First Edition: December 10, 2103
Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports about how health law advocates are developing new messaging strategies.
Kaiser Health News: A Test For The Health Law In Scandal-Plagued Cities Of Southeast Los Angeles
Kaiser Health News staff writer Anna Gorman reports: "The towns of Bell and Cudahy in southeast Los Angeles County are best known for corruption scandals that enraged and mobilized their residents. But to California health officials, the small, working class cities have a much more important distinction: They have the highest number of people that could benefit from the state’s insurance marketplace. More than 60,000 people, or about 60 percent of the residents, in the zip code encompassing Bell, Cudahy and Bell Gardens are eligible for financial help buying policies through the Covered California marketplace, according to the state's projections" (Gorman, 12/10). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Insurers Question Health Benefits Of Some Genetic Tests
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "The day when a simple blood test or saliva sample can identify your risk for medical conditions ranging from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease seems tantalizingly close. But while advances in genetic testing increasingly give people critical information that may help prevent disease, genetics experts say sometimes the hype around these tests has outstripped the science. Insurers, meanwhile, generally only cover tests if there's strong scientific evidence that it can provide a health benefit to patients" (Andrews, 12/10). Read the column.
Kaiser Health News: Some California Insurance Plans Narrow Doctor, Hospital Choices
Capital Public Radio’s Pauling Bartolone, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "When Diane Shore got a letter that her health policy would be canceled, the small premium increase for a new plan didn’t bother her that much. What she’s really troubled by is: 'My physicians will no longer be in this network of physicians, or the hospitals won’t be as well.' Sixty-two year old Shore owned an IT consulting business in the San Francisco Bay Area, and retired when she sold her business in 2000. She says she wants to stick with the providers that she’s had for years, including the surgeon who cared for her during a bout of breast cancer in 1998" (Bartolone, 12/9). Read the story.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Report: Most States Do A Poor Job Informing Consumers About Physician Quality
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Julie Appleby reports: "When it comes to providing consumers with easily accessible information about physician quality, a report out today gave most states grades of ‘D’ or ‘F,’ often because they compile data only about primary care doctors, not specialists" (Appleby, 12/10). Check out what else is on the blog.
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Health Care Debate Has Trust, Politics Themes, Too
For months, the talk was all about computer code. About response times. About glitches and bugs. People who didn’t know a URL from an http were blithely expounding on software snags and web design, thanks to the clunky launch of healthcare.gov, the insurance marketplace for the government’s big health care overhaul (12/9).
Los AngelesTimes: Obamacare Backers Not Relying On White House To Meet Law’s Challenges
As supporters of the Affordable Care Act brace for new headaches next year, many have concluded they cannot count on the Obama administration, whose efforts to explain and promote the law are increasingly viewed as poorly planned, unreliable and largely ineffective. Consumer advocates, doctors’ groups and many health industry leaders remain committed to helping the law succeed. Most believe in its goals of expanding health coverage and restructuring the medical system to improve quality and control costs. Few see any viable alternatives (Levey and Hennessey,12/9).
The New York Times: Health Care Exchange Is Vastly Improved, Users Say
After two months of false starts, error messages and pleas for patience from the once-hobbled federal online health care exchange, Karen Egozi, the chief executive of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, watched on Monday as counselors navigated the website’s pages with relative ease. Click. Next page. Click. Next page. The website, HealthCare.gov, was working so well that Ms. Egozi, who oversees the 45 navigators in eight locations who help consumers enroll in health plans, said her team gave the system an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, meaning that most people got as far as selecting a plan or taking home information to select a plan. It felt like a champagne moment (Alvarez and Preston, 2/9).
The Washington Post’s The Fix: How Does Your County Stack Up On Health Insurance? Consult This Interactive Map.
The battle between advocates and opponents of the federal health-care law is often chock-full of macroscopic statistics and data points. But what about looking at health care on a smaller scale? Thanks to an interactive infographic below from the consumer finance Web site ValuePenguin, you can take a look at how your own county measures up when it comes to what percentage of the population is insured, how many companies are offering plans on the exchange, and how it all compares to every other county in the country. Data for the tool come from the Census, HealthCare.gov and state insurance exchanges (Sullivan, 12/9).
