First Edition: June 19, 2013

Today's headlines include reports the development of the health law's online marketplaces is falling behind schedule. 

Kaiser Health News: Patients Lead The Way As Medicine Grapples With Apps
WBUR's Martha Bebinger, working in partnership with Kaiser Health News and NPR, reports: "Health apps such as My Fitness Pal are turning smartphones and tablets into exercise aides, blood pressure monitors and devices that transmit an EKG. And the day is not far off when doctors may be suggesting apps along with prescribing drugs to help patients manage their health. But the explosion of apps is way ahead of tests to determine which ones work" (Bebinger, 6/18). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Young Adults Value Health Insurance, Poll Finds; Brill: Law Won't Bring Prices Down For Patients
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jordan Rau reports on poll findings regarding young adults feelings about health insurance: "A strong majority of young adults, whose participation in the health law may be key to its success or failure, strongly believe health insurance is important for them and worth the money, according to a new poll. As some states and the federal government prepare new online marketplaces for people to purchase insurance this fall, the willingness of young people to buy coverage has been a topic of great uncertainty. Their participation in these marketplaces is considered crucial, since the young tend to be healthier than older people and, therefore, will use fewer medical resources, allowing their premiums to help subsidize the care of the old and sick" (Rau, 6/19).

Also on Capsules, Alvin Tran reports on journalist Stephen Brill's Senate testimony on health care pricing: "At a Capitol Hill hearing Tuesday, journalist Steven Brill, who examined the issue of the high cost of health care in a much quoted March 2013 Time magazine article, told Senate Finance Committee members that President Barack Obama's health care law will do very little to lower prices for consumers" (Tran, 6/18). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Associated Press: Gov't Report: Smooth Launch Unsure For Health Law
There's no guarantee that President Barack Obama's health care law will launch smoothly and on time, congressional investigators say in the first in-depth independent look at its progress. But in a report to be released Wednesday, the congressional Government Accountability Office also sees positive signs as the Oct. 1 deadline approaches for new health insurance markets called exchanges to open in each state -; in many cases over the objections of Republican governors (Alonso-Zaldivar, 6/19).

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Insurance Exchanges Are Falling Behind Schedule
Government officials have missed several deadlines in setting up new health-insurance exchanges for small businesses and consumers-;a key part of the federal health overhaul-;and there is a risk they won't be ready to open on time in October, Congress's watchdog arm said. The Government Accountability Office said federal and state health officials still have major work to complete, offering its most cautious comments to date about the Obama administration's ability to bring the centerpiece of its signature law to fruition (Radnofsky and Needleman, 6/19).

The Washington Post: Groups Launch Multimillion Dollar Push To Promote Health-Care law, Sign Up The Uninsured
The race is on to sign up uninsured Americans for health-care coverage this fall, with a number of large national advocacy groups launching aggressive, multimillion-dollar campaigns this summer aimed at promoting President Obama's health-care law. The groups are buying television ads, tapping social networks, training hundreds of new workers and volunteers and developing online and on-the-ground efforts akin to an enormous, months-long get-out-the-vote campaign. They aim to raise awareness in preparation for a big push leading up to open enrollment Oct. 1, when people can begin signing up for insurance plans and government subsidies available under the law (Somashekhar, 6/18).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Enroll America Launches Health-Insurance Push
The group will hold at least 50 events in 18 states over the next few days including a farmer's market in Austin, Texas, private homes in Florida and Tennessee, churches in New Jersey and Texas, at least one doctor's office in Delaware and an Irish pub in Cincinnati to discuss the health law and recruit additional volunteers to join in the effort. Events and door-to-door campaigning will continue throughout the summer. Ms. Filipic side-stepped questions Tuesday about how much the group plans to spend on enrollment outreach efforts (Dooren, 6/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Nonprofit Launches 'Get Covered America' Campaign To Reach Uninsured About Health Care Law
A nonprofit group helping to spread the word about President Barack Obama's health care overhaul launched a campaign Tuesday that will target states with high numbers of uninsured Americans and tackle their skepticism with straightforward messages. The "Get Covered America" campaign will include door-to-door visits by volunteers, brochures handed out at farmers markets and churches and, possibly, partnerships with sports leagues and celebrities, said Anne Filipic, a former White House official who recently became president of Enroll America, the group sponsoring the campaign (6/18).

Politico: Selling Of Obamacare Officially Begins
The nonprofit organization spearheading the effort to enroll Americans under President Barack Obama's health care law officially started Tuesday, with more than 50 events scheduled this week across the country in settings ranging from farmers' markets to churches. Enroll America, which is led by several former Obama campaign staffers, plans to target the uninsured in multiple ways: knocking on doors, advertising on television and radio and partnering with churches, civic groups, hospitals and celebrities (Haberkorn, 6/19).

Politico: White House Seeks NBA Assist On Obamacare
Could LeBron James be the next spokesman for Obamacare? The Obama administration has reached out to the NBA about a potential marketing partnership to promote the health law, POLITICO has learned (Cheney, 6/19).

