First Edition: July 8, 2014

Today's headlines include reports that a federal judge in Wisconsin heard arguments in a health law challenge brought by a U.S. senator. 

Kaiser Health News: In Unhealthy Eastern Tennessee, Limited Patient Options Bring Some Of The Country's Cheapest Premiums
Kaiser Health News staff writer Jordan Rau reports: "Angela Allen's struggle to ease her neck pain has been a huge pain in the neck. Her regular spine doctor does not accept the new insurance she bought through the federal health marketplace. Allen, who has two slipped disks in her neck vertebrae, said the closest specialist she found who would see her and take her insurance works 34 miles away in another county. She belatedly learned that her physical therapist also is out of network and she owes $900. 'It's been a nightmare,' said Allen, a 42-year-old office manager" (Rau, 7/8).Read the story, which also appeared in The Atlantic.

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Some Plans Skew Drug Benefits To Drive Away Patients, Advocates Warn
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist Michelle Andrews writes: "Four Florida insurers allegedly discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS by structuring their prescription drug benefits so that patients are discouraged from enrolling, according to a recent complaint filed with federal officials. The complaint, filed with the Office for Civil Rights at the federal Department of Health and Human Services, claims that the insurers-;CoventryOne, Cigna, Humana and Preferred Medical-;violated the health law and federal civil rights laws by placing all covered HIV/AIDS drugs, including generics, in the highest drug tiers that require significant patient cost sharing. The complaint was made by the AIDS Institute and the National Health Law Program, which are health advocacy organizations" (Andrews, 7/8). Read the column.

The Wall Street Journal: Some Still Lack Coverage Under Health Law
Months after the sign-up deadline, thousands of Americans who purchased health insurance through the Affordable Care Act still don't have coverage due to problems in enrollment systems. In states including California, Nevada and Massachusetts, which are running their own online insurance exchanges, some consumers picked a private health plan and paid their premiums only to learn recently that they aren't insured (Armour, 7/7).

Los Angeles Times: Site Stumps 'Highly Educated' Millennials. Here Why
Millennials who struggled to sign up for health insurance on have some simple advice for the Obama administration: Make the website more like Yelp or TurboTax. President Obama famously told doubters that they could use the government's health insurance site to pick a health plan "the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak, same way you shop for a TV on Amazon." Speaking at a community college in Maryland last fall, he promised that the process was "real simple" (Kaplan, 7/7).

The Washington Post: Six Months Into Obamacare, Some D.C. Insurance Brokers Still Wait To Be Paid
When the District launched its federally mandated health insurance exchange last fall, officials went to great lengths to woo professional insurance brokers -; launching a special broker web portal, establishing a "concierge" hotline just for brokers and holding broker-only training classes. Despite those efforts, many brokers have yet to be paid for the policies they've sold through the exchange, known as D.C. Health Link -; generating frustration among professionals who say their patience in navigating the changes wrought by the Affordable Care Act has not been rewarded (DeBonis, 7/7).

The Associated Press: Missouri Governor Vetoes Health Navigator Limits
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation Monday that would have limited who could work in the state as a health insurance guide and blamed a national conservative group for injecting an error into the model legislation. The vetoed bill would have required criminal background checks for people applying for state licenses as enrollment aides for a federally run health insurance website. Anyone with past convictions involving fraud or dishonesty would have been barred from the jobs (7/7).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Awaits Another Court Ruling That Could Deal Blow To Health Law
President Obama's healthcare law could be dealt a severe blow this week if a U.S. appeals court rules that some low- and middle-income residents no longer qualify to receive promised government subsidies to pay for their health insurance. The case revolves around a legal glitch in the wording of the Affordable Care Act, which as written says that such subsidies may be paid only if the insurance is purchased through an "exchange established by the state" (7/7).

The Associated Press: Judge Hears Arguments In Health Care Lawsuit
A Wisconsin senator on Monday argued that his lawsuit challenging rules that call for congressional members and their employees to seek government-subsidized health insurance through small-business exchanges should be allowed to move forward. U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, an Oshkosh Republican, contends the rules twist the Affordable Care Act to ensure senators, representatives and their staffers continue to receive generous health insurance subsidies and place them above the American people (7/7).

