First Edition: September 5, 2014

Today's headlines include reports of hacker activity at the healthcare.gov health insurance website.

Kaiser Health News: Consumers To Hear Soon If Plans Are Canceled
Kaiser Health News consumer columnist writes: "Consumers may soon find a surprise in their mailbox: a notice that their health plan is being cancelled. Last year, many consumers who thought their health plans would be cancelled because they didn't meet the standards of the health law got a reprieve. Following stinging criticism for appearing to renege on a promise that people who liked their existing plans could keep them, President Barack Obama backed off plans to require all individual and small group plans that had not been in place before the health law to meet new standards starting in 2014" (Andrews, 9/5). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Replacing An Ambulance With A Station Wagon
Reporting for Kaiser Health News in partnership with NPR, Eric Whitney writes: "When they get a call for medical help, most fire departments scramble both an ambulance, and a fully-staffed fire truck. But, according to Rick Lewis, chief of emergency medical services at South Metro Fire Rescue Authority in the Denver suburbs, says that's way more than many people really need. … It's frustrating for both ambulance crews and patients. Somebody who's been running a fever for a couple of days needs help, but not necessarily an ambulance ride to the ER" (Whitney, 9/4). Read the story.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Early Results: Average 2015 Exchange Premiums Decline Slightly; DC Appeals Court Agrees To Rehear Case That Could Cripple Health Law
Now on Kaiser Health News' blog, Jay Hancock reports on a new report about exchange premiums: "Prices for a benchmark "silver" or mid-priced plan sold through the health law's online marketplaces aren't all moving in the same direction, however, a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) shows. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) In Nashville, the premium will rise 8.7 percent, the largest increase in the study, while in Denver it will fall 15.6 percent, the largest decrease" (Hancock, 9/5). 

Also on Capsules, Julie Rovner reports on the next step in the Halbig case: "The full District of Columbia Court of Appeals Thursday agreed to rehear Halbig v. Burwell, a case charging that the federal government lacks the authority to provide consumers tax credits in health insurance exchanges not run by states. The order agreeing to hear the case technically cancels the three-judge ruling from July that found for the plaintiffs. That ruling, if upheld, could jeopardize the entire structure of the Affordable Care Act by making insurance unaffordable for millions of consumers in the 36 states where the federal government operates the exchange" (Rovner, 9/4). Check out what else is on the blog.

The Wall Street Journal: Hacker Breached Healthcare.gov Insurance Site
A hacker broke into part of the HealthCare.gov insurance enrollment website in July and uploaded malicious software, according to federal officials. Investigators found no evidence that consumers' personal data were taken or viewed during the breach, federal officials said. The hacker appears only to have gained access to a server used to test code for HealthCare.gov, the officials said (Yadron, 9/4).

The New York Times: Hackers Breach Security Of Healthcare.gov
Hackers breached security at the website of the government's health insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov, but did not steal any personal information on consumers, Obama administration officials said Thursday (Pear and Perlroth, 9/4).

The Washington Post: Healthcare.gov Server Hacked. But HHS Says No Consumer Information Taken.
A portion of the Healthcare.gov website was breached in July when hackers uploaded malicious software to a test server, government officials said Thursday. The intrusion was discovered last week by the security team at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a unit of Department of Health and Human Services. "Our review indicates that the server did not contain consumer personal information; data was not transmitted outside the agency, and the website was not specifically targeted," HHS said in a written statement. "We have taken measures to further strengthen security." The incident was first reported by the Wall Street Journal (Peterson and Millman, 9/4).

The Associated Press: Hackers Break Into Healthcare.gov
Hackers successfully breached HealthCare.gov, but no consumer information was taken from the health insurance website that serves more than 5 million Americans, the Obama administration disclosed Thursday. Instead, the hackers installed malicious software that could have been used to launch an attack on other websites from the federal insurance portal (9/4).

Politico: GOP Chorus Attacks Obamacare Over Healthcare.gov Hack
Although no personal, financial or health data were compromised in the attack, which may not even have been aimed specifically at HealthCare.gov, the hacker implanted a bug that appears to have gone undetected for six weeks. Republicans in Congress had long warned of security breaches of the site, as had cybersecurity experts familiar with its workings (Norman, 9/4).

Los Angeles Times: D.C. Appeals Court To Review Decision Imperiling Obamacare Subsidies
President Obama's lawyers have won a second chance to stop a lawsuit that has the potential to unravel the national healthcare law and its system of insurance subsidies. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said Thursday it will reconsider a 2-1 decision by a panel of the court in July that struck down the subsidies for health insurance provided under the Affordable Care Act in 36 states (Savage, 9/4).

