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KHN First Edition: June 24, 2015


First Edition

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: When Does A Workplace Wellness Program Become Coercive, Rather Than Voluntary?
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Christine White pays $300 a year more for her health care because she refused to join her former employer’s wellness program, which would have required that she fill out a health questionnaire and join activities like Weight Watchers. “If I didn’t have the money … I’d have to” participate, says White, 63, a retired groundskeeper from a Portland, Ore., community college." (Appleby, 6/24)

The Washington Post: Your Pocket Guide To Obamacare Replacement Plans
Within a week, the justices are due to rule in King v. Burwell whether federal subsidies can flow through state health insurance exchanges created by the federal government. A decision for the Obama administration would maintain the status quo and kill perhaps the last significant legal challenge to the 2010 health care law. A decision for the plaintiffs would be a major victory for Republicans who hate the Affordable Care Act, but it would also put the party immediately on the spot. That’s where the trouble begins. (Viebeck, 6/23)

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: A Selection Of Jonathan Gruber’s White House Emails
Jonathan Gruber, the embattled Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist whose comments about President Barack Obama’s health law touched off a political furor, worked more closely than previously known with the White House and top federal officials to shape and influence the law, according to previously unreleased emails. The emails provided by the House Oversight Committee to The Wall Street Journal cover messages Mr. Gruber sent from January 2009 through March 2010. Committee staffers said they worked with MIT to obtain the 20,000 pages of emails. Here’s a look at some of the online exchanges. (Armour, 6/23)

The Associated Press: House Votes To Kill Health Law's Medicare Savings Panel
The House voted Tuesday to kill a federal panel that is supposed to find ways to curb Medicare spending, as Republicans ignored a veto threat and leveled their latest blow at President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Members of the Independent Payment Advisory Board have never been appointed, and the panel has never recommended savings from Medicare, the $600-billion-a-year health care program for the elderly. (6/23)

The Washington Post: “Death Panels” May Never Die
Shortly before the Supreme Court could invalidate Obamacare subsidies in most states, House members rolled back into town for a Tuesday evening vote to abolish “death panels.” Well, that’s the phrase Sarah Palin used. It might not be accurate in any direct or literal sense, but it has stuck around in Washington’s vocabulary for the last six years, a wry in-joke about the absurdity of the Obamacare debate. Of course, not everyone feels that way. House Republicans have the votes to pass their bill repealing the Medicare cost-cutting board known as IPAB (that’s “Independent Payment Advisory Board”). It’s a body charged with recommending ways to cut payments to doctors who accept Medicare patients in order to prevent federal healthcare costs from spiraling out of control over time. (Viebeck, 6/23)

The Associated Press: Senate Bills Cut Social Programs, Boost NIH Research, Amtrak
Senate Republicans Tuesday proposed cuts to community health centers, national service, and grants to help children from low- and moderate-income families attend preschool as they unveiled the largest domestic appropriations bill, a $153 billion measure that’s sure to attract a veto threat from President Barack Obama. The author of the bill, Roy Blunt of Missouri, instead boosted the budget for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion while awarding small increases to large programs giving grants to states for low-income school districts and special-needs children. (Taylor, 6/23)

The Washington Post: House To Probe How VA’s Improper Spending Hurt Small Businesses
That’s the subject of a joint hearing to be held Tuesday by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the House Small Business Committee, which will center on the aftermath of an explosive memo sent by a VA official detailing improper spending and contracting practices worth up to $6 billion at the agency. In a letter sent to VA Secretary Robert McDonald and made public last month, Jan R. Frye, the agency’s deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics, said employees did not use a bidding system to buy goods, instead using purchase cards meant for convenience to buy billions of dollars’ worth of medical supplies without contracts. (Jayakumar, 6/23)

The Wall Street Journal: UnitedHealth Group Exits Health Insurers’ Largest Trade Group
UnitedHealth Group Inc. is leaving the health insurance industry’s largest trade group this month, saying the company’s interests were no longer being best represented. UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, will sever its relationship with America’s Health Insurance Plans, a national association with almost 1,300 member companies, according to a statement from the company. (Amour, 6/23)