Green Bay Press/Gazette/USA Today: Senator Gets Day In Court Against Obamacare
A federal judge will issue a decision "in short order" on whether a Republican senator's lawsuit against the Obama administration can proceed. Lawyers on both sides of the issue argued in Green Bay, Wis., for more than two hours Monday over whether U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., was harmed when the administration gave members of Congress and their staff subsidies to help pay for health insurance bought on the exchange (Srubas, 7/7).

Los Angeles Times: Abortion Buffer Zone Laws Begin Falling After Supreme Court Ruling
Less than two weeks after a Supreme Court ruling struck down a Massachusetts law requiring protesters to stay outside a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, cities around the country are moving to repeal similar laws or are not enforcing the buffer zones. That is leading abortion rights advocates to worry that women may not seek the medical care they need because of fear of being harassed or intimidated outside clinics (Semuels, 7/7).

Politico: Harry Reid: 'We're Going To Do Something' On Hobby Lobby
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that Democrats will take up legislation in the "coming weeks" to address last month's Supreme Court decision that allowed some employers with religious objections to opt out of Obamacare's contraception mandate. Democrats on Capitol Hill have overwhelmingly criticized the high court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case and are working to craft a response that would restore the coverage, though no specifics have yet been outlined (Kim, 7/7).

Detroit Free Press/USA Today: Hobby Lobby Ruling Boosts Eden Foods' Insurance Fight
Clinton, Mich.-based Eden Foods, a natural foods company that makes soy milk and other organic products, appears on track to win its fight with the federal government over funding insurance coverage of contraception in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's controversial Hobby Lobby ruling. Last week, after its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a judgment against Eden Foods and sent a lawsuit back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for further consideration (Snavely, 7/7).

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog: Polarized Reaction To Wheaton College Injunction
On the eve of Independence Day, the Supreme Court issued a temporary order giving an Illinois Christian school a way to avoid an arrangement offered by the Obama administration to religious nonprofits that object to health-care law's contraception-coverage requirements. The reprieve granted to Wheaton College -; accompanied by an unusual 17-page dissent by the court's three female justices -; could complicate efforts to sort out dozens of legal challenges tied to religious objections to the Affordable Care Act, says WSJ's Jess Bravin (Gershman, 7/7).

Politico: VA Whistleblowers To Detail Retribution
House lawmakers will hear testimony on Tuesday from whistleblowers who accuse the Department of Veterans Affairs of retaliating against them for exposing shoddy medical care. he VA would often force whistleblowers into administrative leave after they raised concerns about lagging health care quality stemming from overworked nurses or under-staffed medical centers, according to testimony from four witnesses set to testify before the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs (French, 7/8).

The Wall Street Journal: Jump In Appeals Dog The VA's Progress On Disability Claims
The next secretary of Veterans Affairs will face well-known problems of mismanagement at VA hospitals and long waits for doctor appointments, but also will be confronted by an issue former Secretary Eric Shinseki hailed as a success: faster processing of disability claims. Under Mr. Shinseki, the VA slashed the backlog for things such as compensation claims for injuries sustained while in the service. But that progress masked a 60% jump in outstanding appeals of denied claims and a slowdown in processing claims for things like adding dependents to veterans' files, VA data show (Kesling, 7/7).

27/7 Wall St./USA Today: Countries Spending The Most On Health Care
The United States currently spends more per person on health care than any other developed country. Health outcomes in the U.S., however, are among the worst (Allen, 7/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Cuomo Signs Bill Legalizing Medical Marijuana
New York on Monday became the 23rd state to legalize certain forms of marijuana for medical reasons as Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation into law at an event in Manhattan. The measure, which passed both houses of the legislature during the final moments of the legislative session, in June, is significantly more restrictive than other medical-marijuana laws in the nation (Orden, 7/7).

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.
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