First Edition: September 3, 2014

Today's headlines include reports about how insurers and consumers are bracing for round two as the health law's online insurance marketplaces prepare for open enrollment season.

Kaiser Health News: Enrolling People In Obamacare Who Have No 'Concept Of Insurance'
Reporting for Kaiser Health News, Marissa Evans writes: "Signing people up for health insurance is the easy part of Rawha Abouarabi's job ministering to immigrants and Arab Americans in this manufacturing hub along the Rouge River. But many of those she's enrolled are surprised and indignant when they go to the doctor and are asked to a pay a bill-; perhaps a copayment. They insist they've already paid their monthly insurance premium" (Evans, 9/3). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Indiana, Several Other States Look To Expand Medicaid Next Year; Victory In Mass. Health Costs May Be Temporary 
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Phil Galewitz reports on the latest developments regarding states and Medicaid expansion: "Who's next? With the long-awaited deal to expand Medicaid finally struck last week between Pennsylvania and the Obama administration, 27 states and the District of Columbia have adopted a key coverage plank of the Affordable Care Act. And the momentum continues to grow in Republican-led states as Tennessee and several others look to expand coverage to low-income residents in 2015" (Galewitz, 9/2). 

Also on the blog, WBUR's Martha Bebinger reports on Massachusetts health costs: "Two years ago, Massachusetts set what was considered an ambitious goal: The state would not let that persistent monster, rising health care costs, increase faster than the economy as a whole. Today, the results of the first full year are out and there's reason to for many to celebrate. The number that will go down in the history books is 2.3 percent. It's well below a state-imposed benchmark for health care cost growth of 3.6 percent, and well below the increases seen for at least a decade" (Bebinger, 9/2). Check out what else is on the blog.

The New York Times: Bracing For New Challenges In Year 2 Of Health Care Law
The first year of enrollment under the federal health care law was marred by the troubled start of, rampant confusion among consumers and a steep learning curve for insurers and government officials alike (Abelson, 9/2).

The Wall Street Journal: With Health-Law Marketplaces Reopening, Insurers Brace For Round Two
This fall, health insurers are fastening their seat belts-;and hoping the ride will be a bit less bumpy than last year's. On Nov. 15, the health-law marketplaces will reopen for business, selling coverage to millions of Americans. Last October's debut of the online exchanges was widely seen as disastrous, with technical malfunctions early on preventing many consumers from buying plans or freezing them in confusing limbo (Wilde Mathews, 9/2).

The Associated Press: Problems Abound With Health Law Immigration Papers
More than 200,000 immigrants who bought insurance through President Barack Obama's health care initiative could lose their coverage this month if they don't submit proof this week they are legally in the country, but language barriers and computer glitches are hindering efforts to alert them. The government mailed letters in English and Spanish last month notifying people that if immigration and citizenship documents aren't submitted by Friday, their coverage under the Affordable Care Act will end Sept. 30 (9/2).

Los Angeles Times: California Officials Gearing Up For Obamacare Open Enrollment
Looking to avoid the pitfalls and confusion that surrounded the launch of Obamacare, California is gearing up to get 1.2 million people to renew their health policies for next year. The Covered California insurance exchange easily outpaced its expected enrollment during the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Now it faces the challenge of getting those people to stay on board for a second year once open enrollment begins Nov. 15 (Terhune, 9/2).

The New York Times' Dealbook: In Hobby Lobby Ruling, A Missing Definition Stirs Debate
The Supreme Court's decision in June that some companies did not have to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees only started the debate. In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, the Supreme Court decided that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1933, the religious convictions of a company's owners could apply to the company itself. However, the court did not apply the decision to all corporations. Instead, it merely held that for-profit "closely held corporations" could be exempt from providing the coverage under the Affordable Care Act (Solomon, 9/2).

The Washington Post: GOP Senate Hopefuls Favor Over-The-Counter Birth Control
Several Republican candidates for Senate have embraced an unorthodox issue as the midterm election approaches -; support for over-the-counter birth control pills. At least three GOP hopefuls have spoken during the summer in favor of allowing certain types of contraception to be sold without a prescription. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is challenging incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D), on Tuesday released a television ad in which he tells a room full of nodding women, "I believe the pill ought to be available over the counter, around the clock, without a prescription. Cheaper and easier for you" (Somashekhar, 9/2).

The New York Times: CVS Stores Stop Selling All Tobacco Products
At a CVS store near Times Square, the shelves are notable for what they no longer display: cigarettes. Now the only smoking products to be found are those that could help customers quit. As of midnight on Tuesday, all 7,700 CVS locations nationwide will no longer sell tobacco products, fulfilling a pledge the company made in February, as it seeks to reposition itself as a health care destination. The rebranding even comes with a new name: CVS Health (Abrams, 9/3).

Los Angeles Times: CVS Kicks The Tobacco Habit
The nation's No. 2 drugstore operator finally kicked the habit. CVS plans to announce Wednesday that it has pulled all remaining cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products from each of its 7,700 pharmacies nationwide (Frost, 9/3).

USA Today: CVS Stops Selling Tobacco, Offers Quit-Smoking Programs
CVS Caremark plans to stop selling tobacco products in all of its stores starting Wednesday -; a move health experts hope will be followed by other major drugstore chains. CVS announced in February that it planned to drop tobacco by Oct. 1 as the sales conflicted with its health care mission. To bolster its image as a health care company, CVS will announce a corporate name change to CVS Health. Retail stores will still be called CVS/Pharmacy (O'Donnell and Ungar, 9/3).

The Associated Press: Md. Auditors: Flaws In DDA Verification Process
Maryland's Developmental Disabilities Administration has not made much progress since last October on verifying that consumers actually received the services they're supposed to get, according to a follow-up review released Tuesday. The Maryland General Assembly's Office of Legislative Audits conducted the follow-up after an October audit found the administration's fiscal accountability and compliance rating was unsatisfactory. The state's health department, meanwhile, said the administration has made progress addressing that concern as well as others mentioned in the October audit (9/2). 

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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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