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KHN First Edition: June 25, 2015


First Edition

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

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

Kaiser Health News: When Turning 65, Consumers With Marketplace Plans Need To Be Vigilant In Choosing Health Coverage
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Susan Jaffe writes: "Before the Affordable Care Act, older adults who couldn’t afford to buy their own health insurance would count the days until their 65th birthday, when Medicare would kick in. Now, 10,000 Americans hit that milestone every day, but for some who have coverage through the ACA’s insurance marketplaces, Medicare may not be the obvious next step. 'Consumers eligible for Medicare can keep or renew their marketplace plan,' said Medicare spokesman Alper Ozinal, as long as they don’t also join Medicare." (Jaffe, 6/25)

The New York Times: Measuring The Success Of Health Insurance Subsidies
The Supreme Court will decide within days whether federal health insurance subsidies for people in more than 30 states are allowed by law. A broader question is, To what extent are the subsidies responsible for the expansion of health care coverage to millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act? In short, Have the subsidies succeeded? (Pear and Sanger-Katz, 6/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court Guide: Six Big Decisions Remain
The Supreme Court is scheduled to issue decisions Thursday, with six major cases remaining on the docket, and is expected to release opinions again on Friday and perhaps next week. Still to be decided are the health-law subsidies and gay-marriage cases, along with closely watched rulings involving congressional redistricting and power plant emissions. Here’s a list of the remaining cases. ... King v. Burwell Issue: Whether the Affordable Care Act authorizes tax credits for insurance bought on, as well as on state-operated insurance exchanges. The case turns on a single word in the 2,000-plus-page statute, in a clause authorizing the tax credits for policies purchased on an exchange established “by” the state. Only 13 states and the District of Columbia currently run their own exchanges. The court could potentially strike down subsidies in as many as 37 states that depend on (6/24)

USA Today: The Six Major Cases Awaiting Supreme Court Rulings
The future of President Obama's health care law is on the line for the second time in three years, and it's anyone's guess how the court will rule. Passed in 2010 and narrowly upheld by the court in a 5-4 ruling in 2012, the law has extended health insurance to 12 million Americans. But four words in its lengthy text — "established by the state" — now endanger federal subsidies relied upon by 6.4 million participants in 34 states that did not create their own exchanges or marketplaces. The justices must decide whether the law prohibits that financial aid. (Wolf, 6/25)

Politico: Anti-Obamacare Senator Braces For Court Ruling
The justices will rule any day now in King v. Burwell, a case that could eliminate health insurance subsidies for 6.4 million Americans, including more than 166,000 Wisconsinites. And few Republicans have done more to prepare for the ensuing uproar than Johnson, just as he heads into a closely contested reelection race that could determine the next Senate majority. Johnson is the lead author of legislation aimed at responding to the Supreme Court decision, a bill that has been embraced by 31 colleagues, including Senate Republican leaders. Yet, Democrats already are bashing his plan as nothing more than a political message that has no chance of becoming law — while conservatives believe it is too generous because it temporarily extends those subsidies for up to two years. (Raju and Haberkorn, 6/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Poll Finds Backing For Gay Marriage And A Split On Health Law
The American public strongly favors the prospect of the Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide but remains split over the 2010 health law, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds just ahead of expected high-court rulings on both matters. ... The court is also expected soon to rule on whether low-income residents of states that didn’t set up insurance marketplaces under the 2010 health law are entitled to the same subsidized health insurance as those in states that created their own marketplaces. Support for the law has improved since the disastrous rollout of the new marketplaces in the fall of 2013. The latest poll, which surveyed 1,000 adults between June 14 and 18, found Americans almost evenly divided on the law. (O'Connor, 6/25)