The New York Times: Parties In California Squabble Over Another Website
California has enjoyed one of the smoothest rollouts of a health care exchange in the country. But the state’s Democrats are accusing Republicans of trying to sabotage the state-run exchange by putting up their own health care website (Lovett, 12/9).
The New York Times: Ex-Clinton Aide Expected To Join Obama
President Obama, after a rocky year that leaves him at the lowest ebb of his presidency, is bringing into his White House circle the longtime Democratic strategist John D. Podesta, a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton. … Word that Mr. Podesta would for the first time join Mr. Obama’s official staff, from people familiar with the discussions, comes as the president is seeking to recover public support and credibility after the flawed introduction in October of the insurance marketplaces that are a key part of his signature Affordable Care Act. This week he brought back his former chief congressional lobbyist, Phil Schiliro, who had moved to New Mexico, to help on the health care issues (Calmes, 12/9).
Politico: Podesta To Advise Obama
Podesta will return to the White House as Obama struggles to regain his credibility after the troubled rollout of HealthCare.gov. The president has already recalled Phil Schiliro, a former legislative affairs director, to serve as the White House’s point person on Obamacare policy. Podesta is viewed as a hand so trusted and widely perceived as an honest broker in Democratic circles that he would have run the presidential transition of either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in 2008 (Budoff Brown, 12/9).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: IRS Nominee To Face Questions On Health Law
President Barack Obama’s choice to head the Internal Revenue Service goes before a Senate committee Tuesday to face tough questions about the agency’s targeting of tea party groups and its ability to administer parts of the president’s health law. Obama nominated John Koskinen, a retired corporate and government official with experience managing numerous organizations in crisis, to take over the IRS in August. If confirmed by the Senate, the 74-year-old turnaround specialist would sign on to a five-year term, which would last beyond Obama’s stay in office (12/10).
The Wall Street Journal :Republicans Shy Away From Their Own Health Plan
Democrats' politically bruising experience over the Obama health law has prompted leading Republican policy experts to rethink one of the party's own long-standing ideas about remaking the health-care system. President Barack Obama and his party have suffered in public-opinion polls amid the health site's troubled rollout and as some five million people lost existing coverage that didn't meet new standards, even as the law seeks to expand coverage to many more Americans. Some Republicans are now worried that a GOP proposal to begin taxing health-care benefits offered through employers—which would affect some 160 million Americans—would cause market disruptions far more severe and expose the party to its own political peril (Meckler, 12/9).
Politico: GOP Ads Tie Dems To ACA ‘Broken Promise’
Republicans are using House Democrats’ own words against them in a new set of radio ads that tie the lawmakers to the bungled Obamacare rollout. Specifically, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s ads, which launch Tuesday, focus on President Barack Obama’s “broken promise” that people could keep their old insurance plans under the new health law. Republicans spent weeks digging through old clips and statements from Democrats in hopes of catching them making the same pledge (Isenstadt, 12/10).
The Washington Post’s The Fact Checker: McConnell’s Claim Of Obamacare ‘Extraordinary Disruption’ For Americans With Health Insurance
Sen. McConnell, the Republican leader, has long been a critic of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. But his recent comments on Fox News appeared overheated: Are the 85 percent of Americans who have health insurance facing “extraordinary disruption”? McConnell’s comments in some ways are the flip side of President Obama’s claim earlier this year that “the 85 and 90 percent who already have health insurance” will not notice anything but better health care. He argued that impact will be felt instead by “that small group of people — 10 to 15 percent of Americans; now, it’s still 30 million Americans, but relatively a narrow group — who don’t have health insurance right now or are on the individual market and are paying exorbitant amounts for coverage that isn’t that great” (Kessler, 12/10).
The Washington Post: Lindsey Graham Enrolls Under Obamacare, Declines Federal Subsidy
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) became the latest U.S. lawmaker to enroll in a federal health insurance exchange but forego the federal subsidy he would normally receive for his premium. Graham announced Monday he would enroll in his home state's exchange, which is being run by the federal government, even though he opposes the Affordable Care Act. The congressional open enrollment period ends Monday. Senators are allowed to receive a federal subsidy covering roughly 75 percent of their health care premiums under the law by enrolling in the D.C. Health Link exchange. But at least 12 senators have waived their employer contribution and joined either a state-run exchange or the federal exchange (Eilperin, 12/9).
