Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. Lacking Votes, Calif. Assembly Shelves Aid-In-Dying Bill

Supporters said they will continue to work with Assembly members to build support for the bill, which would allow doctors to write lethal prescriptions for some terminally ill patients with less than six months to live. (Lisa Aliferis, KQED, 7/7)

3. Want A Good Laugh? Head To The Hospital

Across the country, hospitals are offering seniors social activities and other benefits to help them stay healthy and out of the hospital, while also encouraging them to come back to visit. (Susan Jaffe, 7/8)

5. Political Cartoon: 'Hold All The Cards?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Hold All The Cards?'" by Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

SNUFFED OUT

CVS to leave
Chamber of Commerce after
Smoking plan revealed.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Health Law's Contraceptive Coverage Requirements Show Significant Savings For Women

The average woman using the birth control pill saved $255 in the year after the requirement took effect, a new study found. A woman using an intrauterine device (IUD) saved $248.

The New York Times: After Health Care Act, Sharp Drop In Spending On Birth Control
Out-of-pocket spending on most major birth control methods fell sharply in the months after the Affordable Care Act began requiring insurance plans to cover contraception at no cost to women, a new study has found. Spending on the pill, the most popular form of prescription birth control, dropped by about half in the first six months of 2013, compared with the same period in 2012, before the mandate took effect. (Tavernise, 7/7)

Kaiser Health News: Birth Control Coverage Saves Women Significant Money
Women are saving a lot of money as a result of a health law requirement that insurance cover most forms of prescription contraceptives with no additional out-of-pocket costs, according to a study released Tuesday. But the amount of those savings and the speed with which those savings occurred surprised researchers. The study, in the July issue of the policy journal Health Affairs, found that the average birth control pill user saved $255 in the year after the requirement took effect. The average user of an intrauterine device (IUD) saved $248. Those savings represented a significant percentage of average out-of-pocket costs. (Rovner, 7/7)

The Huffington Post: Women Are Spending $1.4 Billion Less On Birth Control Due To Obamacare: Report
Spending on birth control has significantly decreased since the Affordable Care Act's mandate for insurance companies to cover contraception went into effect in August of 2012, according to a new report. An analysis published Tuesday in Health Affairs shows that women have saved $1.4 billion on birth control pills, while out-of-pocket spending on intrauterine devices has fallen 68 percent. Annual, out-of-pocket savings were $248 for IUDs and $255 annually for oral contraceptives. (Lachman, 7/7)

Meanwhile, a program that offered free or reduced-price birth control to young women may be running out of funding.

USA Today: Colo. Won't Fund Birth-Control Initiative Despite Success
A much-heralded Colorado effort credited with significantly reducing teen pregnancy and abortion rates is searching for new funding after GOP lawmakers declined to provide taxpayer dollars to keep it going. Started in 2009 with an anonymous private grant, the state-run Colorado Family Planning Initiative gave free or reduced-price IUDs or implantable birth control to more than 30,000 women. During the period from 2009 to 2013, births to teen mothers dropped by 40% and abortions dropped 35%, the state says. Armed with a national award for excellence, state health officials asked lawmakers this spring to provide $5 million to keep it going but were rebuffed. (Bowerman and Hughes, 7/7)

Also in the news: a profile of one of the architects of the legal challenge to the health law's subsidies, which were upheld by the Supreme Court last month.

The Philadelphia Inquirer: On Losing Side On ACA, This Lawyer Stays Cool
For a lawyer who has just lost what might be the most important legal case of the decade, Jonathan Adler seems unruffled. The Philadelphia native was one of a small group of architects of the latest and likely final serious challenge to President Obama's Affordable Care Act, a case the U.S. Supreme Court decided June 25 in the government's favor. (Mondics, 7/7)

7. Montana Releases Key Plans For Medicaid Expansion

The expansion, approved by the legislature in a bitter fight this year, will now undergo public review and then will be submitted to federal officials. Several aspects could raise concerns with the Obama administration, however. Also, Utah officials say they are not going to meet their self-imposed, end-of-the-month deadline to have a plan for Medicaid expansion.

