First Edition: June 13, 2014

Today's headlines include various updates on what Virginia lawmakers did in an attempt to resolve the state's budget impasse and Medicaid expansion debate. 

Kaiser Health News: A Reader Asks: As An Immigrant In The U.S. Illegally, Can I Buy Insurance?
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews answers this reader's question (6/13). Read her response.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: PhRMA, Advocates: Specialty Drug Costs For Patients Too High
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Lisa Gillespie reports: "Here's the next salvo in the back and forth between insurers and the drug industry over drug prices: the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America are pushing the Department of Health and Human Services to take action to protect consumers who have gained insurance via the health law's online marketplaces from high, out-of-pocket costs for specialty drugs" (Gillespie, 6/12). Check out what else is on the blog.

Politico: Obamacare Hill Subsidy Case To Go To Court
A long-running fight involving Obamacare coverage for Hill staff and lawmakers is getting its day in court this summer. Sen. Ron Johnson's lawsuit against the Obama administration policy that allows the federal government to pay for a portion of lawmakers' and staffers' health insurance policies in the Obamacare exchanges will go before a Wisconsin district court judge on July 7 (Haberkorn, 6/12).

Los Angeles Times: Anthem's Obamacare Rates To Increase Less Than 10% In California
In the strongest indication yet where Obamacare rates are headed, industry giant Anthem Blue Cross said its California premiums for individual coverage will increase less than 10% on average next year. Health insurance rates in California during the initial rollout of the Affordable Care Act were better than expected, helping boost enrollment to 1.4 million people in the Covered California exchange (Terhune, 6/12).

Los Angeles Times: Share Of CSU Students Who Now Have Healthcare Exceeds Expectations
During the open enrollment period that ended in April, some officials worried that if not enough young, healthy people signed up for coverage, insurance companies would be left with too many sick and expensive customers, which would eventually cause carriers to raise premiums. According to a poll released Thursday, at the 15 largest CSU campuses, approximately 30% of students were uninsured before enrollment began, and 10% were uninsured after. The drop accounts for 60,000 students who became insured, and illustrates the late surge of young people who signed up for policies (Karlamangla, 6/12).

The Associated Press: Virginia Passes Budget With Medicaid Restriction
The General Assembly passed a new state budget late Thursday night after adopting a Republican-backed amendment to ensure that Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe cannot expand Medicaid without legislative approval. The action just before midnight closed a tumultuous day of internal GOP wrangling over the last-minute amendment and ended a protracted budget impasse that had threatened to shut down state government when the current spending plan expires June 3 (6/13).

The Washington Post: After Hours Of Strife, Lawmakers Pass Budget Without Medicaid Expansion
The Virginia General Assembly adopted a long-delayed state budget late Thursday, acting after an hours-long debate among newly ascendant Senate Republicans who fought among themselves over whether the plan threw up sufficient barriers to Medicaid expansion. The Republicans, who gained control of the Senate Monday when a Democrat resigned from what had been an evenly split chamber, approved a spending deal hashed out by a bipartisan group of House and Senate negotiators. But they first amended it in a way intended to make it harder to expand the federal-state healthcare program for the poor under the federal Affordable Care Act -; Gov. Terry McAuliffe's top legislative priority (Vozzella, 6/13).

The Washington Post: Advocates For Poor Hope To Revive Debate Over Expanding Medicaid In Virginia
Advocates for the poor are pushing to revive the debate over expanding Medicaid coverage in Virginia even as lawmakers in Richmond passed a budget Thursday that strips out the additional health-care coverage. In rallies and candlelight vigils across the state, the advocates are highlighting the stories of some of the 400,000 low-income patients in Virginia who they say would be newly eligible for the government-funded program (Olivo, 6/12).

Politico: Poll: Fixing VA Health Care Top Issue
The most widespread legislative concern for Americans is improving health care for veterans, a new poll says. According to a Gallup poll released Friday, 87 percent of Americans say it is extremely or very important for the White House and Congress to address health care services for veterans. Among the nine options presented in the survey, improving care for veterans scored 15 percent higher than the second-place issue, equal pay legislation for women (Topaz, 6/13).

The Associated Press: Outside The VA, Waits For Doctors Can Vary Widely
It's not just veterans who sometimes have to wait for health care. Depending on where you live and what kind of care you want, in parts of the country it's not always easy for new patients to get a quick appointment. Need routine primary care? The average wait to see a family physician for the first time ranged from 66 days in Boston to just five days in Dallas, according to a survey in 15 large cities by health care consulting firm Merritt Hawkins. And doctors are bracing for new demand from millions of people newly insured through the federal health care law (6/13).

The Wall Street Journal's Pharmalot: Will Oregon Restrict Coverage for a Pricey Gilead Pill for Hepatitis C?
Mention the Sovaldi hepatitis C pill to insurers and you are certain to hear complaints. The Gilead Sciences treatment has excited Wall Street amid the promise of a booming, multi-billion-dollar market for drugs to cure the disease. But the flip side of this excitement is a great of fretting over the cost – $84,000 per patient. Even though Gilead argues this is cheaper than alternative remedies, such as liver transplants, payers are complaining to no end (Silverman, 6/12).

The Wall Street Journal: Governors Remain Cautious On Spending, Even As Tax Collections Grow
When states decide to increase spending, they often boost funding for K-12 and higher education. More money is also going to healthcare programs for poor and disabled residents. Enrollment in Medicaid has jumped in part because of the federal healthcare law, which pumps more money into the states to expand the number of residents who are covered. The association expects the Medicaid rolls to grow by 18.9% from 2013 through 2015 (Peters, 6/12).

Propublica/NPR: New Jersey Ambulance Companies Take Medicare For A Ride
To grasp Medicare's staggering bill for ambulance rides in New Jersey, just visit the busy parking lot of the DaVita St. Joseph's dialysis clinic in Paterson. More than 20 ambulances were parked outside on a recent morning there. Emergency medical technicians wheeled patients in and out on stretchers. As soon as one ambulance departed, another took its place (Ornstein, 6/13).

Politico: Abortion Becomes Issue In Louisiana Senate
Louisiana's rightward tilt on abortion rights is opening up one of the brightest political contrasts in the race between Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. The rivals have, for now, battled to a stalemate on some of Louisiana's parochial issues like flood insurance and energy expansion. But Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) Thursday signing of restrictive abortion rights legislation is underscoring the yawning gap between the two candidates on social issues (Everett, 6/12).

The Associated Press: Louisiana: Governor Signs New Abortion Restrictions
Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday signed into law new restrictions against abortion, saying they will protect women and the unborn. The biggest change will require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a hospital that is within 30 miles of where the procedure is performed and that provides obstetric or gynecological health services (6/12).

The New York Times: Anti-Overdose Drug Becoming An Everyday Part Of Police Work
Once the exclusive purview of paramedics and emergency room doctors, administering lifesaving medication to drug users in the throes of an overdose is quickly becoming an everyday part of police work amid a national epidemic of heroin and opioid pill abuse (Goodman and Hartocollis, 6/12).

The Associated Press: Hearing Probes Jail Violence, Mental Health Care
New York City lawmakers peppered correction and health officials with questions about how to reduce violence and better care for a growing mentally ill inmate population in the nation's second-largest jail system during a specially called oversight hearing Thursday. In three hours of testimony, the commissioners for the departments of correction and health and mental hygiene detailed both the bureaucratic inner-workings of how their two agencies, tasked respectively with both the custody and health care of roughly 11,000 daily inmates, interact now -; and what they can do better to reform a jail system advocates, lawmakers and even the department of correction commissioner himself have called troubled (6/12).

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.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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