The Wall Street Journal: CBO: Senate Immigration Bill To Save $175 Billion
Mr. Sessions said that while many illegal immigrants would be barred from receiving health-care benefits for at least 10 years, they could become eligible in later years. Mr. Sessions also said the CBO didn't provide enough information to explain why illegal immigrants who gain legal status under the bill would pay more to the government than they receive in welfare payments or in entitlements, such as Medicare (Murray and Peterson, 6/18).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: Keeping Undocumented Immigrants Off The Dole Is Easier Said Than Done
A new report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities highlights amendments by Rubio, and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala). (Sessions's amendments were rejected in committee, and he's likely to oppose the bill.) Rubio is a Gang of Eight member, and Hatch voted for the bill in committee, but both have signaled that their support is tentative and that they could oppose the final bill. The lawmakers have three amendments that deal with benefits. The first prevents Social Security and Medicare taxes paid by undocumented immigrants who are then legalized from counting toward benefits upon those citizens' retirement (Matthews, 6/18).

NPR: House Passes Bill That Would Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks
The House has passed one of the most far-reaching abortion bills in decades. But it's unlikely to ever become law. By a mostly party-line vote Tuesday of 228-196, lawmakers passed the "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," which would ban nearly all abortions starting 20 weeks after fertilization (Rovner, 6/18).

The Wall Street Journal: House Votes To Put New Limits On Abortions
The bill, which would ban abortion after a fetus is 20 weeks old, returns the spotlight to an issue that bedeviled the GOP in the 2012 elections, when some Republicans' comments about abortions resulting from rape cost the party support among women. The House vote was 228-196, with 6 Democrats joining 222 Republicans in support. Opposing the measure were 190 Democrats and 6 Republicans (Hook, 6/18).

USA Today: House Passes Far-Reaching Bill To Limit Abortions
The bill included an exemption for women who get pregnant through rape or incest as long as they first report the sexual assault to legal authorities. It was added at the last minute by House Republican leaders after a broader Democratic amendment to add the exemption was defeated in the House Judiciary Committee last week. "It shows a distrust of women and a lack of the reality of sexual assaults," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., regarding the legal conditions placed on the exemption (Davis, 6/18).

Politico: House Oks 20-Week Abortion Ban Bill
The House Tuesday passed a bill that would ban most abortions nationwide after 20 weeks. The most far-reaching abortion legislation in the House in a decade, it was passed 228-196, mostly along party lines. The vote is largely symbolic: The bill will be dead on arrival in the Senate. And the White House has already threatened to veto the "fetal pain" legislation, which is based on the controversial assertion that a fetus can feel pain at that stage of development (Smith and Gibson, 6/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Study: Wiser Medication Use Could Save US $213 Billion A Year In Avoidable Health Care Costs
If doctors and patients used prescription drugs more wisely, they could save the U.S. health care system at least $213 billion a year, by reducing medication overuse, underuse and other flaws in care that cause complications and longer, more-expensive treatments, researchers conclude (6/19).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: July 1 Brings Changes to Way Diabetics On Medicare Purchase Blood Testing Supplies
Medicare begins a major change next month that could save older diabetics money and time when they buy crucial supplies to test their blood sugar -; but it also may cause some confusion as patients figure out the new system. On July 1, Medicare opens a national mail-order program that will dramatically drop the prices the government pays for those products but patients will have to use designated suppliers. The goal is to save taxpayers money but seniors should see their copays drop, too (6/18).

The New York Times: A.M.A. Recognizes Obesity As A Disease
The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease, a move that could induce physicians to pay more attention to the condition and spur more insurers to pay for treatments. In making the decision, delegates at the association's annual meeting in Chicago overrode a recommendation against doing so by a committee that had studied the matter (Pollack, 6/18).

USA Today: Medical Group Recognizes Obesity As A Disease
Experts in obesity have struggled for years to have obesity recognized as a disease that deserves medical attention and insurance coverage as do other diseases. Previously the AMA and others have referred to obesity as "a major public health problem" (Hellmich, 6/18).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Ark. AG Asks State's High Court To Uphold $1.2B Fine Against Johnson & Johnson, Subsidiary
Arkansas' attorney general filed a brief Tuesday backed by his counterparts in 35 other states asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to uphold a $1.2 billion fine levied against Johnson & Johnson and a subsidiary over the marketing of the antipsychotics drug Risperdal (6/18).

The Associated Press/Wall Street Journal: NY Agency To Pay $1 million Over Unqualified Aides
Federal and New York state authorities have announced a $1 million settlement with a Brooklyn agency that used untrained health aides to care for elderly and disabled clients. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch announced the settlement with Parkshore Home Health Care on Tuesday (6/18).

The Wall Street Journal: Abortion Measure May Get A Vote In New York State Senate
Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed late Tuesday night to split the governor's Women's Equality Act into 10 separate bills to be voted on individually, setting the stage for a showdown over the proposal's most controversial provision, a measure to amend the state's abortion laws. The tactic represented an 11th-hour attempt to force an up or down vote on the abortion-rights plank, an issue that legislative observers and even Mr. Cuomo himself had said was dying in the closing days of Capitol's lawmaking session (Orden, 6/18).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



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