Politico: Lindsey Graham Declines Health Care Contribution
Graham, who is 58 and single,said he will pay $400 more per month under Obamacare than under his current plan. But that significant increase is also likely due to the fact that he is turning down his employer contribution — which can cover as much as 75 percent of the costs of health care plans (Kim,12/9).
Los Angeles Times: Oregon Governor Opens Bid For 4th Term Despite Rocky Obamacare Rollout
When Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced his bid for a fourth term Monday, it was no surprise that he did so at an elementary school – a long way from the headquarters of Cover Oregon where software engineers are still trying to fix problems with the state’s healthcare exchange and get it online (Reston, 12/9).
The Washington Post:Oregon’s Kitzhaber Will Run For Fourth Term
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) will seek a fourth four-year term in office, he said Monday, kicking off a campaign likely to be dominated by health care and tax reform. Kitzhaber, already the longest-serving governor in Oregon’s history, kicked off his campaign for another four-year term at Portland’s Earl Boyles Elementary School. He starts his campaign with $239,000 in the bank, the Oregonian reported (Wilson, 12/9).
USA Today: Oregon Gov Expects ‘Slings And Arrows’ On Health Care
Could the rocky rollout of an online health care exchange be a factor in a 2014 election? We're not talking about a race for Congress, but the race for governor in Oregon — where Democratic incumbent John Kitzhaber announced Monday he will seek an unprecedented fourth term. Kitzhaber, who has already made Oregon history with his third term in office, said he expects to take "a few slings and arrows about the rocky rollout" of the Cover Oregon online insurance exchange. Like the federal HealthCare.gov site, whose problems have dominated headlines for weeks, the Oregon website was scheduled to launch Oct. 1 (Camia, 12/9).
The Wall Street Journal’s CIO Journal: Cover Oregon CIO: Integrating Oracle Software is ‘Daunting’
More than two months after the Obamacare online health exchanges launched, Oregon has yet to enroll a single person online through its state exchange. The site’s tech leader cited the challenges integrating primary contractor Oracle Corp.'s software as well as missed deadlines by the software maker and the state’s own failure to hire a systems integrator as key reasons for Cover Oregon’s continued dysfunction. These challenges, which persist today, mean the exchange won’t be fully operational until after Jan. 1, 2014 (Boulton, 12/9).
The Wall Street Journal: Permanent Fix for Medicare Fees Seen
An annual push by doctors to delay cuts to Medicare patient fees is afoot, but this time the prognosis is better for a permanent solution to the long-festering problem. The Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on "doc fix" legislation that would permanently change how Medicare providers are paid by the government for their services. Similar legislation was unanimously passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in July (Schatz, 12/9).
Politico: Why The Timing Is Right For A Budget Deal
John Boehner and Barack Obama failed. Harry Reid, Boehner and Mitch McConnell didn’t fare much better. Eric Cantor and Joe Biden barely got started. But with the year winding to a close, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are nearing a modest, yet important, budget deal that senior aides say could be rolled out as soon as Tuesday and voted on later this week (Sherman and Bresnahan, 12/10).
The New York Times: New York State Hospital Data Exposes Big Markups, and Odd Bargains
Just how expensive is your hospital? In New York, the answer may lie in a trove of hospital cost data newly posted online by the State Health Department. As part of an effort to make health care pricing more transparent, the state is naming hospitals and listing their median charges and costs for 1,400 conditions and procedures from 2009 to 2011. In 2011, prices ranged from the $8 bill at Benedictine Hospital in Kingston, N.Y., for treating a case of gastritis (cost: $2), to a $2.8 million charge for a blood disorder case at University Hospital of Brooklyn that cost it $918,462 (Bernstein, 12/9).
The New York Times: States Found To Shift Funds From Antismoking Efforts
Despite billions of dollars nationwide from tobacco taxes and settlements with manufacturers more than a decade ago, only two states are poised to meet federal recommendations for tobacco prevention spending during the 2014 fiscal year, an alliance of advocacy groups said in a report issued on Monday (Binder, 12/9).
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