Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'That's Gonna Cost You'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'That's Gonna Cost You'" by Roy Delgado.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

A VIEW FROM NEW ZEALAND

Our single payer
budget cuts made timely care
a costly option.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. More Proof Required To Sign Up During Special Enrollment Periods

The Obama administration is tightening the rules about customers entering the federal exchanges after the open enrollment period following an outcry from insurers.

The New York Times: Proof Needed To Enroll In Health Plan Post-Deadline
People who want to buy health insurance in the federal marketplace outside the annual open enrollment period will now have to provide documents to show they are eligible, the Obama administration announced on Wednesday. In the last two years, insurers say, many people went without coverage and then signed up under the Affordable Care Act when they became sick and needed care. Insurers say that people who sign up after the deadline tend to generate more claims and more costs, raising premiums. (Pear, 2/24)

The Washington Post: HHS Makes It Tougher To Sign Up For ACA Coverage Outside Of Enrollment Season
Under rules announced Wednesday by the Department of Health and Human Services, people who want coverage under five main reasons for a “special enrollment period” will need to supply documents proving that they deserve an exception from the regular sign-up times. The new requirement will be for people in the 38 states that rely on the federal insurance exchange who need to begin or change coverage because they have moved, had a baby, adopted a child, gotten married or lost other health coverage. (Goldstein, 2/24)

USA Today: Feds Will Soon Require Proof For Special Obamacare Enrollment Periods
It addresses complaints from insurance companies that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was allowing too many people to buy insurance after the open enrollment deadline passed. This, insurers said, left them with many consumers who waited until they were sick to sign up and then dropped coverage after they received treatment. And the companies claim that created a sicker-than-expected pool of customers that was contributing to the losses on Affordable Care Act exchange plans. (O'Donnell, 2/24)

In other news, the Government Accountability Office warns about the administration's lax efforts in ferreting out fraud on the Affordable Care Act's data services hub —

The Fiscal Times: Obamacare Fraud Is Rampant And Unchecked, GAO Warns
A new report issued Wednesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that even with tens of billions of dollars in subsidies costs at stake, the Obama Administration has taken a “passive approach” to ferreting out potential fraud and often fails to act even when queries made through the hub turns up conflicting information – or no corroborative information at all. (Pianin, 2/24)

6. Health Law's Insurance Provider Fees Prompt Lawsuit By 6 States Against Federal Government

Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Indiana and Nebraska want an injunction against the federal rules, arguing the Affordable Care Act's language did not give clear notice that states would be responsible for the fee. In other Obamacare news, The Wall Street Journal previews the impending fight for co-op funding.

The Associated Press: 6 States Sue Obama Administration Over Affordable Care Act
Six states filed a new lawsuit Wednesday against the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act. The complaint that Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Louisiana, Indiana and Nebraska filed in the Northern District of Texas takes issue with the Health Insurance Providers Fee assessed to health insurers to cover federal subsidies. (Godar, 2/24)

The Wall Street Journal: Fight For Health Co-Op Funds Looms
Leaders of some health cooperatives set up under the Affordable Care Act said it would be hard for the Obama administration to recoup more than $1 billion in federal loans made to some of the organizations that are now defunct, because most of the money has been spent. A group representing existing co-ops, as well as leaders of some of the organizations, said there is little of the federal loan money remaining and some of what is left is needed to pay providers whose bills have yet to be paid. (Armour, 2/24)

7. Utah Advocates Press Legislature To Cover More People In Medicaid Expansion Effort

A proposal by the House majority leader would not follow the federal health law's overall Medicaid expansion but would instead offer coverage to only 16,000 of the state's poorest residents. In South Dakota, expansion advocates plan a television ad to thwart the governor's proposal to expand the program for low-income residents.

Salt Lake City Tribune: Advocates Push For Medicaid Expansion, But House Plan Would Leave Many Without
Utahns who could have received health care if the Legislature had expanded Medicaid in the past two years again pleaded with lawmakers to take action — although the action they appear most likely to take would cover only the poorest Utahns while leaving tens of thousands without health coverage. HB437, House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan's proposal to expand Medicaid, released Wednesday, was aimed at providing coverage to 16,000 of the poorest Utahns who are uninsured. (Gehrke, 2/24)

Deseret News: One Medicaid Expansion Bill Gains Favor Of Leadership, But People Still Want More
Utah's House speaker has once again put his foot down when it comes to Medicaid expansion, but Utahns are still asking for broader access than what one popular bill would provide. House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan, R-Kearns, has proposed HB437 to expand coverage to the poorest in Utah, specifically childless adults who are chronically homeless and who find themselves in and out of the justice system for various reasons, but never get proper treatment for recurrent mental health issues because of a lack of access to proper health care. (Leonard, 2/24)

Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader: TV Salvo Aimed At Daugaard Medicaid Plan
A conservative group that opposes Medicaid expansion is upping the ante in its campaign against Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s plan to expand the program. Americans for Prosperity plans to run a television ad critical of the governor’s proposal during Thursday’s Republican presidential debate, which takes place in Houston and airing on CNN. The ad’s timing aims at having maximum effect by mobilizing Republicans who will likely be watching. (Ellis, 2/24)

Administration News

8. Senate Confirms Califf As FDA Commissioner

The 89-4 vote came after a drawn-out battle in which several lawmakers opposed the nominee based, partly, on his ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

The New York Times: Dr. Robert Califf Wins Senate Confirmation to Run F.D.A.
President Obama’s pick to run the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Robert M. Califf, was finally confirmed for the job by the Senate on Wednesday, in a vote of 89 to 4, after weeks of opposition from a handful of lawmakers who had blocked his nomination over what they said was the agency’s poor record on prescription painkillers. (Tavernise, 2/25)

The Washington Post: Senate Confirms Robert Califf As New FDA Commissioner
Califf, who joined the FDA a year ago after decades as a researcher and administrator at Duke University, was nominated by President Obama to run the agency last September. But in the months that followed, his nomination faced opposition from a handful of senators, over everything from the nation's prescription painkiller epidemic to genetically engineered salmon.(Dennis, 2/24)