First Edition: June 5, 2013
Today's headlines include reports about the questions about fundraising phone calls faced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a Capitol Hill hearing.
Kaiser Health News: Health On The Hill: Sebelius Faces Questions About Fundraising Calls
Kaiser Health News staff writer Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about news from a Capitol Hill hearing in which HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius defended herself against criticism from congressional Republicans about calls she made to outside organizations in support of a group promoting implementation of the health care law (6/4). Read the transcript or listen to the audio.
Kaiser Health News: Capsules: GOP Lawmakers Press Sebelius To Help Child Awaiting Transplant
Now on Kaiser Health News’ blog, Mary Agnes Carey reports: "A child in desperate need of a lung transplant clinging to life. Long waiting lists of patients who need organs and too few donors to meet the demand. Rules that govern who gets what life-saving organs – and when. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had to confront all those issues on Tuesday when Republican lawmakers asked her repeatedly why she would not use her authority to make sure a 10-year-old Pennsylvania girl gets a lung transplant that could save her life" (Carey, 6/4). Check out what else is on the blog.
The New York Times: Critics Of Health Care Law Outspending Its Supporters On Ads
Seven months before the core provisions of President Obama's health care law are to take effect, most television advertising that mentions the law continues to come from its opponents. Since the law's passage in March 2010, critics have spent a total of about $400 million on television ads that refer to it, according to a new analysis by the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media, which tracks such spending (Goodnough, 6/4).
The New York Times: Sebelius Asked Companies To Support Health Care Law
Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, disclosed on Tuesday that she had made telephone calls to three companies regulated by her department and urged them to help a nonprofit group promote President Obama's health care law. … At a hearing of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Ms. Sebelius said she did not explicitly ask the companies for money, but urged them to support the work of the nonprofit group, Enroll America (Pear, 6/4).
The Washington Post: Sebelius Defends Obamacare Fundraising
Sebelius told members of Congress that she has made five outreach calls on behalf of Enroll America, a new organization that aims to increase public participation in the Affordable Care Act. … The secretary's outreach on behalf of the nonprofit came after Congress repeatedly denied requests from her agency to increase funding for the health care law. Without those additional funds, the department has said it lacks the resources to run a full-fledged campaign explaining the law to the public and promoting enrollment (Kliff, 6/4).
The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Sebelius Pressed On Health-Law Discussions
Ms. Sebelius said she only discussed funding with the tax-preparation firm H&R Block and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, two organizations that are not regulated by HHS. HHS acknowledged seeking funds from the two entities last month and has said the secretary hasn’t asked for any money from companies or entities the HHS regulates. Johnson & Johnson’s drugs and medical devices are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which is part of HHS (Dooren, 6/4).
Politico: Kathleen Sebelius Defends Her Fundraising For Obamacare
Appearing before Congress for the first time since news broke about her calls to drum up support from outside groups, Sebelius on Tuesday had a slew of defenses ready to go. She said her calls were legal, appropriate and no different than what her Republican predecessors had done in similar situations. … Sebelius pointed to similar efforts by Mike Leavitt and Tommy Thompson, who are former heads of HHS and Republicans, to publicize the prescription drug benefit in Medicare Part D and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And she said she had not solicited funds from groups regulated by HHS — but maintained that the Public Health Service Act allows her to if she wishes (Cunningham, 6/5).
Politico: Kathleen Sebelius At Center Of Storm Over Child's Lung Transplant
The plight of a dying 10-year-old girl in urgent need of a lung transplant has been taken up by some GOP lawmakers, and it's shining a light on what critics say is a questionable policy that puts children further down the waiting list (Norman, 6/4).
Politico: Ex-Lawmaker Who Opposed ACA Now Supports It
Former Rep. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) voted against the Democrats’ health reform law in 2010 amid intense pressure to support it. Now that he's left Congress, he’s the public face of a Florida insurance company that is trying to put the law into place. As a senior vice president at Florida Blue, a Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurer, Altmire travels around Florida explaining how the law will operate and works with business partners on how to implement it. He's particularly focused on the exchanges — the web portals where Florida Blue and other health insurers hope that customers will buy their health plans beginning in October (Haberkorn, 6/5).
Politico: Obama To Deliver Health Care Speech In California
President Obama is scheduled to deliver an address in California Friday touting the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. "He'll highlight the promising news that despite dire predictions, early data on insurance competition and premiums in the state show that ACA -- the Affordable Care Act -- is creating quality affordable choices for Californians who plan to buy insurance this fall," press secretary Jay Carney said (Slack, 6/4).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: Md. Attorney General Requests Freeze On Health Insurance Rates Above 5 Percent
Attorney General Doug Gansler is urging Maryland insurance regulators to freeze any health insurance rate increases above 5 percent. Gansler made the request to the Maryland Insurance Administration on Tuesday (6/4).
The Washington Post: D.C. Council Backs Small-Business Health Exchange Mandate
The D.C. Council has voted to put the District on a path toward becoming one of the few places to require small-business owners to purchase employee health insurance through a government-run exchange. The mandate has been controversial, generating strong opinions pro and con among business and activist groups, but the council voted unanimously Tuesday on a package of temporary exchange legislation, with little debate over the wisdom of the mandate (DeBonis, 6/4).
The Wall Street Journal: Group Seeks Pregnancy Coverage For Dependents
A women's advocacy group has filed complaints with a federal agency against Auburn University, Gonzaga University and three other employers over health-insurance plans it says don't pay pregnancy costs for employees' dependent daughters. The five administrative complaints, filed Tuesday with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights, say the 2010 Affordable Care Act requires the pregnancy coverage. The complaints appear to be among the first instances in which a group is using specific provisions of the federal health-care law to challenge the design of an insurance policy (Trottman and Radnofsky, 6/4).
NPR: That Employee Who Smokes Costs The Boss $5,800 A Year
Smoking is expensive, and not just for the person buying the cigs. Employers are taking hard looks at the cost of employing smokers as they try to cut health insurance costs, with some refusing to hire people who say they smoke (Shute, 6/4).
The Associated Press/Washington Post: House Debates Measure Boosting Veterans' Programs, But Cuts Loom To Other Domestic Spending
The GOP-controlled House advanced the first of 12 spending bills for the budget year beginning Oct. 1, a popular measure providing more money for veterans’ programs, including health care. The measure was likely to pass Tuesday. The boost for veterans came even as the House marched ahead with a plan that would require most other domestic programs to absorb even deeper cuts next year than those in place now after the imposition of across-the-board spending cuts (6/4).
The New York Times: Cuomo Women's Rights Plan May Hinge On Abortion Proposal
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday unveiled his long-promised Women's Equality Act, a 10-point plan whose controversial final element, which includes codifying federal abortion rights into state law, could determine the fate of various other antidiscrimination provisions included in the bill (McKinley, 6/5).
The Wall Street Journal: Backlash At Abortion Plank
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced legislation Tuesday targeting a laundry list of women's-rights issues, including pay equity, human trafficking, domestic violence and abortion rights, the last point prompting immediate backlash from state Senate Majority Coalition Co-Leader Dean Skelos and the Roman Catholic Church (Orden, 6/4).
The Wall Street Journal: Medical Spas Get A Checkup
States are tightening regulations on medical spas—and wading into some ugly disputes over where beauty treatments stop and the practice of medicine begins. Medical spas are fast-growing hybrids between day spas and doctors' offices. They typically offer Botox injections, facial peels, laser skin treatments and other minimally invasive cosmetic procedures. Some add breast implants, tummy tucks and chin, face, brow and eyelid lifts as well (Beck, 6/4).
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