senate to GOP control, arguing that President Obama and his signature health-care law had become "total poison" for Democratic candidates running in November's midterm elections. "I think we're in for a tsunami-type election in 2014," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said. "My belief is that it's going to be a very big win, especially at the U.S. Senate level, and I think we may even add some seats in the congressional races" (Rucker, 3/18).

Politico: Reince Priebus Predicts 2014 GOP ‘Tsunami’
Since last year’s report, the RNC also has tried to improve the party’s showings with groups including minorities, young people and women —all demographics with which the GOP stumbled significantly in 2012.
“I’m just guessing here, but I think among youth and women, we’re gonna see the greatest increase in 2014 because of, No. 1, Obamacare,” Priebus said. “It’s very, very, very personal among women losing your doctor, getting your insurance canceled.” As he has argued before, he continued: “Then young people, Obamacare is intentionally designed to screw young people over. Actuaries sat down, decided, let’s just screw over everyone 35 and younger. That’s what they did” (Glueck, 3/18).

The Wall Street Journal: Republican Candidates Big And Small Slam Health Law In Ads
Republicans running for office this year are going to great efforts to show their opposition to the 2010 health-care overhaul. But many of these candidates aren't vying for the chance to change the law from a seat in Congress. Instead, they are running for state legislatures, attorney general jobs—and in the case of Mr. Beeker, for a slot on a state public utility commission (Meckler, 3/18).

Politico: Christie, Obamacare Advocate Clash
Republican Gov. Chris Christie got into a testy exchange with an Affordable Care Act advocate at a town hall-style event in New Jersey on Tuesday, accusing her of misleading people about his position. Christie gained his reputation as a colorful straight-talker largely through interactions with critics like these — but the potential White House hopeful has displayed that side less since a traffic scandal shook his administration earlier this year (Titus, 3/18).

The New York Times: Budding Liberal Protest Movements Begin To Take Root In South
By the end of the day, they were among the 39 people who were arrested Tuesday during choreographed waves of civil disobedience here at the state Capitol in protest of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act (Buchsbaum, 3/18).

Los Angeles Times: In Healthcare, What Makes Maine Different? 
Many of the nation's healthiest communities are wealthy and have large numbers of college-educated residents. But northern Maine is among a handful of telling exceptions, making it an important guidepost as the country searches for ways to improve health. Once a booming hub of America's lumber and fishing industries, the region now is among America's poorest. Smoking is common. So, too, is obesity. Yet northern Maine ranks high on national measures of health, according to a yearlong review of healthcare data from communities around the country that The Times conducted with help from public health researchers (Levey, 3/19).

The Wall Street Journal: WellPoint Advises Health-Care Providers
WellPoint Inc. is pushing into the business of advising health-care providers, with a deal between the insurer's CareMore unit and Emory Healthcare to jointly manage Medicare patients. CareMore will collaborate with Emory to revamp the care of the Atlanta nonprofit's private-plan Medicare patients, including people who will be covered by WellPoint's Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Georgia and also rival health plans. CareMore executives will help run the new joint operation, and Emory doctors and other health-care providers will implement a version of CareMore's clinical model (Mathews, 3/18).

The New York Times: When A Hospital Is Not A Stay
If you go to the emergency room and end up staying in the hospital, you may assume that you have been officially admitted. But it turns out that even though you are receiving treatment in a hospital bed, you may simply be under observation, and technically are still an outpatient. That can cost you money if you are covered under Medicare, the federal health plan for older Americans (Carrns, 3/18). 

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