Kaiser Health News Original Stories

4. Political Cartoon: 'Wouldn't Want To Be Ya?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Wouldn't Want To Be Ya?'" by Chris Browne.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

STATUS UPDATE

Hey, hey LBJ!
How many insured today?
More than sixty mil.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

5. More Competition, Less Inflation: Cost Of Insurance Curbed On Exchanges With More Consumer Choice

A new report finds that more people who enrolled in health insurance on the federally run marketplaces in 2015 had a greater number of plans to pick from than the previous year. That increased competition helped keep down premium increases.

The New York Times: Increased Competition Kept Lid On Health Insurance Inflation, U.S. Says
The Obama administration said on Thursday that many consumers were benefiting from increased competition among insurers under the Affordable Care Act. Most people who bought insurance through the federal marketplace had a greater choice of health plans this year than in 2014, the administration said, and premiums rose less in counties where more insurers were competing for business. (Pear, 7/30)

The Washington Post: HHS: More Competition On Insurance Exchanges Curbed Premium Rise
Most Americans who signed up for coverage on the federally run health insurance marketplaces had more choice of health plans in 2015 compared with the previous year, and the increased competition helped hold down the growth in premiums, according to a report released Thursday by federal officials. In 2015, 86 percent of consumers could choose from plans offered by at least three insurers, up from 70 percent in 2014. Premiums increased an average of just 2 percent for one of the most popular types of plans between 2014 and 2015. (Sun, 7/30)

USA Today: Report: Competition On ACA Federal Exchange Rose Between 2014 And 2015
Competition among insurers offering plans on the federal health care exchange rose between last year and this year, tamping down growth in premiums, says a federal report released Thursday. Meena Seshamani, director of the Office of Health Reform in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, calls that good news. "We want to promote competition and choice for consumers," she says. (Ungar, 7/30)

CQ Healthbeat: HHS: Cost Of Health Law Coverage Fell With More Competition
Increased competition among insurers vying for customers on the health law’s insurance exchanges helped drive down premiums in 2015, the Health and Human Services Department said in a report Thursday. During the 2015 open enrollment period, 86 percent of consumers shopping on the exchanges established by the overhaul could choose from at least three issuers, up from 70 percent in 2014, according to the report on competition and choice. (Zanona, 7/30)

6. Republican Governors Press Medicaid Expansion Proposals, Despite Continued Opposition In Party

In states like Utah, Wyoming and Georgia, Republican governors are still trying to find a path forward to broadening the health care program for the poor. Virginia's governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, is bracing for another round with his Republican-majority legislature which has previously blocked such efforts.

Bloomberg: Republican Governors Buck Party Tenets To Seek Expanded Medicaid
Republican governors are pressing forward to expand Medicaid even after being stymied by lawmakers in their own party. As the Obama administration vows to help develop plans that will pass muster with conservatives, the governors of Utah and Wyoming said they still want the health care program for the poor broadened. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who declined to act in 2013, may seek a federal waiver to make insurance available to more residents. Louisiana's Republican legislature also opened a legal door. (Niquette and Newkirk, 7/30)

The Associated Press: McAuliffe Set For Renewed Push For Medicaid Expansion
Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe says he'll make a renewed push to expand Medicaid now that Republican primaries are over and the U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a decision upholding the Affordable Care Act. McAuliffe said Thursday in a conference call with reporters that the Republican lawmakers who have previously blocked Medicaid expansion will be more open to compromise during next year's legislative session. (Suderman, 7/30)

In Arizona, a court case could impact a funding source for the state's Medicaid expansion -

The Associated Press: Judge Mulls Challenge To Arizona Medicaid Plan Hospital Fee
A lawyer representing 36 Republican lawmakers told a judge Thursday that keeping a hospital assessment in effect to help fund the state's Medicaid expansion would gut a voter-approved law requiring a two-thirds vote for tax increases. Christine Sandefur, of the Goldwater Institute, urged Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Gerlach to rule that the hospital assessment that became law in 2013 was unconstitutional because it passed with only a bare majority. A 1998 constitutional amendment called Proposition 108 requires tax increases to be passed by a supermajority. "The voters passed Prop 108 specifically to have it apply across the board, even in emergency situations, even programs for the poor," Sandefur told Gerlach. "And to exempt the provider tax here really creates a serious loophole. It leads the court to read two provisions contrary to each other and allows the Legislature to give ultimate discretion to an unelected, appointed administrator." (Christie, 7/30)

The Arizona Republic: Key Question In Arizona Medicaid Fight: Is Fee A Tax?
When is a fee a tax? That question is at the heart of a case argued Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court that will ultimately land before the state Supreme Court and could profoundly influence state policy. Depending on the outcome, it could also put the health coverage of nearly 350,000 Arizonans in peril. (Pitzl, 7/30)

7. Health Law Takes Bite Out Of California's Uninsured Population, Survey Finds

The Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that more than two-thirds of Californians who didn't have health insurance before the Affordable Care Act have since gained coverage. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Foundation.)

Los Angeles Times: Two-Thirds Of Uninsured Californians Gain Coverage After Obamacare Rollout
More than two-thirds of Californians uninsured before the Affordable Care Act now have coverage, a new report finds. “For people that didn’t have health insurance, California has been very successful in enrolling two-thirds of that group,” said Mollyann Brodie, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which released the survey's findings Thursday. “But the group that is left is a harder-to-reach group.” (Karlamangla, 7/30)

San Francisco Chronicle: Two-Thirds Of State’s Uninsured Before Health Law Are Now Covered
Two-thirds of Californians who were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act went into effect now have health coverage, according to a study released Thursday. The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation has followed more than 1,100 Californians who lacked health insurance as of September 2013 through the first two coverage enrollment periods, the latest of which ended in February. (Colliver, 7/30)

Capitol Hill Watch

8. Senate Could Vote As Soon As Monday On Bill To Defund Planned Parenthood

The continuing controversy over the organization's involvement in fetal tissue research and the release of covert videos by anti-abortion activists is stirring abortion-related politics on Capitol Hill. News outlets report that the backlash could lead to threats of a government shutdown and a presidential veto.

The Wall Street Journal: Senate To Vote As Soon As Monday On Defunding Planned Parenthood
The Senate will vote as early as Monday on a bill to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding, a largely symbolic vote causing pain for centrists in both parties and drawing fire
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