(Helena) Independent Record: Big Tests Ahead For Montana Medicaid Expansion Plans
Montana’s plan to expand Medicaid to the working poor is under the public magnifying glass starting Tuesday, with the release of key documents needing federal approval. The state plans to offer Medicaid to as many as 70,000 working Montanans who can't afford insurance but currently make too much to qualify for Medicaid. The proposal, known as the HELP Act, narrowly passed the Montana Legislature in April and contains a couple of curve balls that federal officials haven’t agreed to. (Lutey, 7/7)

Montana Public Radio: Feds Unlikely To Approve Montana Medicaid Expansion Plan In Its Entirety
Montana’s legislature said yes to Medicaid expansion this spring, but the state’s expansion plan still needs approval by the federal government. Today, the state made the details of its expansion plan public, and is giving the public 60 days to comment on the plan before sending it to the White House. ... The waiver Montana is requesting asks for permission to do several things that are not standard Medicaid practice. Perhaps the most contentious is requiring new Medicaid recipients to pay a premium of up to 2% of their income in exchange for coverage. (Whitney, 7/7)

The Associated Press: Medicaid Expansion Moves Forward With Public Comment Period
The new law would accept federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility to ... Montanans with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $16,000 per year for an individual and $33,000 for a family of four. State officials said previously about 70,000 people would eligible but raised that estimate to 80,000 this week. ... In May, the Obama administration cited concerns about Montana's plan, but said it is willing to work with the state on solutions that are consistent with federal law. Agency spokesman Ben Wakana at the time said their priority will be to make sure that any waiver approval provides for coverage that is affordable and accessible for Montanans. (Bauman, 7/7)

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah Leaders Change Medicaid Expansion Deadline Again
Utah's governor and state lawmakers will miss their self-imposed, July 31 deadline to reach a deal on Medicaid expansion. Gov. Gary Herbert and a working group of GOP legislative leaders hope to pitch a compromise plan when the 2016 Legislature opens in January, House Majority Leader Jim Dunnigan said Tuesday. For several years, state leaders have been unable to craft a plan to provide health care to Utahns who fall into a coverage gap under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But many had pledged that this month's deadline was hard and fast. Now that, too, has been put off. (Knox, 7/7)

8. Consumer Group Asks Colo. To Cut Insurers' Proposed Premiums

The group says insurers can't justify premium increases of 20 to 30 percent. Also, North Carolina's largest insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, is eligible for $295 million in federal payouts related to the costs incurred by its sickest enrollees.

The Denver Post: Colorado Health Insurance Premium Requests Are Too High, Group Says
A Colorado consumer advocacy group says insurance companies proposing 20 percent to 30 percent price hikes on 2016 health benefit plans can't justify them. The pent-up demand for care unleashed in 2014 is lessening, the group said Tuesday. "We're asking the state to scrutinize the fact that they could have a healthier pool in 2015," said Colorado Consumer Health Initiative director Adela Flores-Brennan. (Draper, 7/7)

The Charlotte Observer: Blue Cross Eligible For $295M ACA Payout, Seeks Rate Increase
North Carolina’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, is eligible for nearly $295 million in federal payouts under the Affordable Care Act even as the company is seeking another rate increase in the state. The payouts, announced last week, come from a deal between the federal government and insurers to make the ACA more palatable to the industry by minimizing its financial risk. The architects of the 2010 insurance law expected some insurers to face significant cost overruns because the law bars insurers from turning away people with preexisting conditions and also caps rates charged to older customers. (Murawski, 7/7)

Capitol Hill Watch

9. Republican Lawmakers See Opening In Spending Bills To Thwart Obama

The efforts by Republican members of Congress seek to turn back a wide variety of administration initiatives, including implementation of the health law and other spending on health-related programs.

The New York Times: Republicans Aim To Hamper Obama’s Policies With Spending Bills
From environmental and work force regulations to health care and contraception, congressional Republicans are using spending bills to try to dismantle President Obama’s policies, setting up a fiscal feud this fall that could lead to a government shutdown. ... In the House, one bill prohibits any federal money from being spent on the Affordable Care Act. Funds for the enforcement of new labor rules would be drastically reduced. The main federal family planning program, Title X, would be eliminated. ... A “conscience” rider would let employers in the District of Columbia refuse health insurance coverage for any service on moral grounds, and hire and fire based on women’s use of health services. (Weisman, 7/7)

Meanwhile, hospitals fight back against the GAO's criticism of their use of a drug discount program.

Modern Healthcare: Hospitals Slam GAO Finding That 340B Drug Discounts Fuel Prescribing
Hospitals say the Government Accountability Office used faulty methodology when it found that hospitals that serve high numbers of low-income patients abuse a federal drug discount by overprescribing medications. HHS raised similar concerns about the findings. Hospitals that serve a disproportionate number of low-income patients have access to discounted prices on outpatient drugs through the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which is administered by HHS. (Dickson, 7/7)

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