First Edition: August 14, 2014

Today's headlines include a report about an uptick in VA referrals to private physicians.

Kaiser Health News: Hospitals Seek To Help Consumers With Obamacare Premiums
Kaiser Health News staff writer Julie Appleby reports: "Some hospitals in New York, Florida and Wisconsin are exploring ways to help individuals and families pay their share of the costs of government-subsidized policies purchased though the health law's marketplaces – at least partly to guarantee the hospitals get paid when the consumers seek care. But the hospitals' efforts have set up a conflict with insurers, who worry that premium assistance programs will skew their enrollee pools by expanding the number of sicker people who need more services" (Appleby, 8/14). Read the story, which also appeared on CNN Money.

The Wall Street Journal: Health Law Spurs Paperwork Crunch
Backers of the health-care law say they are rushing to make sure tens of thousands of people provide more documents to prove they are in the U.S. legally and therefore entitled to the coverage they obtained through Immigrant advocates say they felt the Obama administration moved hastily in announcing Tuesday it would cut off health insurance for up to 310,000 people who signed up for plans through online exchanges run by the federal government if they don't send additional information in the next few weeks showing they are U.S. citizens or legal residents (Radnofsky, 8/13).

Politico: Solving A 2014 Obamacare Problem Pushes Premium Hikes In 2015
The Obama administration's effort to end one political crisis during the 2014 Obamacare rollout may have sown the seeds of another controversy: potential double-digit rate hikes in 2015. If insurers have their way, some residents in politically key states like Florida, North Carolina and Iowa would face hikes of 11 percent to nearly 18 percent -; far beyond the average 7.5 percent increase in proposed rates for much of the country (Norman, 8/13).

Los Angeles Times: Health Insurance Giant Wellpoint Renames Itself Anthem
The change is expected to take place by the end of the year. It is subject to a special shareholder vote Nov. 5. Indianapolis-based WellPoint, the nation's second-largest health insurer by enrollment, was a major player during the initial rollout of Obamacare (Terhune, 8/13).

The Associated Press: VA Referrals To Private Doctors On Rise
The Department of Veterans Affairs is significantly increasing its referrals of veterans to private doctors following a scandal over lengthy patient waiting times at many VA hospitals and clinics and falsified appointment records, VA Secretary Robert McDonald said Wednesday. McDonald spoke to a few hundred people at the American Veterans national convention. He is scheduled to visit the city's VA hospital on Thursday (8/13).

The Wall Street Journal's Pharmalot: Sovaldi Debate Hurts Access For Opioid Treatment Patients
The tussle over the cost of the Sovaldi hepatitis C medication may prevent yet another segment of the population from being treated – people who are enrolled in opioid treatment programs. Although the drug has shown evidence of curing nine of 10 sufferers and the product labeling does not suggest Sovaldi is not safe for these patients, payers are balking at covering the medicine for people with a history of a substance use disorder, according to Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly (Silverman, 8/13).

NPR: Who Gets First Dibs On Transplanted Liver? Rules May Change
Hornbuckle and Wright are among more than 12,000 Americans are waiting for a liver transplant because their own is failing, thanks to conditions such as hepatitis, cancer or cirrhosis. But only about 6,000 livers are donated each year. So, each year, hundreds of patients like Hornbuckle and Wright die while waiting. And not everyone has the same chance to get a liver. It depends a lot on where you live (Stein, 8/14).

The Associated Press: Mississippi: State Asks Full Court To Reconsider Abortion Ruling
Mississippi is asking a federal appeals court to uphold a state law requiring doctors at abortion clinics to obtain privileges to admit patients to local hospitals (8/13).

Kaiser Health News/ Los Angeles Times: California's Medi-Cal Explosion
California is coming face to face with the reality of one of its biggest Obamacare successes: the explosion in Medi-Cal enrollment. The numbers -; 2.2 million enrollees since January -; surprised healthcare experts and created unforeseen challenges for state officials. Altogether, there are now about 11 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries, constituting nearly 30% of the state's population (Gorman, 8/13).

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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