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: Obamacare Supporters Just Got Some Good News From The Courts
A few months after a three-member panel of the court ruled the federal government can't provide insurance subsidies through federal-run exchanges in 36 states, the court on Thursday granted the Obama administration's request for the entire panel to re-hear the case. The en banc hearing, as it's known, wasn't entirely unexpected -; and with a heavy makeup of Democratic-appointed judges on the panel, it seems likely the administration will get a more favorable ruling when the entire court reconsiders the case later this year (Millman, 9/4).

The Associated Press: Court Grants Obama Plea To Re-Hear Health Case
The announcement diminishes the prospect of Supreme Court review of the issue in the near term. The initial appeals court ruling in Washington came out the same day that a panel of appellate judges in Richmond, Virginia, sided with the administration on the same issue (9/4).

Politico: Full Appeals Court To Rehear Obamacare Case
Millions of people are getting subsidies, which come in the form of a tax credit, to make health insurance more affordable. None of the credits was cut off, though, pending more legal battles over one of the key provisions of the health care law's massive coverage expansion. The decision to have a full, or en banc, hearing vacates the earlier ruling by the D.C. court. Critics of the health care law, including the plaintiffs in these cases, have argued that a specific provision in the law restricts the subsidies to the state-based system. The White House has strenuously argued that the intent of the full law makes clear that the federal exchanges were designed to be a backup for the states, including the subsidies (Kenen, 9/4).

The Wall Street Journal: Thousands Risk Losing Health Coverage, Immigrant Advocacy Groups Warn
Immigrant advocacy groups are warning that tens of thousands of people could lose health insurance because they won't meet a Friday deadline to prove to the federal government they are legally in the country. Up to 310,000 people risk losing coverage obtained through the Affordable Care Act unless they provide documents verifying they are U.S. citizens or legal residents, according to government data. The Obama administration on Aug. 12 said consumers who hadn't responded to previous requests for the information would have to provide it by Friday or lose coverage at the end of the month (Armour, 9/4).

The Associated Press: Democrats Borrow A GOP Idea On Health Care Costs
Borrowing a Republican idea, a group including former senior Obama and Clinton advisers is unveiling a novel proposal to let states take the lead in controlling health costs. Individual states would set their own targets to curb the growth of health care spending. If they succeed, they'd pocket a share of federal Medicare and Medicaid savings, ranging from tens of millions to $1 billion or more, depending on the state (9/4).

The Associated Press: Democrats' Senate Push Starts New Hampshire Ads
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's multimillion-dollar ad push, which will run through Election Day, criticizes likely Republican nominee Scott Brown for votes he cast while serving as senator from neighboring Massachusetts. The ad also makes a direct appeal to older voters, who have great sway in New Hampshire. "New Hampshire is a good place to grow older. We can depend on each other," the ad's narrator says in the 30-second spot. "But Scott Brown would turn his back on New Hampshire seniors. While representing Massachusetts, Scott Brown supported cuts to Medicare and Social Security" (9/4).

Los Angeles Times: New Republican Pitch To Female Voters: Over-The-Counter Birth Control
Elections have consequences, and those consequences are most acutely felt, it seems, in closely contested elections. In at least four hot races across the nation, Republican candidates have adopted a new approach to birth control: It should be available over the counter. "More rights, more freedom," Republican Cory Gardner says in a new TV ad airing in Colorado, where he is locked in a tight race with first-term Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall. The strategy is particularly notable because some of the candidates have in the past not exactly been supportive of ready access to birth control (Decker, 9/4).

The Texas Tribune/The New York Times: Questions Come Up Again Over A Candidate's Dual Roles
As a practicing pharmacist and former board director of the Texas Pharmacy Association, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, has raised some eyebrows over the years by sponsoring dozens of bills that affect her profession. Her explanation is not unusual in the Texas Capitol: Who better than a pharmacist to write legislation concerning pharmacists? (Root, 9/4).

The Washington Post's Wonkblog: The States Where Americans Are The Most And Least Obese
The south is weighing this country down. Nowhere in the U.S. are Americans more overweight than in Mississippi and West Virginia, where more than 35 percent of the adult population is now obese, according to a new report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The two southern states, however, are hardly alone in their alarmingly high obesity rates-;another 18 U.S. states, including just about all of the U.S. south, have obesity rates at or above 30 percent (Ferdman, 9/4).

The Associated Press: Mary Washington Healthcare Eliminates 66 Jobs
Mary Washington Healthcare has eliminated 66 jobs and reduced hours for another 46 workers. The not-for-profit company also plans to transfer another 157 workers to other jobs within the system (9/4).

The Associated Press: Pharmacist Arrested In Tainted Steroid Case
A pharmacist who oversaw the sterile clean rooms at a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy responsible for a deadly meningitis outbreak was arrested Thursday as he was about to board a flight for Hong Kong, federal officials said. Glenn Adam Chin, a former supervisory pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center, didn't properly sterilize or test equipment and concealed the unsafe practices, federal investigators said (9/4).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org 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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