The Associated Press: 5 Things: Public Opinion Backs Gov't In Health Care Case
Most Americans want the Supreme Court to side with the government when it decides whether the feds can continue subsidizing insurance premiums in all 50 states under President Barack Obama's health care law, according to polls in recent months. Few, however, have much confidence that the court can rule objectively in the case, King v. Burwell. (6/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Meet The Health-Law Holdouts: Americans Who Prefer To Go Uninsured
The Affordable Care Act has a perplexing problem: Many uninsured Americans prefer their old ways of getting health care. For millions, arranging treatment through cash, barter and charity is still better than paying for insurance. They include Lisa Khechoom of Glendale, Calif., who refuses to buy coverage. She says she pays a flat $35 for a doctor visit and often substitutes prescriptions with cheaper natural remedies for herself, her husband and their children. (Radnofsky, 6/24)

The Wall Street Journal: 5 Things About People Who Remain Uninsured Despite Obamacare
The landmark 2010 Affordable Care Act was passed on the premise that more than 50 million Americans didn’t have health insurance, and needed it. Five years in, it’s helped some, and passed over others–some of whom have chosen not to get insurance even thought the law makes it possible for them to do so, as The Wall Street Journal’s Page One reports. (Radnofsky, 6/24)

The Wall Street Journal: States Offer A Mixed Picture On Health-Insurance Costs
Some states are grappling with higher insurance costs for consumers while others are seeing record-low requests for premium increases in 2016 because of the Affordable Care Act, state insurance commissioners told Congress Wednesday. The health law has led to challenges and uncertainty in Tennessee, which is one of three dozen states using the federal health insurance exchange, Julie Mix McPeak, commissioner of the state’s Department of Commerce and Insurance, testified at a House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee hearing. She said the ACA has resulted in less competition and higher costs. (Armour, 6/24)

The Associated Press: GOP Almost Set For ‘16, With Only 3 Governors Left To Get In
All three appeal to the party’s more moderate voters. Kasich and Christie were among the few Republican governors to expand Medicaid eligibility as part of President Barack Obama’s health care law, they have prioritized treatment for drug addicts and the mentally ill, and both have shown a willingness to stand up to those in the farthest reaches of the party’s conservative base. (Beaumont and Peoples, 6/25)

The Associated Press: Walker Says Obama, Federal Government Must Fix Subsidies
If the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down health care subsidies available under federal law, it's up to President Barack Obama and Congress to fix it — not the states, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Wednesday. Walker, who is expected to launch his run for president in mid-July, wrote an opinion piece and answered questions about the issue following a bill signing ceremony in Milwaukee. The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on whether subsidies under the 2010 law can continue to go to Wisconsin and 33 other states that use the federal website and don't run their own insurance exchanges. (6/24)

The New York Times: Bobby Jindal On The Issues
Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana has announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. The first Indian-American governor in the United States, he came to the job in 2008 after three years in Congress. He had previously been president of the nine-member University of Louisiana System and has run the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals. Here are his positions on important issues. ... Mr. Jindal has urged the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He instead favors “premium support,” a voucherlike program in which the government would give Medicare beneficiaries a fixed amount of money to buy coverage from competing private plans. (Mullany, 6/24)

The Washington Post: In Launching Long-Shot Bid, Bobby Jindal Vows To Be A ‘Doer’ As President
When Jindal took the stage (to Garth Brooks’s “Callin’ Baton Rouge”), he said he would try to slash the size of the federal government, show strength to American enemies overseas, secure the U.S. border, and try to reform Medicare and Social Security. ... A native of Baton Rouge, he was born Piyush Jindal in 1971 but renamed himself “Bobby” after the youngest son on the “Brady Bunch” sitcom. He became a Rhodes Scholar, a McKinsey consultant and — still in his early 20s — the head of the massive Louisiana health department. (Fahrenthold, 6/24)

The New York Times: John Kasich Appeals To Iowa As He Ponders White House Bid
Mr. Kasich, who said he was still weighing whether to enter the race, is barely registering in Iowa polls. His formidable hurdles in the state include a lack of time visiting it, and a list of center-right policies he has supported that conservative caucusgoers are likely to reject, from expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to voting for an assault weapons ban while in Congress. (Gabriel, 6/24)

