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KHN First Edition: June 26, 2015, part II


First Edition

Friday, June 26, 2015
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations -- Part II

USA Today: More Legal Challenges Ahead For Obamacare 
Plenty of challenges remain, though few are broad enough to cripple the health law even if they succeed. Republican lawmakers have sued over delays in requiring employers to provide insurance. Some Indiana schools say it's unconstitutional to force them to provide coverage. Another suit says Congress violated a little-known section of the Constitution about which chamber must introduce tax bills first. Others challenge the requirement that insurance cover contraception. (Heath, 6/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court To Health Insurers: Deal On
Let the deal music play. In affirming a central tenet of the Affordable Care Act for the second time, the U.S. Supreme Court has removed a major source of uncertainty for the insurance industry. That is good news for investors banking on consolidation. Indeed, within hours of the decision, Humana stock popped on renewed talk that Aetna had made an offer, as reported this weekend by The Wall Street Journal. (Grant, 6/25)

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court's Obamacare Ruling Boosts Hospitals, Health Insurers
Health insurers and hospitals welcomed Thursday's Supreme Court decision upholding billions of dollars in Obamacare subsidies for U.S. consumers. Many employers also applauded the 6-3 ruling, fearing the chaos that might have ensued in the health insurance markets from a ruling striking down the subsidies. In wake of the decision, employers and other healthcare industry officials urged political leaders to tackle the unfinished business of taming the country's runaway medical spending. (Terhune, 6/25)

The New York Times: Humana Said To Pursue Sale As Supreme Court Ruling Gives Insurers A Lift
A new round of consolidation in the health insurance industry appeared closer as companies seek to grow larger, driven in part by cost-cutting and opportunities that are part of the Affordable Care Act. In the latest jockeying, Humana, the smallest of the big five insurers, is pursuing a deal to sell itself and could reach an agreement by next week, according to a person briefed on the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Among those in the running to buy it are two bigger competitors, Aetna and Cigna. (de la Merced, 6/25)

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: After Obamacare Ruling, Health Stocks Soar
Hospital stocks in particular stand to benefit because the ruling means fewer uninsured patients coming to the Emergency Room. HCA Holdings, which runs 165 hospitals across the country, was up 9 percent after the ruling. Universal Health Services, which has 226 hospitals including George Washington Hospital in the District, rose 7 percent, trading at $139. Tenet Healthcare, which runs facilities in 14 states, saw a 6 percent jump after the ruling. (Bogage, 6/25)

The New York Times: Health Law Ruling Elicits Sighs Of Relief And Vows To Continue Fighting
Democrats said it was finally time to accept that the Affordable Care Act was here to stay. Republicans vowed to keep trying to get rid of the law, but conceded that at this point, their best chance would be by winning back the White House next year. And people like Margaret McElwain, who has breast cancer and a part-time job at Target, exulted over the Supreme Court’s decision to allow health insurance subsidies to keep flowing to more than six million Americans in the 34 states that did not establish their own online insurance marketplaces under the law. (Goodnough and Tavernise, 6/25)

USA Today: Obamacare Subsidies Stay, To Relief Of Consumers, Insurers, Other Businesses
There was also concern about the confusion a decision ending subsidies would have created among workers. For example, dependents who bought their own subsidized plans on the federal exchange because it was cheaper than being on a parent's plan, would likely have wanted to get on parents' plans, she said. Chaos would also have likely ensued if it was left up to Congress to come up with a legislative fix or for state legislatures to approve the establishment of state-run exchanges. The Supreme Court case hinged on whether the subsidies now available to about 6.4 million people were legal as language in the Affordable Care Act specified the subsidies were for people who lived in states that set up their own exchanges, as opposed to relying on the federal (O'Donnell and Ungar, 6/25)

The Associated Press: Health Ruling Relieves Consumers; GOP States Remain Critical
Thursday's Supreme Court ruling validating federal health insurance subsidies for nearly 6.4 million Americans had consumers breathing a sigh of relief that they would be able to afford their policies, but the reaction was markedly different from governors and lawmakers in states that have fought against the Affordable Care Act. Many of them strengthened their calls to repeal the act, setting the tone for what will likely be a common GOP refrain during next year's presidential campaign. (Kennedy, 6/26)

The Associated Press: Coverage Worries Persist Amid Relief Over Health Care Ruling
Throughout the country, relief was the dominant emotion among consumers who get help from the government to lower their health insurance costs following Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the subsidies underpinning President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. Many consumers expressed somewhat conflicting views: They were happy their monthly premiums would continue to be affordable but exasperated by the coverage the policies purchased on the new health care exchanges provide. (Johnson, 6/26)

