Kaiser Health News Original Stories

3. Consumer Confusion Continues In Obamacare’s Third Year

Officials are reaching out to people who sat on the sidelines for the first two years of the health law, and they are finding the law is still not well understood – and, for some, insurance is still too expensive. (Fred Mogul, WNYC, 11/9)

6. Political Cartoon: 'Prank Gone Wrong'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Prank Gone Wrong'" by Jerry King.

Here's today's health policy haiku:

OBAMACARE OPPONENTS IN VA., KY. FLEX BALLOT-BOX MUSCLE

The votes are counted
And in two states the health law
Suffered a setback.

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Health Law Issues And Implementation

7. High Court To Hear Challenge To Health Law's Contraception Mandate

This will mark the fourth time a provision of the 2010 federal health overhaul has been challenged before the Supreme Court.

The New York Times: Supreme Court To Hear New Case On Contraception And Religion
The Supreme Court on Friday once again entered the conflict between religious freedom and access to contraception, taking up a case about whether some religious employers must provide free insurance coverage for birth control. The new case concerns religious objections to a requirement under the Affordable Care Act that employers provide coverage for contraception to their female workers or face fines. Houses of worship, including churches, temples and mosques, are automatically exempt from the requirement and do not have to file any paperwork. But the new case concerns a second category of institutions — nonprofit groups like schools and hospitals that are affiliated with religious organizations. (Liptak, 11/6)

The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court To Review Contraception Compromise In Health Law
In taking up a series of lawsuits on the issue, the justices brought the 2010 health-care overhaul back before the justices for the fourth time since its passage. The court will review whether the contraception rules are at odds with a federal law on religious freedom, thrusting a contentious social issue further into the limelight in an election year and raising the prospect of further changes to the health law. (Kendall and Radnofsky, 11/6)

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Accepts Challenge To Health Law’s Contraceptive Mandate
The Obama administration says it has provided the organizations with an easy way to opt out of the legal requirement that employers include contraceptives as part of health insurance coverage. Employers who object must make clear their religious objections and let insurance companies and the government take over from there. But the groups say even that step would implicate them in what they believe to be a sin, adding that they face ruinous fines if they refuse to comply. They want to be included under the blanket exemption from providing the coverage that the government has extended to churches and solely religious groups. (Barnes, 11/6)

Los Angeles Times: U.S. Supreme Court Dives Back Into The Fight Over Contraceptives And Obamacare
The Obama administration has stood fast on the so-called contraceptive mandate, insisting that women employees and students must have access to birth control through their insurance. Providing contraceptives free of charge will greatly reduce unwanted pregnancies and abortions, they say. And, they argue, it's one thing for the religious institutions to say they should not be required to pay for contraceptive coverage. It's quite another for them to refuse even to notify the government so that other arrangements can be made. (Savage, 11/6)

Politico: Supreme Court To Take Up Challenge To Obamacare's Contraception Mandate
The justices combined seven similar cases from groups that include the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns that runs nursing homes. Their lawsuit has received the most media attention of any of the birth control cases. By accepting so many of the challenges, the court is giving a significant amount of attention to the case. The challenge is very similar to the Hobby Lobby case the Supreme Court heard in 2014. The justices ruled last year that the law’s contraception coverage requirement violated for-profit businesses’ rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This suit, however, deals with how groups with some religious ties — such as Catholic service groups or evangelical colleges — have to comply with the birth control rule. (Haberkorn, 11/6)

PBS NewsHour: SCOTUS To Hear Contraceptive Mandate Case
Among the challengers are the Little Sisters of the Poor, nuns who run more than two dozen nursing homes for impoverished seniors. The administration has argued that the accommodation it came up with does not violate the nonprofits’ religious rights. Even if the Supreme Court rejects that argument, the administration has said in court papers, the justices should determine that the system for getting contraceptives to women covered by the groups’ insurance plans is the most effective and efficient way to do so. (Sherman, 11/6)

NBC News: Supreme Court To Hear New Challenge To Obamacare
The Little Sisters object to playing any role in the process of making birth control pills and devices available to their employees or students, even the limited one under the government's accommodation. They want the same kind of total exemption given to churches. Joined by other religiously affiliated groups, the nuns say even under the accommodation, they must still take steps to ensure that the employees covered by their insurance plans get contraceptive coverage. (Williams, 11/6)

The Denver Post: High Court Will Hear Little Sisters Of The Poor Birth Control Case
Seven of eight federal appeals courts have agreed with the administration that requiring the faith-based groups to make their objection known and identify their insurer or insurance administrator does not violate a federal religious freedom law. Only the appeals court in St. Louis ruled for the groups, saying they probably have a right to refuse to comply with the administration rules. (11/6)

The Texas Tribune: Supreme Court To Decide Birth Control Mandate
The Affordable Care Act, or the ACA, requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer health plans with “minimum essential coverage,” including access to federally approved contraception for women, without copayments or deductibles. Under federal religious freedom laws, religious nonprofits can seek “accommodations” to be exempted from the contraceptive mandate by submitting a form or notification certifying the organization’s objection to paying for contraception coverage on religious grounds. (Ura and Walters, 11/6)

8. White House Launches Health Law Enrollment Contest

This Obama administration campaign targets 20 cities with high rates of uninsured people eligible for marketplace coverage. The community that signs up the most people will not only get bragging rights, but also a presidential visit.

USA Today: Obama Says He'll Visit City With Most Obamacare Sign-Ups
President Obama wants YOU to help get more people signed up for Obamacare. Beginning the third year of open enrollment on the public health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act, the White House is rolling out a new strategy to boost participation above the elusive 10 million mark. (Korte, 11/7)

9. Insurance Commissioners Call For Health Plans To Expand Their Networks Of Providers

The commissioners are recommending new standards to make sure consumers have adequate access to doctors and hospitals, The New York Times reports. In other news about the marketplaces' enrollment, a look at a novel plan in Portland, the problems left when New York's co-op closes and a variety of stories to help guide consumers picking a plan.

The New York Times: Regulators Urge Broader Health Networks
The nation’s insurance commissioners are recommending sweeping new standards to address complaints from consumers about limited access to doctors and hospitals in health plans sold under the Affordable Care Act. Limited networks of health care providers are a feature of many insurance policies offered in the public marketplaces, or exchanges, where people with low incomes can often obtain subsidies that reduce their monthly premiums to $100 or less. Such “narrow networks,” consumers say, often do not include the doctors they need for specialized care for themselves or their children. (Pear, 11/8)