Politico: Obamacare Dilemma For GOP Govs Running For President
If the Supreme Court rules against Obamacare subsidies, the four governors running for president will face a harsh choice: Let tens of thousands of people get kicked off their health plans, or try to create a state exchange and lose credibility with a virulently anti-Obamacare Republican primary base. Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Ohio’s John Kasich all refused to set up Obamacare exchanges, as did most other GOP governors. Their states would be directly affected if the court rules that the health law’s subsidies can go only to people living in states that did establish the new online Obamacare markets. (Pradhan and Demko, 6/24)

The Washington Post: Bobby Jindal To Announce Presidential Plans Wednesday
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time rising star in the Republican Party now struggling to become one again, will announce Wednesday afternoon whether he intends to run for president in 2016. ... If Jindal does get into the race as expected, he will be the first Indian-American to ever be a serious candidate for president. But at this point, his chances of winning the GOP nomination seem extraordinarily low. (Fahrenthold and Hohmann, 6/24)

The Associated Press: Where They Stand: Bobby Jindal On Issues Of 2016 Campaign
Where two-term Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal stands on various issues that will be debated in the Republican presidential campaign: Like most other Republicans considering a presidential campaign, Jindal calls for repealing Obama's health care law. He favors "premium support" for Medicare, which would replace the insurance coverage given to seniors with a federal subsidy to purchase insurance coverage, a sort of voucher program to choose their own coverage plan. (6/24)

Politico Magazine: The Stupid Party’s Candidate
A governor who reshaped his state by overhauling the education and Medicaid systems now hardly talks substance at all. In fairness, he has released detailed plans on taxes and education, but he routinely spends his time on the stump throwing red meat to the most conservative parts of his party. During a visit to Europe early this year, Jindal complained about “no-go zones” on the continent where imposition of sharia law had made non-Muslims unwelcome. Appearing at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference on Friday, Jindal complained corporate America had entered into an “unnatural alliance with the radical left” in working to block religious freedom bills at the state level. His pander approach hasn’t worked for him. “He is smart, he is policy knowledgeable,” says Henry Olsen, a conservative analyst at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, “but rather than build a public persona around his strengths, he has crafted a public persona around other’s people’s strengths.” (Greenblatt, 6/23)

The Associated Press: 5th Circuit Panel Rejects Challenge To Birth Control Mandate
A U.S. appeals court panel has ruled that certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act dealing with birth control don't violate the religious rights of faith-based groups under federal law. A three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans delivered its ruling Monday in the consolidation of several cases brought by Texas-based religious institutions, including universities and charities. (6/24)

Los Angeles Times: Vote On Aid-In-Dying Bill Delayed To Secure More Support
The author of an aid-in-dying bill postponed a scheduled Tuesday hearing on the measure because it lacked enough support to pass a key committee. State Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) agreed to delay a vote on her bill in the Assembly Health Committee until next month. The proposal would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with drugs prescribed by a doctor. (McGreevy, 6/23)

The Washington Post: Anesthesiologist Trashes Sedated Patient — And It Ends Up Costing Her
Sitting in his surgical gown inside a large medical suite in Reston, Va., a Vienna man prepared for his colonoscopy by pressing record on his smartphone, to capture the instructions his doctor would give him after the procedure. But as soon as he pressed play on his way home, he was shocked out of his anesthesia-induced stupor: He found that he had recorded the entire examination and that the surgical team had mocked and insulted him as soon as he drifted off to sleep. In addition to their vicious commentary, the doctors discussed avoiding the man after the colonoscopy, instructing an assistant to lie to him, and then placed a false diagnosis on his chart. (Jackman, 6/23)

The New York Times: New York City Allocates $5 Million To Move Tenants Out Of ‘Three-Quarter’ Homes
Three-quarter homes, so described because they are seen as being between regulated halfway houses and actual homes, often cram four to eight people in a room and sometimes have blocked exits and squalid conditions. The article focused on one unscrupulous operator, Yury Baumblit, accused of taking illicit payments on Medicaid fees for drug treatment while forcing people to sleep in bunk beds squeezed into tiny rooms. (Barker, 6/24)

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent operating program of the Kaiser Family Foundation. (c) 2014 Kaiser Health News. All rights reserved.

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