USA Today: Outside Of Supreme Court, Celebration Ensues After Obamacare Decision
Gwen Jackson stepped out of the Supreme Court on Thursday morning to a sea of people chanting "ACA is here to stay." As she descended the steps of the court, she threw her fist in the air and joined those chanting outside. The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — helped fund an extensive jaw surgery for Jackson's husband, so the court's decision in support of the landmark health care law was emotional for Jackson. (Calfas, Pager and Raffery, 6/25)

The Wall Street Journal: Bosses To Micro Target Health-Care Law
Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling makes clear that the Affordable Care Act will be a permanent feature of the U.S. business landscape. Now, employers—even those that don’t support the health-care law—will turn their attention to changing some of the elements they don’t like. High on their priority list: the “Cadillac tax,” the Affordable Care Act’s excise tax on high-cost health plans, which starts in 2018. (Feintzeig and Chasan, 6/25)

The Wall Street Journal's Total Return: Obamacare Penalty Can Top $12,000
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday the Obama administration can continue to subsidize health-insurance purchases by lower-income Americans across the country through tax credits. ... As a result, many people who don’t have qualifying health coverage will owe a “shared responsibility payment” that is in effect an extra tax. This penalty took effect in 2014, but this year it’s substantially higher. Taxpayers owe either a flat assessment or a percentage of income, whichever is higher. Roberton Williams, a tax specialist with the Tax Policy Center in Washington, says the percentage method will apply to virtually all higher-income households and even many households with total income less than $50,000. For 2015, the flat assessment rises to $325 per individual from $95 in 2014, with a maximum of $975 per household. The percentage-of-income penalty doubles to 2% from 1% in 2014, up to a maximum of about $12,850 per household. (Saunders, 6/25)

Los Angeles Times: Obamacare Ruling Hailed By California Officials, Consumer Groups
California officials and consumer groups cheered the Supreme Court's ruling Thursday to uphold Obamacare premium subsidies nationwide, and some health-law supporters chided justices for hearing the challenge in the first place. "Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act once again, we hope we can stop debating a 5-year-old law and discuss additional ways to reduce health costs," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group. (Terhune, 6/25)

The New York Times: Lawmakers Agree To Help Veterans Agency Fill A Budget Gap
Republican lawmakers said Thursday that they would support legislation allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to shift money from another program to cover a $2.5 billion budget shortfall that would otherwise threaten medical care for many patients in coming months. Representative Jeff Miller, Republican of Florida and chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said at a hearing on Thursday that he would work with other lawmakers to help cover the budget gap. (Oppel Jr., 6/25)

Los Angeles Times: California Assembly Approves One Of The Toughest Mandatory Vaccination Laws In The Nation
California lawmakers on Thursday approved one of the toughest mandatory vaccination requirements in the nation, moving to end exemptions from state immunization laws based on religious or other personal beliefs. The measure, among the most controversial taken up by the Legislature this year, would require more children who enter day care and school to be vaccinated against diseases including measles and whooping cough. (McGreevy and Lin, 6/25)

Los Angeles Times: California Doctor Groups Praise Assembly's Vote On Vaccine Measure
California physician groups praised the Assembly’s passage of one of the toughest mandatory vaccination laws in the nation, and urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign it if the bill reaches his desk. “To make a decision not to vaccinate is actually to make a decision to potentially harm the community,” said Dr. Jay W. Lee, president of the California Academy of Family Physicians. “The health of the public is going to be protected by this measure.” (Lin, 6/25)

NPR: California Law To Curtail Vaccine Exemptions Clears Hurdle
The controversial bill that would require almost all children entering day care or school in California to be vaccinated crossed another key hurdle Thursday, as the state Assembly approved it by a vote of 46-30. The bill, SB 277, now returns to the state Senate, where lawmakers will be asked to concur with amendments made in the Assembly. (Plevin, 6/25)

The New York Times: Nurse Pleads Guilty to Taking Kickbacks From Drug Maker
A Connecticut nurse has pleaded guilty to federal charges of accepting $83,000 in kickbacks from Insys Therapeutics, an Arizona drug manufacturer that sells the powerful painkiller Subsys, as prosecutors appear to be intensifying their investigation into the company, which is under scrutiny for its marketing practices. (Thomas, 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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