The Washington Post: Millions Of Dollars For Veterans Sat Unspent For Three Years — And Now It May Be Too Late
For three years, more than $43 million the Department of Veterans Affairs had set aside to inform veterans about their benefits sat in an account, not a penny spent, until an agency financial manager happened to notice. By then, it may have become too late for the cash-strapped agency to spend the money, a new report says. Acting Inspector General Richard Griffin’s audit comes as top VA officials prepare to tell House lawmakers Thursday that they’re facing a $2.6 billion budget shortfall that’s partly responsible for a new explosion in wait times for medical care. Senior leaders say they may have to start a hiring freeze or furlough employees unless funding is reallocated for the federal government’s second-largest department. (Rein, 6/25)

The Wall Street Journal: DaVita HealthCare Subpoenaed Over Medicare Coding
DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in connection with how the company codes diagnoses for Medicare Advantage patients. In a regulatory filling, the Denver-based company said the subpoena covers the period from Jan. 1, 2008, through the present and seeks documents from the company and its subsidiaries. DaVita specializes in kidney care and is one of the largest U.S. providers of dialysis services. (Beilfuss, 6/24)

USA Today: Oscar Uses Tech To Make Consumers Less Grouchy About Healthcare
Oscar's website and app hammers that point home. Signing up is as easy as answering a few multiple choice questions. There are discounts for being active, which is tracked by a free wearable. Customers get two free primary care visits a year and free generic drugs. All plans are the same, except that a higher premium gets you a lower deductible. As for doctor responsiveness, Kushner – a Manhattan real estate scion whose brother, Jared, is married to Ivanka Trump – taps the Oscar app to request a call from his doctor, then minutes later grins as his physician's voice comes on the line. (della Cava, 6/24)

The New York Times: Pursuit Of Cash Taints Promise Of Gene Tests
The story of Renaissance offers a view inside the intoxicating brew of hype and hope in the field of genetic testing. All over the country, labs and research firms are popping up, eager to study strands of DNA to better identify who is at risk for developing a disease, to guide existing treatments and to develop new ones. But the troubles at Renaissance speak volumes about how difficult it is for Medicare and private insurers to keep up with the proliferation of tests being offered. (Abelson and Creswell, 6/24)

The New York Times: Health Panel Recommends Cautious Approach To Meningitis B Vaccine
A panel of health experts stopped short of recommending that all American adolescents and young adults be vaccinated against a dangerous strain of meningitis that has caused outbreaks at Princeton University and the University of California campus in Santa Barbara, opting instead to let doctors decide whether to give the vaccine. (Tavernise, 6/24)

NPR: OSHA Launches Program To Protect Nursing Employees
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will announce Thursday that it's going to crack down on hospitals, for the first time ever, to prevent an epidemic of back and arm injuries among nursing employees. Nurses and nursing assistants suffer more of those debilitating injuries than any other occupation, and those injuries are caused mainly by moving and lifting patients. (Zwerdling, 6/24)

NPR: Texas Abortion Curbs Go Into Effect Soon, Unless Supreme Court Acts
At the hands of the Texas Legislature, the last four years have been long for supporters of abortion rights. The next blow lands on July 1, when a new law will go into effect in Texas and drastically reduce access to abortion services — likely leaving just nine clinics that perform abortions open in the entire state. The controversial law, passed in 2013, requires clinics to meet tougher building standards and doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. (Goodwiyn, 6/24)

Los Angeles Times: Anesthesiologist's Mocking Of Sedated Patient Proves To Be A $500,000 Mistake
Thinking he would be too groggy to recall a doctor's post-op instructions after a routine colonoscopy, a Virginia man turned on his cellphone to record them. When he replayed the conversation on his way home, however, he heard more than his gastroenterologist's instructions. The man had inadvertently recorded his anesthesiologist and doctor disclosing his private health information during the 2013 procedure, as well as openly mocking him and laughing at his fear of needles. (Schachar, 6/25)

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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